If you haven’t tried to use a reciprocating saw, otherwise known as a Sawzall or sabre saw, I’m about to change your life. Let’s start by discussing what a reciprocating saw is: an all-in-one tool that can take the place of several others. When I think of “saw,” I typically think of a lumberjack with a big handsaw cutting down a tree. The problem is that a large handsaw can’t fit into small areas, and that’s where this saw comes in. A Sawzall is used for shorter, tough-to-reach cuts. It’s also electric, and uses a push and pull motion to cut, which it does quickly. Once you learn more about this tool, you’re definitely going to want to have one on hand!
Before you begin, keep two things in mind:
- Some reciprocating saws can be jumpy; always wear protective gear AND use a strong, sure grip.
- Avoid the cord. This is true for all tools, but given the areas you might be going into and the size of the blades, you can quickly cut through your cord if you aren’t paying attention!
To begin, the saw is held similar to a shot gun. The non-dominant hand holds the bottom front of the saw while the dominant hand rests back on the grip and “trigger.” When beginning to cut, squeeze the trigger and allow the saw to gain full power. Once the saw has reached full power, bring the saw into contact with the item needing to be cut. Allow the saw to do most of the work! Focus on controlling the jumping of the saw; firmly hold it in place and guide it through the line of the cut. Most of the guiding and controlling will be done by the non-dominant hand at the front of the saw. Only slight pressure is typically needed as you’ll let the saw do the work. If too much pressure is applied, it can cause the blade to bend. A bent blade can mean a crooked cut, worse jumping of the saw (which is very dangerous), or the top to stop working. If your blade ends up bent, we recommend replacing, though you can bend it back if it’s just a slight bend.
Changing the blade is relatively easy depending on the age of your saw. The older reciprocating saws used an Allen wrench to loosen and tighten the blade within the shoe.
At the front of the saw, there is a larger piece where the blade sticks out, and this is called the shoe (the metal portion shown above). In newer models, changing the blade is as easy as holding two buttons (yellow above) on either side of the shoe for blade removal and insertion. Other newer models involve pressing the two buttons and removing the shoe before removing the blade. It is important that you read the instructions of your Sawzall so that understand how the blade is changed on your particular model and brand.
Let’s talk more about the shoe now that we’re in that area of the tool. The shoe helps you – it’s useful for reducing the reciprocating action of the motor for fewer jumps while using the saw. In order for the shoe to assist in this, use it as a fulcrum. In other words, rest the shoe on a hard surface as you guide the blade in to cut. This is a bit of an advanced tactic, but once you’re used to using your saw, you will better understand and automatically know what’s safe and not safe to do. My suggestion? Practice. Buy scrap wood before you tackle any home improvement project. Would you rather mess up a piece of wood as opposed to your wall?
Now that we’ve discussed how to use a reciprocating saw, here are some potential uses:
- Installing an outlet
- Fitting a window
- Changing PVC piping
- Cutting through nails or screws
- Outdoor work (tree branches!)
As you get familiar with your reciprocating saw, you’ll probably be interested in some of the advanced features like lights, variable speed, electric brakes, etc. Want to learn more about using your Sawzall? Check out these related articles below!