Many people ask me whether they should buy a reciprocating saw or an angle grinder for their toolkit. This debate always intrigues me because they’re both such distinct machinery options. Both are pretty worthwhile in my opinion, though it is true that each provides different benefits and disadvantages.
So, when it comes to a reciprocating saw vs angle grinder, I can help you understand your best buying option. I carefully researched and handled each of these tools to give you the in-depth review that you need and deserve to handle this situation.
Your Reciprocating Saw vs Angle Grinder: Which Should You Buy?
I own both a reciprocating saw and an angle grinder because I find both of these tools provide many unique benefits. However, you might be at a point where you can only buy one or the other. Or maybe you’re deciding which option you want to take with you to a job. So, let’s take a look at each tool, how they can be used, and what kind of benefits that they provide you.
Understanding Your Reciprocating Saw
A reciprocating saw is a two-handed power tool that can be used for many cutting purposes. Its overall design is one of its most significant benefits, in my opinion. Its tapered design, which narrows from the handle to the horizontal cutting blade, is simple, streamlined, and easy to understand. As a result, it doesn’t take very long to know how to use this tool. My son picked one up with me at 12 and was cutting wood in no time.
This simple operation is helped even further by the streamlined design. First, you hold on to the rear handle with your most substantial hand and the front rest with your other hand. This rest is just behind the blade but is protected by a guard that makes it impossible for the saw to slip and cut your handle. Then, when you pull the trigger, the horizontal blade just back and forward (reciprocating, in other words) to provide cutting power.
Using This Saw
With a simple design and an easy overall operation, this tool has earned the generic nickname of a Sawzall. And that name is well deserved. There’s very little that you can’t do with this tool. For example, you can cut sheets of drywall in almost no time. I use it to cut these sheets to their proper size and shape in just minutes, creating easy-to-manage drywall that is simple to handle and operate.
However, I’ve also used it on demolition projects thanks to its overall sleek and light design. You can break through doors, window frames, and much more with minimal difficulty. Even better, you can swap out the blade to cut through stone and metal, though you may need to choose a Sawzall with a more powerful engine, as this rate may vary depending on the design or brand of the saw.
Typically, you can find engines that cut at 2,600 to 3,300 strokes per minute. I usually prefer an excellent middle ground between these two levels. Too low, and your reciprocating saw won’t cut nearly as smoothly. Too high, and you might feel uncomfortable handling it. While these differences may seem relatively small, they are surprisingly more intense than many people might expect.
As for features, you can’t buy a reciprocating saw without getting an anti-vibe control. These suppressing elements help to stop the saw from shaking you too excessively. I also suggest looking for a saw with an easy-blade swapping mechanism. In this way, you can more easily get the high-quality cutting experience that you want and minimize your overall work time on your projects.
The Pros of a Reciprocating Saw
A great reciprocating saw is a powerful tool that can be used for many jobs. I love taking this tool with me to just about every job I do and bust it out for many at-home renovation steps. Just a few reasons why it’s an excellent choice for your general use include:
- Ease and Diversity of Use – Most people who buy a reciprocating saw quickly find that it provides a surprisingly diverse array of uses that make it a potent option for many people.
- Light and Smooth Design – A reciprocating saw is lightweight and easy to handle, making it easier to hold above your head for complex cutting situations without straining yourself.
- Great for Demolition – When tearing down a home or breaking apart its elements for renovation, a reciprocating saw is great because it can non-indiscriminately destroy many parts of a building.
I also love my reciprocating saw for its ease of blade swapping, the simplicity of its overall design, and its relatively inexpensive cost. However, there are a few things to consider before you buy one. No tool is perfect, and you’ll need to make sure this choice is right for your needs.
The Cons of a Reciprocating Saw
In my hears of carpentry, I’ve found reciprocating saws have a handful of limitations that I have to work around on each project. Simply put, I have to find different tools to handle a few tasks that this tool is just not suitable to perform. Just a few downsides of this tool include how it:
- May Lack Power for Some Cuts – While I love my reciprocating saw for demolition and other similar projects, it does lack a little power for some jobs. Therefore, I wouldn’t recommend it for long-term metal or stone use, though it can be used to cut these materials from time to time.
- Cannot Cut Complex Shapes – If you’re trying to grind your material or make complex shapes, you’re going to be gravely disappointed with a reciprocating saw. It is similar to but not quite the same as a jigsaw, and its blade curving is more limited than that unique tool option.
