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Buy jig or reciprocating saw?

November 22, 2004


We recently bought a home, and the need to get things done around the house are never ending. I need to get some minor framing done (cutting 2x4's), and I also need to cut some metal shelving brackets. I was thinking of getting a plain old hack-saw and another wood saw, but I thought I might as well get a powered (cordless or corded) one. But I can't decide between a reciprocating or a jig saw (or maybe handheld circular). Which of these is most versatile/useful one for light-duty housework? I want to buy just one power saw and get the most uses out of it. The guy at Lowes said buy a cordless jig saw, not reciprocating. Just wondering if other people had opinions/ideas?



Comments (21)

  • ericwi

    There are special blades that can be fixed to a cut-off saw, for cutting metal. But the blades are expensive, so you will more likely end up using a hand-power hacksaw for your metal cutting. A corded(not battery) cut-off saw is perhaps the most useful tool, and they aren't very expensive.

    To do good work, safely, will require a bench, or maybe some solid saw horses, on a level surface.

  • gzec

    I own a circular saw, recipricating saw, a table saw, a sliding compound miter saw and various hand saws.
    If you are just starting out with electric saws and want to build your skills over time, I suggest a 7 1/4 " circular saw (corded). I would not suggest a recipricating saw, they can be very dangerous and not very precise.

  • talley_sue_nyc

    I have a jig saw, and it's OK, but a circular saw would be light years better for cutting straight lines in stock lumber. I needed a jig, for some small cuts, and didn't have room or money for two saws (and I live in an apt. , so I don't do much woodworking).

    I've never figured out what a reciprocating saw is best for, but I'm betting it's stuff I'd never do.

    If I lived in a home w/ a garage, I'd have a circular saw, a jig saw, and start saving up for a table saw.

  • back_yard_guy

    A circular saw, reciprocating & jig saw each serve a unique function. It's kind of like asking, should one use a fork, spoon or knife? They're not intended to accomplish the same task. There is no one tool that fits all projects. The wrong tool - for the wrong job - will do nothing but disappoint.

    Reciprocating saws are really great for demolition activities (like tearing out before remodeling).

  • lzk4

    Thanks to all for your replies. While surfing some more, I found that Black and Decker makes a combination hand saw / jig saw called Navigator SC500. See Link. Seems to be exactly what I need, but it does seem underpowered. Any opinions?

    Here is a link that might be useful: Navigator SC500

  • chiefneil

    I had a B&D jigsaw once that was so underpowered and awful that I returned it. If you're going to get a jigsaw get a Bosch. I have a circular saw too but I actually hardly ever use it since I got the jigsaw. I'm planning on getting a reciprocating saw but that would be for the express purpose of demolition.

    You should buy the tool for the job at hand. For framing I think I'd want a chop saw, but since you're on a budget and looking for flexibility the jigsaw and circular saw will also work. For the shelf brackets you can either buy a hacksaw or a metal blade for the jigsaw. And above all, "don't forget the most important piece of safety equipment... safety glasses" [Norm Abram].

  • handymac

    A circular saw will cut 2 by lumber and plywood faster and better than other saws.

    A jig saw(technically it is called a saber saw) will cut shapes in thin wood/plastic/metal and can be used for plywood cutting.

    A reciprocating saw is basically a demolition tool. There are not many construction uses for this type.

    An inexpensive circular saw is the more versatile tool---on a limited budget. And an inexpensive jig saw and circ. saw can be purchased for under $70. However, you get a cheap saw on both accounts.

    The suggested Bosch jig saw, for instance, is what most folks consider the Cadillac of jig saws---and retails for $150+.

    My circular saw cost $189 six years ago, I got it in a closeout sale for $100. But I use it at least every week, on jobs.

    B&D saws are decent homeowner tools. Get corded tho---the battery types are junk.

  • lzk4

    I checked out jig-saws and found them with and without orbital motion, scrolling feature etc. Are these features useful or necessary?
    Also, is 3.5Amp sufficent?
    Thanks again

  • handymac

    Orbital is good---makes the cutting more aggressive and faster. It does make more splintering, however.

    Scrolling is more a blade size function. The saws with the top knob for turning the blade always were much more difficult for me to use---required both hands and two actions. It is easier to just tirn the saw.

    3.5 amps is ok, jig saws are not designed for long cuts and speed anyway.

  • mstrgrdnr

    I second the vote for the Bosch saw.

    It has proven to be worth every penny of the $160 that I spent on it. A bit pricey compared to others I guess, but it operates so smoothly and cuts so precisely.....man, what a saw.

    Who knows, with the right tool you may find lots and lots of uses for it.


  • DrynDusty

    I have the circular, both corded and cordless, saber, mitersaw, reciprocating, and hand saws, plus an old radial arm saw and a band saw. (that's a whole lot of saws, now that I think of it!)
    I use the reciprocating saw for tree pruning, and rough sawing, like taking apart pallets (just cut through the nails!)to reuse the wood. I've also used the recip for cutting a glass rod, 1 inch diam. with a carbide grit blade,which didn't work really smoothly, but it got through. It cuts metal like butter, too.
    I used to use the jigsaw when I didn't have anything else and it worked OK, not great, though. Crosscutting boards with a guide, ripping boards is really slow and wavey. Can cut metal pipe.

  • jrice

    I would suggest if you are going to purchase a jig saw to get the variable speed model.

    Each saw is usually designed for a special purpose and not a combination of purposes. Oh yea they will work but not very good.

