The reciprocating saw is the most versatile demolition power tool out there today. It’s also the goto tool for installers of windows, skylights, plumbing and just about anything else that requires removing a chunk of anything. With the range of reciprocating saws out there it can be tough to know where to start. This article first identifies a few recommendations for different categories of buyers and then offers 12 points that will affect how much you end up paying.
Reciprocating Saw Recommendations for Contractors, DIYers, Budget Shoppers
Reciprocating saws aren’t quite as prevalently used amongst woodworkers as with other trades, so it’s no real surprise that I didn’t find as many reviews and questions in my regular forum resources. I did find some great recommendations from a couple different sources online that should steer you in the right direction. And remember, you can always google search the make and model of the tool you’re considering to see if you’ve got a stinker on your hands.
1) Contractor: Milwaukee Super Sawzall
Time and again the Milwaukee Super Sawzall comes out at the top of the stack, especially in contractor and pro forums and articles. The Makita AVT is a close second. Here are the recommendation numbers I found for each:
Ryobi Reciprocating Saw – Model P510
(DIYer and Budget suggestions from Galt Tech Reciprocating Saw Reviews and Buying Guide)
12 Things to Look For in Your Reciprocating Saw
There are a number of factors that will make the price of your reciprocating saw go up or down… along with performance. Having a good idea of how often you plan to use the tool, what materials you’ll be cutting and the overall work environment will give you a good idea of how to pick the right saw for yourself.
The higher the amperage, the more power you have. Reciprocating saws vary from about 9-15 amps of power. A 15 amp recip will run you $180-250 right now, but if you’re a contractor you might need that kind of power on a day to day basis. 11 amps should be plenty for the DIYer with a big demolition project. Here’s a bit more on amperage vs. horsepower: Making the Router Decision: Horsepower vs. Rated Amperage.
2) Stroke Length
The longer the stroke the faster the cut. That said, you don’t always want the blade protruding too far into your material. Most reciprocating saws run from 3/4 inch to 1 1/4 inch stroke length. Some are adjustable. Knowing your projects will be the best way to determine what stroke length will work best for you.
3) Blade Change Mechanism
Reciprocating saw blades need frequent changing, so how you change the blade has a big impact on your experience. More and more manufacturers have blade locks that don’t require an additional allen wrench. Blade lock mechanisms will vary widely from model to model though.
4) Shoe Adjustment
An adjustable shoe gives you more control over the depth of the cut and can make the saw more stable overall. Make sure that the adjustment mechanism is smooth and precise.
5) Orbital vs. Straight
An orbital reciprocating saw moves in a more elliptical or oval shape rather than just up and down. This makes it more aggressive and gives it a faster cut. Straight reciprocating saws move on a single plane, back and forth.
6) Strokes Per Minute
Reciprocating saws (both corded and cordless) run from 2300-3000 strokes per minute. Higher amperages usually translate into higher strokes per minute.
7) Variable Speed Control
Variable speed control – measured in strokes per minute – means that you can adjust how fast the blade cuts. Depending on your material or even your angle this can be a huge benefit. If you’re not using the saw very often it won’t make a bit of difference.
Weight can be a serious consideration for anyone who’s running a reciprocating saw at off angles or for long periods of time. A balanced saw design will minimize the feeling of weight, but it doesn’t help that much.
9) Rotating Blade/Handle
Many models come with blades or handles that rotate. This makes sawing in awkward positions much easier.
10) Corded vs. Cordless
To maintain fast, powerful cuts the corded reciprocating saw is your best bet. If you’re on a worksite without electricity then a cordless reciprocating saw could be your saving grace. A cordless saw also gives you more maneuverability and flexibility. Voltage options usually run from 18-24v.
Some reciprocating saws vibrate more than others. This can put a powerful fatigue into your arms if you’re sawing for long periods. Some recent technologies help reduce vibration, so if you’re cutting for the long haul be sure to check out vibration.
12) The Case
It may seem kinda petty, but the right case can make all the difference. What’s it made out of? Metal is your best bet. Will you have to take the blade off before you stow your saw? If so you’re adding an extra little PITA for yourself. Is there enough storage inside of it for you to keep your blades? If not then you’ll have to keep track of extra storage space.