Choosing the Best Reciprocating Saw Blade for the Job
Whether you’re a DIYer or a seasoned Pro, the landscape is changing when it comes to reciprocating saw blades. Often called Sawzall blades after the original tool, choosing the best reciprocating saw blade for the job at hand is key to getting the best performance and life out of your blades.
So it’s just a question of wood or metal, right?
Oh, my friend, there’s so much more to the conversation these days. So buckle up and let’s take a look at the best Sawzall blade for cutting wood, metal, and mixed demo work.
Bi-Metal vs Carbide
Bi-metal reciprocating saw blades are less expensive than their carbide cousins but they don’t last nearly as long. When you’re considering bi-metal vs carbide, it’s more than just the price tag. Carbide blades typically last dozens of times longer than bi-metal, so the cost per cut is actually much cheaper with the carbide Sawzall blade.
When it comes to cutting speed, an aggressive bi-metal blade is hard to beat in clean wood. It’ll round off quickly if you come across any nails. Since Diablo now has such a comprehensive line of carbide-tipped blades, carbide ends up being the best reciprocating saw blade for nearly every job for Pros. If you’re a DIYer with just a little cutting to do, bi-metal can still be an effective choice. Just keep in mind that if you’re making more than a few cuts with metal involved, you’re better off buying a carbide blade.
Best Reciprocating Saw Blade for Wood Cutting
Cutting in wood is easier than metal. You can go with a really aggressive tooth count so the high stroke rate of a reciprocating saw can rip through it. For the most part, the lower the tooth count the better for speed.
For clean wood cutting, you can go with the most aggressive tooth count – as low as 3 TPI (teeth per inch). An aggressive tooth geometry comes along with it and chews through wood quicker than any other blade.
In addition to helping with the lighter part of demo work, it’s also a beast when it comes to trimming up shrubs and trees. You can leave the chainsaw in the shed for a lot of the work that’s too tough for your hedge trimmer.
For most demo applications, the wood blade you turn to is a nail-embedded model. The tooth count increases more toward the 6 – 8 range with the goal being to keep nails from entering the gullet and ripping teeth off. Blades like Diablo’s Demo Demon use a variable TPI configuration to get the best performance and life.
Best Reciprocating Saw Blade for Metal Cutting
Metal cutting differs greatly from wood cutting. You need higher tooth counts to cut through the metal without ripping teeth off. The variable tooth design that gives you an advantage in wood works against you in metal where a symmetrical configuration works better. Bi-metal blades don’t usually last long and you can forget making much more than a scratch in stainless steel. Once again, carbide is king for cutting performance and durability by a long shot.
For thin metal less than 3/16″ or 1/8″ like EMT, you normally go with bi-metal blades. It’s the domain of electricians and plumbers for the most part. The high tooth count of thin metal blades (usually around 20 TPI) gives you a cleaner cut to work with. This TPI level used to be a bi-metal only application since you can’t attach carbide teeth at that level. However, Diablo just released a thin metal reciprocating saw blade that uses a carbide strip that the teeth are ground into.
Medium thickness (1/16″ – 1/8″) metal is that middle ground where a lot of demo work takes place along with some plumbing. The best reciprocating saw blade for medium metal cutting are around the 10 TPI range. Definitely go with carbide if you’re making more than a couple of cuts.
Thick metals like cast iron often require a torch to cut effectively. Dedicated thick metal Sawzall blades allow you to use your reciprocating saw instead. The tooth count here drops to the 8 TPI range – right in the wheelhouse of carbide wood blades. Although the TPI is similar, the tooth geometry is set differently to work through thicker metals. Since the carbide is harder than what you’re cutting through, it’s able to cut much faster than most of your other options. Don’t even think about going with bi-metal for these applications greater than 1/8″ thick. At best, it’ll take a long time or multiple blades to get through it. At worst, you’re barely scratching the material.
A Sawzall blade that works well in both wood and metal is a pipe dream, right? Not anymore. Thanks to the magic of carbide (well, the physics of carbide, really), Diablo has a General Purpose Reciprocating Saw Blade. This one sports an 8/14 TPI configuration that covers both wood and metal blades. Realistically, you’re better off in wood with a wood blade and metal with a metal blade. However, if you want to have a pack of blades on hand for the unexpected, these are a good bet.
Fiber Cement, Masonry, and Fiberglass
The other major class of reciprocating saw blade is diamond grit. They’re useful in several materials – namely fiber cement, masonry, and fiberglass. Until carbide thick metal blades came along, these were also the go-to for the toughest metal applications. Rather than having teeth that slice through the material, diamond grit Sawzall blades are abrasives that grind. For that reason, you’ll want to ensure you’re wearing PPE to cover your eyes, nose, and mouth.