How to Use a Reciprocating Saw

how to use a reciprocating saw

How to Use a Sawzall

Why learn how to use a reciprocating Saw? Reciprocating saws are some of the most versatile power tools. The saw can cut any building material. Some people use the power tool to trim tree branches, plywood, dimensional lumber, drywall and studs along with the screws and nails. The saw has a thin straight blade, a motor, and a fantastic remodeling allure.

Does reciprocating saw have many uses? Yes. The saw can cut through many materials; wood, lumber, drywall, metals, etc. It is a useful power tool to own, but dangerous when handled wrongly. The blade moves back and forth in a pull-pull motion rapidly when cutting materials. Is reciprocating saw a Sawzall or what? Sawzall is a type of electric reciprocating saw.  

As a side note, check these woodworking designs and projects that I recommend by clicking here.

How to Use a Reciprocating Saw

You need both hands to hold the power tool. You can use the Sawzall saw overhead or at an angle depending on the nature of the work. There are different types of reciprocating saw blades.

Set orbital action

Orbital action is a motion the blade makes when cutting. Most reciprocating blades use in and out movement in a typical stroke pattern to slice tough materials.

The orbital action varies as it can add wiggle.

Allow your saw blade to cut in a circular motion to get chips out as you cut. It helps you cut faster and use less effort.

However, you can only cut faster, depending on the type of material you are cutting through.

To stop your saw from wiggling as you cut through metal, use an orbital model that gives you precise cuts.

In some models, you can fine-tune the orbital action, which can be one speed on other models. 

Install your saw blade  

Don’t do this before you know what you want to cut.

Picking the right blade depends on what material you want to cut. Changing blades in this saw is easy as you won’t be dealing with any nuts or needing special tools.

Select the right blade as there are blades for metals, wood, lumber, and general-purpose blades too. If you need help with this, check out reciprocating saw blades.

Wood blades cut only wood, metal blades cut metals, and the general-purpose blades are for everything else. 

Using a wrong blade may not tear up the saw, but it will destroy the material or damage the blade. So, install the right blade to avoid any problems.

To install the blade, insert it into that slot behind the shoe. What is a shoe? It’s that metal piece sitting between the blade and space at the end of your saw. 

Alternatively, if you have a keyless system, just lift the key and insert your blade then push the key back to lock the blade in place. 

Adjusting the settings

At this point, circular motion and speed are important and vary depending on what material you are dealing with and the type of tool you are using.

Some reciprocating saws only have one speed and work like workhorses. They spring to life the moment you pull the trigger.  

The saws can have a stronger trigger lock to keep your finger fresh, which means you don’t have to deal with any other settings. 

Sometimes, you have to set the speed beforehand if your saw doesn’t have a variable speed trigger.

This is the kind of saw you are most likely to work with when using top of the line or mid-range reciprocating saws. 

Size up the cuts

Accuracy is vital. Plan out where you want to cut before you turn your Sawzall saw on.

Once the saw starts cutting, it starts to accelerate through the cuts, and mistakes can be costly.

You can mark the cut beforehand to make your work easier. Remove all obstructions like nails, screws, or staples that can interfere with your work. 

Don’t angle the saw downwards as it will rip through your material with the pressure you are applying.

So how do I do it? Cut through your sing your body to guide the cuts and not your arms.

Your body provides better stability than the arms even under fatigue.

Doing this reduces fatigue and gives you leverage as you have perfect weight distribution throughout.

Cutting a metal

While cutting other materials like wood and drywall may be easy. For metal, you have to pick the right blade carefully.

After choosing the right blade, put the shoe on that metal then snug things up. 

The let the blade rest gently on that metal and not far from it. Start cutting slowly to avoid the saw jumping around or scoring the metal past the cut line.

Once you have a good start, you can speed things up and go full blast. Bear in mind that the saw vibrates. Keep the saw snug against the stock. 

Check your blade

The difficulty and beauty of the Sawzall saw blade is that it can take off and keep going.

If you are doing more work than the saw, you should think about replacing your blade.  

Reciprocating blades dull quickly when you are cutting hard materials that need force to do. 

The saw blade is supposed to do most of this work as you cut the material.

Your role is to offer support or guidance as the power tool cuts. Change the blade when it’s not cutting faster, easier, or cleaner. 

How to Use the Sawzall Saw for Pruning

This is an outdoor work, which means you need a cordless reciprocating saw as it gives you portability.

Trees have rough surfaces, and this work requires a general-purpose blade.

