Woodworking and construction tasks sometimes involve using power tools to cut wood or other types of building materials.
However, how do you know which power tool to use for which task?
The two main types of power tools in construction are oscillating saws and reciprocating saws, and choosing the right saw can make all the difference.
We will explain the differences between oscillating saws and reciprocating saws and when each one should be used.
Oscillating Saw VS. Reciprocating Saw
Reciprocating saws focus on making a powerful, general cut, while oscillating multi-tools make more precise cuts to smaller items and come with a wide range of additional uses.
Oscillating saws can sand, polish, and saw depending on the attachment.
Furthermore, reciprocating saws operate in a push–pull motion while oscillating saws operate in slight, side-to-side motions.
Most oscillating multitools only require one hand to operate, but most reciprocating saws require two hands to operate.
Both products can easily cut through wood, plastic, and light metals.
However, reciprocating saws tend to make the better option for stronger materials.
While slightly bulkier and more difficult to use, reciprocating saws last longer than the less durable oscillating power tools.
Finally, high-end oscillating saws usually cost less than high-end reciprocating saws.
You’ll also get more use out of it with its multiple functions, making up for the initial cost.
An oscillating saw has a handle, power source, power button, and a place for the different attachments.
Tools can have numerous different attachments depending on the product, including a saw to cut a wide variety of different materials, sanding materials, and digging tools.
Oscillating multi-tools work best for smaller tasks, such as removing mortar and caulk or cutting thin material.
It also works well for sanding wood or other building materials at the end of a building project.
A reciprocating saw consists of a power source, grip, trigger, blade clamp, and blade.
Most blades are six inches long, but you can trade the blade out for a 12-inch blade if necessary.
You also get to select the fineness of the blade.
Fine blades can provide a more precise cut.
Reciprocating saws make the best choice when framing windows and doors and making cuts to large/thick materials.
It also makes a great choice for HVAC and demolition projects.
Benefits Of Handheld Power Tools
Both oscillating saws and reciprocating saws are handheld power tools.
Why do so many people prefer to use handheld power tools as opposed to stationary ones?
Handheld power tools give you immense power in a portable, easy-to-control package that allows you to make precise cuts into most building materials.
You can bring the device to locations outside of your usual workspace, which is extremely important for people who travel to different job sites.
Handheld power tools are also quieter and safer than larger models.
Alternative Ways To Get The Job Done
To cut material, table saws make a suitable alternative option as long as you can use a non-portable model.
Chain saws also provide an option, but they may be too large for the task at hand.
Both options won’t provide the same amount of precision as you will get from a handheld tool.
You can also use a hacksaw, but it will require more effort.
When it comes to sanding, you can manually sand the material with sandpaper.
Of course, this takes much more time and effort.
To remove caulk or mortar, you can use a putty knife or another multi-purpose tool.
Smaller tools will not get the job done as quickly.
Considerations When Choosing A Power Hand Saw
There are a number of different types of handheld power saws to choose from.
We cover some of your different options to learn which one will work best for your purposes.
1. Corded VS. Cordless
The biggest distinction between different products involves whether or not it has a cord.
Corded handheld saws never run out of power in the middle of a job, and they tend to cost less than cordless models.
Cordless handheld saws give you more freedom while working since you are not restrained by the cord.
However, they cost more and tend to come in a larger size.
Also, while the battery tends to come with a long lifespan, you can lose power at inopportune times.
Pro Tip: Keep an extra charged battery on hand in case of emergency with a cordless model!
2. Power (Voltage)
Always be sure that the device you choose can support the necessary voltage for the task.
The higher the voltage, the more power provided by the device.
Tools with voltage ratings between four and eight volts are usually power screwdrivers and small drills, and they only work for small tasks.
If the tool requires 12 to 18 volts, it can provide enough power for most household tasks.
Any handheld power tools that generate more than 18 volts provide power for commercial and industrial tasks.
Higher voltage does not always mean better!
Get the voltage appropriate for your usage.
If you use a product with too high of a voltage, you won’t have the control necessary to produce the best results.
3. Drill Chuck Size
The drill chuck is the part of the drill that holds the drill bit.
Drill chucks come in three sizes: ¼”, ⅜”, and ½”.
Drills that fit ⅜” drill chucks accommodate the greatest number of drill bit sizes, and they are the most common choice for home repair needs.
Quarter-inch drill chucks work best for small uses, and ½” will fit larger drill bits necessary for commercial applications.
4. High-End Features
Some handheld power tools come with extra features or a design that makes them easier to use or more efficient.
Some high-end features you can find on some products are:
- Brushless, high-efficiency motor
- Built-in level
- Built-in light
- Customizable handles
When you have a product that you can use easily, you will get better results.
Power Tool Safety Tips
Safety always comes first when working with power tools.
Follow these power tool safety tips to ensure that you don’t hurt yourself or anyone else while you work.
1. Wear Proper Protective Equipment
Wearing the proper protective equipment will keep you safe in the case of an accident.
It can be tempting to not use protective equipment during quick tasks or extreme heat, but you need to wear the right protective gear every single time you use power tools.
