Selecting the right blade for every situation
With the right blade, reciprocating saws can slice through metal, masonry, wood, plaster, fiberglass, stucco, composites, drywall and more. Since reciprocating saws are best suited for rough cutting, they're very useful in construction, plumbing, electrical and HVAC work, especially when working in tight spaces or at awkward angles. There are specific blades that are best suited for each potential material and application. Before you learn about all the available options, use these questions to identify your needs:
Teeth, Dimensions and Construction
Reciprocating saw blades come in a variety of sizes, materials and tooth designs. These features are driven by the applications they are best suited for, so it's important to keep thinking about how you'll be using your reciprocating saw as you learn about blade options. A five-pack of reciprocating saw blades ranges in price from less than $2 to more than $30. Cheaper blades may be made of a material that dulls more quickly, so consider the longevity of the blades when evaluating the price.
Teeth: The number of teeth per inch (TPI) ranges from three to twenty-four for reciprocating saw blades. You want to have at least three teeth in contact with your workpiece at all times to reduce snagging. In general, blades with a lower number of teeth per inch deliver faster cuts with rougher edges. A blade with a higher number of teeth per inch results in smoother, slower cuts and is preferred for metal, which should be cut slowly. On a variable-pitch blade, TPI varies at different points on the blade, making these blades ideal for faster metal cuts and cutting a wide range of materials. Other teeth considerations include gullet size, the width and depth of the space between the teeth and tooth set, or the pattern in which teeth are tilted.
Dimensions: There are three dimensions to keep in mind when you're shopping for reciprocating saw blades - length, width and thickness. Reciprocating saw blades range in length from 3" to 12". Consider how deep you want your cuts to be - the longer the blade, the deeper the cut. Wider reciprocating saw blades reduce bending and wobbling. Extremely demanding applications, such as demolition and rescue operations, require a wide, thick blade, so blades designed for these applications tend to be 7/8" wide and 0.062" thick.
Construction: Reciprocating blades are usually constructed of one of four materials, carbon steel, high-speed steel, bi-metal and carbide grit. Blades constructed of carbon steel are flexible to allow bending without breaking. They're also inexpensive, but the teeth can dull quickly; they're best suited for light use on softer materials, such as wood and plastic. High-speed steel blades offer durable teeth but lack the flexibility of carbon-steel blades, making them more prone to breakage. Bi-metal blades combine high-speed steel teeth for longevity and heat-resistance, with a carbon-steel body for flexibility and break-resistance.
Variable-Pitch Blade: On a variable-pitch blade the TPI changes at different points on the blade. So, for example, a 10/14 variable-pitch blade varies between 10 and 14 TPI. In addition to faster metal cuts with reduced vibration, variable-pitch blades cut a wider range of materials, so you don't have to switch blades each time you switch materials.
Tapered Back: Plunge cuts - cuts made directly into the surface of a workpiece rather than starting at the edge - require blades that taper off toward the tip.
Specialty Blades: Some blades are designed with a combination of features that make them work particularly well for specific materials, such as drywall, or applications, such as pruning. Most manufacturers call out a specialty design in the name or product description.
Bi-directional Blades: Some blades feature teeth that cut in both directions, as the blade moves forward and backward, for faster cuts.
Reciprocating saws can eat through blades fast, so keep lots of extras on hand to ensure you don’t run out in the middle of an important project.
If you have diverse cutting needs, blade kits include multiple blades for a variety of applications.