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Jig Saws and Reciprocating Saws

Jig Saws vs. Reciprocating Saws

There's a tool for every job, and saws are no exception. With their long, slim blades, jig saws are ideal for jobs that require delicate wood cuts. Reciprocating saws, however, with their horizontal blade action, are designed primarily for rough cutting and demolition jobs, such as cutting wood and metal aggressively.

Jig Saws: Function And Flexibility

Jig saws offer the cutting power and flexibility needed for many construction and craft applications. Jig saws deliver both straight and curved cuts, as well as crosscuts, ripping, bevelling and plunge cuts. They can also be used to cut a variety of materials, including wood; light metals; plastic; ceramic tile and drywall.

Before you buy, consider how you plan to use your jig saw, including what materials you intend to cut, how much power, performance and convenience you'll need, and whether you want a corded or cordless model.

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If you plan to use your jig saw for heavy-duty projects, power will be a primary concern. Also, if you intend to use your jig saw for extended periods, a corded jig saw will be your best bet for reliable, consistent power. On the other hand, if you plan to tackle long, demanding projects that require more freedom of movement, consider a high-voltage cordless jig saw with extra batteries for backup power.

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Performance and Versatility

Every jig saw can handle a variety of cutting tasks, but they may offer features that make them better suited for certain applications. If you are using your jig saw primarily for scroll cuts or crafting, look for features like a knob-style auxiliary handle for precision steering control. Alternatively, if you intend on using your jig saw primarily for straight cuts, look for features like a built-in laser line to maximize efficiency on straight cuts.

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Some of the convenience options you can choose from include anti-vibration features to enhance precision, a dust collection port to clean up sawdust as you work, and built-in lights to enhance visibility. For maximum comfort and control, you can choose from a barrel-grip handle or a D-style handle, as well as auxiliary handles and a variety of cushioned comfort grips.

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Jig Saw Blades

Different types of cuts and materials require different types of blades. Stock up on all of the blades that you might need, so you have backups.

Jig Saws: Applications

For most home improvement projects, a light- to medium-duty jigsaw packs plenty of power and convenience. Professional-level applications are a different story. Be sure you know what types of tasks you plan to accomplish before making a selection. The following chart provides some rough guidelines:

Application Typical Construction Power Common Features Typical Maximum Cutting Depths
Light- to medium-duty tasks (do-it-yourself projects)
  • Plastic housing
  • Stamped-steel foot
  • Universal blade
  • 3 to 4 amps
  • Corded and cordless models
  • Dial or trigger controlled speed
  • Basic roller guide
  • Single-bevel capabilities
  • Softwood: 
    2-1/4 in.
  • Hardwood:
    1-3/8 in.
  • Mild steel:
    3/16 in.
  • Aluminum:
    1/2 in.
Heavy-duty tasks (professional-level operations)
  • Metal gearbox surrounded by plastic housing
  • Die-cast aluminum foot
  • T-shank blade (more choices, better performance, pullout precision)
  • 3 to 4 amps
  • Corded and cordless models
  • Dial or trigger controlled speed (dial sets max speed)
  • Multilevel blower adjustment
  • Precision roller guide
  • No-mar footplate insert
  • Dual-bevel capabilities
  • Softwood: 
    3-3/8 in.
  • Hardwood:
    3-3/8 in.
  • Mild steel:
    3/8 in.
  • Aluminum:
    3/4 in.


Tool-Less Bevel Adjustment

While some jig saws require tools to change the angle of a cut, some offer levers or other tool-less change options for faster bevel adjustments.

Metal Gear Housing

Metal gear housing protects the motor during heavy-duty use to ensure long-lasting performance.

Auto Stop Brushes

Auto stop brushes prevent operation when the brushes are worn, protecting the motor from damage.

Lighted Plug

A lighted plug lets you know at a glance if your jig saw is live and powered.

Reciprocating Saws: Rough Cutters

Reciprocating saws are most commonly used in construction, plumbing and electrical work. Unlike most saws, which are used primarily to make precise cuts, reciprocating saws are often used for rough cuts and demolition work. They deliver a lot of power to the blade, quickly slicing through materials such as metal; masonry; wood; plaster; fibreglass; stucco, composites and drywall.

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Power and Speed

If you plan to use your reciprocating saw for professional demolition work, power is a key consideration. Cordless tools lose power as the battery drains, while corded tools deliver reliable, consistent performance with unlimited run time. Corded reciprocating saws range from less than 5 amps to 15 amps or more, with more than 10 amps providing optimal power for heavy-duty commercial use.

If you need more freedom of movement and also lasting power for heavy-duty cutting, consider a high-voltage cordless reciprocating saw (18V or 24V), and purchase extra batteries for backup power. Units with lithium-ion batteries offer extended length of life for continuous, cord-free working power.

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Reciprocating Saw Blades

Reciprocating saws go through blades quickly, so stock up on all the blade types you might need. Consider a blade kit that includes different types of blades.

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Comfort and Maneuverability

Comfort and maneuverability are important, whether you're wielding a reciprocating saw for hours on end, or only occasionally. Since corded saws don't have a battery, they may be lighter than their cordless counterparts, but the cord may hinder movement. If you will be working in tight spaces or maneuvering around obstacles, such as plumbing, consider a reciprocating saw with a compact design. A saw with an adjustable or rotating blade or handle will also allow a more natural grip at various angles.

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Orbital Action

Enables blade to move up and down, in addition to back and forth, creating a more aggressive cutting action for faster cuts.

Variable Speed Control

This feature allows you to adjust the cutting speed to match the application and material at hand.

Tool-less Blade Changes

This feature allows for quick blade changes and the ability to easily switch between tasks.