Reciprocating Saw Vs. Angle Grinder (When to Use Each?)

Last Updated on December 22, 2023 by Web Operator

A reciprocating saw is a versatile, two-handed power tool. Its portability and ease of use make it a great option for people trying to get a little work done around the house, especially if you need to cut apart and demolish things. But it isn’t the only lightweight, versatile tool you might have on hand.

Angle grinders, also known as disc grinders or side grinders, are another portable power tool that most people can pick up with relative ease. They’re small but powerful tools used for grinding, polishing, demolishing, and cutting a variety of materials.

Because both of these kinds of tools are lightweight, useful, and cheap, sometimes it’s hard to choose between them. Here’s a quick guide to the most important factors to consider.

Cutting Capacity

reciprocating saw at jobsite

The only thing limiting the cutting capacity of angle grinders and reciprocating saws is the depth of cuts they can make. Because you can raise and angle both tools freely, it is almost always possible to make a cut of whatever depth you need, but depending on the situation and blade, it may take multiple passes.

For example, an angle grinder usually has a 4.5” or 9” diameter disc. That means that it has a maximum cutting depth that’s a little less than that diameter. To cut more deeply with an angle grinder, you’d have to make multiple passes over the cut.

Reciprocating saws usually have much longer blades. Most blades are about six inches long, but you can find some that are up to eight inches if cutting capacity is very important for the work you plan on doing with it. 

Most people doing work at home won’t need an especially large cutting capacity, but it’s important to keep in mind in case you have to make a deep cut in a hard-to-reach area where maneuvering a smaller blade may not do the job.

Power

angle grinder working with metal

Angle grinders and reciprocating saws don’t come off like the powerful tools they are, but you may be surprised at what they’re able to handle. Angle grinders and reciprocating saws have the power and durability to cut through most materials you’ll find in your house.

When equipped with the right blade, reciprocating saws can cut through just about anything you’d have in your hand. Whether it’s copper piping, wood, or drywall, you can cut through it with the right reciprocating saw. Cutting at more than 3,000 strokes per minute, a quality reciprocating saw will get through whatever you need it to with relative ease. 

Angle grinders spin their discs at 6,000 to 8,000 RPM in order to, as their name implies, grind away at the things they’re cutting. With enough time, angle grinders can cut through many different materials, but it may take them longer than it would take a reciprocating saw.

Versatility

making a cut with angle grinder

If you’re choosing between an angle grinder and a reciprocating saw, you should know exactly what kinds of tasks each tool is good for. Part of that is versatility–if a tool can handle many different kinds of materials, it might be more useful to you, depending on what you intend to cut.

Angle grinders are highly versatile tools. They can cut through masonry like bricks and cinder blocks, as well as metal and wood. That said, angle grinders aren’t necessarily the best tool for cutting wood with because of their lack of depth of cut and how slowly they sometimes cut.

You should also consider that angle grinders are sometimes prone to overheating. This is especially common when they’re working slowly through a dense material that causes a lot of friction. This can happen with dense hardwoods or metals, which diminishes their versatility. Still, all you need to do in the case of an overheated angle grinder is unplug it and let it rest. 

But angle grinders do more than cut. You can also use them to polish metal and other surfaces and grind down sharp, metal corners. Those are things that few cutting tools can do, so it’s worth keeping that in mind as well.

Reciprocating saws can’t polish or grind, but they can cut through metal and wood. You may be able to cut through masonry with a reciprocating saw as well, but you should buy a special masonry blade and see if your specific saw is built for that kind of activity. 

Portability

cutting gypsum plaster

Both reciprocating saws and angle grinders are well known for their portability. They’re lightweight, easy-to-use saws that you can take with you wherever you have work to do. Because they both have battery-powered and corded options, they stay portable even while you’re working with them.

Most angle grinders weigh around four pounds. That’s small enough that you can keep one in your work truck without even thinking about it, or just carry it over where you need without a second thought. 

Battery-powered angle grinders have come a long way recently, meaning that you can get almost as much power from a quality portable angle grinder as you can from a traditional, corded one. Battery-powered angle grinders obviously won’t have the same longevity as corded tools, but otherwise, they’re very close to the others in quality.

It’s worth mentioning that battery-powered models will almost always be heavier than corded models because of the battery’s additional weight. While being battery-powered obviously gives advantages to mobility, you should take weight into account as well.

Reciprocating saws can be a little heavier, depending on the model and the size of the blade. But most reciprocating saws are around four pounds as well. Heavier models can weigh as much as ten pounds, but this is less common. It’ll also depend on whether you’re looking for the most powerful, professional-grade models, or whether a hobbyist’s tool would work for your purposes.

Price

reciprocating saw without blade

Angle grinders and reciprocating saws have a similar price range, although angle grinders are generally a little cheaper. They’re similarly simple, lightweight tools that come in everything from amateur to professional quality versions, and their price ranges reflect that broad diversity. 

It’s important to consider where you stand on that spectrum of uses, because that’ll help you figure out how much you should plan to spend on your reciprocating saw or angle grinder.

Reciprocating saws start as low as $50. These are usually corded saws that are less powerful and durable than others. If they are cordless, they have significantly less power than more expensive models, and will likely cut much more slowly as well. 

Professional-grade reciprocating saws can cost as much as $400. These saws will typically come with high-quality blades, and battery-powered saws at this price range will usually perform just as well as most corded saws.  Because these are powerful, high-quality tools, they usually have large, heavy engines. That means they may be less portable than the lighter, less powerful models.

This might surprise you, but there are actually angle grinders out there being sold for as little as $30. That’s shockingly affordable for a power tool, but you should be cautious: angle grinders in that price range likely won’t be as powerful or durable as more expensive ones. But if you only need it for occasional work around the house, budget angle grinders could be a good option for you.

The real price difference between angle grinders and reciprocating saws comes when you look at high-end models. The most expensive angle grinders are around $250. That’s significantly less than the price of a professional-grade reciprocating saw, and while the two aren’t interchangeable, it is important to consider if you’re deciding between two otherwise equal models.

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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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