For many, the reciprocating saw is a tool they just couldn’t live without. The sheer variety of things they can do make it a very handy item to have around for both the craftsman and the home hobbyist. There are many different styles and brands available as well, in a wide range of prices. The reciprocating saw can slice through anything from thick metal fencing to trees, and just about anything in between. The uses for these tools is literally endless.
One of the most important things to keep in mind when using a reciprocating saw is utilizing the correct blade. There are blades for metals and blades for woods, and it is generally not a good idea to mix them up. While you probably could cut wood with one of the metal blades if you absolutely had to, I definitely do not recommend trying to bite through any metals using a blade intended for wood. These blades are designed specifically for the material advertised on the package and blade itself, and it is not recommended to get creative here. If you find you need to cut some metal, but all the metal blades in the drawer are busted or dull, don’t simply put a wood blade into your reciprocating saw and try to tackle the job, even if the metal is thin. You will likely greatly reduce the life of your blades doing this, and possibly risk your own safety. Besides, blades are normally very inexpensive and come in packs, so I recommend that you buy more than you think you will need when you are at the hardware store, so you eliminate the chance of running out of blades in mid project and having to return in order to purchase more. Call it cheap insurance.
Besides coming in a wide variety of thicknesses and tooth configurations, reciprocating saw blades are very pliable, and can bend quite far while actually sawing, making it easier to cut in tight spots where precision is necessary. However, don’t bend them too far because as you cut the blade gets hot, and if you over flex them they have a tendency to break in half or crease badly, rendering them useless.
Another nifty option that reciprocating saws have is variable speeds. Sometimes when tackling a project, you simply don’t need the saw going as fast as it can, and it is extremely handy to be able to slow the blade down at will. There is usually a switch either on the trigger itself, or somewhere near the handle or top of the reciprocating saw that will rotate and allow multiple speed settings. My personal saw goes from speeds one to six, but that will likely be different for each manufacturer. If you are cutting something very thick and heavy, the highest speed on the saw will usually be the best bet.
A reciprocating saw can be had for as low as $25 if you go to a store like Harbor Freight, but many professionals feel you get what you pay for and steer clear of the “deals”. One can also spend a couple hundred dollars on a reciprocating saw that will be guaranteed for a lot longer, and probably outlast its owner. Quality names include Milwaukee, Hitachi, Bosch and DeWalt. If you won’t be using the saw every day for heavy work and just like the idea of having an extra handy power tool around, I highly recommend the Chicago Electric orange line offered by Harbor Freight. I do quite a bit of metal working on the side, and my 7 amp reciprocating saw that was purchased for less than $30 has never steered me wrong, and has ample power to slice through anything I have ever needed it for.
These awesome saws have innumerable uses and are a great addition to anyone’s home workshop, but there are some safety tips to keep in mind when operating them. First, before plugging in ANY power tool, inspect the electric cord for flaws or frays. Strange stuff happens to tools between uses, and you are very wise to keep your eye out for potential problems that may cause an electric shock or fire. Also, as with using any power tool, implementing the use of safety goggles and thick, leather gloves should become second nature. DO NOT attempt to use any power tool, including a reciprocating saw, without proper eye protection and gloves at the very least. Other safety practices that are good ideas include wearing long, denim jeans (no shorts!), boots and thick flannel shirts or coveralls. If the blade itself or the item you are cutting chips, things can get dangerous as debris flies through the air.