Key differences between the Chainsaw and Reciprocating saw

Have you ever had to saw through a thick log of wood but didn’t know the proper kind of saw to use? Have you ever had to choose between buying a chainsaw or a reciprocating saw at the hardware store before? What about when you had to choose the most suitable tool for that outdoor job between the two tools? 

Now, it may be a bit confusing picking the right tool for that task you need to get done because these two saws are a bit similar. However, they may have some distinct features that’ll make them more suited for some task.

Now, let’s know all about these individual tools. 

The Chainsaw 

This is a mechanical tool that has a set of teeth connected to a revolving chain that runs on a guide bar. The revolving chain has small blades that promote a streamlined slicing action. It operates on a bar-and-chain combination design and is powered by gasoline, electricity, or battery. 

The chainsaw can be used in performing activities like the felling of trees, pruning, bucking, and limbing.

The Reciprocating Saw

Another name for the reciprocating saw is the recip saw, or saber saw.  Unlike the chainsaw, this comes with a blade mounted on its end. It uses a push and pulls motion for cutting into materials. 

The blade mounted to the end of the saw pushes and pulls quickly against the surface of the material neatly cutting through. 

It can cut through materials like wood, PVC, cardboards, and thin metals.



You even have the option to replace the blades depending on the material you want to use or what you want to use it for.

The forward and backward alternating movement produced by the saw is made stable by way of a ‘shoe‘. What the shoe does is that absorbs some of the lateral motion produced by the saw’s blades. Lest you forget, when making use of the saw, you need to hold it with both hands for steady movement.

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Major Differences between the reciprocating saw and the chainsaw

The following are factors that differentiate both saws from each other.

  • Use

The reciprocating saw is used for demolition, building projects, and cutting smaller trees. It produces a kind of rough-cut. On the other hand, the chain saw is for garden works done outside the house. It’s more powerful and perfect for cutting larger branches and trees.

  • Blade Size

When you compare the blades of these cutting tools, you get to realize that the reciprocating saw has narrower blades while the chainsaw which has broader blades. This is why the chainsaw proves to be more effective in cutting larger trees. It’s generally used for large scale work and heavier duties while the reciprocating saw is suited for smaller-scale projects. 

These smaller-scale projects include tasks like the pruning of shrubs and cutting of branches which cannot be performed easily with the chainsaw.

  • Maintenance 

Maintaining garden tools can be a bit of a chore so most times you’d prefer to go with tools with less stress in performance. The maintaining process for the reciprocating saw is less complicated than that of the chainsaw.

It only requires sharpening or replacing the blades. However, if you’re making use of a chainsaw, you’d have to regularly replace the bar/chain oil, sharpen the blade, and clean the bar.



Regularly lubricating the chain will help make the chain run smoothly during cutting activities as the chain or bar oil reduces easily since it tends to be thrown off the centrifugal forces acting on the chain. Also, sawdust produced during the cutting operation soaks up the oil on the chain leading to the rapid depletion of the chain oil.

  • Risk

As with all sharp objects, using tools like saws is risky as there is a chance of you cutting yourself. The good news is that reciprocating saw is less hazardous since the saw stops working immediately after you remove your hand from the power button.

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Although the chain saw provides safety measures to prevent injury to the operator, it is still riskier when likened to the reciprocating saw. 

Spoiler alert: When you remove your hand from the chainsaw, the machine doesn’t switch off automatically.

  • Cost

You’ll agree with me that the cost of purchasing a tool is very important. The reciprocating saw is of lower cost and is way affordable when compared to the chainsaw which is a bit more expensive.

So, you can buy the reciprocating saw on a low budget.

  • Expertise

The reciprocating saw requires a lower level of expertise to work with.  It can be operated easily and you don’t have to be an expert to be able to manage and work with it.

The chain saw on the other hand demands a high level of expertise and technical know-how to maintain. You have to go through the operating manual and be sure you understand everything before you commence work with the tool. 

  • Noise

Whether you’ll using the reciprocating or chainsaw, you’re sure to disturb the neighbours. However, the reciprocating saw which has a smaller blade and motor is less noisy when actively cutting into a block of wood than the chain saw which produces more noise. The chain saw is known to produce loud rumbling noises and you may need to wear earmuffs if you’re the operator.

  • Mode of operation 

We have reciprocating saws that use electricity and others that make use of a battery. They are referred to as corded and cordless saws respectively.

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Chainsaws come in a variety that utilizes gasoline, battery, and electricity. In cases where electricity cannot be made available, the chainsaw can be used with gasoline. The reciprocating saw also can be used in such situations with batteries but not with gasoline. 

  • Portability

Reciprocating saws are portable and do not occupy a large space. They are also not as powerful as chainsaws which are used in cutting large trees. Their portable nature allows them to be easily transported from one place to another. Chainsaws are not portable and they usually occupy larger spaces. Therefore, moving the reciprocating saw is less difficult compared to the chain saw.

  • Versatility

The reciprocating saw is more versatile and has more uses when compared to the chain saw. It can be used for holding down nails during construction, plumbing works, pruning shrubs, cutting branches, making perforations into walls, and other functions. The versatility of the reciprocating saw makes it more reliable when likened to the chain saw.


Now that you know the major difference between the reciprocating saw and chainsaw, you know which to go for if you’re to choose from the two.

If you can purchase both of them, that would be lovely. But if you want to buy just one, you need to take into cognizance the jobs you want to do with the saw and of course the maintenance.

If you won’t be able to properly take care of the chainsaw, then you should go for the reciprocating saw. For large scale operations on larger trees and also if you would be doing it frequently, the chain saw is advised.

However, if cutting a variety of materials is the reason why you want to acquire one of these saws, then reciprocating saw is the right tool for you. Last but not the least, it’s important you observe safety precautions and ensure you wear safety gear while using the reciprocating and chain saw.