Reciprocating Saw vs. Jigsaw: Which One is Right for You?

Reciprocating Saw vs. Jigsaw

The reciprocating and jigsaws will work in a quite similar manner as they both utilize a reciprocating blade movement. This similarity in the blade operation often makes it hard for potential buyers to choose between them.

However, these are still different tools designed for different purposes. The reciprocating saw excels when it comes to tasks that require more power such as demolition and ripping boards while the jigsaw is better suited for making intricate shapes on wood and other materials.

To make their differences clear, here we compare them side by side and we also provide an overview of each and their pros and cons to help make your buying decision even simpler.

Reciprocating Saw Overview

Reciprocating Saw

Reciprocating saws look a little more like a chainsaw than any other saw type as they come with a blade that sticks out at the front and with a handle at the back. While they might not be as powerful as the chainsaws, they will still be effective for some of the typical tasks the latter is used for.

These saws will cut horizontally in a push and pull or reciprocating motion which is where they get their name. Also, they will typically have a more powerful motor than what you get on others like the jigsaw.

The design and the power that the reciprocating saws provide makes them perfect for tasks like demolition, pruning trees and renovation. And the blade design will also mean that unlike jigsaws, you can use them to make overhead tasks which makes them quite handy for home remodeling projects.

With a reciprocating saw, you will also be able to cut through various other materials besides wood such as ceramic, metal and plastic which makes them quite a versatile tool to have around.

However, despite the popularity, these saws also come with some drawbacks with the key among them being that they are not good for making delicate and accurate cuts. Many users will also find the reciprocating saw hard to operate with one hand which for some tasks can be quite inconvenient.

Pros:

  • Great for demolition tasks
  • Works well for overhead cuts
  • Cuts through various materials with ease

Cons:

  • Not good for delicate and intricate cuts
  • Both hands often required for operations

Jigsaw Overview

Jigsaw

Like the reciprocating saw, the jigsaws will also cut with a reciprocating blade, and this should explain why many users sometimes find it hard to choose between the two.

However, jigsaws will cut in a vertical, back and forth motion and not the horizontal cutting motion you get with the reciprocating saws.

These power saws are designed for making more intricate and delicate cuts, and they will deliver superior cutting accuracy when compared to the reciprocating saws.

Also, these handheld saws have been built to allow for a simple one-handed operation which is often quite convenient for the users as it frees one hand to do other things such as holding or directing the workpiece.

And if you are on the lookout for that one power saw that can cut a wide variety of materials, the jigsaws will be a perfect choice. With the right blade, a typical one will not only cut wood but also other materials like ceramic tile, plastic, and plywood.

One more thing that sets the jigsaw apart from reciprocating and other saws types is that it will also be good for cutting curved, diagonal, bevel and even long, straight cuts.

But like the reciprocating saws, it also comes with its fair share of drawbacks such as the inability to cut larger and thicker wood and the fact that it is not very useful for making flush cuts.                                       

Pros:

  • More accurate cutting
  • Great for bevel and curved cuts
  • Smaller and safer blade
  • Can be operated with one hand

Cons:

  • Not very useful for cutting thicker and harder materials
  • Thinner blades are not very durable
  • Cannot be used for flush cuts

Comparison Chart


Reciprocating Saw

Jigsaw

Cutting Pattern

Forward and back

Up and down

Blade

3” to 12”

3” to 9” and T or U-shank

Power

Highly powerful motors

Average power

Cutting Accuracy

Rough cutting tool

Moderately accurate

Best Uses

Demolition, remodeling, and renovation

Artwork and making delicate and intricate cuts in woodworking

Safety

Riskier and can cause accidents easily

Relatively safer tool

Price Range

$50 to $150

$50 to $200

Reciprocating Saw vs. Jigsaw

If you are planning to pick a reciprocating saw or jigsaw for your next project, you need to make sure that what you get will be useful to you. Despite their similarities, these are different tools designed for different tasks. But, you should be able to pick the right tool for the job if you understand their following differences.

1. Cutting Pattern

The first and perhaps the most distinctive element between these two power saws is the cutting pattern that they use. While both will fall in the reciprocating cutting motion saw category, they still work quite differently.

Reciprocating Saw

Reciprocating saws will come with a blade that protrudes straight out from the saw's front section. 

This blade is designed to cut in a back and forth motion in a horizontal position, and it does this at super high speeds. With most models, the speeds can be easily adjusted to suit the task at hand.

Jigsaw

With a jigsaw, you get a power saw with the blade perpendicular to the saw's blade. When cutting, the blade on the jigsaw moves vertically.

The blade will move up and down also at high speeds like in a reciprocating saw and the speed is adjustable to suit the material you are cutting. This blade design and cutting motion make this saw perfect for curved cuts that require high precision.

2. Blade

While both the reciprocating saw and jigsaw will use thinner and relatively smaller blades, the blades on these saws are still not the same given that they are made for different uses.

