Reciprocating Saw vs Chainsaw – What Are the Differences?

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  March 17, 2022
I love creating free content full of tips for my readers, you. I don't accept paid sponsorships, my opinion is my own, but if you find my recommendations helpful and you end up buying something you like through one of my links, I could earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more

Reciprocating saw, and chainsaw is two of the most recognized demolition power tools in the construction and demolition business. While both of them serve the purpose of cutting and sawing through objects, there are a lot of factors that make these power tools completely different.


But as they are quite similar, it’s normal for beginners to get confused between reciprocating saw vs chainsaw. Let’s have a look at their different characteristics and working areas where these perform the best.

What Is a Reciprocating Saw?

Reciprocating saws are one of the most powerful sawing & cutting power tools in the world. As the name suggests, the saw uses reciprocating motion to cut or saw through objects.

The saw’s blade uses the up-down or push-pull method to cut through any material. Due to this fact, the performance depends highly on the blade. Different types of blades are used to cut through different types of materials. If you can get the right blade, then you can cut through almost anything.

A reciprocating saw’s overall outlook is similar to a rifle. The weight is heavier than most power tools that we encounter in our day-to-day life. But compared to heavy power tools like 50 cc chainsaws, it is relatively light. The blade of a reciprocating saw plays a big role in determining how heavy or light it will be.

How a Reciprocating Saw Works?

As we mentioned above, a reciprocating saw utilizes reciprocating motion to cut through any object. The blade starts going forward and backward or up and down when the tool is activated.

Similar to most power tools that we see in the market, the reciprocating saw comes in two options if we consider how the tool is powered. These two types are corded and cordless reciprocating saws.

A cordless reciprocating saw is powered via a lithium-ion battery installed within the saw. This battery is rechargeable, which can hold a good amount of power inside it. You can also recharge the battery. This type of reciprocating saw is lighter compared to their corded alternatives.

While they offer great mobility, cordless reciprocating saw lack power due to the battery’s capacity. However, for handymen on the go, this version of the reciprocating saw is a lifesaver due to the mobility it offers.

Now if you want to use a reciprocating saw for its raw power, then going with a corded reciprocating saw is the best option. As they are corded, you don’t have to worry about the saw running out of power due to battery consumption.

Balancing a reciprocating saw is fairly easy, but one needs to be careful as it has a bit of kickback when powered on. It can also be handled with one hand, but the user must have mastery over the saw beforehand.

What Is a Chainsaw?

Whenever we hear the word saw, the first tool that comes into our mind is a chainsaw, as they are very well-known saw. For demolition work, there is no better power tool than a chainsaw. This is due to the immense cutting through power and speed that chainsaw brings in the game.

A chainsaw uses circular motion to saw through any object in its path. The blade has sharp teeth on the edges to cut through various solid materials.

The outlook of a chainsaw is very robust as it is a power tool that is meant to undergo a heavy workload without breaking. For this reason, it is also heavier than most other power tools. Due to the heavy weight, it is a bit difficult to balance. The engine is the main power source of a chainsaw.

How a Chainsaw Works

The heart of a chainsaw is its engine. It generates tremendous power that helps a chainsaw to cut through any surface like butter. Unlike other saws in the market, chainsaw’s blade uses circular rotation. Meaning, the blade itself spins rapidly, and the teeth located in the blade do the job.

Chainsaw on a log

While operating a chainsaw, it seems easy. But, the reality is completely different. Chainsaws are very heavy, and once you power the engine, it is extremely difficult to balance them if you are just starting out. There is also a heavy kickback when you power the device on.

So, if you are planning on using a chainsaw for the first time, make sure that you have the necessary strength to operate the tool properly because one small mishap with the chainsaw can lead to huge disasters and injuries. So, be careful!

Differences Between Reciprocating Saw & Chainsaw

Here are the most common differences found between reciprocating saws & chainsaws –

Blade Motion

The first difference between reciprocating saw & chainsaw is that they use a different type of motion to cut through surfaces. Reciprocating saw follows reciprocating motion while chainsaws are focused around circular motion.

Sawing Capacity

Reciprocating saws are better for small surface areas or objects, while chainsaws are preferred for large projects like tree logs.

Raw Power & Speed

If it comes down to raw power & speed, then a chainsaw is the clear winner between reciprocating saw and chainsaw. As chainsaws are powered via a stronger engine, they can generate more power compared to what you will get from the motor of a reciprocating saw.

Balance & Precision

As chainsaws provide huge power, their precision and accuracy aren’t the best compared to reciprocating saws. They are also hard to balance due to their heavyweight factor and the high rotating speed of the blade.

For these reasons, reciprocating saws are easier to use compared to chainsaws. For balancing chainsaws, you need to use both hands. But if you are good enough, you can handle a reciprocating saw with one hand.


Chainsaws are more durable than reciprocating saws. But with this added durability, they are also quite heavy. This makes them very hard to carry compared to a reciprocating saw.


Both of the power tools generate a decent amount of noise. But chainsaws are much louder than reciprocating saws.

Power Source

In general, a reciprocating saws power source can be divided into two types, corded and cordless versions. For chainsaws, there are three types of power source: gasoline, battery, and electricity. Gasoline-powered chainsaws are the most common.


Reciprocating saws are relatively safer when compared to chainsaws. But they are both equally dangerous if you are not careful enough.

Final Verdict

Now, to determine which saw is the best when reciprocating saw vs chainsaw is concerned, the answer depends highly on the type of projects you have to deal with.

If you are looking for power and speed, then there’s no other saw better than a chainsaw. But you will have to deal with the heavyweight, noise, poor balance, and accuracy issues.

On the other hand, if you want more precision and control with your cuts, and will be working on smaller objects, then reciprocating saw is the best option.

So, pick the saw that synergizes with you perfectly. Best of luck!

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Tools Doctor, content marketer, and dad. I love trying out new equipment, and together with my team I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with tools & crafting tips.