February 12, 2010

How Could I Not Chime in on a Tool Discussion?

Justin Katz

Glenn Reynolds promoted a Milwaukee Sawzall, this morning, and late on a Friday, I couldn't do otherwise than offer some notes.

The Milwaukee version of this tool is a satisfying piece of equipment, but the brand isn't but so important, in this subcategory. (I own a Porter Cable Tiger Saw.) There are a couple of notes worth making on all such saws, though:

  1. This is not a finish tool. One of Glenn's correspondents mentions using his sawzall to cut rusted bolts on a toilet seat. That's more daring of a maneuver than it has to be. Any time you need to cut anything near finished surfaces — especially with brittle substances like ceramics — you're better off with some form of circular blade than a reciprocating one. In the case of bolts, and metal in general, it's useful to own a grinder with a couple of metal-cutting discs. You can get a good grinder for much less than you can get a good sawzall; they're smaller to store and to use; and they're better for most of the non-wood applications for which people typically attempt to use sawzalls.
  2. Let the blade do the work. Sawzall blades tend to be relatively inexpensive, and in one of those chicken/egg scenarios, they tend to wear out quickly. The key in all circumstances is to put minimal additional pressure, beyond the weight of the tool, on the saw while cutting. I've cut a 12" high steel I-beam with a decent sawzall blade, and I've also worn out decent sawzall blades on thin metal pipes because I was impatient.
  3. The position of the blade matters. Most sawzalls allow reversal of the blade in the shaft, and for some reason that I've yet to figure out, it does make a difference. Installing the blade downward (teeth on the same side as the trigger) makes for faster, more aggressive cuts, but installing the blade upward typically permits more control.

As an aside, though, I'd like to correct another of Glenn's correspondents, who called the sawzall the "most useful tool ever invented." Assuming we're putting aside obvious victors, like wheels and hammers and screwdrivers and chisels and such, and focusing on more modern power tools, the most useful of the bunch, by far, is the Rotozip. It takes some practice to control them, and they're not ideal for every job (of course), but once mastered, they're the closest thing to being able to look at something and cut it with your eyes.

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All that is true, but you just look cooler walking onto a jobsite with "Big Red." Even better if it comes in the metal box, scratches and dents included.

Can't beat Milwakkee

Posted by: michael at February 12, 2010 8:19 PM

Conceded. For political reasons around the jobsite, I've had to make a running joke out of my affection for the Rotozip over more manly tools like the sawzall and the jigsaw. Of course, I suspect there's a reason my favorite tool and I are called on to do the difficult and unusual tasks that the other carpenters are afraid to touch.

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 12, 2010 8:24 PM

me like more primitive tool
no need electricity
no need in structions
belt hell out of anything without busting it

Michael - fireman's axe good second choice

Posted by: chuckR at February 12, 2010 8:32 PM

Ha! We do love our tools!

Posted by: michael at February 12, 2010 8:37 PM

Mike- how many of them wear white helmets??

LOL sorry, it was right there.

Posted by: EMT at February 12, 2010 9:30 PM

I did some for-profit construction for a friend for a summer. It was awesome.

I write computer management scripts for a living, and the mantra of my job is 'I hope nobody notices this!' The difference between quietly tweaking back-end stuff and actually building something is huge.

Justin, have you considered selling Anchor Rising bumper stickers? "My Boss is a Catholic Carpenter" next to your avatar would sell like hotcakes.

Posted by: mangeek at February 12, 2010 11:09 PM

If you buy the Milwaukee, be sure to buy three extra trigger switches.

My favorite tool is still the BFH.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at February 13, 2010 2:23 AM
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