12 Tips on How to Cut Straight with a Reciprocating Saw

Last Updated on May 1, 2023 by Barry Gray

A reciprocating saw is a highly useful tool that I feel is often underrated. Admittedly it’s also not a tool that everyone has at their disposal, and that is partly because some individuals are unaware of how to use it correctly.

You see, this tool is perfect for demolition work or cutting through drywall, but one area that often gives cause for concern is trying to cut a straight line.

I think one of the reasons why people find this so tricky is that you can often be holding a reciprocating saw at a different angle from a standard saw. That change in angle throws people off how to cut straight, and if you are dealing with cutting out a section of drywall, then this can be vital.

But the truth is that cutting straight with a reciprocating saw is significantly more straightforward than you may initially think. So, I’m going to take you through those all-important steps that should hopefully result in you getting that straight cut you are looking for.

However, I want you to think for a moment about how you view a reciprocating saw. Most individuals would think of it as ripping through things without much care or attention. It’s certainly not a saw that offers a lot in the way of finesse, but as long as you know that in advance, it’s not an issue. 

But that doesn’t explain how to get that straight cut, but I’ll move on to that next.

The Capabilities of a Reciprocating Saw

cutting wooden board with reciprocating saw

A reciprocating saw can produce both vertical and horizontal cuts, and there’s little difference in how the two are made.

Also, I want you to remember that a reciprocating saw is more about the raw power and ability to cut through heavy-duty material rather than accuracy.

It’s not the finest of cuts, and if you are aware of that, it takes some pressure off you to try to make everything perfect.

But don’t get me wrong, a reciprocating saw can be a beast of a machine for both of those types of cuts. However, in order to get a straight cut, you need to set it up correctly.

The Blade

The blade on your reciprocating saw is one of the first things to look at. The blade you choose depends on several things, including the type of material you will be cutting, its thickness, size, and even its shape.

Getting the correct blade will make a massive difference to the chances of you actually managing to make a straight cut. In a sense, it’s like this with any type of saw, but I have another tip that will help you out here.

Do not opt for a long blade on your reciprocating saw if you want to get the straightest possible cut. These blades do vibrate a lot and will move around. The longer the blade, the more likely this will happen, and your chances of getting that straight cut will vanish.

Also, having a blade with the correct tooth density helps. You need something that will work efficiently and cut through the material as quickly as possible. An incorrect blade will only lead to potentially making more mistakes, and that’s where you can easily lose control.

Use a Blade Clamp

Staying with the blade for a moment, I would highly recommend using a blade clamp to make your life easier. The intention of a blade clamp is to provide an extra layer of stability with the blade itself, resulting in less movement when cutting.

In addition, a blade clamp will just make it easier for you to get a more accurate cut than you would typically expect with a reciprocating saw. Also, it acts as a sort of guide, allowing you to really follow a line and get that straight cut.

Setting a blade clamp is easy to do, and the difference it will make is enormous, so it’s certainly worthwhile investing in one if you do not already own one. It helps hold things steady while also giving you a better opportunity to see the line and stick to it. Even a tiny bit of help such as this can make a massive difference in the end results you can achieve.

The Saw Handle

I just touched on the issue of vibrations regarding the blade, but this is a big issue with a reciprocating saw in general.

However, some models on the market do come with an anti-vibration saw handle, and if you plan on using a reciprocating saw on a regular basis, then this is something I would look at.

The aim here is to really spend time doing what you can to eliminate how this blade can move around and shake. That movement is the thing that throws you off and makes it less likely you can get a straight cut.

So, try to get that anti-vibration handle, which can make a massive difference to the end result. I would actually look at checking this out before I even purchase a reciprocating saw to know what was in store should I ever need to make those straight cuts. 

Making the Cut – What You Need to Do

after making straight cuts with reciprocating saw

So the three points above will make a difference with the setting up of the reciprocating saw, but you still have several things to do if you want to get that straight cut. 

Dealing with Speed

First, let me address the issue of speed. In my opinion, if you want a more accurate cut, then you need to have a reciprocating saw that allows you to alter the speed and slow things down when required. Here, you just do not need to hammer out those cuts.

At times, having too much speed and power in your saw will increase the possibility of making a mistake. Also, having too much speed will result in the blade bouncing around too much, and you could struggle to make that straight cut. How could you do that when the thing making the cut is just waving around? It will then cut wherever it makes contact leading to something significantly rougher than you would have liked.

I suggest having a firm idea of the speed you need to cut the material you are working on and dropping the speed to as low as it can go at first. By maintaining as much control as possible, it does mean you are far more likely to keep to that line and get the sort of straight cut you are looking for.

Adjusting that Pivoting Shoe

Another thing I want you to look at when wishing to achieve a straight cut is to adjust that pivoting shoe. This will make a real difference when trying to get a straight cut on even a slightly uneven surface.

Without an adjustable pivoting shoe, you will run into problems when it comes to getting through that uneven surface. Instead, this method allows you to effectively glide through the uneven parts while keeping on your line. You can already see how that will make such a difference to the type of cuts you can achieve. 

Take Time to Line Up the Blade

This part is no different from any other saw, but you need to take your time to line up the blade before you even start cutting.

