Reciprocating Saw Reviews
Our Top Pick is the Dewalt DCS380L1
Reciprocating Saws are a very powerful and versatile tool used by professional contractors, HVAC professionals, carpenters, plumbers, DIY enthusiasts, and anyone looking to do demolition work. They are powerful enough to cut through lumber, tree branches or roots, metal pipes and other material that might be otherwise be very difficult to tackle.
The first reciprocal saws were brought to market in 1951 by the Milwaukee brand. Construction of the tool has a very simple premise. Instead of focusing on clean cuts, this saw offers the power to cut through many different kinds of material making rough cuts. The motor moves the blade back and forth. Various blades are available that are material specific, enabling the user to cut through almost any type of material. Blades differ in the number of “teeth” they have. For example to cut wood you want a blade with 3 to 10 TPI (teeth per inch). This allows for deep cuts. For metal you need 10 to 24 TPI with small teeth to grip the metal.
Reciprocating saws come in both corded and cordless models. For this test we focused on the cordless modelsreviewing 20 models to create a short list of contenders. We considered the length of the battery life, power of the motor and the comfort and ease of use. The Dewalt DCS 380L1 rose to the top of the competition because of its powerful motor, the ability to cut at 4 different angles and a battery life that rivaled more expensive competitors.
Who Should Buy This
Those in need of rough cuts will find the reciprocal saw will work better than nearly any other tool on the market. The device is compact and lightweight (usually under 10 pounds), with enough power to cut through metal, plastic, wood or composite materials. Simply purchase a blade that will fit the material you want to cut and get to work. The saw is able to cut through wood and nails, tree limbs, and metal. It can reach into tight spaces and odd angles and is especially useful for demolition.
What Makes a Good Reciprocating Saw?
When deciding which saw to purchase the first question is a cord or no cord. The corded saws are lighter in weight and provide consistent power over a long period of time without requiring recharging or a battery change. The trade of is in maneuverability and portability. A cordless saw does not require generators or extension cords when a demolition is happening away from electrical outlets. A cordless saw is also easier to maneuver. Trying to get in tight places, cut tree roots, or pipes under a sink and you don’t have to deal with a cord.
The next feature to look for is the cuts per charge. How long will the battery last? The life of the battery will depend on the type of material being cut, as well as the type of battery and voltage of the unit. Higher quality saws will give you around 3 amp hours versus 1.5 amp hours for less expensive models. 20 amps of power provide more cutting power. Lastly is the type of battery pack used. The Lithium Ion batteries last the longest. If you use the saw on a regular bases, having a battery backup will prevent slowing down your work while the battery charges.
Movement of the blade. All saws have blades that move back and forth to rip through material. Higher quality models offer an orbital blade. This is a blade that moves both up and down along with a back and forth motionproviding a more aggressive cut and will tear through material at a faster pace.
Variable Speeds give you the ability to adjust the speed based on the material being cut. If you will use the saw for multiple applications the variable speeds can extend the life of your blades and the motor.
Stoke depth is selected based on the job. The longer depth blades (over 1 inch) make more aggressive cuts. Shorter blades (less than 1 inch) are best used for plunge cuts.
Comfort. When using the saw you might be reaching over head, and coming in at various angles, making comfort an important factor. Comfort of the grip and handle and the weight of the saw will largely determine how comfortable the saw will be after a long period of use. This will also impact fatigue.
Adjustable blades factor into comfort because it will determine if you can position the blade to work in the most comfortable position. The ability to position the blade is also determined by a fixed or adjustable shoe. If the shoe is adjustable you can change the depth of the blade and also whether the teeth or up or down or to the right or left, depending on your needs.
Vibration impacts fatigue and is a factor with reciprocal saws because of the fast blade movement. When working with a vibrating blade, having features that reduce vibration can enable you to work for longer periods of time.
Blade changes. When doing heavy work or demolition you will be required to change blades frequently. Saws that require an Alan wrench to change blades will add time to the project as opposed to blades that can be changed without requiring a tool. It is generally a good idea to keep extra blades on hand for the materials you most frequently cut.
