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Tool Test: Mini Reciprocating Saws

With their rapid back-and-forth sawing motion, reciprocating saws chew through nearly anything. Check out this new breed that can be used one-handed to reach tight spots

Making the Cut

Photo by Ted Morrison and Don Penny/Time Inc. Digital Studio

With their rapid back-and-forth sawing motion, reciprocating saws chew through nearly anything. This new breed of recip saw can be used one-handed to reach tight spots. Plumber Josh Clack used these four cordless models on the job to hack through wood framing, as well as copper, PVC, and cast-iron pipe.* Here's his report.

*The cutting ability of each saw was tested on five different materials: wood, nail-filled wood, PVC, steel, and cast iron. For each test, a saw was fitted with a fresh blade suited to the material being cut.

Porter-Cable PCL120CRC-2

Photo by Ted Morrison

Price: $130; deltaportercable.com

Highlights: Adjustable shoe hooks onto material to reduce vibration. Its electronic brake slows down the blade after the trigger is released.

My two cents: "The articulating body allowed me to use it under cabinets and in tight spaces between the walls. It was a little jumpy when first biting into the material, but overall this saw was easy to control with one hand and had good power."

Specs: 12 volts (10.8 volts under load), 3.4 pounds, variable speed up to 3,000 strokes per minute, ⅝-inch stroke length, built-in LED, three-year tool warranty.

Milwaukee M18 Hackzall

Photo by Don Penny/Time Inc. Digital Studio

Price: $209; milwaukeetool.com

Highlight: Onboard power gauge displays battery life.

My two cents: "It's well balanced and made short work of 3-inch-diameter cast-iron pipe. It vibrated the least; truly a one-handed saw."

Specs: 18 volts under load, 4.1 pounds, variable speed up to 3,000 strokes per minute, ¾-inch stroke length, built-in LED, five-year tool warranty.

Craftsman 17600

Photo by Don Penny/Time Inc. Digital Studio

Price: $120; craftsman.com

Highlights: Has the highest number of strokes per minute and an electronic brake.

My two cents: "It's only about a half inch shorter than my full-size recip saw; I found it hard to control with one hand. Battery life was respectable."

Specs: 19.2 volts (18 volts under load), 5.6 pounds, variable speed up to 3,500 strokes per minute, ½-inch stroke length, one-year tool warranty.

Hitachi CR10DL

Photo by Don Penny/Time Inc. Digital Studio

Price: $180; hitachipowertools.com

Highlight: The lightest saw tested.

My two cents: "A well-balanced tool, but the long handle puts your hand so far from the action that the saw tends to jump while cutting. Worked best on PVC pipe. The blade-change mechanism is awkward to use."

Specs: 12 volts (10.8 volts under load), 2.6 pounds, variable speed up to 2,700 strokes per minute, ½-inch stroke length, built-in LED, lifetime tool warranty.

Milwaukee M12 HACKZALL

Photo by Don Penny/Time Inc. Digital Studio

Price: $130; milwaukeetool.com

Highlight: Battery fuel gauge

My two cents: "Sailed through softer materials, like wood and plastic, never bogged down when it hit a nail, and even handled black gas pipe. The weight of the motor between the blade and grip with the weight of the battery behind your grip feels good."

Specs: 12 volts (10.8 volts under load), 2.65 pounds, variable speed up to 3,000 strokes per minute, ½-inch stroke length, built-in LED, 5-year tool warranty.

Ridgid R3030

Photo by Ted Morrison

Price: $100; ridgid.com

Highlight: Plug lights up to quickly show the tool is receiving power.

My two cents: "I preferred the corded version to the cordless because the balance was better. This saw cut just as well as a full-size recip saw, but I often had to use two hands to control it during cuts."

Specs: 4 amps, 4 pounds, variable speed up to 3,500 strokes per minute, ½-inch stroke length, built-in LED, lifetime tool warranty.

Ridgid R86447N

Photo by Ted Morrison

Price: $170; ridgid.com

Highlight: Works with both nickel-cadmium and lithium-ion batteries.

My two cents: "My least favorite cordless tool because it felt completely unbalanced, with all of the weight behind the trigger. It has plenty of power, and cut through the hardest materials with ease, but it's not a one-handed tool."

Specs: 18 volts, 4.12 pounds, variable speed up to 5,000 strokes per minute, ½-inch stroke length, built-in LED, lifetime tool warranty.

Craftsman 3315

Photo by Ted Morrison

Price: $80; craftsman.com

Highlight: Comes with 8-foot-long power cord.

My two cents: "This is essentially the same as the Ridgid corded tool, and performed just as well, but usually needed two hands to control."

Specs: 4 amps, 3.7 pounds, variable speed up to 3,500 strokes per minute, ½-inch stroke length, built-in LED, 1-year tool warranty.