7 Types of Reciprocating Blades (For Every Job)

Last Updated on December 22, 2023 by Web Operator

While there are many different types of saws out there, reciprocating saws remain among the most popular.

Reciprocating saws are inexpensive, versatile, and powerful tools for cutting wood and other materials. But that versatility and power are only possible if you use the right blade for the right situation. Follow this guide to understand how to match your reciprocating blades to the right projects.

While this isn’t a guide for making your purchase, it will give you the groundwork to understand what different blades are for, how they differ, and whether you should use that generic starting blade that your saw came with.

reciprocating saw without blade

What Makes Reciprocating Blade Types Different?

Generally, blades will differ along a few factors: teeth per inch (TPI), materials used, and thickness. Each of these will affect the blade’s cutting speed, durability, and ability to cut different materials.

Teeth per inch refers to the number of sawteeth per inch of blade. More teeth will usually result in a smoother cut, while fewer will result in a rougher but faster cut. Usually, blades made to cut through harder materials will have higher TPIs.

The materials used to make a sawblade will affect its durability and ability to cut through tough materials. Carbon steel is flexible, but lacks the durability of other alloys like tungsten carbide. Often, reciprocating blades will feature bi-metal construction, using one blade for the blade’s body and another for the teeth.

Finally, the thickness of a blade trades its durability for flexibility. Thicker blades are harder, but might have excessive vibration that makes cutting more difficult. Thinner blades are more maneuverable, but might not have the toughness to cut through especially hard materials.

Wood-Cutting Blades

inserting wood cutting blade reciprocating saw

Features of most wood-cutting blades: 

  • TPI: 5-10
  • Material: Steel
  • Other notes: General purpose blade, not for hard materials

By far the most common reciprocating saw blades are wood-cutting blades. This is likely what came with your saw: a simple, steel blade for cutting through branches, smaller trunks, and other general materials that aren’t especially hard.

If you’re trying to fell a sapling or a thinner, mature tree, these will do the job. They’re especially well-suited to pruning, as well as trimming thinner lumber that doesn’t need an especially clean edge. 

However, if you’re working with lumber that already has nails or other metal pieces in it, wood-cutting blades likely aren’t appropriate. They’ll lack the durability to endure that kind of hard work, and they could chip, crack, or even break when trying to work through hard nails. 

Similarly, you shouldn’t try to use wood-cutting blades to cut through harder materials like clay, ceramic, or metal. They’ll also struggle with thick hardwood trunks, where you might consider using a chainsaw instead.

Drywall, plaster, and PVC piping should all be fair game with most wood-cutting blades as well, although if you have any concerns you can upgrade to a tougher blade.

Demolition Blades

cutting wood board with reciprocating saw

Features of most demolition blades: 

  • TPI: 6-11
  • Material: Bi-metal or stronger steel alloys
  • Other notes: Thicker, more durable blade

Demolition blades are the next step up from wood-cutting blades. While they’re perfectly suited to cutting the same wood, plaster, and other materials as wood-cutting blades, they can also handle tougher materials.

The most common application for demolition blades is cutting through wood with nails embedded in it. That kind of work can permanently damage thinner, weaker blades, but demolition blades are generally designed to withstand it and do the job with relatively little chance of damage.

Some demolition blades have variable TPIs. That means that different parts of the blade will have different TPIs. You can cut the tougher materials with the high-TPI section of the blade, and weaker materials with the faster, high-TPI area.

Some demolition blades, especially those with higher TPIs made of tougher metals, can also cut stainless steel and tougher pipes. While this can vary significantly from one blade to another, it’s worth noting that these blades have even more versatility and durability than typical wood-cutting blades.

Combination Blades

cutting reciprocating saw with combination blade

Features of most combination blades: 

  • TPI: 6-14
  • Material: Bi-metal or stronger steel alloys
  • Other notes: Variable TPI, usually 10/14

Combination blades are, by design, the most versatile reciprocating saw blades. The name “combination” refers to the variable TPI that all combination blades have. A variable TPI opens up more materials that you can cut with the combination blade, increasing its versatility.

A blade with a high TPI will cut more slowly, but be able to pierce through tough materials. Conversely, blades with low TPI will cut quickly through softer materials like wood, but struggle to make any progress against metals.

Combination blades combine low and high TPI sections to let you cut through soft materials quickly and tough ones more slowly. Unfortunately, this means that there is less space on the blade for each TPI than you’d get on separate blades for each TPI. 

Metal-Cutting Blades

cutting metal with reciprocating saw

Features of most metal-cutting blades: 

  • TPI: 10-24
  • Material: Bi-metal with cobalt-steel or high-speed steel tips
  • Other notes: Also useful for wood finishing cuts

As the name implies, metal-cutting blades are mostly used for cutting through metal. They do this with tough, cobalt steel teeth and high TPIs. While you might think that a blade that can cut through metal is good for anything, they actually have very specific uses.

