Reciprocating Saw vs Circular Saw: What’s the Difference?

The number of power saws available today is truly baffling. How in the world are you supposed to determine what type of saw you need when you’re literally bombarded with dozens of different options? One of the more commonly asked questions is regarding two types of very different saws – reciprocating saws and circular saws.

Reciprocating Saw vs Circular Saw



What is a Reciprocating Saw?

Reciprocating saws are a kind of machine-operated saw in which the blade moves in a forward-and-backward motion (reciprocating) to cut through materials. It’s one of the most versatile tools you could own since the lightweight design and thin construction allows it to fit in places where most tools couldn’t.

The saw’s design does not allow for much precision since the tool does not come with any fences or guides. On the front-end of the tool is a shoe – a metal piece that juts forward – that rests against the surface of an object you’re cutting. The shoe keeps it in place while the blade pushes and pulls through the piece.

Circular Saw vs Reciprocating Saw

When to use a Reciprocating Saw

When we say that a reciprocating saw is versatile, we MEAN versatile.
First of all, whatever this tool lacks in precision, it makes up for in extreme cutting power. The rapidly reciprocating blade can be used for demolition projects such as tearing through drywall and sawing wooden beams.

The power of the motor also allows the blade to cut through plastic and metal. This is especially handy when remodeling kitchens and bathrooms. Also, reciprocating saws with LED lights will help improve visibility when working in dark, cramped places like under the sink or in bathrooms without running electricity.

Another place where reciprocating saws flourish is outdoors, specifically for landscaping jobs. Although the go-to tool for trimming hedges and bushes is a chainsaw, a reciprocating saw can offer just as much value with very little risk. The blade is shorter and can reach tight spaces such as between branches and twigs.

Reciprocating Saw

There are certain specialized tasks where a reciprocating saw could prove to be the ideal tool to use. When fitting windows, you’ll need a tool that can fit in cramped areas and work in corners. With a reciprocating saw, you can take the tool to the window and make cuts where needed.

What is a Circular Saw?

Circular saws are a handheld electric or gas-powered saw that uses a circular blade to cut materials such as wood, plastic, and metal. Blades are swapped depending on what sort of material you plan on cutting. The blade is offset to the side which may cause some visibility problems for some people. However, the shoe or aluminum guide has a mark which indicates the position of the blade.

This tool, though versatile, is made only for straight cutting. The blade is not flexible, so when it’s inside the material, you cannot swing the tool around to get a curved cut.

Circular Saw

The main benefit that you get from using a circular saw is its compact size and light weight. Circular saws are mainly used in woodworking to produce straight rip cuts and crosscuts on boards that are too large or too heavy for your table saw. The main benefit of circular saws is their lightweight that allows you to take the tool to the material and not the other way around.

When to use a Circular Saw

In many instances, the things that a circular saw can do can easily be done by a miter saw, or table saw. The main difference is that neither of those saws is as portable as a handheld circular saw.

Circular saws are designed to rip cut and crosscut through boards of virtually any size. Before running rough lumber through a jointer or planer, you can cut the board down to size using a circular saw. This is especially handy when dealing with huge boards that won’t be supported on a table saw’s or miter saw’s work surface.

Reciprocating Saws

Another huge benefit of circular saws is being able to make plunge cuts in the middle of your workpiece. This is one of the things that a circular saw can do that table saws and miter saws can’t. However, making plunge cuts requires holding the blade guard back to expose the blade as it enters the piece. This can be dangerous, but with a little common sense and practice, it’s pretty easy to do.

The ability to make compound cuts (angled and beveled cuts) is arguably the best thing that a circular saw can do. By tilting the blade, you can run the saw into the material at any angle to cut on two planes. Sure, you may not need to do it as frequently as you’d like, but it definitely covers the main points of a compound miter saw.

Circular Saws

Reciprocating Saw vs. Circular Saw – Which do I need?

The type of saw you need truly depends on what you’re doing. For instance, if you need a saw of woodworking projects, then a circular saw will provide you with precise cuts for producing beautiful pieces of wood-based art. A reciprocating saw is mainly for prepping rough lumber and not for cutting perfectly straight edges.

The versatility of a reciprocating saw is mainly for home renovation and demolition projects. If you’re redoing your floors, remodeling bathrooms, or want to demolish drywall, a reciprocating saw is the safest saw to use. It can also be a cost-efficient and safe replacement for a chainsaw to trim hedges and cut twigs. The way the tool is designed allows for maximum control through bushes and branches.

Reciprocating Saw

Final Remarks

Not every project will require the use of a circular saw and a reciprocating saw, so if you don’t need to use both regularly, it’s important that you know which of the two tools will help you more. In a nutshell, reciprocating saws can do demolition and construction jobs to a certain extent, whereas circular saws are mainly for constructing wood-based crafts. Take some time to get familiar with each of the tools before making a final purchase decision.

Circular Saw