Essentially the most fundamental component of any woodworking shop is a quality saw!
But choosing which saw to get can be confusing. It should be fine as long as they cut wood, right? Well, that’s not entirely true.
When it comes to handheld saws, the reciprocating saw and the jigsaw are two of the common choices. Of course, they share the similarity of being able to cut through wood, but they are entirely different beyond that.
Depending on the task you need the saw for, using one type over another can make a massive difference in quality of work. This guide will list the differences between the two to help make the strengths and weaknesses of each clearer, and decide on the best option for you.
Reciprocating Saw Vs. Jigsaw
Table of Contents
Reciprocating Saw Features
The reciprocating saw is a versatile tool that can cut through many materials with ease. Its unique build allows it to be easily maneuvered to get a good cutting angle when working. While it handles many tasks reasonably well, there are specific jobs that the jigsaw does better.
Reciprocating saws are based on the hacksaw design. By motorizing the back and forth motion of the hacksaw, the efficiency and maneuverability were increased. At the same time, the versatility of the hacksaw was maintained.
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This ease of use is due to the positioning of the blade and handle parallel to each other. As the blade is connected only to one end of the handle, it is moved back and forth quickly to produce the cutting motion.
At the tip of the saw, you will find what is known as a ‘hog nose’ front. This includes the blade and, moving down along the saw, you’ll find a ‘shoe’ or ‘foot,’ front grip, orbital settings, vents, the trigger, and finally, the handle.
The “foot” at the base of the blade is a safety precaution to keep it from hitting anything sensitive. Moreover, many designs of the reciprocating saw feature a dust collection system and a clamp to secure the material being worked on.
Additionally, it has variable speed settings to control how fast the blade moves when working with different material types. This is crucial to ensure no damage to the material occurs due to the high speed.
Overall, the design of the reciprocating saw is pretty lightweight with its average weight being three to five pounds. This increases its portability tremendously to work in many tight spaces.
Almost all saw types have a similar back and forth motion when being used. This shared characteristic is present in the reciprocating saw as well. However, depending on the length and the orientation of the stroke, a difference in performance can be seen.
Shorter, blunt cuts are possible with a shorter stroke length. These are ideal for doing small detail work or when delicate cuts are required. Similarly, longer strokes are great for heavy-duty demolition but they are not the best choice if details are what you need.
When it comes to the reciprocating saw, the common use for it is demolition jobs. Due to its durability and power, it makes a great tool for any surface you’re trying to get through.
Whether it is any wood ranging from plywood, lumber, to wood with nails in it, or metals like steel, cast iron, aluminum, or copper, it can power through all these surfaces with ease.
The length of the saw gives more working area to cut through material, making it the ideal choice for demolition jobs. With this length, combined durability and power, in a small package, the reciprocating saw can get the job done as fast as possible.
As for the use cases, the reciprocating saw can be utilized fully when used on surfaces that are free-standing. Having a clear view of the blade in the open allows for efficient guidance to make the cleanest cuts.
As is the case with many power tools, using the correct attachment on the right tool can help make a job go much more smoothly. In the case of the reciprocating saw, there are three different types of blades available for various materials.
Where each blade differs is in the number of teeth per inch (known as TPI) and the angle at which these teeth are positioned. The higher the number of teeth along the blade determines how often the surface comes in contact with the edges. Essentially, the more teeth per inch, the easier it is able to cut through more challenging materials.
Angling of the teeth of the blade is another factor that changes how the blade is used. Sharper angled blades are more ideal for soft materials such as wood. On the other hand, teeth that are closer to the edge of the blade are ideal for harder surfaces. This is due to the extra strength they have due to the decreased risk of it breaking off.
One of the blade types of a reciprocating saw is called a plunge-cutting tip. This blade has a low TPI count and a narrow-tipped design. The teeth are large and angled sharply, which makes it ideal when working with wood and nail demolition.
