Destruction, now! That phrase encapsulates what a powered reciprocating saw does better than any other cutting instrument.
This powerful tool cuts bi-directionally, i.e. forwards and backwards, and the best ones do so with a controlled semi-circular movement to enhance the ‘destructiveness’ of each cut.
This potent power tool is used for a variety of purposes, from building and construction to teardowns and demolition, and from ‘tree surgery’ to sawing bones in human surgery. Self-evidently a tool that has such a vast variety of usages must be available in a wide variety of types and kinds, and so it is with reciprocating saws.
Like many power tools, recip saws come in corded and cordless models. With corded saws you do not have to worry about running out of juice; moreover, they undoubtedly offer a little bit more ‘oomph’ than cordless ones, but, by their very nature and usage reciprocating saws are often used in very tight spaces, hazardous situations, or where power supply is unavailable, in which cases a cordless model is preferable. But how to choose the right sabre saw?
First, have a look at the power specs. Wattage is typically around 800 but even in amateur recip saws it can vary widely from as low as 400 watts up to 1100 watts. Lower wattages are fine for lighter uses in the home while higher ones are needed for heavy-duty work in the field.
Next, consider the stroke length, which is the length through which the blade travels as it goes forward and backward. The greater the stroke length the more effective the sawing, and better saws will have higher stroke lengths. A stroke length of 28 to 30 millimetres is a good length.
Then, look into the strokes-per-minute rating of the saw. An SPM of 2,800 is the most common. Higher SPMs, all other things being equal, mean quicker saw-throughs. High-end models have a speed-adjustment trigger that allow you to fine-tune the SPM. Some models also have a lock that you can flick to latch onto an SPM once you have hit that sweet spot.
Finally, look into the blades you can use with a particular saw. Blade lengths range from 76 to 305 millimetres with the most common lengths falling smack-dab in the middle of these two extremes. However, over and above the blade length other variables are important too. These are blade width, teeth-per-inch, blade shape, material, and designated usage. Narrow blades, only about 1.6 millimetres wide, are used for precision sawing. Wide blades are stronger and meant for heavy-duty work. With respect to teeth-per-inch, the coarser and fewer the teeth, the more crudely and rapidly the blade will cut, while the smaller the teeth and the greater their number, the slower the sawing but the finer the cut and finish. The former types of blades are used for cutting wood, sheetrock, and such, are used for teardowns, and where a clean cut is not a concern; the latter types of blades are used for cutting piping, metals, and similar, and are necessary for precision work.
Blades are made of different kinds of steel, from stainless steel to diamond grit. These steels vary in hardness so as to cut through different materials. These range from softwoods and plastics at one extreme through to metal alloys and ceramic tile on the other.
Other factors to consider are orbital cutting and the size and shape of the shoe.
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Specifications aside, it is always a good idea to try out different makes and models of a particular power tool to actually test how it feels in the hand, how much or little it vibrates, the ease of changing blades, and how ergonomic it is.
Belying its modest specs, Makita’s cordless kit has potent cutting capability, and its ease-of-use and super design add up to make it a top product.
Makita’s cordless recip saw runs on an 18-Volt Li-Ion battery and its 450 watts of power drive it at 0 to 2,800 SPM with a stroke length of 32 millimetres.
According to Makita’s specs the DJR186Z can cut through wood of 255 millimetres which it indeed does, and without difficulty. The real ‘plus’ is that it is capable of a bit more than the specified cutting capacity. It cuts pipe up to 130 millimetres.
The elastomer handle is very comfortable as is the large trigger which combine to give the operator an easy ride. The trigger offers variable speed and has a lock-off lever.
Makita also claims that its ‘newly-designed crank mechanism’ reduces vibration, and that claim is on the money. Vibrations, rated at 12.5 m/sec², are minimal to virtually non-existent making this a very stable tool that one need not feel nervous using on a stepladder.
