Think that a reciprocating saw is only for a guy with Popeye-sized forearms who hacks through 2x4s and ABS drain pipe during a bathroom remodel — or cuts away rusted steel flooring in the ’68 Chevy Malibu he’s restoring? Think again. In fact, a “recip” saw is one of the most versatile portable power tools that a do-ityourselfer or small shop craftsman can own. With the right blade, you can cut practically any material you can think of — plastic, metal, sheet goods, nail-embedded lumber, hardwood and more. Fit the saw with a long blade, and you can cut planks and beams thicker than the capacity of your table or compound miter saw.
Rounding Up the Participants
Recently, I collected seven corded reciprocating saws that are among the most affordable on the market: the Bosch RS7, DeWalt DW304PK, Hitachi CR13V, Makita JR3050T, Milwaukee 6509, RIDGID R3002 and Skil 9225. Except for the Skil, each saw is the least expensive model offered by the manufacturer, with prices ranging from $78 to $106 (the lowest prices I could find on the Internet at the time of writing, not including taxes or shipping charges).
To compare the performance of the seven saws, I cut a variety of materials including steel and PVC pipe, aluminum extrusions, hardwood lumber and plywood. To evaluate power and cutting smoothness, I ran a little cutting trial, sawing through hard, dry 2x8 construction lumber (the kind you’d encounter during a typical remodel job) as fast as the tool would allow. Each recip was run on its fastest speed. I used a stopwatch to time how long each cut took and repeated the cuts several times with each saw, using the same kind of blade each time. I’ve cited the fastest cutting times here, as well as my opinion regarding how smoothly each saw ran during the various test cuts.
What makes for a good reciprocating saw? It should be powerful, yet reasonably lightweight and compact. For aggressive cutting, it should have a long blade stroke, fast speed and, ideally, a selectable blade orbit: linear for hard and thin materials; orbital for fast cuts in softwoods and thicker stock. It should have some counterbalance mechanism to reduce vibration and make the saw more comfortable to use. A variable-speed trigger allows you to start cuts slowly, so the blade doesn’t jump around, then adjust the speed to best suit the material. A blade clamp allows quick, easy and tool-less blade changes, and an adjustable saw foot that can be set in and out allows use of different sections of the blade teeth (so you get more life out of every blade). Is all this a tall order for a bargain priced saw?
And the Winner Is…
The phrase “the best isn’t always the most expensive” clearly applies to this tool review: The second-least expensive tool, the $79 Skil 9225, gets my vote as the “Best Bet” for an economical reciprocating saw. The Skil simply outperformed all the other models in this seven-saw group. Because it cut fast and ran smoothly, I was willing to forgive the 9225’s shortcomings: its heavy weight, lack of a variable-speed trigger and occasionally fussy blade clamp. My hunch is that the Skil might not hold up to the kind of daily abuse that a remodeling contractor would give the saw.
For that kind of professional use, I’d recommend shelling out more cash for a full-featured recip model with heavier-duty construction. But for use around the shop, house and yard, I’ll stick with the Skil 9225 and forgo the “vibro massage” I got when using the other saws in this roundup.