Wear eye protection before you start on the overhead cuts.

Start cutting from the topmost branch as you gently rock the Sawzall up and down to make the work cleaner and finish it quickly.

How to Use a Sawzall to Cut a Drywall

There are two methods; a straight cut or a plunge cut. A straight cut means you access the edge of the drywall piece.

You need a rough general purpose saw blade for this work. Keep the vibrations to a minimum, and the shoe pressed against your drywall for faster cutting. 

For plunge cuts, put the saw against your drywall. Use the shoe as your pivot and press the running saw blade to start cutting. Be careful not to cut any plumbing installations.

How to Cut Pallets Using a Reciprocating Saw

Tearing down a pallet is easy. You can still get usable material once the work is done. 

Remember, you will be cutting through nails and wood. This work requires a bi-metal blade, also commonly referred to as a demolition blade. Longer blades are around 12 inches break down pallets well into useful wood pieces. 

Wear eye protection for safety reasons. Place your pallet on the ground wit sides facing up to ensure the nails are parallel to the round.

Start cutting from the top into the nails to free the wooden slats fro the frame. Repeat the same for other frames. 

How to Use a Sawzall to Cut Trees

The saw can cut smaller trees. The work needs a demolition blade. The blade is less likely to be stuck in the tree, which spares you any potential kickbacks.

Some people use pruning blades that work best on tree branches and tree limbs. 

A demolition blade can cut down trees with 5 inches diameter maximum. Start cutting from right to left.

Cut the trunk halfway with the power tool. It helps to control the direction you want the tree to fall. Pull down the tree using a rope to finish the job.

How to Use a Reciprocating Saw Safely

When it comes to safety, be cautious. The measures are simple and easy to keep as long as you pay attention. 

Keep the fingers away

You can easily cut your fingers with the power tool. Its common sense, but still, I have to mention it.

The Sawzall blade can cut you even if it’s not razor sharp. Remove the battery when you are finished or simply unplug it when doing maintenance.

Use the shortest blade

Longer blades are flexible, which isn’t a good thing for Sawzall saws. Shorter blades give straighter cuts, and you don’t have to worry about flex or wiggle. 

Ensure the blade is sharp enough

It doesn’t mean that it has to be brand new, but it should have an edge. High speeds can make the blades to heat up and become uncomfortably hot when it’s dull.

Create a safe working environment

Keep all-hazard away from the construction zone as there are many risks when working. Turn off the power tool when you are done and unplug it from the socket.

If you are working in an area with electricity and electrical circuits, its best to switch off the power before you start working. Follow the normal procedure when doing this and use proper equipment.

Wear gloves and safety glasses

Even if you manage to keep your fingers away from the blade, you still have to protect your hands.

Splinters or metal shavings can stick on your hands and cut you. This won’t be a problem if you are wearing gloves. 

Safety glasses protect your eyes from wood chips and other metal shavings that may fly as you cut. So, cover your peepers at all times.

Watch what you are cutting

Accidents are common when people are doing home remodeling. It’s easy to cut through pipes and electrical wiring if you don’t take care.

Cutting drywall needs precision and careful planning; otherwise, you will make a mess.

What is behind the wall? You need to know it before you make any moves. Always ensure you are seeing what you are cutting.

Do regular maintenance

Maintenance work includes cleaning the power tools and accessories to increase their durability and to minimize potential damages. 

Why Do You Need a Sawzall?

Simple, large handsaws don’t fit into small areas, but the reciprocating saw can, which means it the perfect tool for shorter and difficult to reach cuts.

Furthermore, it’s electric, and you only push and pull to cut hence completes the task quickly. 

Common Reciprocating Saw Uses

I honestly don’t know what you need the tool for, but I will tell you what you can use with this power tool.

  • Outdoor work. For example, tree pruning, cutting trees and cutting branches.
  • Home remodeling projects like cutting drywall, floors, ceiling, fitting windows, pipes, lopping studs, and cutting pallets.
  • Demolition work
  • Cutting wood


We have already stressed the importance o using the right blades for various applications.

Always have protective gear, gloves, and glasses. Using the reciprocating saw is not difficult as long as you follow proper operating methods and observe the safety precautions.

Control your cuts, and don’t be in a rush as it can lead to mistakes. Exercise caution when dealing with finished works like walls, floors, and ceiling.

Accidents can happen, and its the last thing you want. Check first to ensure there are no heating vents, plumbing pipes, or electrical wiring hidden.    

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