Reciprocating Saw vs. Jigsaw – What’s the Difference

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As a DIY enthusiast or woodworker, it is always a great idea to add a new power saw to your collection because the more saws you have the more projects you can do.

However, as with most other power tools, sometimes it can be hard to pick the right power saw to buy when you only need to get one. And one of the most common dilemmas that most woodworkers will face is whether to go for a reciprocating saw or jigsaw.

It is true the two saws have some similarities in both appearance and applications but they are still two distinct tools designed to accomplish different woodworking tasks.

Picking between the two should be guided by the projects you intend to use the saw for, your budget and also your preferences.

But, understanding what each can do, and some of their pros and cons always makes your choice less tedious.

Reciprocating Saw

Image source: DeWalt

The reciprocating saw is characterized by a push/pull cutting motion or what is more fondly referred to as reciprocating motion. And this is also where the power saw gets its name. But, some models will also cut in a pendulum or action motion.

It is also possible to get a reciprocating saw that comes with a switch that lets you shift between the push/pull cutting motion and the pendulum, action depending on the task at hand.

Unlike the jigsaw that is typically used for delicate cuts, the reciprocating saw is best suited for rough cutting and demolitions tasks.

The reciprocating saws are designed to deliver massive amounts of power to the blade to ensure quick slicing through various materials such as wood, metal, masonry, stucco, fiberglass, and drywall.

Their ability to make easy work of these different materials makes the reciprocating saw a popular power tool in construction sites, plumbing and also for electrical works.

Reciprocating saws are great for cutting things that are out in the open because the blade is also out on the open and easy for you to see or direct. Also, you can use them for overhead cuts as they are still powerful enough even when upside down.

Some of the projects where the reciprocating saw performs way much better than the jigsaw includes cutting pipes and framing out windows.

Pros

  • Great for demolition. The horizontal blade action of the reciprocating saw is designed for rough cutting and if you combine this with the massive power of the motor, you have the perfect tool for demolition tasks. And the best thing about the reciprocating saw is that it can demolish various materials including metals and masonry. A jigsaw is more of finesse tool and so it will not be very useful for demolitions tasks.
  • Works great in tight areas. Unlike the jigsaw, the blade on the reciprocating saw is exposed, and this means that it will go into tight areas with ease to cut places that would be impossible with a jigsaw. Also, the nature of the blade makes this a great power tool for overhead cutting.
  • Cuts a variety of materials. With a good quality and powerful enough reciprocating saw, there is almost no material that you cannot cut through. The powerful motor makes it possible to cut through metal, fiberglass, stucco, ceramic, drywall, masonry and many other materials with relative ease.

 

Cons

  • Not ideal for fine crafting. When you want to make smooth, fine and accurate cuts, the reciprocating saw will not be a good choice. For this, you will need a jigsaw. Reciprocating saws are designed for rough and aggressive cutting and so the pieces will always end up with rough edges, and this means that they are not ideal for fine crafting.
  • Relatively heavier. Reciprocating saws are by far not the heaviest power saws but most models are significantly weighty when you compare them to the smaller and more compact jigsaws.

 

Jigsaw

Image source: DeWalt

When you want to make a more refined, smooth and curved cuts, the jigsaw is what you need as it can be a highly precise power saw.

Jigsaws are characterized by long, slim blades that make them one of the best saws for delicate cutting tasks. Although they are still not as good as the scroll saw when it comes to delicate work, they can still produce some fantastic detail work.

These saws will offer the power and flexibility necessary for many crafts and construction applications. And they are not just limited to cutting wood as you can also use them on other materials like canvas, plastic and light metals.

With a jigsaw, you can also make various other cuts in addition to the typical straight and curved ones, and they include ripping, beveling, crosscuts and plunge cuts.

Since most of the time the jigsaw is used to cut wood, it is important to note that it works best on a hardwood piece that is not more than 3/4-inch thick and about 1.5 inches for softwood. These woods are way much thinner than what the reciprocating saw can cut.

Also, unlike the reciprocating saw that is designed for rough and aggressive cutting, you have to be super gentle with a jigsaw as it is not designed for cutting with too much force or for use on heavy-duty materials.

Pros

  • Great for finesse and delicate cutting. A jigsaw will cut accurate, curved lines on any material you might be working on, and its slim blade will be a great choice for jobs that will require delicate cuts. Unlike the reciprocating saw, the jigsaw is designed to produce more refined and smooth cuts. Whether you want to create fine edges on furniture or some trim detail on walls, the jigsaw can produce a beautifully detailed work
  • Makes a variety of cuts. Jigsaws are designed to make almost any kind of cut that you might want in the workshop. Besides the typical straight and curved cuts, you can also use it for ripping, beveling, crosscuts and plunge cuts. Most of these cuts are quite hard to make with the reciprocating saw.
  • Relatively lightweight. When you compare it to the reciprocating saw, the jigsaw is a relatively lightweight saw. And this comes with many advantages such as the fact that it is easier to handle, and it is also more portable and convenient to store.

 

Cons

  • Less powerful. While the jigsaw still packs enough power to handle a variety of crafts and construction applications, it is still not as powerful as the reciprocating saw. Hence, it will not be very useful for cutting tough materials. Also, its maximum cutting thickness for both hard and soft wood is way much less than what the reciprocating saw can cut.
  • Not useful in tight places/overhead. The blade on the jigsaw is long and slim but it is more confined unlike the blade on the reciprocating saw that is exposed. What this means is that it is hard to use this saw on tight space or even overhead. And so its use is mostly confined to a worktable, and this affects its versatility.

 

Conclusion

When it comes to choosing between a reciprocating saw and the jigsaw, the projects you intend to accomplish or how you want to use the saw should help you make up your mind.

If you are intending to demolish something or want a saw that can help you make cuts in tight spaces or even overhead, the reciprocating saw will be more useful.

But, if you want to build something up from wood and other light materials and refine it, the jigsaw is a much better option.

Also, the jigsaw will be more useful for delicate and smooth cutting and also when you want to make various other kinds of cuts besides the usual straight or curved ones.

All in all, if you are a seasoned hobbyist, DIYer or woodworker that works on various kinds of projects, the best idea is to have both jigsaw and reciprocating saw. And this is because despite their obvious differences, the two complement each other when used correctly.