Reciprocating saw versus Jigsaw


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On the job site, or trying a great do-it-yourself project, you may be wondering what the deal with a reciprocating saw and a jigsaw is.

Here we will do a showdown between the reciprocating saw versus the jigsaw. 

We will talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to reciprocating saws and jigsaws. 

Reciprocating saw versus Jigsaw

How is a reciprocating saw different from a jigsaw?  This chart shows some of the main differences between reciprocating saws and jigsaws. 

Reciprocating SawJig Saw
Heavy DutyX
Used for DemolitionX
Used for light ProjectsX
Can Cut MetalXX
Interchangeable bladesXX
Inline BladeX
90-degree angle bladeX
Brushless MotorXX

You are probably wondering why you would pick one over the other, or how one single tool could do so many things.

The blades make a world of difference, as well as the angle.

The corded options provide continuous power, while the cordless options offer versatility. There are several different reasons to have both. 

What is a Reciprocating saw?

A reciprocating saw is primarily used in demolition projects or any project where you need to saw through something substantial.

A Reciprocating saw is a long, straight handled saw with a flat blade on end.

The blade is inserted into the end of the reciprocating saw and locked in place. The blade is parallel and in line with the handle of the saw.  

Reciprocating saw is a general term used to describe saws that generally cut with a forward and backward motion quickly.

A reciprocating saw comes in different sizes, depending on what you need to accomplish. 

You can get a reciprocating saw nowadays with very minimal investment and should not hesitate to do so. The different saws come in a variety of sizes and options, corded and cordless. 

Reciprocating saw

Most reciprocating saws that are available are going to be a variable speed saw. Finding good deals on reciprocating saws is easy when looking on the correct website. 

Milwaukee Tool Company has advanced today’s tool market with brushless motors and lithium Ion batteries, making reciprocating saws the next best tool to the Jaws of Life brand. 

Rescue teams across the globe are starting to use reciprocating saws simply because of the advancements in tool technology. 

What Can a Reciprocating Saw Do? 

The reciprocating saw can be used when remodeling to separate solid surfaces from each other. 

A reciprocating saw has interchangeable blades for different types of materials that you may need to cut. It is a general understanding that a reciprocating saw can cut anything but rock. 

Reciprocating saws can be used to take down walls or cut out a closet opening inside a space. 

A reciprocating saw can cut through metal, drywall, PVC pipe, copper, wood, carpet, grout, and even brick and mortar.  

The reciprocating saw is a universal tool that is used for just about anything.  The accessories are limited, but the blades are where the fun is; you can find an edge for just about anything here.   

Firefighters have started using reciprocating saws to free people from car crashes and other situations.

You can witness firefighters arguing over the best brands in the firefighter’s forum here.Opens in a new tab. 

Reciprocating saw cutting through a board

There seems to be an extensive debate over Milwaukee and DeWalt’s versions.  

Here is an informative video that shows you how to use a reciprocating saw. 

Corded Reciprocating Saw

The Corded options are typically available from the 9-amp model to the 14-amp models. 

Honestly, the 14-amp version is all you will ever need for household projects. The 14-amp reciprocating saw can cut through just about anything you can find around the house. 

Heavier amperage models are available for specialty jobs; however, those tend to be slightly more expensive and difficult to find.

The corded versions typically only have a three to a five-foot cord.

You will need a standard electrical plug and an extension cord that will reach the cutting site.

The cable can sometimes get in the way with the corded versions, so it is also a good idea to get some zip ties and zip tie the extension cord to something just to keep the wire away from the cutting area. 

Another major complaint about the corded versions is the vibration level tends to be higher with them. However, the corded models tend to provide a little more stability and strength when cutting. 

If your projects require maximum performance from a saw, then you want to use the corded version.

The saw will maintain a longer run time and lower heat build-up than the cordless options.

Regardless of which type you use, selecting the correct blade for the job is vital.  

Cordless Reciprocating Saw 

The most common size for a cordless reciprocating saw is the 18-24 Volt battery.

Higher voltage saws are available if you need one, but for your everyday heavy-duty jobs, the 18-24-volt models will do just fine. 

