How to choose a reciprocating saw

Reciprocating saw is a simple, convenient and safe tool designed to replace the archaic hand hacksaw. Unfortunately, many simply do not know about its capabilities, and it has not yet received proper distribution in our country.

Reciprocating saw capabilities
Abroad, the reciprocating saw is very popular and has practically supplanted the usual hacksaw, but in our country a rare master has this tool in his arsenal. Our housewives and owners of summer cottages have no idea that behind the belligerent name in the saber saw is a simple, convenient and safe tool. After all, it can do everything the same as an ordinary hacksaw and even more:

cut boards, beams, sheet material (plywood, fiberboard, chipboard, OSB)
cut branches of trees and bushes
cut old boards even with nails
cut out curly parts from plywood and thin boards
cut steel pipes and corners without sparks
saw off protruding excess boards, bricks, steel reinforcement
make openings in wooden walls
butcher frozen meat with bones
Moreover, for all this it is not at all necessary to fix the material on a workbench. The reciprocating saw is perfectly suited for free-standing work, and the material can be cut on the spot in almost any position. A rare professional tool will allow this.

Do not confuse a reciprocating saw and an alligator saw. Although they are often classified under one section, they are completely different tools with different purposes. An alligator saw looks most like a chain saw and has two blades fixed on a stationary tire and moving towards each other.

An alligator saw is a professional construction tool capable of making cuts not only in wood, but also in brick walls and walls made of porous concrete (aerated concrete, cinder blocks) up to 80 cm thick. It is impossible to saw metal with an alligator saw. Also, despite the high power and the huge length of the blades in comparison with saber saws, there are practically no vibrations in it: moving in the opposite direction, one blade dampens the inertia of the other. The advantages of alligator saws are the same as with saber saws: safety and ease of use. Due to the mutually compensated moments, it is much easier and safer to handle it than with a chain. The disadvantages include the impossibility of “bumping” into the wall (the stationary tire interferes) and the high price.

Reciprocating saw characteristics
The main parameter that determines the performance of the tool. The more powerful the saw, the faster it will cut and the longer and more “toothy” the blade can be installed in it. True, along with the power, the weight increases noticeably, and for a tool that is always on hand, this is a serious argument against excess power.

The price also rises along with the power, and this is a serious argument for any tool. In addition, models with high power and a long heavy blade vibrate noticeably during operation, and for such saws it becomes appropriate to install anti-vibration systems, which further increases the cost of the tool. Therefore, before choosing the most powerful model, you should decide how thick the materials you plan to cut. The maximum cutting depth is directly related to the saw power, so often the choice begins with the cutting depths for wood and steel.


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Maximum cut
This is the same power, only expressed in more understandable values. If the maximum cut of a tree is 60 mm, then this saw can cut branches up to 6 cm thick.In fact, it can be thicker, but the performance will be low, and the blade will often wedge, which can lead to saw breakage. The saw blade for the saw should be selected according to this parameter – the length is 20-50% more than the maximum cut.


The maximum cuts of different materials vary greatly. For wood, this parameter is maximum, for non-ferrous metals it is much less, and for steel it is minimal, usually 10 times less than for wood. Focus on the material with which you will work more often and select the tool for it.

Maximum frequency of movement of the file
Affects the ability to cut various materials – the harder the material, the more frequency of motion is needed to cut it. For soft wood, a minimum frequency of 2500-3000 strokes per minute will suffice. For hard types of wood, plastics, soft metals, the frequency needs to be higher – 3000-4000 strokes per minute. The maximum frequency is required for hard materials – steel, ceramics, and so on. If the saw is supposed to be used for cutting materials of different hardness, it is also necessary to adjust the stroke frequency.

Stroke length
The stroke length or range of motion of the blade together with the frequency of motion of the saw will affect productivity. The higher the frequency and the longer the stroke, the faster the tool will cut. The minimum stroke length depends on the blade used – the finer the teeth on the blade, the shorter the stroke it can be used. Fine-toothed metal blades can be used on saws with a minimum stroke length of 5-10 mm. Universal blades with medium-sized teeth of 2–3 mm will require a longer stroke of 15–40 mm. Wood blades with large teeth need a maximum stroke length of 40 mm, with a lower value the cut will be sloppy, and the saw performance will decrease.

