Your Reciprocating Saw Buying Guide in 2021

If you’re reading this, chances are you already know a little bit about your tools and want some more information for either your next project or your garage.

If you’re not one of those – and don’t worry if you aren’t – this guide will give you the ins and outs in what to expect.

I’ll do my best to give you a background on the features of a reciprocating saw, and also what to look out for when you’re tossing up which reciprocating saw best suits your needs.

Perhaps you’re just starting out, and need a little clarity upon what’s best for you.

Or you might want to have some knowledge behind you so you can expand your toolset.

Whatever it may be – I’ll help answer those questions for you.

Make yourself a coffee and sit down – let’s get started.

Types of Reciprocating Saws

Let’s start off with the differences in reciprocating saws.

When scrolling through the internet, or strolling through the aisles at the hardware store, you’ll come across a number of options for reciprocating saws.

It’s important to have a look at each saw in depth, so you’ve got the right tool for the job. Each reciprocating saw you’ll observe will have different features and will be built for different applications than others.

There are two forms in which reciprocating saws can be found, which will be dictated by the job you have, and the job it’s used for.

Those forms are the cordless reciprocating saws and corded reciprocating saws.

Let’s take a closer look at the two.

Corded

A corded reciprocating saw is one that needs to be plugged into a power outlet to be used.

Corded reciprocating saws are generally more powerful than their cordless counterparts, and are used for applications which require more brute strength.

Due to its’ cordless nature, you won’t have to worry about recharging and the added weight of the battery of a cordless reciprocating saw – as long as you have an outlet to plug into.

However, as the saw is corded – you’ll undoubtedly land yourself in a situation where the cord is accidentally cut.

It happens to the best of us at times – but in saying that, it’s a very inconvenient situation to be placed in. If this resonates with you – perhaps a cordless reciprocating saw is more of your style.

Cordless

In our dynamic world, many power tools have also changed – reciprocating saws included.

Unlike corded reciprocating saws, cordless reciprocating saws have an added benefit of portability. As there’s no power outlet in which the saw needs to be plugged into, cordless reciprocating saws can be used in almost any situation and setting, fitting a variety of needs and uses.

Many one-handed reciprocating saws which you can find are often cordless – these are less powerful than saws which need both hands to operate and are able to fit in more awkward and tight positions. They are also not as heavy on your hands, and won’t fatigue you as much.

The power source of a cordless saw comes directly from the rechargeable battery (which can take 30 minutes to an hour or more to charge). Cordless saws will have a battery life of several hours.

Unlike corded reciprocating saws, you won’t have to worry about cutting through a cord accidentally, or looking for an outlet to plug into. This aside, the portability of cordless saws can often come at the expense of power.

Cordless saws are not as powerful as corded saws, yet this is changing as manufacturers look to provide the best of bost worlds.

In this situation, it’s best to decide – do you need a tool that you can bring anywhere, or are you looking for something that has a little more power at the expense of portability?

The Basic Features

As there is with many power tools, reciprocating saws have a set of foundation features which make up the design.

We’ll discuss the important features – the basic features of a reciprocating saw which you’ll find advertised and are important to know.

Motor

The motor is the heartbeat of the reciprocating saw. Without a motor, you’re looking at a standard, no-frills saw that may have been okay to use decades ago – but not today.

The motor is powered by the power source – whether that’s a battery pack or power outlet – and can be found in two forms, brushed and brushless.

Brushed Motor

A brushed motor is the standard across all reciprocating saws. It contains two important parts; brushes and a commutator, which is what is used to pass through energy within the motor.

The main difference between a brushed motor is the components, and the brush.

Like all tools and their parts, these carbon brushes can become worn and torn after time, which means you lose out in effective output and also quality.

Brushless Motor

A brushless motor, however, does not have these carbon brushes, hence the name.

Instead, a brushless motor loses both the commutator and carbon brushes, replaced by a small electronic circuit board which dictates energy delivery.

The circuit board is able to adjust output accordingly, meaning it won’t draw on all the energy it has created for a task which doesn’t require it.

Due to the brushes and commutator being replaced in brushless motors, the brushless motors are more powerful, eliminating unnecessary friction created by brush motors, ending in a constant flow of energy that is not restricted by physical components.

Stroke Length & Rate

You may be familiar with both stroke lengths and rates on a reciprocating saw.

Both features are considered as vital to the makeup of the saw.

We can have a look into them a little more in depth below.

Stroke Length

Stroke length is the length of which a reciprocating saw’s blade will travel both upwards and downwards.

Stroke lengths can be anywhere between ¾” to 1 ¼” – the higher the number, the larger the travel of the blade in the two directions.

Generally, the larger the stroke length, the larger the efficiency of the reciprocating saw.

This is due to the larger stroke lengths, allowing more teeth to cut through the material in each stroke, cutting through more efficiently and quickly.

Stroke Rate

You will often see the SPM acronym (Strokes Per Minute) when discussing stroke rate.

