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What is a Reciprocating Saw?

By J. Beam
Updated Jan 31, 2024
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A reciprocating saw is a power saw that achieves its cutting through a back and forth, or push and pull, blade motion. A reciprocating saw is often referred to as a sabre saw or sawzall, though Sawzall® is actually a registered trademark name of the Milwaukee Electric Tool Company rather than a blanket term for this type of saw. A reciprocating saw includes a variety of saws including the jigsaw and scroll saw, but typically refers to the power hand saw, resembling a hammer drill, designed to be used on both horizontal and vertical surfaces.

Though the reciprocating saw has many useful functions, it is frequently used in construction, especially when cutting out wallboard or other vertical surfaces. A reciprocating saw often has speed variances as a built in feature and newer models tend to have dual blade action, meaning that the blade moves up and down as well as back and forth, for ease in cutting. Most reciprocating saws also have a foot at the base of the blade that allows for steadying the saw on cutting surfaces.

There are many variances of reciprocating saws including speed, power, and power source. As a power source, a reciprocating saw may be either electric or cordless powered by a rechargeable battery. Though the cordless varieties provide some extra convenience, they are typically not as powerful as their corded counterparts. Cordless varieties typically feature a lithium ion battery and a charger and replacement batteries can be purchased separately. In addition, replacement blades are also readily available and are often interchangeable from one reciprocating saw to another.

The price range for a reciprocating saw is extremely varied, ranging from $20.00 to over $300 US Dollars. Obviously the wide price range reflects both quality of construction, included features, power and strength. The cheaper models typically are low-volt, corded varieties with no variable speeds or other features. The intended use, whether for simply cutting small pieces of wood or for heavier duty construction or demolition, should be the deciding factor for purchase of a reciprocating saw. A reciprocating saw that is too small or not powerful enough for bigger jobs will inevitably break under pressures it was not designed for.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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