Ah, the great debate: reciprocating saw vs jigsaw. Which one is better for the job? The answer, as with most things in life, is “it depends”.
But what are the differences between these two saws?
In essence, a jigsaw is a reciprocating saw. But when talking about a reciprocating saw, we mean the type also known as sawzall or saber saw.
So, In this blog post, we will explore the key differences between reciprocating saws and jigsaws. We will also discuss when it is best to use each type of saw and what specific benefits they offer.
By the end of this post, you should have a better understanding of which saw is right for your next project.
So let’s jump in, starting with a side-by-side comparison.
Side by Side comparison of the Jigsaw vs reciprocating saw
What are the main differences between a reciprocating saw and a jigsaw.
Alright, so one of the most common questions we get asked is: “What’s the difference between a jigsaw and a reciprocating saw?” It’s a great question because the two tools are very similar and can both be used for a variety of projects. Here’s a quick rundown of the main differences between these two popular power saws:
Jigsaws are smaller and more compact than reciprocating saws, making them easier to maneuver and less likely to cause fatigue during extended use.
Jigsaws typically have lower power rates than reciprocating saws, making them better suited for delicate cuts or working with sensitive materials.
The teeth on the slim jigsaw blade are designed to cut in a vertical up-and-down motion rather than the back-and-forth motion of a reciprocating saw.
A jigsaw is for intricate cuts and is operated by one hand
For the best result, you need to work on flat surfaces
A jigsaw can make stencils, curved lines, plunge cuts (albeit with the help of a drill), and scroll cuts.
Reciprocating saws are larger and have immense cutting power making them better suited for heavy-duty cutting jobs, like demolition work.
The back-and-forth motion of the blade on a reciprocating saw is more efficient at cutting through thick or hard materials than the up-and-down motion of a jigsaw. Simply because you can apply more pressure.
Saber saws operate horizontally and can be equipped with various blade types, allowing them to be used for everything from cutting metal to plastic to concrete.
Is operated with two hands
Can work overhead and at any angle necessary
Will make rugged cut lines, but is good for pruning trees, making flush cuts, cutting wood (depending on thickness)
What is a jigsaw
Let’s start with the jigsaw. Just briefly because most of you already know what it is.
As you might know, a jigsaw is a compact reciprocating saw with a saw shoe and a blade that moves perpendicularly to it in an up-and-down movement.
To get the smoothest and straightest cuts, the shoe should always touch the material you want to cut.
This tool is known for its precision cutting.
It has a speed adjustment dial to manage the cutting power. This is essential when cutting different materials. F.i. slow for ceramic tiles and fast for wood.
A nice feature is that you can make bevel cuts of up to 45 degrees with a jigsaw.
So that is a short introduction to the jigsaw. Now we are up to the reciprocating saw.
What is a reciprocating saw /saber saw /sawzall
Reciprocating saws are powerful cutting tools where the cutting action is generated by reciprocating moves (back and forth).
Often referred to as sabers, saber saws, or Sawzalls. Originally, the latter was named as Milwaukee’s reciprocating saw and is widely used for saber sawing.
Thanks to its variable cutting speed a recip saw can make quick work of cutting through wood, metal, or plastic. Just as a jigsaw.
And because they’re so easy to use, they’re perfect for anyone from DIYers to professional contractors.
I hear you thinking, oke. Great. But what are the main differences, then? Well, that is why you are here, right? So below, we dive deeper into the differences between those two handheld power saws.
Where can you use a reciprocating saw for
One of the most common uses for a recip saw is making straight cuts in wood. Whether you’re cutting boards to length, shortening metal tubes, demolishing window frames, or trimming down a branch, a reciprocal saw can handle it. And because they have such powerful motors, they can even cut through thick metal nails hidden in wood frames with ease.
As hinted, if you’re working with metal, a reciprocating saw can also come in handy. They’re great for cutting through pipes and conduits, and their compact size makes them perfect for getting into tight spaces. Plus, with the right blade, they can even cut through tougher materials like cast iron and stainless steel.
Regarding plastics, a reciprocal saw can be used to cut PVC pipe and tubing, as well as acrylics and polycarbonates.
So whether you need to make quick work of some lumber. Jep, even some tree branches can be slayed with this tool. Or, if you want to tackle tougher materials like metal or plastic, a reciprocating saw is a tool for the job.
Common uses of jigsaw
Jigsaws are employed to do more complex work. For projects where accurate cutting is required, this saw is your choice.