- Is Not Great for Curves – I’d strongly recommend that you not use your reciprocating saw if you want really tight or accurate curves. While you can cut some pretty primary curvature without many difficulties, anything that needs precision and accuracy is not likely to work well.
Do these cons automatically lose the reciprocating saw vs. angle grinder war? Not quite. They just indicate the limitations of this tool. The angle grinder will also have some downsides that must be considered before using it. So, let’s jump right in to learn more about it.
Understanding Your Angle Grinder
Otherwise known as a disc or side grinder, an angle grinder has a similar overall shape, size, and weight to a reciprocating saw. Like that tool, it has its main work surface at the end. You also have to use two hands to hold and use the tool. And it is often used for destruction and demolition, that it can also be used for more generalized construction purposes.
Using The Angle Grinder
I find it’s best to think of the angle grinder as a two-hand tool. You hold the handle with your strong hand and guide it with your weak hand, just like with a reciprocating saw. However, you’ll need to use a little more strength with this tool because it tends to be quite powerful when used.
I’ve cut, demolished, polished, and ground many surfaces with this tool. For example, I’ve used it to polish a metal surface to make it more attractive. And I’ve cut some precise but straightforward angles and curves with it as well. The cutting blade is strong enough for metal, masonry, and most wood.
An angle grinder has a capacity of 5,000 to 10,000 revolutions per minute. This speed is higher than that of the reciprocating saw, though it is fair to point out that the blade rotates and does not go back and forth, like with that tool. As a result, these tools aren’t 1-to-1 comparable.
Is faster better with an angle grinder? That depends on your needs. I find that quicker speeds do provide better smoothness and precision but wear your tool out faster. The reverse is true for slower speeds. As a result, you need to choose wisely when deciding on your angle grinder.
I like to buy angle grinders with an automatic stop function. This feature stops your tool if it gets excessive debris on its blade and minimizes damage. And it also helps to keep you from getting hurt as well. Beyond that, I also like a grinder with a wood-dust chute. These chutes shoot dust away from your face to make sure that you can work safely and effectively.
The Pros of Angle Grinders
My opinion is that just about every carpenter needs an angle grinder in their tool kit. These machines have far more advantages than they do disadvantages and work well in many situations. Just a few of the most overwhelming benefits of these tools include:
- Very Mobile Design – Like the reciprocating saw, an angle grinder is very lightweight and easy to move from one gig to the next. They also use a two-handled design for maximum safety.
- Diverse Range of Uses – While designed for metal and masonry, carpenters like myself love angle grinders because they work well on just about any type of wood on the market.
- Very Powerful Design – The power of an angle grinder is hard to deny. It can work on metal and stone and provide excellent results without quickly wearing out the tool or the blade.
These benefits are relatively similar to those of a reciprocating saw. Comparing the two, though, I’d say a reciprocating saw is more portable but not as diverse or powerful as an angle grinder. Does that mean the reciprocating saw vs angle grinder debate is over? Not even close.
The Cons of Angle Grinders
While I still think that angle grinders work well for many carpentry situations, I would be remiss not to point out a few common issues some may experience. These concerns are relatively minor, I believe, though they deserve to be weighed and considered before you buy one:
- May Overheat Fairly Quickly – Even when grinding wood, you might notice your angle grinder getting surprisingly hot. It would be best if you took breaks when you work with it to avoid severe damage.
- Possess a Steep Learning Curve – Unlike the reciprocating saw, the angle grinder takes a little more skill to handle. I would not let my 12-year-old son use one without a lot of practice first.
- Spindle May Be Quite Long – Your angle grinder’s spindle may be a bit too long for some jobs, which could cause issues. Make sure to consider this factor before you start cutting carefully.
Other things to consider include the overall design and materials used on these tools. I find that they’re usually pretty strong, even when made mostly of plastic. While I know I often downgrade tools for using a plastic-based design, some plastic materials are better than others.
Which Tool Wins the Reciprocating Saw vs Angle Grinder Battle?
Let me be completely honest here: I love both of these tools and use both on nearly all my projects. Both have different uses that make them worth considering. For example, I pull out my reciprocating saw to demolish materials and the angle grinder when I need more precision-based work.
If forced to choose between the two, I’d say the angle grinder slightly edges out the reciprocating saw. It’s just a little more diverse and precise in operation. So, if you can only buy one of these tools, I’d suggest the grinder. However, I still recommend buying a reciprocating saw when you can afford it.