What’s the Difference? Reciprocating Saw vs Jigsaw

The word “saw” might make you picture a standard hacksaw or hand saw, but there are dozens of designs and types for dealing with specific materials or situations. Two of the most common are the reciprocating saw and jigsaw, which are versatile and reliable enough to turn up in almost anybody’s toolbox. But how do they compare, and which situations are they designed to handle best?

Which is Better: Reciprocating Saw or Jigsaw?

What are Jigsaws?

A jigsaw is a boxy, compact-looking saw designed to cut through flat surfaces, usually from above. The blade moves in and out when the jigsaw is powered and switched on, meaning that the user only has to focus on keeping it pointed in the right direction: to make this easier, the front of the saw usually has a flat metal panel or plate that is used as a stable surface or grip pad. Since the designs are relatively small, the blades are smaller than most other types of saw, but they are also more varied and can sometimes be swapped out for cutting through different materials.

What are Reciprocating Saws?

Reciprocating saws are functionally similar to a standard saw but work automatically rather than being moved by the user. They are very similar to jigsaws but take on a more linear shape, with some designs having an almost gun-like grip, making them easier to use for quick cuts. Again, the blades are easy to swap out, so a single reciprocating saw can be reconfigured to deal with a wide range of materials.

What Are They Good For?

Despite both being saws, reciprocating saws and jigsaws are meant for different purposes, and their designs mean that they are each better at some things than others. Even if they are produced by the same manufacturer and share the same blades or internal parts, they can be completely different when you try to cut something.

Cutting Things Apart

In any situation where you need to cut through something (either for demolishing or constructing something), you will need to watch out for the material and the way you are cutting into it. There is no question that jigsaws are usually best for cutting a solid, smooth and flat surface, regardless of what it is made from, but reciprocating saws are much easier to use on any surface with a defined shape.

Reciprocating saws are also much more vital in general since they have more power behind them than the majority of jigsaws. Because of this, they are also often a better choice if you are cutting something more substantial that could damage a weak jigsaw or if you need extra cutting power and speed that you can’t get otherwise.

Pruning and Cutting Natural Materials

Pruning trees and bushes are almost impossible with a jigsaw, not to mention awkward and time-consuming. Even something as simple as cutting off a thick branch is much easier with a reciprocating saw since you don’t have a smooth surface to work with. You obviously can’t slice down an entire tree with either of them, but if you ever tried, a reciprocating saw would make a reasonable effort.

Carving out Complex Shapes

A jigsaw will usually be a much more convenient choice for carving out shapes on a surface, especially if it is flat and you must follow carefully planned curves. Since you can brush it up against the surface and ensure that the jigsaw is always correctly aligned, it is far easier to get a smooth cut without making a mistake or going over your markings. Reciprocating saws can do this, too, but it takes a lot longer and requires far more concentration to get the same results.

Portable Cutting

Carrying your saw around is incredibly useful in many situations, even if you are moving it from one side of the house to the other. Both styles are relatively similar: different brands and models have varying weights and sizes, but neither type is consistently more significant than the other. The power source and extension cord length will also differ between brands, but this doesn’t usually make them any harder to carry (unless the saw is too big to fit in a toolbox or carrying case).

Staying Safe

Jigsaws are the safer of the two types, hands-down. You can only hurt yourself by putting your hand in front of the blade while cutting, which almost nobody will do if they are paying even a slight amount of attention. This sometimes makes them suitable for teenagers or older children, as long as they are supervised. Reciprocating saws have a much longer, harder-to-balance design with a more exposed blade.

Which Is Better?

While they are similar in some ways, it is difficult to pick out which type is better. Regarding a reciprocating saw vs. jigsaw, you should choose what is perfect for the situation: neither saw is superior to the other, but they are different enough to make them better suited for specific situations. If you want the best possible cut, you will want the best tool for the job.

If you want to construct things, use a jigsaw. The precise cutting and ease of use make it an excellent choice for creating smooth corners, making straight lines, and following designs or lines you’ve marked. On the other hand, if you are taking something apart, a reciprocating saw is a better choice thanks to its more versatile shape and extra power.

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