This handheld tool is primarily used to cut neat, straight lines or more intricate cuts like smooth, wavy lines. Perfect for stencil cutting because when you use a thin blade with a high TPI count 10 or higher, your cuts will come out sharp and clean.
Another great feature is the bevel option. Thanks to the angled bevel cuts, you can saw some nice-looking edges. And depending on the thickness of the wood, you don’t have to carry a big miter or table saws to get to the same result.
When in need of a plunge cut, the jigsaw can also help you. You just need to drill a hole big enough for the saw blades to fit through.
Next to flat sheet materials, a jigsaw can also cut thicker pieces of wood as long as you take a longer blade. I found a 6.7″ blade and some 9″ but the latter is hard to get. DeWalt has one in this reciprocating saw blade set.
Pro tip: remove the blade guards when operating a longer saw blade because the longer blades are wider and won’t fit otherwise.
Alright, so what difference in pricing is there? Well, name brand jigsaws go from $85 up to $400. Sure, you will find cheaper ones. The question is. Do you want to buy one of those? Check our guide on buying the best jigsaw
Regarding saber saws, I found prices from $67 going all the way up to $650.
Jigsaw blades vs reciprocating saw blades
Both machines have dedicated saws that are replaceable according to your cutting needs. Here we dive deeper into the differences.
One of the main differences between the jigsaw blades vs the reciprocating saw blades had more the do with the stroke length of both machines.
A jigsaw has a stroke length of 3/4 to 1,5 inches or 18 to 26 mm. Reciprocating saws range from 1 to 1,8 inch or 25 to 46 mm
A jigsaw blade has two types of connections a quick click-and-go using t-shank blades and a screw-and-go u-shank blade. For the latter, you often need a hex key. Or other tool-specific ‘screws’ to change the blades.
A reciprocating saw has one universal attachment mechanism. So every saber saw blade is interchangeable. You can also find other useful attachments on the market today.
What materials can you cut?
Both the reciprocating saw and the jigsaw are mainly used to cut wood. But you can do so much more.
The nice thing about the reciprocating saws is that they have so much power that with the right blade, you can cut through wood and nails simultaneously without needing to change the blades.
With both tools, you can cut thin metal sheets, metal pipes, iron nails, and steel pins. Pick a blade made from carbon steel, and with a high TPI count upwards of 18 is best.
Of course both jigsaws and reciprocating saws have blades dedicated for cutting wood. The softer the wood, the lower the TPI count suffice. However, If you want clean cutting lines, then opt for a higher teeth count per inch because they tend to cut neater.
PVC’s plastic cutting
Oké, this is a tricky one. But main point is to try and look for dedicated “No-melt” blades. If you cannot find one then ask yourself. How clean of a cut does it have to be.
If you don’t mind some chipped pieces, then anything from 6 to 10 TPI will work for you. However, if you want it to be a clean cut, then anything from 12 is great.
But changes are you need to clean the blade occasionally because it will get clogged up with plastic debris.
Use a diamond grid blade and put the saw at a slower speed to protect the ceramic tile from cracking.
Reciprocating saw vs jigsaw FAQ’s
The difference between Sawzall and reciprocating saw?
Well, there is none. The reciprocating saws are known by several names. Some call it a Recip Saw, others call it a Saber Saw, and some call it Sawzall. Sawzall is a nickname invented by a Milwaukee electric toolmaker.
Should I use a jigsaw or reciprocating saw?
The long thin blade makes the Jigsaw a perfect tool for work that requires sharp cuts. Reciprocating saws, however are generally designed for rough cut or demolition projects such as removing wood or metal aggressively.
Can I use a reciprocating saw like a jigsaw?
Yes, you can, is it wise, though? Both ergonomics and blades are not designed for it. With a reciprocating saw, you can choose between blades mostly designed for heavy-duty projects like demolition and quick straight cuts. The Jigsaw, however is more designed for intricate shapes. So, for straight rough cuts, yes. Neat curved cuts, not so much.
What is a jig saw most commonly used for?
Jigsaws can be useful when cutting wood shapes with their small blades attached to their body through the rear spring-loaded clamps. The sharp teeth of blades are calculated using an inch TPI. A higher TPI results in smoother cuttings, which require minimal rubbing.
Can you use a reciprocating saw to cut wood?
A reciprocating saw can move through wood, plastering, and much more. Use the appropriate blade for your project, softer steel (bi-metal) for softwood and harder steel (carbide) for hardwood.
Are reciprocating saws interchangeable?
Yes, all blade replacements have the same shank connection and can be used on any reciprocating saw.