Using a reciprocating saw safely
Using a reciprocating saw safely requires thorough knowledge of the tool. A reciprocating saw gets its name from the horizontal blade that gets pushed back and forth repeatedly (reciprocates) by a powerful motor. Harnessing the power of a reciprocating saw takes practice, but soon you’ll be safely making neat and precise cuts in just about any material. Follow these tips for using a reciprocating saw safely:
Get the right reciprocating saw
Reciprocating saws with a shorter stroke length (the distance the blade goes back and forth) and smaller motors (in amps) are less powerful, but easier to control for tasks that require finesse. More powerful saws may also feature an orbital blade action, i.e. the blade will move up and down slightly, as well as back and forth, providing even more aggressive cutting.
Get the right blade
There are reciprocating saw blades designed for metal only, wood only, and various combinations of materials, all in different lengths and tooth configurations. Always use a sharp blade that is clean and in good condition. Dull or damaged blades will cause excessive heat, take longer to make the cut, and cause you to force the saw. Always use the shortest blade that will extend beyond the material throughout the stroke. This will minimize blade flexing and provide the smoothest, straightest cut.
Know your work
Know what is behind the piece you are cutting and avoid cutting into plumbing, electrical or gas utility lines. Support large pieces so they don’t pinch the blade. Watch for nails, screws or other foreign materials embedded in what you are cutting.
Set the speed
Most reciprocating saws have at least two speeds, although some have only one. Some reciprocating saws have variable speed trigger and with speed selectors, as well as a variable speed trigger. In general, use higher speeds for soft materials and lower speeds for hard materials to avoid blade damage and provide the most control during cutting.
Hold the reciprocating saw properly
For using a reciprocating saw safely, always keep hands and feet away from the blade, with one hand on the handle/trigger and the other firmly grasping the rubber boot at the front of the saw. Maintain a balanced position so that you are always in control of the saw. Avoid cutting above shoulder height if at all possible. Never overreach.
Keep the shoe tight
Safety precautions for reciprocating saws include holding the shoe of the reciprocating saw firmly against the work to avoid injury and blade breakage. Failure to do so could cause the moving blade to strike against the piece, damaging the materials and/or the saw.
To use a reciprocating saw, get the blade moving before touching the material to be cut. You can move the blade slowly for tricky cuts in certain materials, or you may have to bring it up to full speed to make the cut. When making anything other than a through cut, allow the blade to come to a complete stop before removing it from the material being cut.
Plunge cuts with a reciprocating saw
To begin a cut away from an edge, keep the blade tip away from the material while maintaining firm contact between the shoe of the saw and the work area. Use the shoe as a pivot point to slowly lower the moving blade into the face of the piece. This will start cutting a groove and you can carefully insert the blade into the piece until the shoe is flat against it, then you can saw along the cutline. Don’t try to plunge cut into metal. Use a drill or chisel instead to make a pilot hole that is wider than the widest part of the saw blade. Insert the blade until the shoe is tight against the material and begin the cut.
When work is done
For using a reciprocating saw safely when the job is complete, keep the saw blade away from the body and don’t set the tool down until the blade has stopped. The blade and blade clamp will get very hot during cutting, so avoid contact until they have cooled. Many saws today have tool-less blade clamps that will eject used blades, eliminating the need to touch a hot blade when changing to a fresh one. And a final tip for using a reciprocating saw safely: Always unplug the reciprocating saw when changing blades.
–By Rob Fanjoy