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Buying Guide:Reciprocating Saw Blades
2014-09-15 23:16:37


Reciprocating Saw Blades

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: 

  • What materials have you cut through with your reciprocating saw in the past?
  • Do you have upcoming projects that will require use of a reciprocating saw?
  • What types of materials do you anticipate cutting?
  • Which types of cuts do you tend to perform most frequently?
  • Do you use your reciprocating saw for professional applications?

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.

  • A large gullet removes more material, enhancing performance but reducing blade life
  • Raker-set teeth deliver an all-purpose cut and are used for most sawing applications
  • Wavy-set teeth produce a stronger blade that resists stripping but yields a rougher cut

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.

  • Blades with a 0.035" thickness provide adequate strength for standard jobs
  • Blades with a 0.05" thickness provide enhanced stability for heavy-duty use
  • Short blades with tapered backs are best suited for plunge-cutting applications

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.

  • High-speed steel lasts up to five times longer than high-carbon steel
  • Bi-metal steel lasts up to ten times longer than high-carbon steel
  • Carbide-grit blades are used for materials such as fiberglass, ceramic tile and cement board


Blade Type
Teeth Per Inch (TPI) Recommended Use
  • Pipe, structural steel and stainless steel: 3/32" to 1/4"
  • Nonferrous metal: 3/32" to 3/8"
  • Hard rubber
  • Pipe, structural steel, stainless steel and conduit: 1/16" to 3/16"
  • Nonferrous metal: 1/16" to 5/16"
  • Contour cutting in metal: 1/16" to 1/8"
  • All metals less than 1/8"
  • Tubing, conduit and trim
  • Extra-fast cutting in thick, nail-free wood
  • Contour cutting in all woods, nail-embedded wood and composition materials
  • Roughing-in work and nail-embedded wood
  • Fast cutting for wood, composition materials, plastics and nonferrous metal
  • Pipe, structural steel, stainless steel and nonferrous metal: 3/16" and thicker
  • Plaster, plaster board and lath
  • Bi-directional cutting
  • Nail-embedded wood, composition materials and plastics
  • Pipe, carbon steel and stainless steel: 1/8" to 1/4"
  • Nonferrous metal: 1/8" to 1/2"
  • Contour cutting in wood less than 3/4" and metal 3/32" to 5/16"


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.

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