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The Ultimate Reciprocating Saw Guide

A reciprocating saw will be explain completely in this reciprocating saw guide, but for starters it helps to know exactly what it is.

What is a Reciprocating Saw?

The basics of a reciprocating saw is it is a power tool that can be cordless or not and going into the handle is a saw blade that goes back and forth in and out. The sawing motion is made with a motor and is similar to if you are using a hand saw on a piece of wood. The only difference is you aren’t having to use your arm to make the push and pull motion. You just have to guide the saw down the line you want to cut.

Other names for reciprocating saws are sawzall or some with special functions are called hognose or jigsaws. Now that you know the basics of what a reciprocating saw is we can get into more details of what reciprocating saws are used for and how to use them in this complete reciprocating saw guide.

Parts of a Reciprocating Saw.

Reciprocating saws are really only a few parts.

Sawzall Motor Housing

The main parts are the motor housing that holds the motor and parts that cause the blade to move.

Reciprocating Saw Blades

Then you have the blades which can be changed in different manners and different blades are used for different materials.


After that you have the shoe that helps guide the blade and helps you guide the saw to keep the cut straight.

Power Supply

Lastly, you have the power supply be it a battery or a cord. Both have their benefits and reciprocating saw reviews can help you determine what is right for you.

How to use a Reciprocating Saw

You could have the best reciprocating saw, but if you don’t know how to use it than it is useless. That is why understanding the proper way to use a reciprocating saw is very important and why now that you know the parts we are going to move on to covering how to use a reciprocating saw in this reciprocating saw beginner’s guide.

Use The Right Blade

First you want to make sure you use the right blade for the job being done. The blades have teeth spaced in different distances and the closer they are the easier it is to cut certain material. For wood the teeth don’t have to be as close as if you are cutting pipes or metal. Once you know what you are going to be cutting and have the proper blade selected it is time to install it.

Installing the Sawzall Blades Correctly

Installing reciprocating saw blades correctly is really important. You don’t want the blade to come out while cutting things or for the blade to slip. Reciprocating saws have different methods on how to install blades, so it is very important you read and understand the instructions for your particular reciprocating saw. Some you just have a release lever that you have to lift up and push down. If your saw is this method, then you have to make sure the blade goes in all the way till it latches and then make sure the lever is pushed down properly.

Some others require a tool to change the blade. While these take longer to change the blade they are generally safer and you don’t have to worry about the latch breaking. These are similar to drills that require a chuck to take the bit out. You put the tool in the proper hole and loosen the old blade and remove it. Then you put the new blade all the way in and tighten it till it is as tight as you can go. Once the blade is installed you can power the unit.

Never Change The Blade While The Unit Is Powered

You never want to change the blade while the unit is powered. This is because you might accidentally turn it on. Instead it is best practice to plug a corded sawzall in after you got the new blade in. If it is a cordless reciprocating saw, then you can attach the battery after you got the selected blade in. Then you can turn it on.

Some models still have a safety, so even if on if the safety switch is in the lock position, then the trigger won’t pull. This is a useful feature as it keeps accidents from happening and is again a lot like most household drills that you are familiar with.

Keep The Reciprocating Saw Straight

Once you have the blade installed and the power on you can begin cutting. Like you will learn farther in this reciprocating saw guide, it takes different cutting techniques for different materials, but the important thing to remember is most of the time you will want to keep the saw straight while making a cut.

To do this there are different techniques that can be done. One is if you are cutting downwards from a vertical position you can put your foot on the thing being cut to help brace yourself. Another is you can make a block guide.

A block guide can be a piece of scrape wood that you clamp to the board being cut in a position that if you keep the reciprocating saw shoe pressed against it, that it will guide the saw down the line you want. For perfect accuracy you can clamp scraps to both sides, so it guides the reciprocating saw shoe perfectly.

Use The Sawzall Shoe As a Guide

The shoe alone can be a great guide tool without others. You can mark on the thing being cut where the shoe need to stay and with practice you can guide the shoe straight down that path. It can be hard though because reciprocating saws do vibrate. One way to reduce vibration is to have a reciprocating saw with variable speed. This means you can squeeze the trigger with different strengths and the blade will move at slower or quicker speeds the harder you press it.