The speed of a stroke is measured in how fast it moves up and down within a minute – it’s that simple.

Stroke rates can vary, from anywhere between 2,000 SPM to 3,500 SPM.

Ideally, you’ll be looking at a reciprocating saw which has both a high stroke length and also stroke rate – the higher the both are, the more effective your reciprocating saw is.

Money may be the key factor here – as premium reciprocating saws have a high stroke rate and length, but also a higher price.

With anything, however – price is a feature of a premium product that will give you exactly what you need, and more.

Other Features

Switch

Whichever model you choose, cordless or corded – the reciprocating saw will include a switch.

The switch is often found on the inside of the handle, and allows electricity to flow through the saw.

A reciprocating saw is operated by a ‘trigger switch’. Once depressed, the electricity begins to power through – and you have electricity flowing through your saw.

Variable Speed Trigger

Usually found on the side of the reciprocating power saw, the variable speed trigger is a small trigger which controls the speed the reciprocating saw.

As there are many occurrences where you would not want to be ripping at high speeds through material – the variable speed trigger allows you to choose the correct speed for the job, without causing damage to either the material or your saw’s blade.

Blade Clamp

The blade clamp is the component of the reciprocating saw which secures the blade in place.

Traditionally, the blade clamp would have to be tightened and loosened by an allen key in order to remove or secure the blade.

This is now replaced by what is known as a keyless system. The keyless system allows for a blade to be changed without the allen key, in a matter of seconds.

As well as a traditional up and down design, some manufacturers allow their blade clamps to move left and right; this is known as a four position system

Adjustable Shoe

The adjustable shoe is the name given to the plate which rests on the material you’re cutting, which provides extra stability.

The adjustable shoe allows you use a number of blades at lengths, giving more options to cut with.

When pressed against the material you’re cutting, the adjustable shoe will also change in angle.

This is a feature which can give you the ability to cut in different spaces and angles.

Anti-Vibration

With the sheer power a reciprocating saw generates, whether that’s corded or cordless – there will be an amount of pushback as a result.

This vibration can greatly affect your quality and accuracy of cuts, as it slowly wears down your fatigue and allows for misalignments.

This is something I’m sure you’ve experienced with a power tool before, right?

Many reciprocating saws now include a feature which is known as anti-vibration.

This feature is usually found on the handle – where you will experience the pushbacks – and works through absorbing the vibration which the motor can give out.

This also allows for greater comfort for you when cutting, which is definitely a bonus in my opinion.

Blades: Teeth and Design

You’re probably wondering where this section was, weren’t you?

To cut through any material, no matter how powerful or light your saw may be – you will need an effective blade to get the job done.

There are almost limitless blade designs available – from those that are able to cut through bricks and mortar, to blades which can only cut through small shrubbery and plants.

Within each design, the blade is topped with teeth, which gives the blade its cutting prowess.

Teeth

A blade contains teeth, which are the sharp indents on the blade. Different materials will require a different set of teeth, and like you would your own it is important to take care of them.

A blade’s teeth are grouped by the number of teeth per inch, TPI.

TPI ranges from 2 to 24. The higher the TPI is, the smoother but also slower your cut will be.

The lower the TPI, the faster your cut will be, however it will be rougher than a higher TPI.

A blade with a lower TPI is more suited for wood, whereas a higher TPI would be more suitable for cuts involving metal.

Design

Reciprocating saw blades are usually found in the two following compositions, high carbon steel, and high-speed steel. The two can be mixed to create a Bi-Metal blade.

High Carbon Steel

High carbon steel is the most common blade you will find, and is also a very cost-affordable blade. It is an extremely flexible blade, allowing for bending without breaking.

Used specifically for softer materials, such as softwoods and plastics, high carbon steel blades are also the least durable out of all blades, becoming blunt when used on hardwoods and metals.

High-Speed Steel

High-speed steel blades are harder than high carbon steel and are also less flexible. This means that they are more likely to break when forced to bend, so it is important to choose the correct blade for different material.

The sturdiness of the blade allows for cuts on hardwoods and some metals without dulling of the blade.

BI-Metal Blades

Bi-Metal Blades are a mix of both high-speed steel and high carbon steel blades.

Combining both durability and flexibility, these blades can last up to ten times the lifespan of a carbon steel blade. They are the blade of choice for many contractors due to their longevity, however, they’re a little pricier than the alternative blades.

If you compare the benefits of the blade, the price is well worth it, don’t you think?

The Round-Up

So we’ve discussed at length the features of reciprocating saws, as well as the differences between cordless, corded, and blade qualities.

There are a number of different variables which goes into the perfect reciprocating saw, and most importantly – what you need.

I hope this guide has made it a little easier for you when you’re looking at upgrading or buying a reciprocating saw if you are yet to do so.

If you feel there’s anything I’ve forgotten, let me know in the comments.

That goes for any helpful tips you may have for other readers.

James Thomas

James Thomas

Tool Enthusiast

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