Other uses for reciprocating saws | Pro Construction Guide

Other uses for reciprocating saws you might not have considered

Other uses for reciprocating saws

Manufacturers of reciprocating saws have made significant advances in the last couple of years. Faster cuts, more power, oscillating drive, smaller size, even models designed to be used one-handed make today’s reciprocating saw even more valuable.

After using your reciprocating saw for the usual demolition, sawing and metal-cutting, expand your thinking and put it to work at some of these other uses for reciprocating saws:

Cutting framing, studs and trim

After sawing through framing, you can use a reciprocating saw to shave the surface of framing where the material is bowed. Or if the framer has managed to misalign studs with floor or ceiling plates, trim excess material with the reciprocating saw before hanging drywall.

To remove studs or other framing that’s been nailed in the wrong place, slip the saw blade between the end of the stud and the plate. That way you cut through the nails rather than the stud. It’s far easier than beating the daylights out of the stud.

Blades determine what the reciprocating saw is going to cut

Blades determine what the reciprocating saw is going to cut effectively: wood, wood with embedded nails, copper pipe, galvanized iron pipe, composite fiberglass, PVC pipe, sheet metal, rebar, frozen studs, etc.

To make a cut through a stud to accommodate a door header, for example, you can make up a guide block to get a straight, accurate reciprocating saw cut. Take a length of stud and make a cut through at the required point down the stud. Cut this scrap piece almost all the way through using a circular saw to give a vertical kerf. Leave about a ¼ inch of the scrap stud to keep it together. Screw or nail this piece to the stud you want to cut off square and then cut with the reciprocating blade guided by the pre-cut sawn kerf. The reciprocating blade will take the path of least resistance and be guided by the cut. It will make a clean, accurate cut through the stud.

Using a hacksaw blade instead of the stiff, thick reciprocating saw blade will increase the saws usefulness. For example, the thin blade can be inserted behind a piece of old trim you want to preserve. You’ll have to grind a small notch into the end of the blade to match the notch in the standard reciprocating saw blade. You can then slide the hacksaw blade in behind the trim and saw through the nails.

Plunge cuts and surface cuts

To make a plunge cut, start in middle of the cut

To make a plunge cut, start in middle of the cut and angle the blade to the surface. Press down until the blade breaks through.

To make a plunge cut, start in middle of the cut and angle the blade to the surface. Press down until the blade breaks through. Then use the saw as usual. Note: there are special blades for plunge cutting.

If you have a saw head that will accept a sideways-mounted blade, use this orientation when removing siding or making a surface cut. The blade sits closer to the surface and can get to the nails, making removal of the siding much easier.

There’s a flush-cut adapter that will fit to the standard blade mount, and it carries the saw blade in its own mount. By offsetting the blade several inches, it’s possible to reach behind moldings or cut flush at the surface without bending the blade. It adds an extra degree of versatility to the reciprocating saw and opens a space for other uses for reciprocating saws, allowing the blade to reach in and cut parallel to and level with any surface. The adapter can be rotated to allow flush cuts on the left or the right and the saw blade can be clamped in the adapter for cutting up or down. In addition to cutting, the offset adapter allows for the reciprocating saw to be used as a sander for areas that hard-to-reach areas.

There’s also a blade extension to allow the working saw-blade additional reach, removing the danger of saw users over-extending while standing on ladders. It also makes it easier to access an area the body of the reciprocating saw makes the cut difficult to complete.

Cutting metal with a reciprocating saw

When cutting metal with a reciprocating saw, use a slower speed and more teeth

When cutting metal with a reciprocating saw, use a slower speed and more teeth to avoid overheating the blade. Also, go very slowly when starting to make the metal cut to avoid skidding over the surface.

When cutting metal with a reciprocating saw, use a slower speed and more teeth to avoid overheating the blade. Also, go very slowly when starting to make the metal cut to avoid skidding over the surface.