You can always find the right blade for these models, and the parts are easy to find.  Some of the cordless options will contain different extra options as well, such as a two in one jigsaw option.    

A reciprocating saw with the cordless option will have lithium Ion batteries that can last anywhere from 20-24 hours of run time.

One saw worth mentioning is the M18 Fuel Sawzall by Milwaukee.  

The M18 Opens in a new tab.is an 18-volt cordless reciprocating saw that wirelessly connects to your smartphone for diagnostics and variable speed controls. The M18 cuts better than a corded reciprocating saw and has two times the run time of a normal cordless. 

Milwaukee 2720-21 M18 Fuel Sawzall Reciprocating Saw Kit

The cordless options are lightweight and easy to carry around, and since the battery can last a long time, a cordless saw is excellent for the job site.  

These are great for jobs where the electricity is turned off, or you don’t want to bring a generator up five flights of stairs. 

Newer cordless reciprocating saws have a Thermo trigger in them that will prevent the lithium Ion battery from getting too hot. A Lithium-Ion battery can be hazardous if it gets too hot. 

 It is essential that you pick the right blade for the job and take it easy on the saw.

If you overwork the saw, it will trigger the Thermo mechanism, and you won’t be able to use it for a while.  And as they say, time is money.  

Some of the best features of the Cordless are: 

  • Brushless motor
  • 18-24-volt lightweight battery pack
  • 24 hour run time
  • Interchangeable blades
  • Easy battery removal and charge
  • No cord limitations

The Blades are the Trick 

The saw blades for both reciprocating saws and jigsaws are what makes the saw the universal tool that it is.

The saw blades have a single connector at the top of the edge. The blades for both are straight but are designed for different jobs.

You can get a k-12 diamond blade for stone and tile, or a heavy steel blade for metal. 

You can find a blade for almost anything nowadays, which is what makes these two tools so versatile. You can check out the different types of blades here.Opens in a new tab.

Depending on what job you need to do and every kind of saw blade comes in various sizes and coarseness.  

The jigsaw and reciprocating saws use the same types of saw blades, so this section applies to both the reciprocating saw and the jigsaw.

The sawblades themselves have a little bend in them to help with the friction, so you don’t have to worry too much about snapping the saw blade. 

The best way to get the most bang for your buck is to buy the saw blade kits for your reciprocating saw. This way, you get a nice variety of blades to handle any job.

The specialty blades tend to be a little bit pricey in comparison to some of the other blades. You can still find great deals on blades in packs, such as the wood pruning five-packOpens in a new tab.

Here is a nifty chart that breaks down the types of blades. 

Diamond bladeMetal BladeWood Blade
GlassSlowlyNONO
2 x 4 Yes (overkill)NOYes
Ford F-350 FrameYesNONO
Sheet MetalYesYesNO
Copper pipingyesYesNO
PVC PipeYesYesYes
Board with nailsYesYesYes

What is a Jig Saw?

Jig saw

A jigsaw is a type of reciprocating saw that has the blade at a 90-degree angle versus the horizontal only design of the bigger reciprocating saw.

The jigsaw is used for cutting flat surfaces or making curved cuts.

The jigsaw is a powerful tool that provides versatility and more control to make those harder cuts. 

The jigsaw features a blade that is perpendicular to the motor or handle of the machine. Some jigsaws will have a handle on top to provide added support for cutting. 

Much like its stronger cousin the reciprocating saw, the jigsaw cuts with a forward-backward motion, or up-down motion in this case. 

The blades for a jigsaw will only fit the type of jigsaw that the blade was designed to fit. There are two different types of connectors—the T-shank and the U-shank. 

The main difference between a jigsaw and a reciprocating saw is how they connect.  The versatility and usage are the same.  

Unlike the reciprocating saw, a jigsaw is not a demolition saw. The jigsaw is used for cutting thinner pieces of material and smaller cuts.

You may cut a hole in a part of the project board for garden design, or you may want to cut out a speaker hole for a speaker box you are using. 

What Can a Jigsaw do?

