Demolition experts: Reciprocating saw test

Our pro testers put seven reciprocating saws to work

By Steve Maxwell


Reciprocating saws are all about speed, aggressive cutting power and ease of use in rough situations. Precision and smoothness are, more or less, irrelevant when it comes to recip saws, so we’re analyzing these tools from a DIY renovation perspective. If you have walls to tear out, pipes to cut, a roof to open up for a skylight or even part of a house to saw off and demolish in preparation for a new addition, a recip saw is the only practical option. The cordless models that we have put through their paces combine power and portability in a way that makes the most sense for a wide range of jobs.

Test parameters

Gary Walchuk, Ryan Shervill and Steve Maxwell assessed each saw independently in different workshops. Cutting time was measured for three cuts across 2×6 construction-grade lumber with three 3 1/2″-long framing nails driven into the board ends. Cutting time was also measured for three cross cuts across 3/4″-thick, galvanized-steel pipes. Every saw was fitted with a fresh blade before each timed cut—a multi-purpose blade for the nail-embedded wood and a hacksaw blade for pipe cuts.

The blades

Each saw was fitted with two new blades for this test. The 6″, 6-tpi Irwin 372656 is made especially for the kind of work recips saws do most often—cutting wood that may or may not have nails in it. A 6″, 14-tpi Irwin 372614 was used for the pipe-cutting speed tests. Recip saw performance is on the rise as new blade technology lasts longer and cuts faster for a given power of saw. All reciprocating saws are made to take the universal blade shank, allowing all models to benefit from advances in blade design.

Bosch CRS180

This saw is one of the best in the group, with impressive scores across the board. The lever for switching between low and high speed is easy to access with your thumb,” Shervill says, “and the variable-speed trigger action is smooth.”

All the testers found the relatively small diameter of the rubberized nose of the CRS180 easier to hold than other models. The blade locks easily and automatically as it’s pushed into the holder. The open front edge of the shoe boosts visibility of the cutting area.

DeWalt DC385K

This saw is the fastest-cutting saw in the group, and it features a manual trigger lock that is easy to operate. The adjustable shoe has three height positions and is easy to remove by pushing a release button on the left-hand side of the tool.

Shervill found the tool required large hands to operate. The blade locks with a side lever, and it requires a lot of room to operate and release the blade.

“The DC385K includes an excellent carrying case, which is a big advantage for storing blades,” Walchuk says.

Makita BJR181

“I really wanted to like this saw,” Maxwell says, “but the lackluster cutting speed is a drawback.”

“This saw released the hacksaw blade several times during use,” Shervill says. “I don’t know if this was the fault of the blade or the saw.”

Some of the great features include a dual-LED worklight that stays lit for 10 seconds after the trigger is released and an adjustable, removable shoe. “As the blade gets dull, you can extend the shoe and use the still-sharp part of the blade,” Walchuk notes.

Milwaukee 2620-20

Milwaukee invented the recip saw, and it continues to make a straightforward and effective model,” Shervill says.

The manual trigger lock is easy to use. The shape of the barrel is round, well cushioned with soft, high-friction rubber and is easy to hold. “As a right-hander,” Maxwell says, “I found the blade-locking lever particularly handy. The push-button, four-light battery indicator system gives an accurate sense of charge.”

Walchuk likes the “heft, smoothness and quiet operation of the 2620-20.”

Porter-Cable PC18RS

“This saw is smaller than the others,” Shervill says, “which may or may not be good. In my experience, a longer saw is better for general demolition, whereas a shorter one is better in confined spaces.”

Maxwell liked the short tool size, and found the spring-loaded battery-ejection feature excellent, although it sometimes required a firm hit to lock the battery into the tool. “The trigger lock isn’t one of those spring-loaded ones, but it did require a lot of pressure to move the lock manually,” Maxwell says.

Ryobi P510

“This is the best of the budget saws in my book,” Shervill offers. “It cuts well and has decent handling. A great choice for the occasional user.”

The closed-end shoe works fairly well. Although the front of the tool has soft and comfortable rubber overwrap, the tool’s diameter here is large enough to make it difficult to use with small hands. Operation of the tool would be easier if the spring-loaded trigger’s safety slide was lower on the handle.

Skil 9350

This is the lowest-scoring saw in the group. “I don’t like this saw,” says Shervill. “The long shaft and blade clamp seem delicate. The shoe sticks way out from the body, and pivots stiffly.”

Maxwell found the blade’s orbital-action lever “difficult to lock, and it vibrated back to the non-orbital setting when not fully locked. The nose of the tool was particularly large in diameter and hard to hold, without a soft, rubber covering.” Walchuk found the “adjustable orbital-action feature was of no advantage, and the saw showed an erratic action, especially starting a cut.”

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Mar. 14, 2012

9:26 pm

Ihave had a RYOBI Recricating Saw for the last five years. I have built many heavy structures (TEMPERED GLASSED IN 10'x2' ) t outside Room attached to my house with a same sized solarium built over it with 4'x7' Tempered Glass Panels, Including a slanted over head. All MY POWER TOOLS ARE RYOBI including 2 Paint Sprayers and a Concrete cutting Portable diamond blade equiped saw, Great tools and have not had one break down as yet. I have both types of batteries,(14 in all with their GREEN multi charger plus the regular ones. I keep them on a timer so I am never without portable power. I would reccomend these tools to anyone doing light to heavy renovations or general maitenance around a home


Mar. 12, 2012

6:41 pm

Why no Canadian Tire offerings in your test?


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