When to Use Orbital Action on a Reciprocating Saw News & Opinion

When to Use Orbital Action on a Reciprocating Saw


The reciprocating saw is remarkably useful to Pros mainly as a demolition tool. At its core, it’s a motorized hacksaw that can cut wood, metal, nails, pipes, and just about anything else you can throw at it with the right blade. You won’t find a jobsite without at least one. It’s easy to see how the blade’s reciprocating action moves the teeth back and forth across the cutting surface. But you also may notice another setting on the reciprocating saw: orbital action or orbital mode. Although it might sound spacey, it’s actually a useful, down-to-earth feature that aids the cut in certain circumstances. How do you know when to use orbital action on a reciprocating saw? Read on.

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What is Orbital Action?

Orbital action describes the movement of the blade in the reciprocating saw. Most basic saws use a straight stroke which means that the blade just moves straight in and out of the saw. A straight stroke is good for certain types of cuts like scrolling in wood or for cutting hard materials like steel. Orbital action, however, moves the blade in a slightly circular motion as it moves in and out of the tool. This allows faster cuts in softer materials and facilitates faster chip removal from the blade path.

When to Use Orbital Action on a Reciprocating Saw

The original reciprocating saw – the Sawzall – probably didn’t have orbital action in mind, but it’s a great feature to have.

When to Use Orbital Action on a Reciprocating Saw

Orbital action is suitable for aggressive cuts in wood when a rough cut to remove material quickly is called for. However, it’s not recommended for cutting metal, or when making highly precise cuts where the blade has to be kept perfectly perpendicular to the work surface.

Ridgid Gen5X 5 Tool Kit

If you’ve got orbital action, rough cutting through wood is when you should use it!

The orbital action is especially helpful in a reciprocating saw when doing demolition work. You cut a lot faster and with less effort. Better quality saws will give you the option to adjust the saw with a lever, knob or switch to change from straight to orbital or to some degree in between. Most Pros find the ability to choose the stroke to be a great advantage on the jobsite.

This is NOT where to use orbital action!

This is NOT where to use orbital action!

Understanding when to use orbital action on a reciprocating saw is really that simple. If you’re a Pro and you have a reciprocating saw tips, add them in the comments below or shout out on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Samuel Thomas

I am not a pro but I think there must be some disadvantages of orbital action. If I am right please mention some of those.