Metal-cutting blades are great for cutting through sheet metal, copper pipes, and aluminum. These thinner, lighter metals are a safe bet for high-TPI blades like these. That makes them a favorite for DIYers and professionals alike.

But despite their names, metal-cutting blades can’t cut through anything that’s made out of metal. For example, thick, cast-iron pipes are much safer to cut with an abrasive, diamond grit blade. 

Metal-cutting blades aren’t ideal for cutting through softer materials like wood either. While they won’t have any risk of breaking, their high TPI means that they’ll cut at a frustratingly slow pace. It’s better to use wood-cutting or demolition blades for those softer materials.

That said, people looking for an especially smooth finish on a wood cut should consider using a metal-cutting blade. While the time to cut through it may be longer than you’re used to, the cut will have much less tearout and irregularity than one you’d get from a wood-cutting blade.

Brick-Cutting Blades

brick cutting with reciprocating saw

Features of most metal-cutting blades: 

  • TPI: 2-6
  • Material: Bi-metal with carbide teeth or entirely carbide
  • Other notes: Specialized for bricks and masonry

Brick-cutting blades are among the most distinctive reciprocating saw blades you’ll see. Their low TPI makes them easily distinguishable, and is highly specialized to the task of cutting through stone and brick.

Cutting through tough materials like stone, brick, and concrete is tough enough that no tool is going to make it easy. But brick-cutting blades make it as easy as it can be, with a highly specialized design and highly durable materials. Brick-cutting blades use three factors to make cutting through bricks as easy as possible. 

First, their low TPIs (some dip below 2 teeth per inch) deliver power and decrease the risk of teeth breaking. Their thickness sometimes exceeds half an inch, further increasing the blade’s toughness. Finally, the carbide or bi-metal construction ensures that the blade can cut through the hardest stone.

These factors combine to make a blade that you can use to cut brick, cinder blocks, stone, gypsum, and many other tough, stony materials. While specific applications will obviously depend on the characteristics of the blade you use, these are built for those tough materials.

But all this specialization comes at a price. Brick-cutting blades aren’t useful for cutting wood, metal, plaster, or other non-stony materials. Their low TPI will create an extremely rough finish and make it much harder to get through hard materials like metal.

Grit Blades

cutting off metal with reciprocating saw

Features of most metal-cutting blades: 

  • TPI: None
  • Material: Carbide or diamond
  • Other notes: Abrasive edge for the hardest materials

Grit blades are made for materials so tough that you can’t use a sawblade with teeth. They act in a similar way to sandpaper, using friction to cut through the material instead of the cutting action of sawteeth.

Most grit blades have edges made out of tungsten carbide or industrial diamonds. Tungsten is an exceptionally tough, dense metal used in other applications like tank armor. Its durability is only exceeded by that of diamonds, the other material used for grit blades.

Grit blades, especially the toughest diamond-grit blades, are usually reserved for the toughest materials you might want to cut. These include thick cast-iron pipes, tile, and masonry. 

The friction of the blade’s action is much less likely to cause cracks and chipping than the rougher, cutting action of sawteeth. That makes these blades especially useful for cutting clay, tile, and masonry without making cracks.

Of course, grit blades have their own drawbacks. The main negative to these blades is how slowly they can work. While they leave clean, finished edges, they do so at the cost of speed. For that reason, if you don’t care about cracks and aesthetics, you might try and find a toothed alternative before using a grit blade.

Bore Blades

construction worker with reciprocating saw

Features of most metal-cutting blades: 

  • TPI: 7-14
  • Material: Bi-metal
  • Other notes: 2-in-1 blade for multiple purposes

Relatively new to the scene, bore blades are multipurpose blades that try to keep a combination blade’s versatility without any of the drawbacks. Their unique features also try to make additional cutting tasks easy without having to change to a new blade.

Where other reciprocating blades just keep a single side of the blade for cutting, bore blades feature teeth on all three sides. This means that they can have three different TPIs while keeping the advantages of having a full blade-length of teeth.

The top and bottom edges provide full-length blades that you can easily maneuver when making cuts in multiple directions. While the two edges have different TPIs, they’re both multi-purpose blades that you can use more or less interchangeably.

The bore blade’s tip has additional teeth for making plunge cuts without having to make holes first. 

While different blades will have varying levels of performance, it’s worth noting that a blade that tries to pack in too many features at the same time will generally suffer in terms of performance. 

There are blades specialized in each type of cutting that a bore blade accomplishes and likely do it better. Instead, the bore blade’s primary advantage is in the convenience of not changing blades.

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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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