In the grip of a strong-handed professional, a reciprocating saw is mainly associated with one thing: demolition. But in the hands of a strong-minded pro, one who knows that old houses are most effectively worked on by picking them apart, not bashing them to pieces, a recip saw can be a surgical instrument. Used to cut nails between studs, remove rotted window frames, or plunge into that unfortunate 1980s countertop in your 1880s farmhouse, they can help reveal the treasure buried beneath.
They’re also a go-to tool for DIY and weekend work, especially with the powerhouse battery technology that’s finding its way into increasingly affordable tools. While you may never cut out a structural framing member in your home, you might need to remove a tree branch that breaks in a storm, cut out a rotted porch ceiling, or take 1970s-era wall paneling out of the basement.
I look for two main elements when buying a new recip saw: a blade clamp that works and a saw with some mass. Because blades can get first-degree-burn hot, an easy-to-reach lever or blade release that doesn’t require reaching inside the blade shoe will save your fingers during blade changes. And the more you plan to use it, the more meat and muscle you’ll want in a recip saw. Lightweight tools are designed for occasional use.
Head to Head Test
The out-and-back stroke of a recip saw is ideal for sawing through things that don’t want to be sawn through. At the same time, if you don’t have control of the saw, nothing is going to get cut. Start by getting a good grip on the saw and putting your body in position to control it. Press the shoe (the steel plate the blade passes through) firmly against the work. If either moves too much, you’ll know right away. Let the waste piece fall away unobstructed—trying to catch it or holding the end up somehow can result in a pinched blade or compromised balance if you’re on a ladder.
–Mark Clement, Host of MyFixItUpLife