Have you ever taken a moment to think about how many saws are available to woodworkers today? Thanks to the widespread popularity of electric power saws, woodworkers of today can cut more lumber with a greater level of precision than their old-fashioned predecessors. In fact, there’s a good chance that you use some type of power saw to make the vast majority of your woodworking cuts even now.
If that’s the case, then you probably have a go-to saw like a jigsaw that you rely on to make a wide variety of your cuts. But as you plan to add another power saw to your arsenal, you may be wondering how a jigsaw differs from a reciprocating saw. Both appear to cut wood in a similar manner. Are there more differences hiding beneath the surface, though?
In order to highlight both tools effectively, this guide will teach you all about how jigsaws and reciprocating saws operate at a basic level. From there, it will compare both tools in order to demonstrate their clear practical differences.
Reciprocating Saw and Jigsaw: The Basics
Before we jump into the differences between a jigsaw and a reciprocating saw, let’s start by taking a looking at the basics of each tool. From there, we’ll be able to effectively compare both tools on their key features and uses.
What Is a Reciprocating Saw?
At its core, a reciprocating saw is an elongated power tool that utilizes energy from its motor in order to drive an end-mounted blade in a reciprocating motion (hence the name). That blade is often sizable in nature, with large teeth that are able to cut through most wood types and even some thin metals (like nails).
Reciprocating saws are known for working fast in high volume cutting situations, though they almost always make a fairly rough cut in the process.
Also, if you’ve ever heard of or used a Sawzall, then you have also used a reciprocating saw. A Sawzall is simply a reciprocating saw made by Milwaukie, the company that introduced this line of product to the market in 1951.
What Is a Jigsaw?
These blades are fairly thin in nature, allowing them to be manipulated with more precision while also making cleaner cuts.
A jigsaw also features a soleplate that allows the user to bevel and create miters with a greater level of care.
Reciprocating Saw vs. Jigsaw: What Are the Differences?
Now that you know the basics, let’s take a look at the differences between the two.
Both a reciprocating saw and a jigsaw can cut through wood, there’s no doubt about it. But these two tools differ noticeably when it comes to the “cleanliness” or “roughness” of their standard cuts.
To that end, reciprocating saws are known for making rough cuts through wood. This has led them to pick up several different monikers, include a hacksaw. This roughness has its benefits, though, as it allows a reciprocating saw to also slice through nails and other pieces of metal with the right blade.
Meanwhile, a jigsaw is better suited to making smooth cuts through a piece of lumber. This is a result of their smaller blades that often use customized teeth arrangements. This allows a user to better control the finish on the cut side of their workpiece, which in turn makes a jigsawed piece of lumber more suitable for use without requiring more refinement.
Level of Detail
Along the same lines as their level of “roughness,” jigsaws and reciprocating saws differ when it comes to the level of detail they can impart to a cut.
Specifically, a jigsaw is able to be guided through a workpiece with ease by its user thanks to its overall form factor and the size of its blade. Jigsaws, as a result, are a favored tool for woodworkers who plan on cutting curves or any kind of ornamental fixture.
Reciprocating saws cannot match this level of intricacy at all. Instead, they use a fairly standard sawblade configuration to tear through wood with speed, but not care. The width of a reciprocating saw’s blade also makes it difficult to direct through a piece of wood for the purpose of creating a smooth curve.
Ease of Use
When it comes to using either of these two tools, the jigsaw takes the prize for the easiest to use.
That’s because most jigsaws are designed with all woodworkers in mind, given how crucial this tool is for cutting any intricate piece of lumber.
On the other hand, a reciprocating saw’s strong force can take some getting used to. In fact, they are usually only recommended to experienced workers, as a result.
As far as safety goes, these two power tool types are also miles apart.
A modern jigsaw, for example, is a fairly safe piece of woodworking equipment. When in use properly, the blade on these units is facing away from the user and well-protected while in motion.
A reciprocating saw, meanwhile, has a very exposed blade that points directly outward from the user. As a result, users of these units must always be fully aware of who or what is at the bladed end at all times.
Which of the Two Should You Use?
As noted previously, the jigsaw is the master of performing intricate cuts, regardless of your chosen wood types. As such, you should certainly turn to a jigsaw when your work project requires you to cut even a simple pattern.
Along the same lines, a jigsaw should be your go-to when trying to create fine details and so-called “tiny” cuts. Even circle cuts should be the exclusive domain of jigsaws.
Meanwhile, if you are working in a demolition situation, then you should definitely have a reciprocating saw handy for hacking through large wood pieces. In fact, by switching out blades, this environment may even give you an opportunity to cut through non-wood materials like nails.
Still, though, cutting through thick wood pieces is still the best use for this tool. For that reason, this kind of saw also sees a lot of use in landscaping.
All in all, there are quite a number of differences between a reciprocating saw and a jigsaw.
You’ll likely both find both in a workshop, but each is still suited to specific tasks based upon the level of detail and the quality of finish you desire.
If you’re looking to fully outfit your woodworking shop, be sure to obtain both and keep them on hand. You might even want to consider a bandsaw.
But if you’re only going to use one, the jigsaw is the best option due to its overall versatility. For a specific model, see my list of the best jigsaws on the market.