Another blade type is called the bi-metal blade, which has a medium TPI. These teeth are not as large and remain close to the surface of the actual blade. The angle of the teeth is not as sharp as well, which makes this blade ideal for thicker wood and lighter metals.
The final blade type is the most heavy-duty performer of the three and is known as a straight edge tip. Designed to cut through metals, the TPI is medium with a small, serrated edge of teeth along the blade’s edge.
There are varying sizes to each of these blade types, which can be interchangeably used to have different results and efficiency in cutting. The sizes of a blade-type differ in the length of the teeth from the blade and the TPI count.
Due to the design of the reciprocating saw, there is a large margin for error while using it. The movement of the saw in the open with no casing to surround it can cause a number of injuries or damage.
With a larger blade that moves at high speed, the reciprocating saw can be unwieldy at times. It is a good idea to have prior experience with saws before working with one of these tools. There is no physical restriction as to how the saw can be maneuvered. As a result, it is easy to lose track of where the tip is pointing while using the saw or how far deep it is.
Taking the proper safety precautions and operating the saw carefully should be of utmost priority. Of course, the best course of action when using a reciprocating saw would be to have a professional work it. However, if it cannot be helped, then it is a good idea to remain mindful of where the blade is pointing and how long it is while using the saw.
The jigsaw is similar in build to the reciprocating saw, save for the positioning of the blade. Due to the simple rearrangement of the blade, the entire functionality of the saw has changed from the reciprocating saw. More precise control over the blade is just one advantage afforded to the jigsaw.
Having a similar build to the reciprocating saw, the jigsaw has a protruding blade at the bottom of the saw. This blade is at 90 degrees from the end of the main body of the saw and allows for more precise cuts to be made.
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One feature which is unique in the jigsaw is the ability to change the angle at which the saw protrudes from the main body. Moving it to a 45-degree angle can help in making shaped cuts or detailing work in a project.
When it comes to the actual build of the jigsaw, it is vertical in design in a sense the parts are stacked on top of each other. The jigsaw has a complex build compared to other saws, but these parts working in conjunction with each other allow for precise work to be done.
The blade at the bottom of the saw is followed by the clamp mechanism, a blade guard, and a blade roller guard. Moving higher up the jigsaw is the footplate of the blade, the handle, a lock-on button, and in some models, a laser guide. The controls at the top of the drill are simply an on/off switch and sometimes an orbital action button.
Additionally, the jigsaw is relatively lightweight and can be held comfortably in one hand. Coming in at six to 12 pounds, the jigsaw is a machine that can hold its own when being used.
Overall, the blades of a jigsaw are narrow and small. This sizing helps them create intricate cuts along the surface of the material or cut out a detailed shape. At the base of the blade is a ‘foot’ that acts as a guard to protect the blade from slipping and causing injury.
A jigsaw may not have the longest blade in the workshop, but it does have a variety of applications, thanks to its unique design. The blade’s positioning at the bottom of the saw allows the cuts made to be more detailed.
By running the saw over a surface, the blade can cut down into the material and make any shaped cut-out. Additionally, changing the angle at which the blade sticks out of the saw opens up to the possibility of making bevel and compound cuts. Another cut possible thanks to the design of the jigsaw is a parallel cut.
What’s more, some jigsaws have what is called an orbital motion. This particular motion means beyond the blade’s simple up and down oscillation; there is also a slight forward and back movement when cutting material.
Due to the exceptional maneuverability of the jigsaw’s blade, the jigsaw can be guided to make smooth cuts. Even going so far as to produce detailed designs that would be nearly impossible with any other saw.
To effectively use a jigsaw, it is placed on the top of the material. By leaning over it to apply pressure, the blade will cut through the edge of the material and work its way inwards. Once it has passed the edge of the material, it is then possible to make any shaped cutout or recess you want.
A short blade that can be adjusted to give varying effects on the material’s surface can create intricate designs. Additionally, the short blade coupled with a guide can make circular cuts or cuts that are perfectly parallel to the edge of the material.
Rounded cuts are also possible with a jigsaw as the blade’s length does not protrude too far out from the body of the saw.
