what is a reciprocating saw

What Is a Reciprocating Saw and Other Saw and Blade Types

If you’ve got some time on your hands, what better way is there to pass it than to start a new hobby?

If you fancy taking on your own DIY project, you’ll need to become more familiar with some of the more common and highly useful tools you’re likely to encounter.

Most of us will have heard of a hand saw, but what is a reciprocating saw?

If you’ve never come across a reciprocating saw before, then reading this article will educate you as to what one is, as well as the other main types of saws.

We even explain the different types of blades you’ll see at your local hardware store, helping you shop with confidence.

What Is a Reciprocating Saw?

A reciprocating saw features an exposed blade that moves forwards and backwards, hence why it’s reciprocating. They are also known as recip saws (for short), as well as sabre saws.

It is a handheld saw that is mostly for demolition work where sledgehammers and crowbars either fail or can’t be used.

For example, when you’re replacing old doors and windows, one of the most time-consuming tasks in the whole project is removing the old fittings.

A reciprocating saw will make light work of cutting through metal, plasterboard, and joists, quickly slicing through any frames, walls, or fixings that are no longer needed.

It can also get into tight corners thanks to the exposed blade.

What we like about this is that it is more compact and lightweight than some other power saws, making overhead work much easier.

Other Types of Saws

There is nothing embarrassing about not knowing what a reciprocating saw is, especially considering there are so many different types of saws available on the market.

You will find jigsaws, chainsaws, miter saws, circular saws, and, of course, the trusty old hand saw.

Knowing which one you should use for any particular task is extremely important if you want to complete the job properly and efficiently.

Obviously, all types of saws are for cutting through things, whether it be wood, plastic, or metal.

While many saws can be for multiple types of projects, there will always be one area where they shine.


A jigsaw can also cut through any type of wood (or plywood) and most metals, depending on the blade you’re using.

It also features a reciprocating blade, but it’s a bulkier power tool that is best for controlled cutting. It is the best option for cutting curved edges.

You can cut out stenciled patterns, irregular curves, and much tighter curves than with other types of saws.

Chain Saw

Most people are familiar with what a chainsaw is, with its mighty teeth attached to a rotating chain, set along a guide bar.

Chain saws are commonly for tree felling, limbing, and pruning. They also feature quite heavily in horror movies!

Circular Saw

A circular saw has a blade shaped like a disc or a circle, hence the name.

It is another handheld power tool for cutting many different materials, from wood to plastic and metal.

The circular blade allows for easier straight cuts on wood. It is a useful and practical tool that many DIYers can’t do without.

Miter Saw

A miter saw is also for making straight cuts, but it does so at a level of accuracy that can’t usually be achieved with a handheld tool.

Unlike the other tools on this list, the miter saw is a workbench power tool.

It is essentially a mounted circular saw that you pull downwards towards your workbench (and material you need to cut).

It allows you to make measured and extremely accurate crosscuts and miters.


Lastly, a hand saw cuts pieces of wood into different shapes and lengths but is rarely a go-to if an alternative power-tool option is available.

The circular saw is preferable instead of a hand saw these days. In fact, you’d only catch a DIYer using a hand saw if they had run out of battery on their power tool.

what is a reciprocating saw

Reciprocating Saw Blades

When you buy a recip saw, it may come with one or more blades.

However, regardless of how many blades it comes with, you’ll still need to know which blade to use for which job.

Blade Differences 

You’ll want to choose your blade by considering what kind of material you’ll be cutting, as well as how smooth and tidy you want the cut to be.

Blade Teeth

The number of teeth on a blade can vary, and they are measured and sold using teeth per inch (TPI).

Typically, TPI ranges from two right up to 24. The higher the number, the smoother the cut will be, but it will also take longer to cut through the material.

If the number is lower, the recip saw will make quicker work of the cut, but the resulting effort will be a lot rougher.

Lower TPIs are better for softer wood projects, while higher TPIs are for cutting through hardwoods and metal.

Blade Materials

You’ll also find that blades vary by the material used to create them, namely high carbon steel, high-speed steel, or a combination of both called a bi-metal blade. 

  • High Carbon Steel Blade

A high carbon steel blade is the most affordable and also the most flexible type of blade, allowing it to bend without breaking.

High carbon steel blades are best for use on softer materials, such as softwoods and plastics.

They will dull very quickly when used on harder materials and are the most likely to break out of all the different blade types. 

  • High-Speed Steel Blade

High-speed steel blades are sturdier, making them more suitable for hardwoods and metal.

They won’t dull as quickly as high carbon steel blades, but their hardness will leave them prone to breaking if forced to bend. 

  • Bi-Metal Blade

As the name suggests, bi-metal blades are a combination of high carbon steel and high-speed steel. This means that they offer the user both flexibility and durability.

Understandably, out of the three, they’re the most expensive type of blade, but they also last a lot longer.

Blade Types

When you shop for blades, they’ll most likely be in sections for wood, metal, combination, and so on.

Here’s how to make sure you are choosing the right blade to match your needs.

Wood Cutting Blades

These blades normally have a TPI range of five to 10 and are great for cutting most types of wood, branches, and softer materials. They’ll also cut through nails.

Metal Cutting Blades

Metal cutting blades will typically have 10 to 18 TPI, but some stores will stock them up to 24 TPI.

They are typically for cutting much denser materials, such as hardwoods and metals. You can also use them to achieve a smoother finish on a softwood.

A smoother finish will mean less sanding to complete the project!

Combination Blades

Combination blades, as their name suggests, are great for cutting both wood and metal.

These bi-metal blades feature variable pitch configurations, such as 8/11 TPI or 10/14 TPI, which makes them suitable for a larger range of jobs.

As mentioned, bi-metal blades are more expensive. If you don’t use your recip saw that often, they’re a good choice for keeping the number of blades you own to a minimum.

Demolition Blades

Demolition blades are built specifically for demolition work and usually have six to 11 TPI.

These blades are much thicker than others, so they are perfect for more heavy-duty jobs that demolition often requires.

They are fantastic for cutting through nail-embedded wood, and you can easily match up the TPI to the hardness of the materials you’ll be facing on the job.

Carbide-Tipped Blades

Carbide-tipped blades most commonly have eight TPI. Due to their extreme hardness and durability, they are used to cut through materials that would destroy other blades.

Use this type of blade when you need to cut through cast iron, stainless steel, or other very dense or high-strength alloys.

Carbide Grit Blades

Carbide grit blades are the only blades you’ll see without any TPI at all.

The reason for this is that the blade surface is made of grit instead of teeth. It is primarily used for cutting tiles and masonry.

The Right Tool for the Job

Now you’ve brushed up on some necessary information about types of saw, you’ll never wonder what is a reciprocating saw ever again!

Whether it’s the right tool for the job you have in mind, only you will know the answer to that.

Hopefully, you now know about the different saws available, as well as the various blade types for a recip saw, which means you can make a well-informed decision.

Maybe you’re just looking for a cutting power tool that will take the hard work out of cutting through wood to build your own boat.

Perhaps you’re replacing the banisters and railings on your decking.

Either way, a reciprocating saw is a fantastic tool to have in your collection due to its ease of use and sheer versatility.

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