Protective equipment includes:
- Sturdy closed-toe shoes
- Long sleeves
- No loose clothing
2. Work Alone
To prepare the workspace, you simply need to ensure you have enough space to work and that no one or nothing will interrupt you or put themselves in danger.
If working in your garage at home, make people aware when they should not disturb you.
3. Prevent Damage To Cords
The cords on corded models can create a hazard, so you need to treat them with care.
Do not hold the power tool by the cord, and do not rip the cord out of the wall.
Furthermore, keep the cord away from heat.
4. Keep Unplugged When Not In Use
Do not keep a power tool plugged in when not using it.
This can lead to accidental powering and injury.
When you finish using your power tool, unplug it, even if you will need it again shortly.
5. Use Properly
Get the proper training on how to use the power tool (if available) or properly read the instructions in the user manual.
You need two hands to properly work most power tools, so you may want to use clamps to prevent anything from moving while you work.
Finally, always keep both feet firmly on the ground.
6. Keep Up On Regular Maintenance
All power tools require maintenance.
Maintenance usually includes cleaning them and lubricating them.
7. Replace Damaged Tools
Power tools cost a substantial amount of money, so you may be tempted to use them as long as possible, even after you notice some problems.
Do not take the risk! It’s not worth it!
If you notice your power tools not working, do not use the damaged power tool. Instead, replace it.
8. Do Not Operate While Under The Influence
Many people slowly enjoy a beer or adult beverage from time to time without noticing the effects of the alcohol.
However, you should never operate a reciprocating saw or oscillating multi-tool after you consume any alcohol or take medication.
How To Use A Reciprocating Saw
The reciprocating saw can be bumpy, causing less than perfect cuts.
However, practice makes perfect.
Just be patient with yourself.
1. Mark Your material
Use a ruler and a pencil to mark your cut on the material. Make the mark as prominent as possible.
2. Put On Protective Gear
As always, you will put on protective gear to keep yourself safe while you use it.
3. Power Reciprocating Saw
Ensure the saw’s set to “off” before plugging it in.
4. Hold Saw Properly
To best hold a reciprocating saw, you will have the dominant hand on the grip and trigger.
You will hold the bottom front of the saw with your non-dominant hand.
5. Make Your Cut
Pull the trigger to power the device and make your cut into the material using a steady and firm hand and pulling up once the cut is completed.
How To Use An Oscillating Multipurpose Tool
Using an oscillating tool can be more difficult with all of the different attachments, so we will focus on cutting.
Follow these tips to learn how to use an oscillating multitool to make a cut.
1. Mark The Material
Similar to the reciprocating saw, you want to start by marking the material you want to cut using a pencil and a ruler.
2. Choose The Proper Attachment
You have a lot of choices in front of you when it comes to the different attachments.
The two main types of blades will be round blades and straight blades.
Straight blades work best when you need to stab into the material.
Round blades work best when you need to simply cut the material.
Extra-wide blades can easily cut through pipe and other round materials.
Naturally, the scraper blades will be used to remove grout or other sealants.
3. Plug In The Saw
Power your saw while wearing all of your protective equipment.
Since you push down on the power button to provide power, you don’t need to worry about the device being on.
4. Hold Saw Properly
To hold the oscillating saw, you only need one hand around the handle with access to the power button.
5. Make Cut
For a straight cut, you will push down on the power button and cut into the material about ¼” deep.
Continue to cut back and forth until you complete the cut.
Types Of Powered Saws And Best Usage
If you know what different tools work best for which job, you can avoid using the wrong tool and creating a dangerous situation.
We will cover the different types of power tools and when to use what.
1. Chain Saws
Chainsaws have a sharp chain blade that wraps around the entire device.
They tend to be much larger than either reciprocating saws or oscillating saws and more suitable for outdoor use or cutting through heavy-duty materials.
While chainsaws get the job done quickly, they aren’t very precise, they are heavy for a portable saw, and they can be dangerous.
2. Circular Saws
Circular saws are also handheld powered saws, but they use a large, circular blade.
Circular saws can travel with you and work on material that won’t fit on a table saw.
However, circular saws aren’t very precise.
They only make general cuts.
Jigsaws resemble table saws, but they are made to make curved cuts with a blade facing downward.
This is the only handheld power saw that can make curved cuts, making it a more specialized device.
Remodelers use it to make uneven cuts in building materials during a renovation.
4. Table Saws
Table saws consist of a circular blade that you use to cut your material.
While not portable and sometimes too big for the workspace, table saws provide high levels of stability and the precision to make different types of cuts.
They are most often used in woodworking, but they are a staple in most shops.
Both oscillating multi-tools and reciprocating saws can be found in most amateur handymen’s power tool collections.
However, how do you know which one to use in which situation?
Reciprocating saws work best for larger jobs while oscillating multi-tools tend to work better for smaller, more precise jobs.
Oscillating tools also have multiple additional features.
To get the best results, you need to know the proper ways to cut material and also practice over and over again.
No matter what, always take the proper precautions before using any power tools.