    As for B&D, They use to be a good brand, not anymore as far as I am concerned. Bought a B&D orbital sander and it lasted almost 2 minutes!! No more B&D for me!! Plastic fibre gears I think.

    Circular saws are used for straight cuts.
    Jig saws are used for short curve or (kind of) straight cuts.
    Sawsall is for mostly demo work.
    Compoumd mitre saw (CMS or SCMS) are for straight or compound mitre cross cuts.
    Table saw is used primarily for rip cuts, however can be used for crosscuts as well.

    So as you can see, a "good mulitpurpose saw" will probably not meet up to your expectations.

  • darthjenn

    I just about tore my hand off tonight with a wild Skill jigsaw while trying to cut straight lines into an aluminum threshold. As you can imagine, it didn't come out very well. I live in a condo and all I have is a foldable workbench. Damn thing was moving all over the place.

    I can't wait to get a regular circular saw. I think it would be far more useful as I only seem to make straight cuts. I am not sure I could have used it on metal, though. Probably should have used a hacksaw tonight, but it takes me FOREVER to cut through anything with it, and I can't imagine how long it would have taken with metal.

    What I should probably do is take a course on tool safety! Luckily my husband wasn't around to watch.

  • chiefneil

    Darthjenn - did you have a metal-cutting blade on the jigsaw? You need to use the right blade and reduce the speed and orbital action when cutting metal with a jigsaw. If you do those three things and take it slow, the jigsaw shouldn't be dancing all over the place like you experienced.

  • darthjenn

    Thanks, chiefneil! I used the metal-cutting blade, but I did NOT reduce the speed OR the orbital thing. I was WAY too impatient, pressing forward instead of letting the saw do the work. I am a new user of saws, definitely. I am fascinated by them. I just love having using my own tools.

    I may have to make peace with the jigsaw, yet. My husband doesn't think it's a good idea for me to get a circular saw as he says it's too dangerous. Still, he hasn't used a circular saw in a good twenty years himself, since he moved out of the "country".

    Perhaps they have new safety features now that they didn't have then. I hope so. Otherwise I won't be able to talk him into it. He loves all of my DIY adventures, but he's completely paranoid about my getting hurt.

  • DrynDusty

    Darthjenn, you just keep practicing and good results will come. This is not a testosterone-propelled craft.

  • theniceguy

    Smart husband

  • talley_sue_nyc

    darthjenn, did you clamp that threshold to your table? That's key to safety. Your hand shouldn't be holding the material, so it can't be available to the blade.

    (I love my Kreg face-frame clamp, because it will reach into the piece by several inches, and I don't have to worry about whether I have the piece close enough to the edge of the table to get the clamp to hold it)

    Like you, I live in an apartment, and I'm going to need to come up with some sort of cutting table to use w/ my spiffy new cordless circular saw. One that's heavy enough to not tip, but also easy to store in my highly limited space. (Or, one that can do double duty as a sewing-machine table, maybe.)

    Also--on the question of which tool is safer: the RIGHT tool is safest. The right blade, the right setup. And control is safest. When you have the right tool, you have control.

    Sort of like, a dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp one. You push harder w/ a dull blade, and it slips.

    Personally, I think that once I come up with a cutting table that's got support for the wood and a stable base, a circular saw is probably safer. Mine has two handles, so I'm supposed to use two hands to use it. That means my wood has to be clamped--and my hand won't ever be anywhere near the blade.

    I also think that taking the battery out between cuts is going to be easier to sustain than unplugging the corded saw. And that's an important safety step.

    Since I won't ever be doing high-volume cutting, I'm figuring my little cordless will be enough for me.

    But like you, I'll need to school myself to just wait for the saw to do the work, and to only guide is, and not so much force it forward. That patience you were talking about.

    Having used a jigsaw, I will say this: in terms of cutting wood, my corded Skil jigsaw was slower than my dad's 7-1/2" corded circular saw, and it was harder to be patient.

    I'm eager to get started, but I need a cutting table I think is safe.

  • salex

    This has been said before but is worth saying again. A circular saw (corded) is probably the single best saw for a homeowner/DIYer to own because of its versatility. Then if the sawdust/remodeling bug really bites, add a table saw, miter saw, hand saws, jig saw, and reciprocating saw to the quiver (saws listed here in order of how often I use them - reciprocating saw is by far the least used).

  • PRO

    For any amount of demo, a sawzall is a must-have. A jigsaw is further down the list, unless you plan on installing a lot of electrical boxes in cabinets and baseboards.

    Don't forget two kinds of handsaws: a medium-sized crosscut saw and a fine-blade Japanese pull saw round out a good set of cutting tools. And they are cordless ;)

  • mike_kaiser_gw

    I believe that a cordless circular saw as a primary cutting tool is a lousy choice for a DIYer or anyone who cuts a variety of materials because of the very limited selection of blades available for the tool. Most of the homeowner grade tools just don't have the battery life necessary either. A corded, good quality 7 1/4" circular saw is a much better choice.

    A good quality jig saw is another very attractive option. Jig saw tend to be a lot lighter and easier to control which generally makes them safer to use for the novice. Obviously the can cut curves and make inside cuts (like sink cut out) There is a huge selection of blades available to cut almost any material including wood blades up to 10" long. Many of the better saws include lights to see the cut line and have dust collection. The better saws offer an option of oscillate the blade which increases the speed of cutting, although with a decrease in the quality of cut. My old Bosch jig saw set on full oscillation and with the right blade will cut through a sheet of plywood pretty darn fast.

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