Reciprocating Saw vs. Miter Saw: Which to Choose?

Reciprocating Saw vs. Miter Saw: Which to Choose?

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If you are planning on getting into carpentry or you just need to do some projects around the house, you are going to need a few specific tools. Of course, you are going to need to have some saws on hand. That said, there are so many types to choose from that it can make life pretty confusing.

Two of the most popular types of saws out there are the reciprocating saw and the miter saw. Today we are here to do a side-by-side comparison of the two to see exactly what they are designed for and which one you should be using.

Reciprocating and Miter Saws: The Basics

Before we get into talking about the shared similarities and the differences between reciprocating and miter saws, let’s first figure out what both of these tools actually are.

What Is a Reciprocating Saw?

Reciprocating Saw A reciprocating saw is a relatively small handheld tool that features a long and thin blade that moves in a reciprocating manner or in other words, it moves back and forth extremely quickly. Don’t confuse a reciprocating saw with a jigsaw because whereas a jigsaw features the blade in a vertical position, the reciprocating saw has the blade in a horizontal position.

Moreover, a reciprocating saw definitely isn’t used as a fine crafting tool or for precision work. The reciprocating saw is more of an all-in-one workhorse that is designed to simply saw apart pieces of wood, metal, and other materials. In fact, one of the most common uses of the reciprocating saw is for demolition. These saws are great at quickly eating through wood and other materials.

What Is a Miter Saw?

Miter Saw A miter saw is a specific type of circular saw that features a table that it is set to, as well as a fence and other measuring tools. Technically speaking, a miter saw is a specific type of circular saw that allows you to make cuts at various angles, unlike a circular saw that is designed to just make cross cuts or rip cuts. On a normal miter saw, the blade is mounted on a swing arm, lacking the ability to pivot left or right to produce cuts at angles.

The most common uses of miter saws include making door frames, window casings, crown moldings, picture frames, and more, really anything that involves wood that needs to be cut at an angle. What you also need to be aware of here is that there are four main types of miter saws, including the normal miter saw, the sliding miter saw, the compound miter saw, and the sliding compound miter saw (each with more features and capabilities than the last).

Reciprocating Saw vs. Miter Saw: What Are Their Differences?

Now that we know what both of these tools are, let’s figure out what similarities they share and what differences they have between them. Beware that besides the fact that they are both used to cut materials, they are in fact very different saws. Depending on the blade that you have outfitted into the saws, both can cut wood, metal, ceramics, plastics, and more.

With that, let’s jump into the differences.

#1: Size and Usage

One of the major differences that you need to be aware of when it comes to miter saws and reciprocating saws is the fact that miter saws are table saws, or in other words, they have to be on a table in order to be used. Miter saws are far too large to be held in hand. On the other hand, reciprocating saws are quite small and usually only weigh a few pounds. Reciprocating saws are designed specifically to be used as handheld tools.

#2: Power Source

Another major difference between these two tools is what their power sources are. On one hand, we have the miter saw, which is usually an electric tool that has to be plugged into an electric socket. There are some models that are battery-powered, though. On the other hand, the reciprocating saw, while it can be plugged into a socket, does come more often in a cordless format.

Cordless Reciprocating Saw

#3: Blade Movement

One of the most fundamental differences between these two types of saws is that a miter saw features a circular blade that runs in one continuous loop or circular motion, whereas a reciprocating saw features a straight blade that moves into to reciprocating fashion, or in other words, it moves back and forth very quickly. What also needs to be said here is that due to the fact that miter saws have blades that move in one continuous motion, the blade also moves much faster than on a reciprocating saw, which has to keep switching back and forth between two directions.

#4: Precision

What can be said about miter saws is that they are of course fantastic tools when it comes to precision work, especially when you need to cut very specific angles in various directions. Miter saws come complete with a variety of fences, gauges, and measuring tools to allow for great accuracy. On the other hand, a reciprocating saw comes with no such features and is a totally handheld tool that you simply point and shoot with, so to speak. Not in the very least is a reciprocating saw, a tool of accuracy or precision.

#5: General Use

When it comes down to it, these are two vastly different tools with reciprocating saws mainly just being used for demolition, to cut and rip things apart. On the other hand, miter saws are used for cutting specific angles, for cutting boards to specific lengths, and they’re mostly used to cut crown molding, door frames, window frames, picture frames, and other such things.

Compound Miter Saw

Which of the Two Should You Use?

The choice here is really quite simple, because if you are building something then it is the miter saw that you need. But if you are destroying or demolishing something, then it is the reciprocating saw that we need.


The number one main difference that you need to be aware of here is that a miter saw is a construction tool, whereas a reciprocating saw is a demolition tool. Now that you know what the differences between these two types of saws are, you can make an informed choice between the two.

How Do Reciprocating and Miter Saws Compare with Other Tools?

See how reciprocating saws compare with: angle grinders | chainsaws | circular saws | circular saws and jigsaws | hacksawsjigsaws | oscillating multi-tools

See how miter saws compare with: chop saws | circular saws | radial arm saws | table saws