Cutting thin sheet metal is possible but you’ll get the best results when the sheet is sandwiched between light sheets of plywood. Cut through the outside ply sheeting and the edge of the sheet metal will have a clean cut with no tears. Buy good reciprocating saw blades. Cheap blades just won’t “cut it.”


Use a reciprocating saw as a garden tool instead of a small chainsaw for smaller tree cutting and pruning. It’s safer because the blade has a brake. The reciprocating saw is also lighter, and when cutting small branches you can steady the limb with one hand while cutting. This is never allowed when using a chainsaw; it’s far too dangerous.

There are curved tree-limb blades available for your reciprocating saw that are optimized for yard and pruning work.

Removing damaged drywall

Among other uses for reciprocating saws, removing damaged drywall is very popular. To cut out a section of drywall, use a thin drywall blade on the saw. Pull the blade by hand until it’s fully extended. Take a piece of drywall scrap, and with it resting on the saw’s shoe, mark a line on the blade at the material thickness. Then snap off the blade using some good tinsnips. Now you can cut the damaged drywall out by sawing down at the middle point of the studs either side of the damage and also across between the studs without hitting the studs. And there’s no fear of snagging electrical or pipework that may be behind the drywall.

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Removing tile

To remove tile, especially linoleum tile, that’s glued to the floor, get a scraper blade saw attachment that fits to the blade mount of the reciprocating saw. Start a little way from the edge of the tile and at as flat an angle as you can manage, work the scraper under the tile. The tile will release and bend up without the tearing you get when you use a hand scraper. There are also scraper accessories that will help you remove tile adhesive and thinset.

Cutting brick and concrete

Uses for reciprocating saws 9

If you prefer a cordless reciprocating saw, you’ll be impressed by the increased power and run time today’s Lithium-Ion batteries provide.

Use your reciprocating saw and tungsten carbide coated blades to cut concrete, masonry and brick. A decent tungsten carbide blade will cut 70 to 100 bricks.

For electricians, HVAC installers and plumbers

You can get a unique easy-plunge blade that has a rounded nose to initiate a plunge cut. The bi-metal blade has teeth on both sides so the saw doesn’t have to be removed and reversed to cut in the opposite direction. It’s sold as the ideal blade for electricians, HVAC installers and plumbers all have to make plunge cut holes in different materials or use a reciprocating saw to cut pipe and steel.

Want to find other uses for reciprocating saws? Accessorize

Uses for reciprocating saws 7

A flush cut blade allows the blade to cut parallel to and right down to a floor or up to a ceiling.

Reciprocating saw accessory manufacturers make a variety of tools that fit the standard blade clamp mounting, including a bore blade, which is a bi-metal blade with teeth top and bottom and a rounded nose claimed to make plunge cuts extra clean. Other accessories for other uses for reciprocating saws include a stiff wire brush, a corner sanding pad, a scraper and a grout removing tool all with the standard shank to fit into a reciprocating tool.

For some accessories, a tool-holder is fitted to the reciprocating saw’s standard blade mount. Then the holder has a quick-release collar to accept brushes, a wood rasp, a half round file for metal or a rat-tail file for fiberglass and wood. This rat-tail file is designed for opening up round holes in framing to pass through pipe and conduit with minimum removal of material and without weakening the stud. It can also be used to remove internal burrs in sawn pipe.

For hunters

One hunting outfitter has a packaged kit of three reciprocating saw blades that are designed specifically for sawing through meat. The 12-inch blade is handles elk, moose, bison and other big jobs. The 9-inch blade is great for deer, hogs and antelope. And the instructions say to take the 6-inch blade into the field to clear shooting lanes and limbs from around the stand.

And finally…

When talking about other uses for reciprocating saws, the most unusual use is by emergency rescue teams for removing car window glass during emergency rescues. A plunge cut is followed by extremely fast slicing through the glass to remove a windshield in less than a minute.

A special Hardflex destructor blade in a fire and rescue demo probably holds the record for cutting a car in half: 1 minute 13 seconds.

—By Steve Sturgess,  www.stevesturgess.com

For more on using a reciprocating saw, click here.

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