Chainsaw vs Reciprocating Saw: 11 Main Differences To Know

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By Jake Hill


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Unlike what many people believe, cutting down trees has always been an exclusive task of a chainsaw. However, other saws can be used for the same purpose. This includes Chainsaws and Reciprocating saws.

Despite being used for cutting wood, these two are different. When you watch professional tree pruners, you will notice they have both tools.

This blog post will guide you through understanding these similar yet very different tools. We’ll deeply discuss their notable characteristics and differences. This way, you can decide which is the best match for your outdoor chopping tools.

Chainsaw vs. Reciprocating Saw
The main differences between a Chainsaw and a Reciprocating Saw are their cutting abilities, the motion of the blades, operating noise, performance speed, ease of use, ease of ability to balance, uses, longevity, cost, and a power source. Both can cut wood, but a Chainsaw is more efficient at handling wood, whereas a Reciprocating saw can handle plastic and PVC.

What is a Chainsaw?

A chainsaw got its name from having a revolving chain. The saw’s teeth are connected to the chain. The rotating chain also has blades and runs on the saw’s bar. Chainsaws come in this classic shape but have different sizes and are produced by various brands.

Moreover, depending on their design, they have an engine or a motor. For instance, some saws use gasoline and typically have a two-stroke engine. As for electric chainsaws, they have electric motors. 

There are, however, types of these electric models that only use batteries to run. These are known as cordless types. Other types get their power from connecting to a power cord.

Chainsaws are popular among wood-chopping professionals and DIY enthusiasts. This is because of their versatility and efficiency. These tools can fulfill cutting needs, from small logs and branches to whole trees.

What is a Reciprocating Saw?

This saw got its name from the way it functions. It does not rely on rotating or revolving the chain. Instead, the blades go up and down to cut successfully. This up-and-down motion is known as reciprocating, hence the saw’s name.

If you shop for a Reciprocating saw and do not find a matching label, you should look for it under another name. This saw is commonly known as a Sawzall. This saw is not made for beginners, as it is heavy. So, it is the one to go for when you have heavy-duty tasks. However, you can still come across some heavier varieties of chainsaws.

A reciprocating saw is one of the most popular types of saws. This is due to its ability to cut through various materials and perform various tasks. In addition to cutting wood and trees, Sawzall can cut PVC surfaces and some metals. You can apply different blades to the saw to get it to do various projects.

What are the Differences between a Chainsaw and a Reciprocating Saw?

When you spot a chainsaw and a reciprocating saw next to each other, you will notice obvious differences in their appearance. Also, how they operate and their uses make them very different saws. Here is an overview of their differences.

1. Cutting Abilities 

Both types of saws can cut wood and trees. However, they both can cut different parts of a tree. A chainsaw is better at cutting down larger climbable trees. A reciprocating saw, on the other hand, can easily take on a short tree, bushes, tree limbs, or fallen branches.

So, you can decide which one to use depending on the size of your cutting project. A chainsaw best fits larger construction projects, whereas a Sawzall works perfectly for smaller projects.

2. Motion of the Blades

The motion of the saws’ blades is a major difference between them. They move very differently. A chainsaw is designed to have the blades rotate continuously. The Sawzall blades operate in a reciprocating motion. They move up and down instead of moving in a circle.

3. Operating Noise 

Another critical issue in telling these saws apart is their noise. Chainsaws are undoubtedly louder when running. Even if the cutting has not started, the saw will make disturbing noise. This is due to their powerful engines. Thus, wearing protective earmuffs is not a luxury while handling a chainsaw.

A Sawzall, on the other hand, is less loud. Typically, this equipment comes with a less powerful engine. The blades are less adaptable than chainsaw blades. However, it can be slightly noisy when the cutting action starts. Still, it is incomparable to the noise associated with chainsaws.

4. Performance Speed

A chainsaw provides higher performance and speed. This comes from having a more versatile engine. Typically, a gas-powered chainsaw has the most powerful engine of all models and varieties.

5. Ease of Use

Another one of the main differences between a chainsaw and a reciprocating saw is the ease of use. A chainsaw is not very suitable for a beginner. It needs a firmer and more experienced grip.

So, it should only be used by chopping or felling professionals and experienced DIYers. This makes a reciprocating saw an ideal option for cutting newbies.

6. Ease of Care

Maintaining and caring for chainsaws is more demanding than a Sawzall. You can easily troubleshoot your chainsaw if you are familiar with maintaining it. Typically, a chainsaw has a more complex design and more components than a reciprocating saw. For instance, you will need to ensure proper tension on the chain.

Also important is the maintenance of the cleanliness of the chain and the frequent oiling of the bar. No need to mention the ability to tackle engine and combustion issues. On the contrary, a Sawzall is easier to maintain. It requires proper attention to the sharpness of the pruning blades.

7. Ability to Balance

As you know, a chainsaw is a bigger and larger instrument. As a result, maintaining adequate balance can be challenging. You will need steady and firm hands to hold and position a chainsaw properly. Even the most experienced chopping professionals will need both hands to use it.

On the other side, a Sawzall can be held with one hand. However, this is not for everyone. It would be best if you were experienced in using this machine.

8. Longevity

A chainsaw is built to last longer than a reciprocating saw. With proper maintenance, a chainsaw can last for a few decades. They can handle falling shocks better than Sawzalls.

9. Uses

Aside from tree trimming, these saws are used very differently. For instance, you can apply your Sawzall in cutting PVC and plastic surfaces. It is also the perfect tool for cutting various metals, including stainless steel items. 

Meanwhile, a chainsaw is the best way to cut wooden items. So, chopping tree logs, firewood, and timber boards requires an efficient chainsaw.

10. Cost

These two machines are not similar in price. A chainsaw is more expensive than a Sawzall. A cheap chainsaw with a humble performance can cost around $200. There are more versatile types that can cost about $500. On the contrary, a decent Sawzall can cost you around $100.

11. Power source 

Both types of handy tools provide a variety of power sources. The most common type of chainsaw is powered by gasolineHowever, a wide variety of electric chainsaws have proven versatility.

Reciprocating saws, on the other hand, are more available in electric types. Other models operate on batteries only.

Chainsaw vs Reciprocating saw: are they the same?

They are very different saws that professional tree trimmers can use on the same project. However, they are not interchangeable. They are more complementary when it comes to felling trees. A chainsaw cuts down thick logs, while a reciprocating saw can take down weaker branches or limbs.

When used separately, a chainsaw is better for cutting wood, while a reciprocating saw can work on various materials, including plastic, metal, and PVC. Typically, a chainsaw is more versatile and durable. However, a reciprocating saw is quieter when in operation.

Lastly, a chainsaw is more expensive, but it has better longevity. Still, it is not recommended for chopping newbies, unlike Sawzall, a more suitable tool for freshers. A Sawzall is safer if they are careful and wearing protective items.

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