I’ve got 12V tools on the brain. It might have something to do with all the time we spent testing the best cordless drills, but I’m falling back in love with the lower voltages. They’re lightweight, compact, and just easier on these old bones. Not that I’m old, it’s just an expression. Ah, never mind. Anyway, my 12V lust was sent deeper when I received the new Makita 12V Max CXT Recipro Saw. As part of the CXT line, these are the newest 12V tools from Makita with the slide-style battery packs.
While you’ll want to use the best cordless reciprocating saw you can get a hold of for tough demo jobs, 12V models like the Makita RJ03R1 are extremely useful for plumbing and drywall tasks among others. The design is wrapped around the idea of offering one-handed use while maintaining control in what is typically a very aggressive tool.
- Unique design offers multiple grip locations
- Slow cutting speed compared to today’s models
- Vibration control needs some help
One Saw, Two Triggers
The physical design of the Makita 12V Max CXT Recipro Saw moves away from some of the competitive 12V reciprocating saws in a big way. The typical angled handle and variable speed trigger is still present. However, the upper is longer to make room for a paddle switch. This gives you options to get the most comfortable grip possible depending on which application you’re cutting in. It also gives you the room to add a second hand in a natural position if you need it. Simply release the safety on the trigger you want to use and you’re on your way.
I used the paddle switch almost exclusively. Its length made it accessible in all one- and two-handed grips I used the saw in. The variable speed trigger is a bit of an issue. I couldn’t reach the safety with my thumb without changing my grip or using two hands to get started and the grip fatigued my finger rather quickly. Personally, I think the RJ03 would be fine with the paddle switch alone.
Gettin’ Longer and Leaner
At just 2.9 pounds, you’ll reach for the Makita 12V Max CXT Recipro Saw more often than you might think at first. The RJ03R1 kit comes with a pair of 2.0 amp hour batteries, but Makita also has 4.0 amp-hour options available. Pro Tool Reviews co-founder Tom Gaige frequently tells people that 80% of his work as a general contractor could be done with 12V tools and the lightweight nature is why he loves them.
While Makita is generally moving toward more compact tools these days, the 12V Recipro Saw is actually longer than competitors despite the weight reduction. This seems purely based on adding versatility to the saw. From nearly every angle, the length made my grip more natural as I wanted two hands on the saw for stability. In tight spaces where a one-handed grip was best, I was still able to maintain pretty decent control. The length can get in the way in some areas, but the paddle switch really helps you change the angle of the tool to work it from a different perspective.
Adjusting to the Environment
The Makita RJ03R1 does have an adjustable shoe – it’s just not tool-free like we’ve come to enjoy. The onboard hex wrench is used to loosen the bolt underneath the tool and give you freedom of movement. It also doesn’t pivot, but it does angle down at the base. This gave me the ability to give the saw some upward tilt to get cuts started on longer pieces.
When it comes time for a blade change, an overmolded twist lock at the end of the shaft will release the blade. Installing a new blade requires you to hold the lock open as you set the blade in place or remove it, so it’s a two-handed process both ways.
Generally I prefer to have the blade release on the outside of the housing so the release is always exposed. However, Makita’s shaft-mounted blade lock is designed so that it’s easily accessible in any position the shaft may be in.
There was a little confusion online as to whether or not the RJ03 will accept jigsaw blades. I can conclusively tell you it does not.
Other Key Features
- Integrated LED light
- Rated for PVC, ABS, EMT, drywall, wood, and more
- Internal Battery Protection Circuit
Makita 12V Max CXT Recipro Saw Specifications
- Model: Makita RJ03Z (bare), RJ03R1 (kit)
- Power Source: Makita CXT 12V Max battery pack
- Length: 14-3/4 inches
- Weight: 2.9 pounds
- Stroke Length: 1/2 inch
- No Load Speed: 0 – 3300 SPM
- Max Cutting Capacity: 2 inches
- Warranty: 3 years
- Price: $69 bare, $119 (kit)
I put the Makita 12V Max CXT Recipro Saw through all sorts of cuts. Two-handed, one-handed, vertical, horizontal, and overhead were all on tap. It had to make it through 2 x 6 lumber, PVC, and conduit throughout the course of my evaluation.
Cutting through wood tends to be where some of the longer-duration cuts take place and that was the case for me. The performance of the RJ03 was characterized by steady cutting. The speed isn’t mind-blowing – and I wouldn’t expect it to be in a 12V saw – but it is controlled and stable compared to its higher-powered, more aggressive cousins. Cutting through 1/2 inch conduit and 1-1/2 PVC was a breeze.
I noticed that the lower grip on this Recipro Saw isn’t as ergonomic as I’ve come to expect from their dills and drivers. It didn’t fit my hand quite as naturally. I wouldn’t count this as a negative against the saw, it’s just more of an average feel. Around the upper housing, the shape and overmold made for a much better ergonomic grip for both one- and two-handed applications.
Where Makita usually puts itself ahead of the competition is with performance near the top, vibration reduction, and ergonomics. Most are certainly present in the RJ03. The cutting action is smooth (for a recip saw) and stable. Even at 3,300 strokes per minute, you won’t see the kind of cutting speeds that you get from 18V and corded reciprocating saws – nor should you expect to. The trade-off is greater control and lighter weight.
The one negative I found is in the variable speed trigger and lower handle. The combination just wasn’t as comfortable to use between the placement of the safety switch and shape. This is offset by the ability to use the paddle switch in nearly every cutting position.
Priced well under $150 with two batteries, the RJ03R1 kit is a pretty decent value considering other top brands can be close to $200. For those light-duty jobs throughout the day, the Makita 12V Max CXT Recipro Saw is effective, but there are better options available now.