This is helpful so you don’t have to constantly change blades for different cutting situations. Another way to reduce vibrations is you still might have to use sawing, push and pull, actions in thicker material. This gives the reciprocating saw a little extra help in making it through hard things. Thick pieces of wood or PVC piping might be where you need to use this technique the most.

What to use a Reciprocating Saw for

So, now that this reciprocating saw beginner’s guide has covered how to use a reciprocating saw it is important to know what you can use it for. This is especially important since what you are using it for will determine what blade you want to use.


One of the main common uses for a reciprocating saw is cutting PVC pipe. Reaching a normal saw under a sink or tight are can be hard and so using a thinner reciprocating saw is easier. Also, the blades cut faster, so it makes the job faster.


You can get a special blade with a rounded nose and bi-metal blade teeth on both sides so you don’t have to reverse the blade to change the cutting direction and you can make easy plunge cuts. This blade is also handy if you are doing HVAC or electrical work and cutting through air ducks or making holes for wires.

Cutting Off Pesky Nails, Pins, or Screws

Another use for a reciprocating saw is cutting off pesky nails, pins, or screws. I am sure there has been times where you stripped a screw and really needed to get it out and had to twist it out with pliers or something. Well, if you had a reciprocating saw you could have just cut it off and put some putty over it to cover it up.

This can also be handy for cutting off nails or pins that just won’t come out no matter how much effort you put in pulling them. Plus, you don’t want to pry too hard on getting a nail out and then damage the pain or drywall around it. Cutting the nail or pin off can be the best option sometimes and is a lot faster.

Cutting Hard Materials

Reciprocating saws can be used on hard materials as well. You can cut thru concrete or brick with the proper blades. This is important because you might need to run something out of your brick house and out through the foundation. If you do, then all you got to do is get a masonry blade and it will cut through without any problems. Masonry blades cut smoothly to reduce dust and also have finer teeth to reduce heat.

Fitting Windows And Framing Jobs

Another common use for reciprocating saws is fitting windows. To get a window into the frame of the house the hole has to be cut just perfectly. Sometimes you don’t get the hole framed right and have to edge it a little. The reciprocating saw is an easy tool to do this with. You can cut a chunk out of the wood framing and do it quickly without having to take the wall down.

Also, you can be precise and take out just the chunk of wood you need to, to make sure the window fits. You can also shave off just little bits of wood to make sure the window sits in the frame nice and tight.

Reciprocating saws can be used for other framing jobs as well. You can cut thru the two by fours and take the extra ends off that aren’t needed in a hurry or you can cut gaps into drywall if you need an access panel or putting in a light switch. The uses for reciprocating saws are unlimited.

Sawzall In The Garden

Speaking of being unlimited you don’t just have to use reciprocating saws for construction work. While it is great that they have blades for all kinds of material from PVC pipes, to wood, to metal, and brick you can use them outside to, even in the garden. If you have bushes that need cut, then don’t worry about buying a hedger tool, instead just use your reciprocating saw. You can also use it to cut down small trees that are growing where they shouldn’t be growing or thicker weeds. For most outside gardening work you will find that a metal blade with a lot of teeth spaced closed together works the best. The tight teeth spacing really cutes through fibrous materials well.

What to look for when buying Reciprocating Saws

Now that we have covered the uses in this reciprocating saw guide we can cover key features to look for when buying a saw or reading reciprocating saw reviews.

Cordless Or Corded Reciprocating Saw

The first thing to consider is if you are needing a cordless tool or corded tool. If you plan on using your tool outside, or traveling with your tool, then you might really want to consider a cordless tool. The fact that it is cordless gives you more flexibility to be able to use it on the go and where you need too. The downside to cordless reciprocating saws is they can lack power.

How Much Power Do You Need?

Power for reciprocating saws is measured in amperage. Generally the higher the number the more power it has. More power may seem better, but deepening on your uses it might not be. The more powerful your tool is the harder it may be for you to control. If the motor is bigger, then the tool could weigh more and be harder for you to guide.

You have to think about your main uses to determine how much power you need. If you are mainly going to be cutting wood or piping, then you don’t need as powerful of reciprocating saw as if you are going to be cutting metal or brick. This is something important to keep in mind when reading reciprocating saw reviews.

Strokes Per Minute

Related to power is the saws strokes per minute. This is the number of times the blade does the back and forth, push and pull motion, per minute. The more times it does it generally the faster the saw can cut through things and also the easier it is to cut through harder material with the proper blade.

