As someone who is just getting into the world of trades, whether you are working in demolition or home repairs, whether you are a contractor or just someone fixing up their own home, one thing that you will need to know is what different saws are used for.
Today, we are here to do a side-by-side comparison of three of those: the circular saw, the reciprocating saw, and the jigsaw. Let’s figure out which of these tools is best for your task at hand!
Circular Saws, Jigsaws, and Reciprocating Saws: The Basics
Before we get into comparing these tools with each other, let’s first figure out exactly what all three of them are.
What Is a Circular Saw?
A circular saw is a very common type of saw used for a variety of purposes, but mainly for cutting boards into pieces. This type of saw features a fairly powerful motor that can power a circular-shaped blade to spin at very high speeds.
Circular saws can use either toothed blades or abrasive discs for cutting, and there are many different types of blades available, including ones that can cut wood, plastic, tile, metal, and much more.
They are considered fantastic workhorses, as they can be mounted to a table or used freehand. Let’s keep in mind that circular saws generally have motors ranging from under two to just over three horsepower, with blade speeds anywhere from 2,000 to 7,000 RPM.
What Is a Jigsaw?
The jigsaw is another utilitarian saw used by carpenters and in many other trades too. Jigsaws are small, lightweight, and portable handheld saws that feature a straight blade that moves in a reciprocating motion, or in other words, it moves back and forth. To be precise, on a jigsaw, the blade is mounted vertically, so the blade moves up and down.
Most jigsaws have motors ranging from two to four horsepower, but there are some newer models that have even more powerful ones. In terms of movement speed, jigsaw blades can generally move anywhere from 1,500 to over 3,200 strokes per minute.
One of the defining features of the jigsaw is the fact that it can be used to cut curves and irregular shapes, which is due to the size and shape of the blade, its motion, as well as how easy the jigsaw is to move around.
Moreover, depending on the type of blade you have, a jigsaw can be used to cut a wide variety of materials including wood, metal, plastics, tile, and more, although it does excel at cutting wood over everything else.
What Is a Reciprocating Saw?
A reciprocating saw is similar in nature to a jigsaw, but there are some differences. Yes, in a reciprocating saw, the blade does also move in this reciprocating or back and forth motion, and in this case, the blade is mounted horizontally, not vertically.
This type of saw generally has between 8 and 15 amps of power, with the stroke per minute speed being between 2,600 to 3,300. Reciprocating saws tend to have brushed motors. One thing to keep in mind here is that reciprocating saws can be quite large and heavy, weighing up to ten pounds or more, and being around two feet in length, not including the blade.
Reciprocating saws are so big and heavy-duty for one main reason, which is because they are generally not used for building or construction, but for demolition work. These are tools of destruction more than they are tools of construction. Although they are fairly big and heavy, reciprocating saws are designed to be portable and used on the go.
Circular Saw vs. Jigsaw vs. Reciprocating Saw: Similarities and Differences
Now that we have a good idea of what all three of these saws are, let’s take a closer look at what sets them apart from each other.
One of the main differences between these three tools is the movement type the blades feature. The biggest difference is between the circular saw and the two others, with the blade on a circular saw of course moving in a circular motion, whereas jigsaws and reciprocating saws feature that back and forth or reciprocating blade motion.
Another big difference to consider is that with a circular saw, the blade only ever moves in one single direction, whereas on a jigsaw and a reciprocating saw, the blades move in two directions, or in other words, they move back and forth.
Power and Speed
Yet another huge difference between these three tools is how much power and speed they have. Ok, so this is going to depend on the exact model in question, but generally speaking, circular saws are the most powerful with the fastest moving blades (which is logical because it’s much easier to move at high speeds when the blade moves in one continuous direction). Next, because reciprocating saws are usually used for demolition purposes, they tend to have a good deal of power and speed too. While jigsaws are still powerful and fast, they do come in at the number three spot.
The intended function of a circular saw is to cut planks, boards, tiles, and other objects in straight lines. Circular saws are generally used for construction purposes, mainly in carpentry, where there is a lot of wood that needs to be cut into straight lines. Second, reciprocating saws are generally seen as demolition tools used to take apart boards, beams, pipes, and more. Finally, the intended purpose of a jigsaw is mainly to cut curves and irregular shapes, mainly into wood, but other materials too.
Size and Weight
In terms of weight, depending on the model in question, a circular saw can weigh close to 20 pounds, and although it is bulkier than the reciprocating saw, it is much shorter. Reciprocating saws can be up to 2’ in length, not including the blade, and can weigh up to 10 or 12 pounds. Jigsaws are generally the smallest and lightest of the bunch, usually topping out at around six pounds.
Cutting Lines and Shapes
Circular saws can only cut straight lines. Jigsaws, while they can cut straight lines, they are best for cutting curves and irregular shapes. Reciprocating saws technically are designed for neither, as they are really just demolition tools and cannot really cut straight lines or shapes all that well.
Table Mounting Capabilities
Reciprocating saws are strictly handheld tools, and so are jigsaws (with a few exceptions), whereas circular saws can be handheld or table-mounted.
Your average circular saw will cost you between $50 and $200, a quality jigsaw will cost between $75 and $125, with reciprocating saws seeing the biggest price range, costing anywhere from $40 to $1,000.
Which of the Three Should You Use?
If you need a tool to cut lots of wood and other materials into straight lines, especially large pieces, then a circular saw is the way to go. If you need to cut shapes and curves into wood and other materials, then it is the jigsaw that you need. If you are doing demolition and tearing down a house, then it is the reciprocating saw that you want to go for.
There you have it people, everything you need to know about the differences between jigsaws, circular saws, and reciprocating saws. Now that you are knowledgeable on the matter, you can make a well-informed decision as to which tool to use for which job.
How Do Circular Saws, Jigsaws, and Reciprocating Saws Compare with Other Tools?
See how circular saws compare with: angle grinders | bandsaws | hypoid saws | miter saws | plunge saws | rotary saws | table saws | track saws
See how jigsaws compare with: bandsaws | coping saws | oscillating multi-tools | rotary saws | Rotozips | routers | scroll saws
See how reciprocating saws compare with: angle grinders | chainsaws | hacksaws | miter saws | oscillating multi-tools