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Reciprocating Saw vs Jigsaw

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A reciprocating saw is a powerful tool that will help you with demolition. While a jigsaw is a tool that’s easier to handle and mainly used for fine crafts. In this article, we’re going to explore the uses and features of a reciprocating saw vs jigsaw.

Reciprocating Saw

A reciprocating saw is a remodeling tool, that can be used on wood and other materials. A top end reci saw will be highly efficient at specific types of cuts, most related to demo.

A reciprocating saw

Its compact and lightweight design makes it easier to manage than other kinds of saws. It’s also easy to use even for beginners.

How a Reciprocating Saw Works

  1. Make sure that the saw is unplugged
  2. Unclamp the blade-clamp
  3. Push the blade into it as far as it can go
  4. Release the blade clamp
  5. Hold the saw in place firmly

For an in-depth guide about how to use a reciprocating saw, go to our guide. 

Pros and Cons

Make sure you have a tight grip on the saw. Also, try as much as you can, to keep the saw’s shoe firm against the surface of the object you’re cutting. This will make the saw easier to handle.

Some of the reciprocating saws have orbital action. They are used for more aggressive cuts on wood. This method can speed up the cutting process but it might produce a rougher finish. Be careful though, you can only use the orbital motion feature on wood.

Pros

  • Can cut through different materials
  • Durable and will last for several years
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Has a rough finish
  • Not suitable for light shallow cuts

Blade Types

To choose the right type of blade for each project, we need to pick the correct TPI.

Person holding a blade for a reciprocating saw

What Is TPI?

TPI is short for teeth per inch. The lower the TPI means wider the spaces between the teeth. The TPI also gives us an idea about what materials this specific blade could cut through.

As a rule of thumb, when you’re cutting wood, a low TPI blade should be used. On the other hand, cutting metal is going to require higher TPI. But, the higher the TPI also comes with a rougher the finish.

It’s best to read the label carefully. This information often includes its TPI and what materials this blade is meant to be used on.

When to Use a Reciprocating Saw

Are there times that you’re better off using a reciprocating saw than other saws? Yes, and here are some of those instances.

Demolition

When you’re remodeling, the reciprocating saw will be your best option. It’s perfect for demolition because it can cut through wood, metal, and nail embedded wood. Thus, it could be used on railings, doors, and window jambs.

Plunge Cuts

A reciprocating saw is a suitable tool for making plunge cuts. Here’s how you can do these cuts,  in a few simple steps. 

  1. Lower the tip into the wood.
  2. With full running speed, push the blade further down until it sinks through the wood and emerges on the other side.
  3. Keep pushing down on the saw until the saw’s shoe is up against the workpiece.
  4. Keep the saw perpendicular to the surface
  5. Move the saw just like you would when performing a normal cut.
A heart shaped cut inside a piece of wood

This should all be done while maintaining a firm grip on the power tool. If you’re working on a wall, make sure you know where all the plumbing and wires are located. The saw is so powerful that it could cut right through them.

Quick and Overhead Cuts

This saw can cut through tough materials, like metal, rather quickly. This enables you to cut back on the time you spend working with the saw and saves your energy.

Overhead cuts are rather challenging with a circular saw. That’s because circular saws are best used on flat surfaces. Reciprocating saws are easier to use on these kinds of cuts.

Jigsaw

You can use the jigsaw to cut out handles, circles, squares, and many other shapes inside the board. Highly versatile and easy to use, the jigsaw can perform a wide variety of cuts, and is considered a staple for most homeowners and woodworkers. 

Even the highest quality jigsaws are relatively affordable when compared up against other saws. Jigsaws are user friendly, and that’s why they’re popular for DIYs. 

How a Jigsaw Works

  1. Make sure that it’s unplugged
  2. Attach the blade to the jigsaw
  3. Power the jigsaw back up again
  4. Hold the saw properly
  5. Place it correctly on the cutting surface
  6. Proceed with the cuts slowly

For an in-depth guide about how to use a jigsaw, go to our guide. 

Pros and Cons

Jigsaws are meant to be used on wood and other soft materials. And here’s a pro tip: always make sure that the blade is longer than the thickness of the wood. For best results, it should have an inch of extra length. 