The faster it moves though also means more vibrations, so you got to remember that the proper blade affects cutting more than maximum speed. A lot of times you probably won’t even be using the reciprocating saw at maximum speed. Instead you will be using the variable speed control if your saw has it. We already talked about what this does. It allows you to partially pull the trigger to run the saw slower, or press it harder to run the saw faster.

Stroke Length

Something else that effects how fast you can cut through something is the stroke length. This is important to keep in mind when reading reciprocating saw reviews because if you know you are going to be cutting through thick material you might want a longer stroke length. This is because more of the blade will get used and it will reduce the blade heating up. Also, it will cause each individual tooth to be used a little less, so the blades will last a bit longer. Stroke length will also affect how long of blades you need to buy and longer blades can cost more.

Adjustable Shoe

Some other features to keep in mind when reading reciprocating saw reviews is if the shoe is adjustable. The shoe comes in really handy on guiding the saw and also helping rest the saw in the right position to make plunge cuts and other specific cuts.

If you know you are going to be making a lot of a certain kind of cut, then you probably want to make sure the shoe can go in the position you need it too. Also, a rotating handle can be an extremely useful feature.

Ability To Rotate The Handle

The ability to rotate the handle makes it really easy to get the saw in tight spaces. If you are doing a lot of plumbing work or HVAC work, then this is probably a must have feature. Even if you aren’t doing that kind of work though it is still a nice feature to have if you can get it. For some instead of the handle routing the blade rotates, but this has the same effect of being able to get the proper angle in tight spaces.

Straight Reciprocating Saw Vs. Orbital Reciprocating Saws

One key reciprocating saw concept that we haven’t covered yet in this reciprocating saw beginner’s guide is straight vs. orbital saws. A straight saw cuts liner and basically goes straight down. On the other hand an orbital saw adds a bit of rotation to the blade as it moves back and forth. This allows you to cut faster and can also limit vibration.

While orbital saws are nice, they cost more and probable are only needed if you are using your reciprocating saw a lot. The vibration reduction though is a really nice bonus and some straight saws still build in vibration reduction. This is important because it helps you cut straight and also keeps your arm from getting tired. When reading reciprocating saw reviews you really want to pay attention to how much it vibrates.

Reciprocating Saw Weight

Outside of not using the right blade, weight can be a factor that can affect vibration. When reading sawzall reviews you want to look at this. If the saw is to light and you are using it on hard material, then it will be bouncing all around. If the sawzall is too heavy though, then your arm will get tired. You got to think about your use and your build to try to find a weight that matches up properly.

Case Is A Nice Bonus

Lastly some reciprocating saws come with a case. Coming with a case is a nice bonus as you can generally keep all your saws parts and blades in one spot. This helps keep your tools organized and neat. Another reason having a case is nice is it keeps your reciprocating saw clean when not in use. By keeping the saw clean it will help it last longer. If the one you think is right for you doesn’t come with a case though, then you shouldn’t let that stop you from buying it. You can always buy a case separately, so if the saw you pick has the features you need and not a case, then you should probably still get it.

Additional Reciprocating Saw Information

This complete reciprocating saw guide gives you all the basic information you need when starting to look at reciprocating saw reviews and trying to figure out what one is right for you. You can buy some accessories for your reciprocating saw to expand its uses, but these are advanced and not covered here. Some final things to keep in mind though are some safety tips. We already mentioned having the tool completely off when changing the blades, and also to make sure the blade is proper inserted, but there are a few other things you need to know.

Safety Tips

The first you should do with all tools and that is wear googles and hearing protection. Reciprocating saws can be loud and throw material all over. Next, don’t touch the blade right after cutting. It will be hot. Also, you got to watch for kickback and binding. You don’t want the blade to come out of the material while cutting, but you don’t want to get it to deep into the material that it stops cold.

Lastly, when cutting watch out for wires and pipes. This is especially important if cutting into a finished wall. You don’t want to cut anything that you weren’t supposed to cut.


Keeping these tips in mind and completely reading this beginner’s reciprocating saw guide you should be well on your way to finding one that is perfect for the jobs you need. You should now know how to use it properly and also know most of the things to keep in mind when reading reciprocating saw reviews. Finding the best reciprocating saw can be hard, but there is a best reciprocating saw out there for you.

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