Reciprocating Saw vs. Circular Saw: What Are the Differences?

Reciprocating Saw vs. Circular Saw: What Are the Differences?

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When you step onto a jobsite, you usually have a wide assortment of tools at your disposal. Depending on the nature of your work, that may include an assortment of power tools of differing sizes and styles. Most construction sites, for example, keep at least one reciprocating saw and one circular saw in their arsenal.

These are separate types of power saws, no doubt, but they are often confused for one another anyway. While it is true that both saws can cut through a multiplicity of materials based upon their blade, these two saw types differ a lot when it comes to the actual shape of those blades. Along the same lines, reciprocating saws and circular saws don’t feature a comparable form factor, either.

Even so, you may still be confused about the functional differences between the two. This guide should help clear up that confusion by highlighting their key differences while also outlining each of these power saws’ essential functions.

Reciprocating Saws and Circular Saws: The Basics

Before we go over the differences between these tools, let’s pause for a minute and look at what the two tools are. This will help you better understand each tool at its most basic level.

What Is a Reciprocating Saw?

Reciprocating Saw In essence, a reciprocating saw (also known as a “recip saw” for short) is a power tool designed to cut through materials using a rapid back-and-forth “reciprocating” motion.

To accomplish this, a recip saw utilizes a narrow, knife-shaped blade that is typically serrated on one side. These blades come in several styles that are optimized for cutting through wood, metal, masonry materials, and more.

A reciprocating saw’s form factor is elongated in nature, not unlike a small rifle. At the butt end, a user will find a pistol-style grip and trigger. Meanwhile, the outward-facing blade is found at the opposite end. In between, a user is able to support and stabilize their recip saw by placing a hand just behind the chuck.

For more information on how to use this type of saw, check this article.

What Is a Circular Saw?

Circular Saw As its name implies, a circular saw’s general form factor is circular in nature. To that end, a circular saw is a power tool that utilizes a disc-like blade to efficiently slice through a variety of materials.

When in motion, a circular saw’s blade rotates rapidly, allowing such a saw to make plunge cuts, crosscuts, and rip cuts with relative ease. These cuts typically come out moderately smooth.

In terms of user control, a circular saw is a two-handed power tool. Usually, a user will place one hand on the support guidepost that is mounted near the top or front of the unit. Their other hand is then placed on a similar support point near the rear, which is also where the ignition switch is located.

These saws also feature a hood over the top of the blade housing to prevent debris from being directed at the user.

Reciprocating Saw vs. Circular Saw: What Are the Differences?

Now that you know the basics, let’s take a deeper look at their differences.

Blade Type

One of the most noteworthy differences between a reciprocating saw and a circular saw is their blade type. To that end, the shapes of each blade are dramatically different, which in turn leads to different levels of performance.

A reciprocating saw, for example, uses a knife-like serrated blade while a circular saw uses a disc-like blade with varying teeth types. These differences are easy to spot at a distance, even when the saws are inactive.

Reciprocating Saw Blades

Cutting Capacity

As a result of their differing blades and sawing actions, reciprocating saws and circular saws have noticeably different cutting capacities.

For example, a reciprocating saw is often able to slice through a plank of wood more quickly while leaving a fairly rough cut edge. By comparison, a circular saw may take a bit longer to finish a cut, but in return leaves the same plank’s cut edge much cleaner.

In the same vein, these two saws differ when it comes to their functional flexibility.

A circular saw is better able to make smooth dimension cuts needed for a successful carpentry project. A reciprocating saw, on the other hand, can only handle rough dimensioning jobs that do not require much finesse.

Form Factor

When it comes to taking both of these saw types in hand, their form factors differ quite a bit.

A circular saw is, as its name suggests, circular in shape and centered around the unit’s central disc blade. Meanwhile, a reciprocating saw is elongated and held like a rifle most of the time.

While both tools generally do require two-handed operation, the placement of both of a user’s hands differs quite a lot based upon the balancing needs of each respective unit.

Circular Saw Blade


Reciprocating saws and circular saws can also be differentiated based upon their standard retail price.

A reciprocating saw, for example, usually runs for between $50 and $150. That makes them fairly affordable in nature. While a circular saw is typically more expensive (with a $100-$250 average price range), their higher price is usually pinned to their greater level of precision and functionality.

Which of the Two Should You Use?

As you might expect, these two types of saws are also best suited to different types of tasks.

For example, the reciprocating saw is a master of demolition and deconstruction. That’s because it can quickly and efficiently slice through wood and metal (including nails). Better yet, its unique form factor allows a user to effectively manipulate the saw into narrow spaces that other power saws cannot reach.

On the other hand, a circular saw is a far more versatile tool when it comes to making carpentry-style cuts. To that end, a circular saw is typically more powerful, allowing one to slice through ultra-tough materials when it is mounted with an appropriate blade.

Circular saws also “kick” a lot less than reciprocating saws, thus making them more suited for use by inexperienced users (including DIYers).


Though it should be fully clear now, the reciprocating saw and the circular saw are very different types of power tools. They are not designed to be used interchangeably and are instead better suited to different types of construction and demolition work.

Be sure to keep all of these differences in mind going forward so that your team always has the tools it needs to succeed.