While the length of the blade brings many additional applications impossible for other saws, it also limits the thickness of the material it can cut through. A jigsaw will be most efficient on hardwood that is no more than ¾” thick or softwood up to 1.5” thick.
Beginning a cut with the jigsaw is a simple matter of placing the base plate of the saw at 90-degrees to the material’s surface. However, it is also possible to make a recess or cutout in the center of the material by drilling a small hole to fit the blade through, then using that as your starting point.
As for the materials that a jigsaw is capable of cutting through, it is relatively limited. The more common materials, wood, as well as metal and plastic, can be dealt with easily by the jigsaw. Other materials it can cut through are ceramic, particleboard, and plywood.
Similar to the reciprocating saw, the jigsaw has several blade types specialized for use with a particular material. These blades are classified based on the number of teeth per inch for use on different surfaces.
When it comes to jigsaw blades, there are two classifications – the T-shank and the U-shank. Both are used in many jigsaws today; however, the T shank is being more widely used by manufacturers.
What differentiates a T-shank blade from a U-shank blade is the attachment system to the actual jigsaw itself. A T-shank is a recent innovation that does not require any special tools to switch out blades. It clamps directly into the end of the jigsaw shaft.
Meanwhile, a U-shank blade requires a set screw to attach the blade to the jigsaw securely. As compared to the T-shank, the U-shank requires more time and effort when changing out blades. As a result, jigsaws with T-shank designs have become more popular to eliminate the extra time and effort.
The lowest TPI, or teeth per inch, is meant for basic demolition tasks and wood. These blades have the largest blades of all the blade types. Due to the more prominent teeth, the blade is able to remove more material faster than blades with smaller teeth.
One step above the low TPI blade is the mid-TPI blade type which is designed to cut through clean and fine wood. Of course, the blades are slightly smaller and are more compactly placed. This allows the blade to have a smoother cut when passing through the material.
Designed for more rigid materials such as metal, the highest TPI blade of a jigsaw is the toughest of the three different blade types. Having the smallest sized teeth gives this blade the edge and durability needed to chip away at hard surfaces without breaking.
Jigsaws are relatively safe and easy to pick up due to their straightforward design. Thanks to the vertically stacked design and the shorter blade, there are ample safety measures as long as the saw is being operated safely.
Adjusting the power on a jigsaw can help maintain the integrity of the material being cut. Additionally, jigsaws operate at a lower power which makes using one that much safer. A smaller blade combined with a low-powered tool does not create many situations where injury or damage is a possibility.
Furthermore, the way the jigsaw is meant to be used ensures the blade is always pointed away from the body. By placing the blade down into the surface and then leaning over it to guide the saw, you can always know where the blade is pointed precisely.
Not only does the consistent blade positioning allow the jigsaw to be operated safely, but it also helps when controlling the machine. By being constantly aware of where the blade is and how far it has gone on the surface of whatever you are working on, the confidence in making a cut is increased.
Comparing The Reciprocating Saw And The Jigsaw
In order to determine which saw is the ideal choice for the job you have, certain points should be considered from both options. Everything from price range to the various blade types can make or break a decision.
Both a reciprocating saw and a jigsaw differ significantly in their design which has an effect on how each saw is used. A reciprocating saw may have a horizontal build while the jigsaw is more vertical.
The former’s blade protrudes from the front of the main body, allowing the saw to be maneuvered at any angle. This simple design makes it the lighter option of the two at only three to five pounds.
Meanwhile, the jigsaw has a vertical build with a more complex design than the reciprocating saw. Weighing in at an average of six to twelve pounds, it is still light enough to be maneuvered but remains heavier than the reciprocating saw.
Functionality And Power
Utilizing the right saw for a project is the key to getting the most out of your tools. While both these saws are great, they have specific tasks which they might not be able to do. Limitations due to the design of the saw or the power output can limit the functionality of either saw.