For a battery-operated saw with only 450 watts of power and 2,800 SPM, it is surprisingly powerful; it is good enough for tradesmen to carry for lighter jobs. The build quality is really solid and the body is well-finished. Though it is robust, it is also well-balanced.
This saw drains batteries very quickly; it would be a good idea to opt for a 5 Ah battery.
Weighing in at 3.5 kilogrammes without blade and about 3.8 kilogrammes with blade, this Makita kit is heavier than the competition.
This kit is sold as body only, though you can buy a bundled deal which includes a charger and battery at a discounted price. The package does not include a case, not even a cheapo plastic one let alone a Makpac, which is a bad show at the price.
Makita provides a one-year warranty which is extended to three-years if the purchase is registered within 30 days.
- While its specs are nothing to shout about, its power and performance definitely are!
- Smooth, nearly vibration-free operation make it stable and easy to use.
- Excellent build quality and finishing and all-round robustness gives the user confidence.
- Quaffs the ‘juice’ like there’s no tomorrow; use a big battery.
- It is rather heavy and is heavier than equivalent saws.
- Comes without any carry case.
Although B&D’s KS890ECN has a few hits, it has more misses including troublesome blade exchange, yet at its price this popular recip saw is a steal.
Black + Decker’s KS890ECN recip saw in its well-known Scorpion series has 400 watts driving the blade at zero to 5,500 SPM via a variable speed control trigger. The stroke length is 10 millimetres. It can accept blades of 239, 153 and 134 millimetres.
It is rated to cut wood to 100 millimetres and steel to 3 millimetres, which are fair specs. You can use it on limbs and posts and to cut up firewood – forget about chainsaws, chopsaws, or axes – B&D’s Scorpion is perfect for this kind of rough cutting but that’s about its limit as it is too underpowered and slow for tackling big chunks of hardwood.
This recip saw doubles as a jig saw as it can be switched between straight-line and curved cutting modes.
Although vibrations are rated at (only) 11.8 m/s², on this saw they are a decided nuisance.
The instructions are very poor, especially for removal and insertion of the blade. And inserting and locking the blade is so tough and tricky that it is the main reason prospective buyers should think twice before plumping for the KS890ECN. Another poorly-designed (mis)feature is that the safety button needs to be depressed while also pressing on the trigger.
This lightweight kit, weighing only 1.27 kilos, is quite durable and can withstand some abuse. Though it is underpowered for pros it is a good buy for hobbyist tasks and for use in the yard.
The power cord is 3 metres.
Three blades are included – wood, metal, and jigsaw – but they are not up to snuff and blunt quickly. This saw is a good deal at its retail price but with three blades included it is a very good deal. No wonder B&D’s Scorpion is Amazon’s Number One seller in both the Reciprocating Saws and Band Saws categories.
B&D provides a two-year warranty provided the saw has not been used for trade or professional purposes.
- The value: for the specs and features, the price is an amazing deal.
- It’s a two-in-one, being able to take up jig saw duties.
- A top-selling reciprocating saw, it is the winner in the popularity sweepstakes.
- Inserting and locking the blade is awful and can be a nightmare to deal with.
- Not meant for pros as it is underpowered, particularly for a corded saw.
- Wicked vibrations.
The godzilla among recip saws, Dewalt’s rig screams ‘power’ and blade insertion is a snap to make this corded rig good enough for professionals.
Dewalt’s corded recip saw is immensely powerful at 1100 watts and a 12-ampere motor to the extent that it can even sub for a chainsaw when the need arises. Yes, the work will take longer than it would with a chainsaw but Dewalt’s dynamo will get through it.
Its 29-millimetre stroke length cuts at zero to 2,900 SPM and the variable speed trigger allows users to instantly control SPM.
Straight-line cutting is easier with this Dewalt than with most other saws but vibrations are a concern.
The blade can be inserted in any of four orientations (facing downwards, upwards, left, or right). However, it is the ease and certainty with which blades can be removed and inserted that is one of the biggest plus points of the DWE305PK-GB.