One great application for a jigsaw is cutting circles in wood and other materials. While your cut might not be perfectly precise, the blade and handheld saw make it easy to cut quickly. 

A Bosch jigsaw

Another point for ease of use: the lightweight design makes it fairly easy to operate with only one hand. And, unlike the reciprocating saw, jigsaws work with their blades under the surface of the wood, not exposed. Thus, your fingers will be away from the blade as you work on a piece.

Pros

  • Lightweight and could be operated with one hand
  • Perfect for complex and precise cuts
  • Can be used for curved cuts
  • Durable and will stand years of use

Cons

  • Not practical for tough materials
  • Won’t work well with thick wood
  • Not suitable for flush cuts 

Blade Types

There are two types of blades you could use for a jigsaw.

T-Shank

The first one is the T-shank blade. This type doesn’t require any tools to attach it to the saw. Just make sure it’s firm in place.

If you want fine cuts with no ragged edges, use a blade with the teeth pointing downwards. A high TPI is used when creating tighter curves on wood. While wider-spaced teeth are used for rougher cuts.

U-shank

U-shank blades are not as popular as T-shank blades. That’s not because of a difference in performance or quality. It’s due to the fact that U-shank blades require tools to fit into the jigsaw. If not fitted properly, the blade could fall off during the sawing process.

When to Use a Jigsaw

There are mainly 3 types of saws that could produce curved cuts, including the jigsaw. These are scroll saws, band saws, and jigsaws.

Jigsaws are less expensive and easier to use than band saws. Also, when the board is too wide for a band saw, the jigsaw is used. Scroll saws are used for intricate cuts.

A jigsaw is a perfect tool for cutting inside shapes. Start by drilling a hole in the board. Insert the blade into the hole and start cutting the shapes. It could be used for making beveled cuts, though not all jigsaws offer this feature.

A close up of a jigsaw

For woodworkers just starting out, it may be helpful to use a jigsaw at first. Jigsaws provide more safety because the blade is placed perpendicular to the body of the saw. This keeps it away from your fingers the whole time you’re cutting.

Reciprocating Saw vs Jigsaw

Now that we’ve discussed each saw separately, let’s take a look at them together. 

Similarities

  • Both saws are within the same price range
  • Similar blade movement.
  • They’re both used for cutting wood

Differences

  • A jigsaw can make curved cuts while the reciprocating saw can’t
  • Reciprocating saws could be used for hard materials like metal, but the jigsaw is mainly used on wood
  • Reciprocating saws are more powerful than jigsaws
  • Reciprocating saws have bigger blades than jigsaws
  • Different designs
  • Reciprocating saws are used by more experienced people while jigsaws are great for beginners and even kids

When to Use Each Saw?

Here are some of the situations you could use each saw in.

Jigsaw

  • Curved cuts
  • Bevel cuts
  • Cutting drywall and ceramic tiles
  • Cutting inside shapes

Reciprocating Saw

  • Demolition work
  • Overhead cuts
  • Cutting through hard materials
  • Plunge cuts
  • Electric and plumbing work

To make it clearer, a reciprocating saw is used for rough cutting while a jigsaw is used for fine crafting.

Safety Tips For Either Type of Saw

A reciprocating saw laid on a table
  • Wear safety goggles
  • Wear a full face mask if possible
  • Wear a dust mask if the sawing process creates dust
  • Avoid wearing jewelry or loose-fitting clothes that could get tangled in the saw
  • Wear footwear that won’t slip
  • Don’t leave the saw on the table until it completely stops
  • Lay the saw on its side to avoid bending the blade
  • Only cut material when its dry
  • Don’t have your body too close to the saw when cutting

Wrap Up

A jigsaw is easier to use, but a reciprocating saw has more power and can cut through various materials. Nonetheless, they are both handy tools that are slightly similar in operating.

The jigsaw is intended for fine cuts and crafts while the reciprocating saws are commonly used for demolition. This concludes the comparison of a reciprocating saw vs a jigsaw, hopefully, all your questions have been answered.

An expert at home repair, remodel, and DIY projects for nearly 40 years. His first experience came in completely restoring an antique home. Completely redone from the inside out, and restored to its original form, the home is a featured design by renowned Southern California Architect Cliff May, considered to be the father of the California Ranch Home. Now Dennis spends his time on fine woodworking projects and tool comparisons.