Know where your line is and also where it’s heading.

Ensure you have a clear sight of it, and if working in less than perfect light, then add an LED light to the situation to make life just that little bit easier.

Getting Ready to Cut

Check that the shoe is against the material you are cutting and that the saw feels comfortable in your hand.

You want to avoid stretching or pushing yourself to your physical limit. If you are stretching even slightly, then it means you are more likely to find your arms moving around while cutting. You can see how that will ruin your chances of making a straight cut.

Get a Good Stance and Grip

If possible, have the reciprocating saw resting against your body, or at least have your arms supported by your body. This reduces the shaking and vibrations you will experience through the saw, and that leads to one thing: better control.

Your stance is also very important. I said earlier that you should not be stretching as this makes things more challenging, so you need to know your feet are planted before you start. Having a solid foundation helps you so much in keeping on that cutting line.

The Angle of the Saw

If possible, hold the saw at a slight downward angle. That will make it easier for the blade to rip through the material while also allowing you to see the line you are cutting along.

You do not want to block your own view as it’s all too easy to veer off your line, and you have then made a mess of things. Yet I said you have both a horizontal and vertical cut, and how you go about this is slightly different.

Making a Horizontal Cut

For a horizontal cut, you need to ensure you have been able to clamp the saw correctly. Ensure you have made a thick line. It’s easier to follow it and keep track of where you are with the cut.

Set the pivoting shoe to ensure it’s on the wood or drywall. Roll the pivoting shoe over to let you see if you have lined things up correctly. This is a quick way of determining if you need to adjust your line.

Once you feel set, gently press the trigger button, but keep the speed low, if possible, to help you work on a more accurate cut. Also, it reduces the vibration level you will get from the blade.

One key thing here is to never seek to force the cut. This will only result in a more significant kickback happening, which will make life harder for you.

As long as you do those few things, achieving that straight horizontal cut should be pretty easy.

Making a Vertical Cut

When it comes to a vertical cut, everything is pretty much the same, but I would argue that how you stand and grip the reciprocating saw needs to change. After all, you are looking at working from a completely different angle, and it’s essential that you feel you are supporting the saw correctly.

Here, you must still pay attention to making that thick line and lining up the pivoting shoe. Those are still two key points, and I would still always use a blade clamp as well. 

But I think you need to pay more attention to the speed and the vibration level you will produce with a vertical cut. You need to feel you are balanced and your feet firmly planted on the ground. In effect, you must feel capable of really absorbing those vibrations to help you achieve that straight cut.

When convinced you have lined up everything, press that trigger and go at it slowly. It’s even easier for the blade to jump around in this situation, so seek to counteract that by bringing the speed down to a level where it can make the cut but is not overpowering you.

My Final Tips On Making a Straight Cut with a Reciprocating Saw

I have several final tips to consider when wishing to make a straight cut with a reciprocating saw. Hopefully, they help you out and make your life that bit easier.

Take Your Time

It’s always best to take your time with these cuts, and that includes both setting up the cut and then performing the cut itself. Rushing leads to mistakes, and you pushing the reciprocating saw too fast. Pushing increases the chances of cutting off the line.

Evaluate the cut, turn the speed of the saw down as low as necessary, and take your time to follow the line. The saw will still cut, and you should be happier with the end result.

Keep That Blade Short

I mentioned this earlier, but you must keep the blade nice and short. Look at the size of the material you plan on cutting, and get a blade just slightly larger than this, but not to excess. 

Blades bounce around thanks to the motor’s power in a reciprocating saw. So, it makes sense that there’s less movement if you reduce the overall area that can effectively move around.

Position is Everything

When talking about position, I mean with you more than the saw. Of course, you need to position the saw to align with the mark you have made, but how you stand and hold yourself is vital.

A reciprocating saw has some weight to it, and then there’s the power aspect. If you are not holding it securely or standing balanced, then the saw will create more movement leading to the cut jumping off the line.

Plant your feet, and hold the saw tightly but not in a way it exhausts your grip. Use your body for support rather than just using your grip; it should result in less movement and less fatigue.


Finally, I would actually spend time testing it out and making minor straight cuts with your reciprocating saw before you get to a point where you are working on your project. This allows you to mess around with the speed, power, and even lining up the cut.

This is undoubtedly something you will get better at the more you do it, and your confidence will grow as a result.

Overall Conclusion

And that is how to cut straight with a reciprocating saw, and as you see, there are only a few simple steps for you to work through to get your desired end result. 

I think the key here is to take your time. Too often we want to finish a job in the shortest time possible, and that’s not always a good thing. Instead, as long as you plan the job and know what to expect, then I don’t think you should have any real difficulty getting the cut you are after, even when relatively new to a reciprocating saw.

A reciprocating saw is a wonderful tool to have at your disposal, but you do need to understand how to use it correctly to then get the most out of it. Hopefully now you have a better idea of what’s possible and how to get that straight cut without running into too many problems. 

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Barry Gray

Hi, I’m Barry. I’ve loved woodworking and bringing things back to life for more years than I care to remember. I hope my passion for tools comes across loud and clear in everything you read here on The Tool Square.

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