Dewalt includes a ‘heavy-duty’ carry case, and it well matches their equally heavy duty saw. This rig is both robust and durable and is fit for professional use. With the right blade, it saws through wood, metal, drywall, sheetrock and more without any fuss.
At only 1.8 metres the power cord leaves a metre or so to be desired.
Tipping the scales at 3.5 kilos, this is a ‘light-heavyweight’ among recip saws but packs a ‘heavyweight’ punch.
This superb rig is pipped by the Makita DJR186Z as our Best Pick because the latter is cordless, smooth, very low on vibrations, and so well balanced but on another day we may have plumped for this Dewalt for its distinctive strengths.
Dewalt provides a three-year limited warranty and one year of free service.
- Monster power coupled with the right blade will rip through anything.
- Blade removal and insertion is quick and easy, and very reassuring.
- The carry case and its contents are equally robust and durable.
- Wicked vibrations which newbies and DIYers may not care for.
- The power cord is too short at only 1.8 metres.
Bosch’s cordless kit is pitched to DIYers who will quickly appreciate its user-friendly design like variable speed, battery indicator, and low vibrations.
Bosch’s 06033B2400 recip saw is a 2019 model. It is a cordless saw and operates on an 18-Volt 2.5 Ah Li-Ion battery. It has a stroke length of 23 millimetres and saws at zero to 3,100 SPM with variable speed. This variable speed is controlled by the pressure you put on the trigger, which is very easy to control and is a useful and convenient feature.
It is rated to cut wood at a depth of 100 millimetres, and this figure is backed up by actual usage. The cutting depth for steel is 20 millimetres. Another blurb that is proven in the field is that this kit is ‘ideally suited for quick and coarse cuts.’ Correct; this user-friendly saw is perfect for working in the garden and to take care of small jobs in the house.
Blade changes are relatively easy.
A very helpful feature is the LED battery level indicator – unlike other cordless kits, this one will warn you before it runs out of juice. Moreover, it uses the battery quite effectively and does not drain it in two minutes, putting some recip saw tipplers to shame.
The 06033B2400 is a lightweight, easy-to-use kit that is attractively priced and is a recip saw that beginners won’t have any trouble with. Vibrations are not a problem with this saw.
It comes with one blade; battery and charger are not included. Bosch’s 18-Volt ‘Power for ALL’ system means that if you have other Bosch tools of that family, you can use the same chargers and batteries for this reciprocating saw.
It weighs 2.5 kilogrammes.
Bosch provides a one-year warranty extendable to three years if the purchase is registered within 30 days.
- If a power tool can be graded on user-friendliness, this one gets an ‘A.’
- For its features and performance, the price is a fantastic value.
- Gently sips the ‘juice’ allowing the charge to last longer than in other cordless recip saws.
- Though perfect for newbies and hobbyists, it is insufficiently powerful for heavy-duty work.
- Not meant or designed for fine and precise finishing.
If you get a B+ on every criterion you end up with an A overall, and this is the main draw of Meterk’s saw which is a wonderful value for money.
Meterk’s corded sabre saw has an 850-watts of power that drive the blade at zero to 2,800 SPM with a stroke length of 28 millimetres. This kit is a 2019 model.
It allows you to choose the right speed for your job by using the trigger and the 11-speed knob, and then clicking on a button to lock on to the desired cutting speed. This is an excellent feature that you will use again and again.
You can orient this saw in any of three directions by rotating the handle 90° to the left or right. In addition, the shoe also pivots 10° both forwards and backwards to give you the best grip and leverage. The LED light in the front is a very nice surprise.
Though it certainly makes short work of wood and timber, this rig goes through steel pipe of over 100 millimetres.
The front of the saw has a twist-turn knob with which you loosen the collet to swap blades out and in. This blade-exchange implementation is both easy and convenient. Even the rubberised handle is comfortable and ergonomic.
Two blades are included, one for wood and one for metal.
The saw weighs 2.98 kilos.