Reciprocating Saws

With the reciprocating saw, you will typically get to choose from blades that are between 3 and 12 inches long. However, the most common ones are the 7 and 8-inch blades, and they are what many users will consider the standard size.

While still on the reciprocating saws blade, they will also come with a different number of teeth which is measured in TPI (tooth per inch). Different blade TPI is meant for different applications.

The mid-TPI blades with straight edges are designed for cutting metal while the mid-TPI blades made from bi-metal are perfect for hardwood and the low TPI blades are perfect for plunge cutting and demolition jobs.

Jigsaw

Like the reciprocating saws, you will also get jigsaw blades in different sizes which will often range between 3 and 9 inches but there are still a few other larger ones than this.

These blades are also often 1/32-inch thick and unlike the reciprocating saw, the blade is attached on one side of the saw only which is what allows for plunge cutting.

Also, there are two standard types of Jigsaw blades which are the T-shank blades that will be super easy to change and U-shank blades that require a special tool to change.

And you can also get the jigsaw blades with different TPI such as the low TPI blades that are perfect for cutting wood and high TPI blades that are best suited for cutting metals.

3. Power

These power saws will also require different levels of power to operate given their intended uses. But, overall the reciprocating saws tend to be the more powerful tool of the two.

A typical reciprocating saw can have a motor that is anywhere between 7 and 15-amp but there is also some smaller budget 5-amp budget models. But note that the more powerful the saw the more you will have to pay. Sometimes you might not need all that power, and this is more so for those that want to use the saw for simple pruning tasks.

Jigsaws might not have motors that are as powerful as what you get on the reciprocating saws, but they are still powerful enough as you will get many models with motors between 5 and 8 amps. Furthermore, for most of the tasks that these saws perform, this average power is still more than enough.

4. Cutting Accuracy

Cutting accuracy always matters when using any saw, and it should also be on top of your mind when picking between reciprocating saw and jigsaw.

But, if accuracy is what you are looking for, this should be an easy decision as these saws cut quite differently. While the reciprocating saw is made for rough cuts where accuracy is not a concern, the jigsaw will be perfect for making more intricate and delicate cuts that require extra precision.

Reciprocating saws will leave the pieces with rough and uneven edges while jigsaws leave a more uniform and even surface. With a jigsaw, it will even be possible to make long, straight cuts something that might be hard to achieve with a reciprocating saw.

5. Best Uses

How you use your saw whether you buy the reciprocating or jigsaw is all up to you because both are fairly versatile and you can use them for a wide variety of cuts.

However, each has its best uses which are also what it is built for. Reciprocating saws will be excellent when it comes to applications that do not require a lot of precision such as demolition and ripping rough stock. Also, these saws can be handy for home improvement projects and remodeling, and given the protruding blade design, it will also be perfect for pruning trees.

Jigsaws are a little more versatile than reciprocating saws as they will be very useful for a wide variety of woodworking applications and crafts. Whether you want to make intricate patterns on wood, make jigsaw puzzles or cut beveled, angled or long, straight cuts, this saw will always be very handy.

6. Safety

Just like accuracy, you cannot overlook safety when using any power saw as you do not want to endanger yourself and those around you when using these tools.

Since both saws have fast-moving and sharp blades, they will pose a significant danger. However, the reciprocating saw is the more dangerous tool of the two.

And this is because it not only has a sharp and exposed blade but also because the blade moves much faster and the tool can be quite unwieldy which is why you always need to hold it with both hands. Reciprocating saws can easily cause accidents when not handled by an experienced individual.

Jigsaws, on the other hand, still pose a significant risk but they are much safer to use when compared to the reciprocating saws as they have a smaller blade that poses less risk. Even a novice should be able to work with the jigsaw safely as it also requires only one hand to operate.

7. Price Range

Just like with any other power tool types, the prices for the reciprocating and jigsaws will vary from one brand to the other and between different models given the differences in features and power.

Prices for these two saws are also quite similar as you can get a good model of either for as little as $50 or even less. However, when it comes to the mid-tier models, the jigsaw prices can go up to over $200 while you can expect to spend around $150 on a reciprocating saw. Also, some cordless jigsaws models tend to be quite expensive.

It is worth noting that both saw types are also available in kit options from top brands like DeWalt and Milwaukee which will cost hundreds of dollars.

Conclusion

Both the reciprocating saw and jigsaw will be fantastic tools to have around as they can be handy for a wide variety of projects in your workshop or around the home.

But, given their obvious differences, they will be ideal for different uses, and so you need to know what will work best for you by understanding the factors that set them apart from their cutting pattern to the blade size and cutting accuracy.

From our in-depth comparison above, it is clear that the reciprocating saw will be best suited for professionals as they will get the best service from it. But, these saws can still work well for anyone into home improvement projects.

Jigsaws, on the other hand, will work well for everyone from novice DIYers to professional woodworkers and craftsmen.