It’s hard to imagine a jobsite without the helpful blade of a cordless reciprocating saw. But if you were a tradesman before Milwaukee introduced the first Sawzall in 1951, you used a hand saw with a lot of elbow grease. Electric hack saws changed the jobsite for the better forever. Yet the design remained nearly unchanged for almost 70 years. The evolution started with small pocket reciprocating saws and has found its way to the higher-powered class with the Bosch 18V Compact Reciprocating Saw.
- Excellent cutting speed
- Good vibration control
- Good value
- Pretty basic feature set
A Little One-Handed History
If you see a picture of the first reciprocating saws, you might think you’re looking at a modern-day saw, except for the black-and-white photograph and old-time garb of the tradesmen. Traditional reciprocating saws are corded, two-handed tools you hold like a rifle, save for the shoulder stock. It’s true that battery technology has cut the cord in many cases, but the saws still remained balanced for two hands and too heavy for just one hand use.
We saw 12-volt models like the Milwaukee M12 Fuel Hackzall change the design to a more compact saw that you could use with one hand. They actually preceded that model with a larger version for the 18-volt platform and now Bosch followed suit. What I need to find out is whether or not this design is going to be more useful in tough applications and if it can reduce the fatigue my crew normally feels from using a standard reciprocating saw. It would be nice to get the benefits of the compact size and one-hand use without having to buy into the 12-volt platform if I can help it.
This is a unique saw to be sure – I haven’t seen anything like it in the 18-volt class, though 12-volt fans will recognize the look. The motor sits above your thumb and index finger, jutting up to allow for a shorter length. At about 15.75 inches of bare tool and 17 inches with the battery pack, I can envision getting this shorter saw into the tight spaces that a traditional recip saw won’t fit. The one-handed design would surely help in those applications.
Compared to Bosch’s other recip saws, the size is a happy medium. They have a pocket model at 11 inches long and a full-size model around 19 inches. The bare tool is 4.4 pounds but even with the added battery pack weight, it’s still quite light as 18-volt reciprocating saws go. Bosch claims a best-in-class power-to-weight ratio, which is understandable given the weight on an 18-volt platform. It’s certainly lighter than some of the corded saws we have that feel like cement blocks! There are plenty of times cuts have to be made above the shoulders, so this smaller, lighter, one-handed Bosch 18V Compact Reciprocating Saw is a promising innovation.
Making the Cut
I have to accurately estimate my costs before I quote a job. The more cuts required, the more time it will take. Compared to other 18V recip saws, the stroke length is shorter at 0.83 inches, but the no-load speed is faster at 3,050 SPM. If the increased speed gets through material faster, I will be able to get a lot of work done and better serve my customers.
My crew and I used this saw for all the cuts you’d need a reciprocating saw to make: wood, metal, and drywall. The ergonomic design of this tool is outstanding. It makes the cutting job much easier. It’s well-balanced and feels much more like a drill in the hand than a big saw. Although it’s designed for one-handed use, it also has enough meat to use two hands to control it comfortably with your guide hand above or below the housing. The controls are in the right place and easily reached by the thumb and index finger.
As handy as these tools are, you have an exposed blade so you always have to exercise safety. The blades are so long and bend easily so it’s not the best tool for a clean flush cut – it’s considered a demo tool after all. Whether you’re doing some demo or just rough trimming, never cut into drywall if you don’t know what’s behind it.
Pro Tip: If you’re using a reciprocating saw to cut installed drywall, make sure you know what’s behind the wall.
Other Features We Appreciated
Bosch really nailed it with the quality of the peripheral features on the saw. The blade change is easy. You can swap out the blade (it might be hot if you just finished cut!) in a matter of seconds with a twist of the blade lock at the top of the shaft. You can work with it for long periods of time for tough cuts above your shoulders thanks to the light weight. The LED light illuminates the work area beautifully if you’re in dark spaces.
I also really like the battery gauge on Bosch’s 18V pack. It’s the first thing I check when I grab it from one of my guys. Does it need a charge or is it ready to go? There’s no guesswork and I like that.
The only thing that’s missing is a variable speed dial. The variable speed trigger helps, but it’s awfully hard to feather it with enough control for anything other than starting a cut. That’s okay – it wouldn’t deter me from buying it, but it’s something to be aware of if you need a variety of speeds in your life.
From Dusk Til Sawn
The Bosch 18V Compact Reciprocating Saw saw was treated like our other jobsite tools – used by a crew of tradesmen, thrown in the truck, and expected to work hard. We didn’t go out of our way to abuse it, but it’s been through the wringer. The saw has held up superbly.
The hardest part of jobs like this during this time of year is the heat. Aggressive lithium-ion tools can become too hot to run as the summer temps rise. The Bosch 18V Compact Reciprocating Saw was in the heat and didn’t miss a beat. It’s a solid value at $119. While it lacks a variable speed dial, the trade-off in weight and design is well worth it. I highly recommend it to other Pros.