We would say that if you want ruggedness and functionality, Meterk’s product is almost as good as any name brand saw – except that when you consider the variable speed control, LED light, and excellent blade-exchange design, it would be more accurate to say that this recip saw actually competes with many a name-brand kit and compares well with them.
Meterk’s reciprocating saw is terrific and, for its specs and features, the price is so competitive that if B&D’s Scorpion had been a bit more costly or this one a bit less costly, it may well have been our Value Pick.
Meterk provides a two-year warranty.
- The design and usability of the variable speed feature is quite excellent.
- Very easy blade interchange and also very comfortable handle and grip.
- The best thing about this sabre saw is not this plus or that pro, but the overall package.
- At almost 3 kilos this saw is perhaps not as lightweight as it could have been.
- For a 2019 model, Meterk might have tried their hand at a cordless kit.
What Is A Reciprocating Saw?
From the same family as sabre saws, scroll saws, and jig saws, the reciprocating saw is the grandpappy of them all. It is a powered saw that automatically cuts on both the forward and backward stroke, i.e. on both ‘push’ and ‘pull.’ High-end models add an ‘orbital’ movement, more correctly called elliptical movement, in which the blade traces a somewhat oval path as it goes back and forth; this enhances the potency of the cutting strokes.
It is a saw which has multifarious uses because of its power and efficacy, and the ability to swap blades in and out. It is so multi-purpose that it comes to your aid yet is also a tool of destruction: reciprocating saws are used to rescue injured people from car wrecks by cutting through the auto body but they are also used to saw through the walls and infrastructure of condemned buildings slated for demolition! More prosaic uses include pruning tree limbs, sawing through metal piping, cutting out holes in walls to fit windows, and sawing through stairs’ treads and risers – including through nails.
One of the strongest draws of powered reciprocating saws is that blades are interchangeable and that there is a blade specialised for every material and every purpose by way of its design, and number, width, and pitch of teeth. You can choose a blade geared to cut tree limbs and another to saw through metal fittings. Different types of blades have different lengths, widths, and tapers, and are made of different kinds of steels.
How To Change A Blade On A Sabre Saw
While saws and their designs vary to a greater or lesser degree from manufacturer to manufacturer, some fundamentals hold good across the spectrum of makes and models. First, wear thick work gloves. It is a good idea to wear goggles too. If the saw is corded, make sure it is unplugged. If it is cordless, set any power-lock switch to ‘Off,’ or remove the battery. Do not attempt to change the blade soon after using the saw because the blade will be hot; perhaps very hot. Finally, grasp the blade by holding it over and around the blunt edge.
The days of screw-fixed blades are long gone; modern saws have a twist-lock or clamping mechanism, spring-loaded in either case, which holds the blade in place and using which the blade can be changed.
If necessary, first remove the shoe.
You will see a twist-lock or clamp on the side of the handle near where the blade is inserted. Pull it or twist it as the case may be. If it locks in the open position then you can let go of it otherwise you will have to hold it open. Simply pull out the blade from the holder. Insert the new blade by sliding it in all the way. You will see a small hole by the tail; this hole has to be engaged by a locking pin inside the handle. Release the twist-lock or clamp so that it locks in place. Finally, jiggle the blade and pull on it to ensure that the blade is attached properly and the locking pin has gone through the retaining hole.
Other models will have a collet based system albeit with a pin-locking mechanism. Wear a glove on one hand and hold the saw with it and use the other hand to rotate the knob counterclockwise to loosen the collet. This knob is where the blade inserts into the tool’s body. Pull the blade out and insert the other blade. Rotate the knob clockwise to tighten the collet. Pull and jiggle the blade to ensure that it is fastened correctly.
If the shoe was removed, snap it back on.
Kersie learnt the basics of gardening as a toddler, courtesy of his grandfather. In his youth he was an active gardener with a preference for flowering plants. He is a professional and vocational writer and his freelance projects have spanned various kinds of writing.