Sawzall vs Reciprocating Saw – What Is the Difference?


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A saw is one of the most important tools in your arsenal, whether you’re a construction worker, lawn care specialist, or a craftsman. So, what happens when you search for a saw commonly called a “Sawzall” only to be faced with tons of listings for reciprocating saws?

reciprocating saw being used on a piece of wood

What is the difference between a Sawzall and a Reciprocating Saw?  A “Sawzall” is a type reciprocating saw, but it is a registered trademark of the Milwaukee company. Other than a few special features or brand-specific accessories developed by Milwaukee, they are the same tool, operate more or less in the same way, and used for the same jobs.

Reciprocating Saws

Reciprocating saws have become a highly prized and frequently used tool by construction crews, plumbers, craftsmen, and even lawn care professionals. Their power, versatility, and blade options come together to make an amazing tool with a lot to offer.

A reciprocating saw is a handheld motorized power saw that uses an exposed, reciprocating blade to cut through a myriad of materials. A reciprocating blade means that the blade moves in a back and forth motion to and from the tool. It is just like how a hand saw moves back and forth from your body but with much less effort and far superior results. 

The reciprocating saw is guided through the material by using your arms and body movements. Not much force is needed to get through whatever material you’re cutting. However, the power and motion of the saw take some effort to keep against the material and moving straight. The guard accessories can help make a firmer and more accurate cut.

This force is measured in Strokes Per Minute, or SPM, which is one entire cycle of the blade going out and coming back in. Generally speaking, more strokes means more material that is removed by the blade. However, different materials can require different speeds, so it’s good to have a variable speed option and to know what the situation requires.

The reciprocating saw can be battery operated, corded, or use compressed air to power it. The most common models are corded or battery-operated. Most brands have batteries that can be shared between their various power tools.

The blades for a reciprocating saw can range from 3 to 12 inches long and are made to suit a variety of needs. Reciprocating saw blades are measured by length as well as by Teeth Per Inch, or TPI, and ranging anywhere from 6 to 12 teeth per inch. The variation in the number of teeth gives you options for the type and thickness of the material you are cutting.

Reciprocating saws are not exactly known for their accuracy. It takes a bit of skill and effort to create perfect cuts, but rough cuts through lumber, logs, plastic, fiberglass, and even metal are a breeze. All you need is the right blade, and chances are you can get through it.

Sawzall 

As we stated above, a Sawzall is a trademarked line of reciprocating saws made by Milwaukee, which introduced the tool in 1951. The purpose and general design of the tools are like most other brands. This can explain why most reciprocating saws of a similar design are generally referred to as a “Sawzall.”

The basic corded Milwaukee Sawzall boasts about its design features, noting its patented QUIK-LOK Blade Clamp that provides fast blade replacement without the need for extra tools. This design feature sets it apart from other reciprocating saws in its early days. However, recent years have seen innovation across brands in an attempt to keep up with the technology.

The current weight of measure for the reciprocating saw comes down to special features, durability, ease of use, and, of course, price.

Sawzall Versus Other Reciprocating Saws

So, what sets the Sawzall apart from other reciprocating saws? How do you know which one is best for you? Let’s look at some details from the manufacturers for the basic corded models of different brands that use an 11 to 13-amp motor.

Milwaukee Sawzall 

Pros

  • Up to 3000 strokes per minute (SPM) get through the work quickly and with less effort than less SPM
  • QUIK-LOK Blade Clamp system allows quick and safe replacement of blades or attachments
  • Corded and battery-operated models available
  • Lighter weight than most of the popular models
  • Counterweight system for more control and less vibration
  • Comes with a carrying case

Cons:

  • The Sawzall comes with a bigger price tag than the other models

Dewalt Reciprocating Saw

Pros

  • 4 Position blade clamp allows the blade to be turned in different directions for better & easier cutting
  • Lever-action blade clamp for quick blade release and keeps your fingers further from the blade
  • 1-⅛ inch stroke distance for more efficient strokes
  • Variable speed trigger for more precise cutting
  • Corded and battery-operated models available
  • Heavy-duty construction
  • Comes with a carrying case

Cons:

  • Slightly less SPM than the Milwaukee, despite the longer stroke length

Makita Recipro Saw

Pros:

  • The lightest model in our lineup
  • 1-⅛ inch stroke for more efficient strokes
  • Dust blower system to remove debris from the cutting line
  • Tool-less blade removal for quick and safe blade removal
  • Lock button for the trigger so you don’t have to keep constant pressure
  • Includes blades to get you started cutting
  • Comes with a carrying case

Cons:

  • Lock button for the trigger does mean an increased risk of accidental sawing
  • Lower SPM than other reciprocating saws
  • High Vibration
  • Installing a new blade can take a moment to get it in the right position within the saw’s chuck

SKILSAW SPT44A-00 13 Amp

Pros

  • The cheapest model on our list
  • Patented Buzzkill Technology is said to reduce vibration when cutting up to 35% when compared to other reciprocating saws in the same class
  • Design blows dust and debris from cutting line
  • Variable speed trigger 
  • Keyless blade removal for quick and safe blade removal
  • Heavy-duty 13-amp motor

Cons:

  • The heaviest of the models on our list
  • Does not come with tool case 

Bottom Line

The first place will go to the Dewalt Reciprocating Saw. The weight is high enough to cut down on vibrations but low enough to not wear you out too quickly with extended use. The swiveling blade direction is a unique and incredibly attractive feature that takes this flexible tool to a whole new level.

While the vibration-reducing technology of the SKILSAW SPT44A-00 is an incredibly attractive feature, the increased weight brought on by the 13-amp motor is a major factor. Increased weight means more wear on the person using the saw.

So Many Saws

As you can see, there are plenty of reciprocating saws on the market. In fact, there are other types of reciprocating saws we didn’t list, but you can watch the video below to see the types and their uses.

Accessorize

Once you have your saw, you will want the accessories. 

  • If you’re cutting pipes or tubes, there are clamp accessories to help get a straight cut every time.
  • Scraping tools for removing paint or other substances quickly
  • Drywall blades for the more delicate drywall cutting
  • Adaptors of all kinds to support brushes and other tools

Conclusion

A Sawzall is Milwaukee’s brand of reciprocating saw, and the features vary less today than when they were first introduced. If you are a person that sticks to one brand for all your power tools, it is likely that your brand has a reciprocating saw for you. Compare the features that suit you best, then get to cutting!

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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