Reciprocating Saw Blade Types?

A reciprocating saw is not made for constructing or finer crafting. It is used for demolition – the breaking down of materials. It is also designed for getting into those tight areas with an exposed blade and different positioning for precision angle cutting. Depending on the project and the material, there are several types of blades that are used with a reciprocal saw.

For instance, using a fine-tooth blade that resembles a hacksaw is for cutting though metal pipe and nails; a coarse blade is is used for cutting wood; a super-coarse blade for plaster; and a “toothless” blade for cutting stone – which are specially coated with a tungsten carbide abrasive grit.

You will become more familiar with what your reciprocal saw can handle as you work with it, and what you can accomplish with this saw. Once you’re more experienced, you will have more confidence in choosing a blade that will do a specific task.

About Blades

You will find out that you can actually use one type of blade for several different projects, depending on how that particular blade functions. For example, you can certainly use a nail-cutting blade to work with shingles or plywood. Most reciprocal saw blades sizes range from three to 12 inches in length but the standard size is six-inches.

There are the jig-saw types that are available as well. The 12-inch blades that are useful for getting into deeper crevices or even cutting through thicker timber. Although they are tough, these blades are not indestructible. Rather, they are disposable, and should be replaced when you notice that they are getting dull and slowing down the job.

Teeth: The number of teeth per inch (TPI), combined with the gullet size – which is the depth of the space between the teeth, and the kerf – the slit made by the blade, all determines the material the blade can cut.

  • Blades with a low TPI deliver faster cuts and rougher edges, ideal for wood.
  • Blades with a high TPI deliver smooth, slow cuts, ideal for metal.
  • The number of TPI ranges from 3-24.
  • To reduce snagging, try to have at least three teeth come into contact with the material at all times.

There are three facets to a reciprocating saw blade: Length, width, and thickness.

  • The longer the blade, the deeper the cut.
  • Wider blades will reduce bending and wobbling.
  • Heavy-duty blades are typically 7/8-inches wide and 0.062-inches thick.
  • Blades that are 0.035-inches thick provide sufficient strength for standard cutting.
  • Blades that are 0.05-inches thick are for enhanced stability.
  • For plunge-cutting jobs, short blades with tapered backs do the best work.

To extend the life of your blades, you can try hammering out the blade flat, if it is bent. You can also try a little trick by cutting off the tip at an angle with some tin snips that presents a sharper blade. Make sure you wear safety goggles for this. Let’s look at the different types of reciprocal saw blades that are currently on the market:

  • Carbon steel blades are the most common and inexpensive blade, suited for cutting softwoods but will dull quickly with hardwoods and other hard materials.
  • High-speed steel (HSS) blades are more expensive than carbon steel, but also much harder, allowing them to cut through hardwoods without dulling as quick. Makes a great choice as an all-purpose, long lasting blade, lasting five times longer than carbon steel.
  • Bi-metal blades are harder yet and last on average up to ten times longer than a carbon steel blade.
  • Carbide-tipped blades are the most common type of bi-metal saw blades, and work amazingly well for particularly tough cuts.
  • Carbide-grit blades are more abrasive and made for harder materials like brick, marble, ceramic, and fiberglass. As the most common type of abrasive reciprocating blade, the coatings range from medium to heavy-duty.
  • Diamond blades have real diamonds embedded in the tips and are used to cut through glass, ceramic, and concrete.

There are six types of blades that are made to do specific tasks:

  • A ripping blade has a larger gullet (the area between teeth) and few teeth which removes wood quickly and efficiently, producing a rough cut.
  • A crosscutting blade has many teeth and a small gullet that produces a very smooth and concise cut.
  • A combination blade is more of a general-purpose blade that is in between ripping and crosscutting, for a wider range of tasks.
  • Plywood blades have more teeth than crosscutting, which helps to suppress the chipping and splintering common to plywood, creating a smoother, cleaner cut.
  • Thin kerf blades are for easier cutting without much waste. The kerf is the size of the slot the blade cuts in the material.
  • An abrasive blade is coated in a coarse material, allowing them to cut through tile, masonry, and steel.

Each type of blade has distinct features that allow it to do specific tasks:

  • A variable pitch blade has a different TPI (teeth per inch) at various points. for example, it could have a pitch rating of 10/14, which means that it varies from 10 to 14 TPI. This variable pitch reduces vibration and provides a faster cut, allowing for use on a wider variety of materials.
  • A tapered blade is for plunge cuts where the reciprocating saw starts cutting directly on the surface rather than on the edge of a material – so it is tapered to allow it plunge right in.
  • Specialty blades are designed for specific materials, and are convenient for non-professionals to simply choose the right blade without a lot of knowledge.
  • Bi-directional blades have teeth that will cut in both directions, allowing the blade to cut in both the push and pull motions, resulting in faster cuts. This isn’t suitable for all jobs but works well for materials such as plaster, for instance.

With a little knowledge in the specific reciprocal saw blade types and how they function on different materials, you will be able to make an informed decision on which blade(s) will work best for your own project needs. Here’s to a great cutting experience!

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