Sabre Saw vs Reciprocating Saw

There can be confusion between the sabre saw and the reciprocating saw. In some ways this isn’t surprising as people sometimes use the names interchangeably and the sabre saw is a type of reciprocating saw. There are differences between them, and they do have different uses. Knowing what separates them can be important in building and construction work.


The shape of the sabre saw and the reciprocating saw are virtually identical and both are primarily designed for work on vertical surfaces. The sabre saw name comes from the resemblance to the sword, with the blade out in front and the hand behind a guard.

In both cases the blade cuts by moving to and fro rather than making a circular motion. Neither of them is especially accurate, so they’re generally best for rough cuts, although the sabre saw can do finish jobs.

Materials to Cut

While the reciprocating saw excels when used for demolition purposes, both types of saw will cut both metals and wood. The blade on a reciprocating saw can be turned through 90 degrees so it can reach into spaces that might otherwise be inaccessible.

Fitted with a long blade, a reciprocating saw can cut through materials up to 1 foot thick, such as railroad ties. This is much better than a circular saw and will offer a cleaner, more accurate cut than a chainsaw. The sabre saw has a smaller motor and thus isn’t powerful enough for these larger jobs (in some ways the sabre saw can be considered a larger version of the jog saw, which is used for detail work). You can also fit a pruning blade to a reciprocating saw and use it in the garden.

Uses for a Sabre Saw

A sabre saw can be used for many of the same things as a reciprocating saw, as long as the jobs are relatively small. It’s good for cutting circles or angled cuts that require more than a jig saw. Given that the motor has a relatively small size it’s easier to control than a reciprocating saw. It’s not used as much in demolition as it won’t stand up to the rough, extended use necessary for that work.

It can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between a jig saw and a sabre saw (much as it can between a sabre saw and a reciprocating saw); in many ways only the size of motor and blade used separates them. They’re all largely generic terms.


Although it will depend on how they’re used, a reciprocating saw will generally be more durable than a sabre saw. It’s built to take more and to be more powerful. That means a good reciprocating saw will often be more expensive than a sabre saw. Although several factors, including the make, will influence the price. Unless you need something that can perform heavy duty demolition work, a sabre saw can be the better choice for general woodworking. It will still be able to perform most of the functions people generally need.