Also, a long stroke is needed when cutting plastic (even if the blade has fine teeth) – with a small length, the blade will quickly heat up and melt the plastic being cut.

Pendulum stroke
If you look closely at the blade, you can see that only the cutting edge is sharpened at the teeth. The trailing edge of the teeth is not sharpened and, with the reverse movement of the blade, it creates resistance, increasing the load on the engine and practically not increasing the depth of the cut. The pendulum stroke reduces this resistance by raising the file slightly during the return stroke. As a result, the saw performance is noticeably increased. Obviously, this function will only work for straight cuts when there is free space above the back of the blade. When cutting curly lines, it is better to disable this function.

Type of food
Getting rid of the long, permanent tangling tail is the dream of any gardener working with garden electrical equipment. If the reciprocating saw is going to be used outside the home, choosing a cordless tool can quickly pay off. The main disadvantage of the cordless saw is the high price.


When deciding to purchase a cordless reciprocating saw, pay attention to the number of batteries in the kit and the presence of a charger in the kit. Please note that batteries may not be included. On the one hand, if you already have a cordless tool from a specific manufacturer, you can try matching a reciprocating saw from the same manufacturer to use one set of batteries. On the other hand, a cordless tool without batteries (and a charger) in the kit impresses with its seeming cheapness. Seemingly, because the price of two batteries and a charger separately sometimes exceeds the price of the tool itself. Therefore, if you do not have batteries at hand from another tool of the same company, you should not buy a reciprocating saw without batteries and a charger.

Also make sure the battery capacity is adequate for your needs. For short “home” work, one battery with a capacity of 2-3 A * h is enough. For long-term work in the garden, you will need a larger battery: 3-5 A * h, otherwise you will have to often interrupt to recharge. For professional work, it is better to have a pair of batteries with a capacity of 3-5 A * h – while one is in operation, the other is being charged.

engine’s type
Progress has not made it to the network saber saws, so far they are all equipped with a classic brushed motor. But among the battery ones you can already choose. Models with a brushed motor are cheaper and more maintainable. Brushless motors have higher efficiency, so models with such a motor will work longer on a single battery charge. And brushless motors last longer and run cooler.


When choosing a tool powered from the network, pay attention to the length of the wire – for different models it varies from 2 to 4 meters. Make sure the wire is long enough to complete your task, or get an extension cord straight away.

Additional options
Weight . An important parameter for a tool that is designed to work “by weight”. If the saw is supposed to be used in “uncomfortable” conditions, when it is not always possible to ensure a confident grip with both hands (for example, when pruning garden trees), it is better to choose a lighter model – up to 2.5 kg.

Soft start function . Without affecting the productivity of the work, this parameter significantly increases the safety of the tool and its service life. The first is due to the absence of sharp jerks at the beginning of work, which could pull the tool out of the hands. The second is due to the elimination of loads dangerous for engines that arise during such jerks.

The reciprocating saw vibrates quite strongly, prolonged work with it can lead to diseases of the joints of the hands. If you plan to use a reciprocating saw in professional activities, take care of the presence of an anti-vibration system on it. The presence of a rubberized handle will not be superfluous – it will give an additional softening effect.

Quick-clamping file attachment . The ability to quickly change the blade without the use of additional keys or screwdrivers, of course, greatly increases the versatility and convenience of the tool. Unfortunately, it also increases the price – the simplest and cheapest models do not have this function.


After choosing a model, you can take a closer look at it – does it have a support shoe ? The ability to push the tool against the material being cut is often very helpful.

In addition, a support shoe is almost essential if the saw is to be used to cut shapes from sheet material. Sometimes the shoe is not fixed strictly at 90 degrees, but can deviate, allowing you to cut at a given angle to the surface. This expands the capabilities of the tool, bringing it closer to jigsaws.


Selection Tips
To solve everyday problems arising in an apartment or a small household farm, an inexpensive household model with mains power will be sufficient .

If you intend to serve a country house, and garden trees and shrubs are growing on the site with might and main, it will be appropriate to choose a medium power saber saw .

If you intend to use a reciprocating saw in construction and dismantling, pay attention to a powerful professional tool with a smooth start , quick-release fastening and an anti-vibration system.