A jigsaw can do several different tasks similar to the reciprocating saw.  However, the jigsaw is not meant for massive demolition.

It can be used for vertical cuts through piping, or aluminum as well as design tracing into a side piece of furniture. Because a jigsaw tool has different blade attachments, it offers versatility.   

Jig saw cutting through the wood
  • excellent for cutting through drywall
  • essential tool when creating speaker boxes or installing a wall air conditioner. 
  • can cut down a small tree branch
  • slice through a sprinkler line without having to switch tools. 
  • make specialized cuts into joints that may be part of a customized set of furniture
  • used for light to medium jobs and nothing more
  • touching up some small areas or cutting knots out of a piece of lumber. 

Some of the more useful projects where a jigsaw comes in handy are:

  • Birdhouse
  • Doghouse 
  • Cat trees
  • Wall AC Unit
  • Speaker boxes
  • Trimming wood pieces
  • Making a cutting board
  • Slicing through drywall

Check out this video about how to use a jigsaw. 

Corded Jig Saw

The corded jigsaw versions are usually five to six amps and have the limitations of a 3-foot long cord.

The corded versions have the boundaries of the cord, but also give the constant power of being AC.

The blades are known to break if they are the incorrect size or type. 

The jigsaw moves in a forward-backward motion that brings the blade up and down. The movement is so small that it is hardly noticeable; however, having the correct blade type with the corded option is a must.

There is no leniency with any corded jigsaw and the wrong blade. 

The corded jigsaw is also significantly less money than the cordless jigsaw. Some of the corded options even come with a smart selector switch to adjust the speed based on the type of cut you are trying to accomplish.

The corded option seems to be the most reliable option with a jigsaw. 

The Black and Decker 6.0 ampOpens in a new tab. with smart select is one of the better corded versions of the jigsaw. It is lightweight and affordable.

The smart select option selects the correct speed for you so that you can limit the number of broken blades you have.

Cordless Jigsaw

The Cordless optionsOpens in a new tab. are great too and provide for greater mobility. The ability to plug in a battery and go is what really sets this option apart from being tied to a cord.

Depending on the kits you may even be able to share the same battery packs between your jigsaw, reciprocating saw, drill, and more.

The versatility of the cordless jigsaw is what makes it worth the purchase.

If you have a job where you need to cut out a quick circle in a flat bench, but don’t feel like hauling the extension cord across the yard, then the cordless option is perfect. 

Cordless Jig saw

Accessories are available for both options; the corded option for this set just seems to be a better use of time and resources. 

Do You Need Both?

The short answer is yes; you need both tools in your home. The long answer is that it depends on what you do.

It would be better to have both tools available because of the different types of jobs they are meant to do.

The two saws do not replace each other–they each have their unique features and benefits to owning.  

A reciprocating saw is excellent for pruning trees without having to go out and purchase a Pruner. The reciprocating saw is not an excellent tool to use to create a speaker box for your truck, that is where you would need a jigsaw.

One is not better than the other, but they are also not replacements for each other. 

The reciprocating saw is the most useful for actual work, demolition, and construction. The jigsaw is most useful for small projects and hobbyists.

The jigsaw can also be an excellent tool to have to aid in projects that require some home improvement skills.

It is easier to cut a hole in the back of a cabinet door for a pipe to go through with a Jigsaw unless that cabinet has already been installed. 

You probably won’t use both on the same project, but you will use them both quite regularly.

Once you use your new  reciprocating saw, you will likely find many uses for it on a variety of projects.

It is part of everyone’s gear, including firefighters and rescue workers globally. 

Final Thoughts/Conclusion

The two tools are designed for different things, and I couldn’t live without either one.

Use a jigsaw to slice some excellent designs into some plywood siding, and the reciprocating saw to tear out the old bookcase. You need both, like two peas in a pod.

Both tools make life easier on your projects. 

Resources 

Tony

Hi there, my name is Tony. Having worked in the construction industry for over 30 years and being a weekend warrior on my own home I definitely have plenty of war stories to share. Have a topic or project you are interested in trying? Let me know and we will try to put together an article or video on it!

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