How We Tested
Utilizing the power of the web we consulted with professions and tool specialists to narrow the list of available saws to the ones we felt should be tested. We focused on those with the most valuable features that provided the best value for customers. Then those were tested and reviewed. Once the list was further fine-tuned we researched through Amazon to find those on the top of the list that were most popular with customers. We considered both hobbyists and professionals when choosing the best reciprocal saw.
|Amps||3 Amp Hours|
|Number of 2X4 per charge||85|
|Number of blade positions||4 (up, down, left and right)|
|Maximum stroke length||1 1/8”|
|Variable Speed||0 – 3000 RPMs|
|Dimensions||10.8 X 24.9 X 4.9|
The Dewalt DCS380L1 was head and shoulders above the competition. It contains many features only found in higher end models and yet has both power and precision at an affordable price. The 20 volt battery has a long life, the 3 amp hours and offers 35% more run time than its competitors. The battery has dual capabilities and is compatible with both a 12 volt and 20 volt battery, making it more versatile. The saw also includes features that prevent overload and overheating from the motor.
Blades can be used in 4 different positions and the adjustable shoe gives the blade more range of depth and accurate control in your cut. The blade can be changed without the use of tools in a matter of seconds. The variety in blade positions provides flush cuts in nearly any application. To increase efficiency the designers created a double sealed shaft for the blade. This feature reduces contamination and increases the durability of the saw.
The grip has a rubber mold which increases the comfort and enables you to use the saw for longer periods of time without fatigue. The unit is fast, durable, and offers you more control and power than other reciprocal saws in their class. A hard shell carrying case, battery pack and charger are all included.
Who Else Likes It
Tool testers at This Old House said the Dewalt DCS380L1 has a, “four-position chuck ensures a comfortable grip no matter which direction you’re cutting. The tool includes an adjustable pivoting shoe, a side-mounted blade-release lever, and a long-running battery…making this a solid, all-around performer.”
Amazon reviewers give it a 4.6 out of 5 stars. One five star reviewer had this to say about the Dewalt DCS380L1 “Best Reciprocating saw I’ve owned yet. This saw has the guts to chew through some wood and metal. I’ve had other saws with quick release blades, most of them broke or jam after a while. This one is easy to use and works great. We’ve put them through some heavy use and cannot come up with a complaint, which for my guys is says a lot. Dewalt is doing something right with this 20volt line of tools.”
The Step Up
For those looking for more power the Makita BJR 181 350 comes with a high torque motor and a powerful lithium battery. The blade can be changed with no tools and can be changedwith one hand. The auto lock blade ensures it is in place correctly before use. The battery can be charged in as little as 45 minutes with a charging system that produces 280% more total lifetime usage and twice the number of cycles as competitors.
This unit also has a 2 finger variable speed trigger, giving you precise control over the cut and the speed of the motor at all times. It also has an electric brake and two built in LED work lights enabling you to clearly see the work area at all times. These additional features add to the cost, including a case, battery and charger.
Top Reciprocating Saw Comparison
Care Use and Maintenance
Caring for your saw involves keeping the battery charged and cleaning the saw. The four areas of the saw that need to be cleaned on a regular basis include the trigger switch, the blade, shoe and head. These can get debris in them and will impact the effectiveness of the saw and strain on the motor. Depending on how often you use the saw you should have it lubricated every 2 to 6 months.
Safety while using the saw should start with proper safety gear. Other things to be aware of include:
- Clear the area. When using the saw, it will cut anything it comes in contact with so be sure to remove anything you do not want damaged.
- Do not cut where you cannot see. This is especially true if cutting into walls. Check for pipes and electrical cords as this can lead to expensive repairs if you cut the wrong thing.
- This tool requires the use of both hands and is often used in hard to reach places. Be sure to have proper balance and do not overreach.
- Keep your hands clear.
- Change blades frequently. A dull blade can cause you to use too much force when cutting, which can lead to accidents. A sharp blade will cut through the material cleanly. Let the motor guide through the cut rather than forcing the cut.
This powerful tool must be respected to prevent accidents or from cutting material unintentionally.
Wrapping It Up
The reciprocal saw is one of the most versatile tools available for both hobbyists and professionals. Taking the time to learn what it can do will extend its usage and help save you both time and money, as you will be able to do projects you may ordinary have hired out.