What Is A Reciprocating Saw Used For? It’s The Ultimate Saw!

When I first got started woodworking there were so many different tools and I would get confused with all the new terminology.  The term reciprocating saw may be confusing because the tool is also referred to as a “Sawzall” which is a brand name of a reciprocating by the Milwaukee Tool company.  This is similar to the term Kleenex being used for a tissue and Q-tip being used for a cotton ear swab. They are both brand names.

What Is A Reciprocating Saw Used For? The reciprocating saw can cut through lumber, masonry, ceramic, fiberglass, stucco, drywall, composites, steel, aluminum, copper, cast iron, doors, nails and plaster. Different materials may require different types of blades to effectively cut. Reciprocating saws are the ultimate demolition tools.

If you want to learn more about this versatile demo tool keep reading below.

What Is A Reciprocating Saw Used For?

Reciprocating saws are mainly used for demolition cutting and can be used to cut almost any type of material. Here is a list.

  • Lumber
  • Masonry
  • Ceramic
  • Fiberglass
  • Stucco
  • Drywall
  • Composites
  • Steel
  • Aluminum
  • Copper
  • Cast Iron
  • Doors
  • Nails  
  • Plaster

The cutting action for these saws is done through a push and pull mechanism on the blade similar to a jigsaw motion. This saw is not done by hand and requires electrical power to function. This saw’s design features a foot at the base which allows the user to hold the blade while countering the push and pull mechanism.

There are many different sizes and variations of reciprocating saws, ranging from heavy duty and corded to lightweight and cordless. Ultimately you can utilize this tool for heavy duty construction, or some precise cutting around a window frame.

Users can achieve quick and fine cuts in their wood through the saw blades orbital action. This action causes the tip of the blade to move in an oval pattern, perpendicular to the cut. The user can then cut up and down, as well as back and forth, giving you plenty of mobility for those tricky wood cuts.  The blade can actually be installed with the teeth facing up or down. We wrote another article on how to change a blade on a reciprocating saw click this link to read.

There are numerous ways one can use the reciprocating saw around the house. One extremely useful way is to cut through pipe, which can take a long time by hand. The blade can also be used for lopping off studs within walls, cutting into floors, cutting into ceilings, demolishing drywall, and slicing off nails when disassembling wood pallets for home projects.

There are some important reasons NOT to buy a reciprocating saw. If you are using for a non-demolition purpose like making sink cutouts in countertops, then you are probably better off using routers, especially for counter tops. If you are not careful or do not have much experience with power tools, then you may hurt yourself or others if you are not ready to handle the kickback from the tool when powered on.

There are some better alternatives to using a reciprocating saw. For instance, multi tools are capable of a wide range of functions including plunge cuts and with a multitude of interchangeable heads can be used for sanding, cutting, and gouging. Jigsaws are another possible alternative, especially if the material is thin enough. Hand saws are another possible alternative. The main difference between the handsaw and the reciprocating saw is the hand saw involves long strokes where the reciprocating saw uses short, tight, powerful strokes.

Looking to add another tool to your demolition arsenal? Then consider getting a reciprocating saw.

Reciprocating Saw Uses:

Here are some of the most common uses for a reciprocating saw:

Cutting Pipes: A reciprocating saw can quickly and easily cut through metal or PVC pipes, making it a handy tool for plumbers and pipefitters.

Cutting Metal: If you need to cut through sheet metal, rebar, or other thick metal objects, a reciprocating saw is the tool for the job. Just be sure to use a metal-cutting blade to avoid damaging the saw.

Cutting Wood: A reciprocating saw can also be used to cut through wood, although you’ll want to use a wood-cutting blade to avoid damaging the teeth on the metal blade.

Demolishing Buildings: If you’re involved in demolition work, a reciprocating saw can be a valuable tool for quickly breaking down walls and other structures. Just be sure to wear appropriate safety gear to protect yourself from flying debris.

The reciprocating saw is one of the most versatile tools you can have in your toolkit. With its powerful motor and sharp blade, it can easily cut through a variety of materials, making it ideal for everything from plumbing and carpentry to demolition work.

Reciprocating Saw VS Jigsaw

There’s a lot to consider when choosing between a reciprocating saw vs jigsaw.

Here are some key factors to keep in mind:

-The type of material you’ll be cutting: If you’re cutting through metal or other tough materials, a reciprocating saw is the better choice. For wood and softer materials, a jigsaw is a better option.

-The size of the material: A reciprocating saw can handle larger pieces of material than a jigsaw.

-The level of precision you need: If you need to make precise cuts, a jigsaw is the better option. Reciprocating saws are better for more general cutting.

So, which one is right for you? It depends on your specific needs. Consider the factors above to make the best choice for your project.

How Thick Can A Reciprocating Saw Cut?

Reciprocating saws can through very thick material. As long the material doesn’t pinch the blade to stop it from rotating your saw should keep cutting. It is important to choose the correct blade prior to starting your cut. 

A good rule of thumb is the thicker the material the less teeth per inch (TPI) you want on your blade so it can make large aggressive cuts and the thinner the material the more teeth per inch (TPI) you want on your blade so the cuts will be more precise.

Blades range from 3-12 inches in length. The longer the blade the deeper the cut and wider blades reduce bending and wobbling.  Shorter blades are better for plunge cutting.

Homedepot.com has some really good information on blade types.

Are Reciprocating Saws Dangerous?

All saws can be dangerous and because of the reciprocating saw’s versatility it can be extremely dangerous.  Always remember to unplug or remove the power source when changing blades, wear dust mask, wear eye protection, wear ear protection and use gloves. 

One of the most dangerous aspects is kickback. This can happen when you remove the blade from your cut while it is still moving back and forth. The blade can push of the material your cutting and kick the entire saw back at you. Maintain a tight grip on the saw because the blade can bind and get stuck unexpectedly during your cut.

The blade can heat up during use so allow time for it to cool off before changing the blade.

How Much Does A Reciprocating Saw Cost?

Reciprocating saws can range from $40-$1,000. Keep in mind try and purchase the highest quality for your budget because these saws if taken care of properly can last up to 15-20 years.

Why Is It Called A Sawzall?

SAWZALL is a trade marked brand name for Milwaukee Tool company’s reciprocating saw.  Since the company has been around since 1929 and makes high quality products and was so popular when first released the brand name became synonymous with the type of saw.

Because of the versatility of the reciprocating and it basically can “saw all” types of materials it seemed like a perfect name for the product.

Woodworking Joke:

Bill and Ray had been working together for fifty years, so it was no surprise that when they retired from the woodshop they spent a lot of time together. One day, they decided to play a round of golf.

Bill stood on the first tee, took his practice swing, and then turned to Ray.

“You could always see better than I,” he says. “Will you watch the ball for me?”

“Oh,sure,” says Ray.

So, Bill gets in position again, finds his balance, addresses the ball and makes what he thinks is a fantastic drive.

“Did you see it?” Bill asks.


“Where did it go?”

“I forget…”

Kevin Nelson

I will always have a special place in my heart for woodworking. I have such fond memories working on projects with my parents on the weekends in the garage growing up. We built tables, shelves, a backyard shed, 10' base for a water slide into the pool, 2 story fort playhouse with a fire pole, and so much more. This woodworking blog allows me to write helpful articles so others can enjoy woodworking as much as we have.

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