Have you ever used a reciprocating saw and found its blade to be…sub-par?
Well, there’s a good chance that you were using a dull blade that needs to be replaced. But if you know for sure that that is not the case, there’s a chance that you aren’t using the best reciprocating blade saw for the job at hand.
After all, there are many uses for a reciprocating saw and a number of options available when it comes to blades. But even so, many professionals and DIYes don’t know about these.
You should read this guide and learn about the various specs to look for when choosing a reciprocating saw blade. This guide will also address whether reciprocating saw blades are truly universal.
Are Reciprocating Saw Blades Universal?
This question gets tossed around in construction and demolition circles all the time.
But for whatever reason, a variety of people are fully convinced that both options are true (that is to say, they are convinced that reciprocating saw blades either are or are not universal). The truth, as it turns out, is a bit more complicated.
To start off with, reciprocating saws are generally universal when it comes to their fitment. To be specific, most blades on the market today utilize a universal shank size that fits almost all units.
However, some reciprocating saw brands still work best when utilized with blades from the same brand. This is definitely true of the Sawzall, which often functions best with blades made by its manufacturer, Milwaukee.
But even so, you should be able to achieve a modest level of success when using any well-known brand’s blades in your standard reciprocating saw.
Things to Keep in Mind When Choosing the Right Reciprocating Saw Blade for a Job
When it comes time to choose a new reciprocating saw blade, it is essential that you know which specifications require the most attention. That way, you can know with certainty that your chosen blade will efficiently accomplish your primary task while remaining sturdy enough for repeated use.
The first specification you should pay close attention to is a reciprocating saw blade’s material.
This can tell you a lot about that blade’s core durability as well as its capacity to cut through certain materials such as wood, metal, plastic, etc. A reciprocating saw blade’s material can also indicate the blade’s overall cost, which increases when more resilient metals are utilized.
After checking a blade’s material, you’ll want to look at its number of teeth per inch. This spec (shortened to TPI in most cases) can provide you with insight into the speed and cleanliness of that blade’s cuts.
Typically, standard blades range from 3 to 24 TPI, with 3 to 11 TPI blades seeing use in woodcutting and 12 to 24 TPI blades seeing most of their use in metal cutting.
You may also consider comparing prospective reciprocating saw blades based upon their width. This is because wider blades offer more stability during a cut, which in turn results in a more even cut. Most standard-duty blades measure in at 0.035-inch, while a more heavy-duty blade usually measures up at 0.05-inch,
5 Types of Reciprocating Saw Blades
Now that you know what’s important to consider when choosing a blade, let’s take a look at five of the most common reciprocating saw blade types in greater detail.
High-Carbon Steel (HCS) Blades
High carbon steel blades (HCS, for short) are the most common type of reciprocating blade out there today. Most units come standard with one of these blades and they are readily available for purchase at most hardware stores.
They are typically the most affordably priced ones due to their relatively “soft” construction material. Even so, these blades are fully able to cut through softwoods, particleboard, and plastics with relative ease.
In practice, high carbon steel blades tend to be the most flexible among the five types mentioned here. This has its advantages in that they are able to be used continuously without risk of breaking.
However, this degree of flexibility does tend to impact the accuracy of a cut made by this type of blade. For most applications of a reciprocating saw (such as in demolition), this shortcoming is not a major issue, though.
When used in an industrial setting, this type of blade must be replaced fairly regularly.
This is especially true if the blade is allowed to heat up, given that they do not resist heat well. However, DIYers can often get a year or more of use out of these basic-tier reciprocating saw blades.
Also, you may see some blades of this type labeled as “high-speed steel.” This implies that they utilize the same core construction, save for the fact that the steel has gone through an extra tempering step. This makes them more resilient to heat, which in turn allows them to last up to five times longer.
Bi-metal blades are constructed as their name implies.
To that end, these blades are made up of high-carbon steel as well as other metals to provide more resilience, flexibility, and durability to the entire blade’s length. As a result, these blades are often more heat-resistant and able to endure the wear and tear of high-demand applications.
At the same time, bi-metal blades are almost always longer than their standard high-carbon steel counterparts. This allows them to be used for longer, even when they are put to daily use. This longevity has made this type of blade a favorite for professional and industrial applications.
As such, you’re likely to see this kind of blade when visiting a demolition site or an auto scrapyard.
In particular, cobalt-steel alloy blades are the most common bi-metal sub-type. These blades are exceptionally durable and heat-resistant while only costing a bit more than a standard blade. They can often be used to cut some metals, too, which makes them useful for pipe cutting among other things.
In terms of their core construction, carbide-tipped blades are really just a modified version of bi-metal blades. However, these blades are usually categorized separately because they utilize special carbide caps on their teeth.
This allows them to become incredibly impact resistant, with some carbide-tipped blades providing as much as twenty times the service life of a standard high-carbon steel blade.
Carbide-tipped blades are also set apart from other types because they are used primarily for cutting thick metal stock. To that end, you’ll often see these blades used in heavy industrial settings, such as for the cutting of cast iron, stainless steel, or a grade 8 bolt.
Diamond blades (or more precisely, diamond-tipped blades) are the very pinnacle of precision and strength when it comes to reciprocating saws.
These blades use a special abrasive cutting process that allows them to effectively slice through everything from glass and ceramics to masonry and cement. These blades also allow for a great deal of finesse, which is crucial when slicing through a fragile material like glass.
Out of all available reciprocating saw blades on the market today, these are the absolute most expensive.
As such, they generally are reserved only for professionals who need to cut one of the materials listed above. However, a DIY may be able to use such a blade wisely if they have a lot of prior experience with reciprocating saws.
Otherwise, a less expensive blade option will likely suffice.
Lastly, don’t forget that your reciprocating saw can do more than just use blades to cut materials apart. As it turns out, you can also pick up any number of special attachments for these power tools and use them in a whole new way.
For example, wire brush attachments can be mounted onto these units and used for the purpose of efficiently clearing debris.
Scraper attachments are also common and can take a lot of work out of the process of loosening mortar.
Coming into this guide, you may have thought that all reciprocating saw blades are the same.
As you now know, there are actually several different types to choose from based upon their core composition. At the same time, you now know that all reciprocating saw blades are universal when it comes to their fitment.
With this knowledge, you should be better prepared to effectively outfit your reciprocating saw going forward. To learn about how to actually change a blade on your reciprocating saw, read this article.