What Is Orbital Action On A Sawzall? A Comprehensive Guide

If you’ve ever used a reciprocating saw, you may have noticed a setting called “orbital action” or “orbital mode.”

But what exactly does this feature do, and when should you use it?

In this article, we’ll dive into the world of Sawzalls and explore the benefits and drawbacks of orbital action.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a DIY enthusiast, understanding this feature can help you make cleaner, faster cuts with your reciprocating saw.

So grab your safety glasses and let’s get started!

What Is Orbital Action On A Sawzall

Orbital action is a feature found on many reciprocating saws, including the popular Sawzall brand. Essentially, it introduces an elliptical motion to the standard back-and-forth sawing motion.

This more aggressive action can remove more material when cutting through wood, making it a great option for faster cuts in softer materials. However, with a more aggressive cut comes additional vibration, which can make it difficult to control the saw and lead to less accurate cuts.

It’s important to note that you should never use orbital action when cutting metal or PVC, as the additional vibration can cause damage to the material or even the saw itself.

What Is Orbital Action On A Sawzall?

Orbital action on a Sawzall refers to the movement of the blade in a slightly circular motion as it moves in and out of the tool. This feature allows for faster cuts in softer materials and facilitates faster chip removal from the blade path.

The Sawzall brand offers different levels of orbital action, with more orbital action resulting in faster sawing but less accuracy. It’s important to choose the appropriate level of orbital action for the material being cut and the desired level of precision.

Some Sawzall models combat the additional vibration caused by orbital action with a counterbalance system, which helps to reduce user fatigue and improve control during use.

How Does Orbital Action Work?

Orbital action works by moving the blade of the reciprocating saw in a slightly circular motion as it moves in and out of the tool. This movement allows for faster cuts in softer materials and facilitates faster chip removal from the blade path.

When you turn on the orbital setting on a reciprocating saw, it makes the blade follow a circular movement, which enables you to saw even faster in a straight line. More orbital action gives faster sawing, but it also results in rougher cuts and can make the tool harder to control.

The semi-elliptical movement of the blade accomplished two things: first, it slightly lengthens the stroke length of the tool while also pressing the blade against the material. This lets you cut softer materials faster, if a bit rougher than the usual straight stroke. Secondly, the movement also helps the blade eject chips and debris from the kerf, which helps keep the material from choking up the blade gullets.

An orbital reciprocating saw usually comes with a lever that lets you access two or more orbital action settings. This way, you can set the tool to only do straight cuts, or use increasingly more aggressive orbital action with every stroke.

Benefits Of Using Orbital Action

There are several benefits to using orbital action on a reciprocating saw, such as the Sawzall. First and foremost, it allows for faster cuts in softer materials like wood. The elliptical motion of the blade helps to clear sawdust and material chips from the blade path, making the cut more efficient and reducing friction along the blade. This leads to a cooler blade and longer operating time before needing a break.

Another advantage of orbital action is that it reduces the likelihood of the blade seizing or getting pinched by the material being cut. This is especially useful when cutting thicker pieces of wood, where chip clearance can become an issue with a standard saw stroke.

Orbital action also helps to preserve the sharpness and cutting life of the blade by reducing friction and debris buildup along the blade path. This means you can get more use out of your blades before needing to replace them.

However, it’s important to note that orbital action is not always the best choice for every cutting task. It should not be used when cutting hard materials like metal or ceramic, as the additional vibration can cause damage. Additionally, it may not be as effective when cutting thinner pieces or when precision cuts are necessary.

Drawbacks Of Using Orbital Action

While orbital action can be beneficial in certain situations, it also has some drawbacks. One of the main issues is the increased vibration caused by the elliptical motion of the blade. This can make it more difficult to control the saw, leading to less precise cuts and potentially even causing injury if not handled properly.

Another drawback of orbital action is that it can cause the blade to wear out more quickly. The constant back-and-forth motion can put additional stress on the blade, causing it to dull or break more easily than with a standard sawing motion.

Finally, while orbital action can be useful for faster cuts in softer materials like wood, it is not recommended for highly precise cuts where the blade needs to be kept perfectly perpendicular to the work surface. In these situations, a standard sawing motion is usually preferred.

When To Use Orbital Action

When deciding whether or not to use orbital action on your Sawzall, it’s important to consider the type of material you’re cutting and the desired outcome of your project.

If you’re cutting through softer materials like wood or drywall and speed is a top priority, orbital action can help you make faster cuts with a rougher finish. However, if you’re looking for a more precise cut or working with harder materials like metal or PVC, it’s best to stick with the standard reciprocating motion to ensure accuracy and prevent damage to the material.

It’s also worth noting that some Sawzall models offer adjustable levels of orbital action, allowing you to fine-tune the level of aggressiveness based on your specific project needs. Ultimately, the decision to use orbital action comes down to balancing speed and accuracy based on the materials and project requirements.

Tips For Using Orbital Action Safely

If you do decide to use the orbital action feature on your Sawzall, it’s important to do so safely. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

1. Start slow: Begin with a slower speed and lower orbital action setting until you get comfortable with the saw’s behavior. You can always increase the speed and orbital action as needed.

2. Use the right blade: Make sure you’re using the appropriate blade for the material you’re cutting. Using the wrong blade can cause excessive vibration and lead to inaccurate cuts.

3. Wear safety gear: Always wear safety glasses and ear protection when using a Sawzall with orbital action. The additional vibration can cause debris to fly off the material being cut, and the noise level can be harmful to your hearing.

4. Keep a firm grip: Make sure you have a solid grip on the saw with both hands, and keep your arms close to your body for better control.

5. Let the saw do the work: Don’t force the saw through the material, as this can cause excessive vibration and lead to inaccurate cuts. Instead, let the saw do the work and guide it through the material with a steady hand.

6. Avoid cutting metal or PVC: As mentioned earlier, using orbital action on these materials can cause damage to both the material and the saw itself. Stick to softer materials like wood when using this feature.

By following these tips, you can safely and effectively use orbital action on your Sawzall for faster cuts in softer materials.