For a reciprocating saw, there is a large amount of power driving the blade. It is regarded as a heavy-duty tool and a favorite choice for demolition projects. Using it to cut through material is fast and easy with the long blade powered by the powerful motor.
On the other hand, a jigsaw is less powerful than the reciprocating saw but makes up for it with its precision. While it may not be able to cut through the same rigid materials that a reciprocating saw can, it is valuable for the tight control it allows over the blade.
A jigsaw’s special abilities due to the extra control it brings include being able to make curved cuts as well as parallel lines. Additionally, it can make itself useful in tight spaces or making bevel cuts for a mold. The blade may be too small for demolition projects, but it is this sizing that opens up its functionality.
Trying to achieve the same effect of a jigsaw using a reciprocating saw is near impossible, and vice versa. Each saw is capable of completely different tasks, but as they are specially designed for that single task, it makes them yield exceptional results.
Of the two, the reciprocating saw is the more durable option with its tough blades and high power output. This durability makes it able to cut through a wider variety of material types than a jigsaw.
Using a jigsaw to its fullest potential implies more precision work, not brute-forcing through any material placed in its path. The implications that a jigsaw can be used for are many, although the actual use case scenario can be niche. When it is required, though, the jigsaw is a steady performer in providing the best quality outcome.
Comparatively, using a reciprocating saw is ideal for covering a large volume of area to be cut away. The long blade reach and assurance that it can cut through any material it faces give this the upper hand for demolition. However, it is not able to make any fine details like a jigsaw.
Depending on the particular model and brand you pick up, both saws can fluctuate in pricing. Taking into account factors of brand name and quality along with extra features like grips and clamps, the pricing is susceptible to change.
Picking up a reciprocating saw can come as cheap as 20 dollars for a basic set. However, if quality and a top-of-the-line experience are worth the price tag, it can quickly go up to over a thousand dollars.
However, a fair middle ground is the best safe bet. The quality is satisfactory and durable, and the most basic features, along with a few extras, might be thrown in. Most reciprocating saws fall under this middle price range of 70 to 100 dollars.
On the other hand, a jigsaw is comparatively more affordable, ranging anywhere from 30 to 180 dollars, being the more expensive top-of-the-line model. Of course, the middle ground is the safest bet, with a price range of around 60-70 dollars.
Picking up a reciprocating saw can be more costly than the jigsaw. If there is no immediate need for either, it is possible to pick up a decent jigsaw for the same price as a lower-quality reciprocating saw.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is the jigsaw not running in a straight line?
Using a jigsaw free hand can be difficult for making steady cuts. To help you keep a smooth cut, there are guides and stencils you can use to keep the jigsaw on track. For straight cuts, clamping any straight piece of wood using a G-clamp can act as a guide.
Simply run the jigsaw along the edge of the piece of wood, and the blade will follow the straight path, giving a clean-cut result.
Is there a difference between a corded and cordless version?
Both the reciprocating saw and the jigsaw are available as cordless options. The cordless options lend an extra degree of maneuverability and portability. However, there is a drawback to using a cordless over a corded power tool.
A power tool’s efficiency is partly dependent upon the power output it carries. Corded power tools have a consistent power supply, meaning they can give a more substantial power output. Meanwhile, a cordless power tool is limited by the battery within the tool. This limits how much power it can output and results in a comparatively weaker performance.
Additionally, the cordless versions of power tools can be bulkier to accommodate the included battery. This additional part adds extra weight to the tool as well.
Closing Words – The Winner?
When it comes down to deciding between picking up a reciprocating saw or a jigsaw, the choice depends on the job you have at hand.
If more regular demolition and rough work is the need of the hour, then the reciprocating saw will fit your needs well. With the long, durable blade and strong power output to back it up, it can break down any material you throw at it.
On the other hand, if detailed and precise work is your requirement, the jigsaw is the no-brainer choice. It is easier to handle and gives a clean satisfactory result. Additionally, it is safer to operate than a reciprocating saw.
If possible, having both these saws may prove beneficial as they are made for entirely opposite tasks. Where one may fail, the other can excel!