How to Cut Steel Pipe with Reciprocating Saw

Have you ever wondered how you can cut a steel pipe neatly and effortlessly? Well, a cordless reciprocating saw is the best equipment to use.

In case you are unsure what is a sawzall. Sawzall is another name for a reciprocating saw. It is a trademark of Milwaukee, a renowned Wisconsin-based power tools manufacturer.

This tool is perfect for cutting steel, cast iron, aluminum, copper, and almost every type of metal. You can also use it on wood and PVC materials.

A Sawzall is able to cut through surfaces by letting its blade travel in a forward and backward reciprocating motion. It is a light, compact and portable tool that comes in handy for heavy-duty cutting jobs. You can use it to cut different types of steel pipes.

However, a Sawzall has no blade guard. Therefore, you need to observe some key preventive safety measures to avoid physical injuries.

Below is an in-depth guideline on how to cut steel pipes with a Sawzall.

Step-by-Step Guide

Set the Sawzall to Orbital Action

Orbital action defines the cutting motion of the blade of a reciprocating saw/ Sawzall. It means that the blade moves in a circular, wiggling motion, in and out.

This motion allows it to slice through the steel pipe faster and with much ease. However, orbital action might not work as expected if you need precise cuts and when cutting metal. The Sawzall blade has to be perpendicular to the surface for you to get an accurate cut.

Also, cutting steel is a tough job. When using a Sawzall, you require a certain level of expertise and knowledge to handle it safely.

The wiggling nature of the blade may make it hard for you to get clean, accurate cuts. Nonetheless, the quality/ model of your Sawzall will determine the outcome.

Install the Blade

The blade is an essential part of a Sawzall. Inserting the blade is relatively easy. You don’t need screws, nuts, or tools for this task.

All you need is to insert it behind the shoe slot. The shoe slot is the gap between the opening at the end of the saw and the blade. Lift the key and then push the blade back to lock it.

Always remember to turn off the power or unplug the Sawzall before installing and removing the blade. Also, having the right blade when cutting steel is paramount. There are specific blades designed to cut steel purposely.

Using the wrong blade could damage the steel or the saw.

Adjust the Speed Settings

The cutting speed of a Sawzall is just as important as the blade. Some blades come with a fixed speed, while others have varying speeds. Although Sawzall models and brands vary, the speed measurements are similar in all of them.

When adjusting the speed, always remember to keep your hands out of the blade’s reach for safety. Ensure that the power is off and the cord unplugged before any adjustment begins.

Faster speed boosts productivity, but it would be better to start slow to avoid injuries. If your Sawzall does not have a speed trigger, ensure that you set it up before switching it on.

Begin Cutting

Double-check to ensure you did not miss any of the above steps. Once everything is ready, you can begin cutting your steel pipe.

Position the shoe on the steel pipe you intend to cut and attach it well. Ensure that the blade is perpendicular to the pipe’s surface.

Switch on your Sawzall and begin cutting at a slow speed.

At the onset, you will experience strong vibrations. Adjust your body accordingly until you gain stability.

Hold the pipe tightly while you continue handling the Sawzall in the proper position.

Once your grip stabilizes, you can gradually start increasing the blade’s speed.

Safety Precautions

  1. When handling a Sawzall, your safety should come first at all times.
  2. Cutting steel may generate sparks and flying metal chips due to the intense friction involved. As such, you need eye and ear protection gear.
  3. Use protective gloves to avoid cuts and burns.
  4. Ensure that your body is at a safe distance from the blade
  5. Always switch off the power and unplug the cord before interacting with the machine or changing the blade.
  6. Avoid wearing a long-sleeved cloth as it can easily get caught by the blade resulting in serious physical injuries.

Other Essential Tips to Consider

Besides knowing how to use a Sawzall to cut a steel pipe, you need to:

  • Choose the right blade for the specific type of metal that you are cutting. For instance, a blade with 20-24 TPI is fit for thin metals. Medium-sized metals require a blade of 10-18 TPI, while thick metal requires 8 TPI blades.
  • When engaging in flash cutting, it is preferable to choose longer blades.
  • You should set the Sawzall at a lower speed, especially if you are a newbie. Doing so will extend the life of your blade, reduce vibrations and give you better control.
  • Once you finish cutting, let go of the trigger. Draw the blade back and store away the saw in safe storage.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a reciprocating saw and a Sawzall?

They are the same! Sawzall is just a trade-name of Milwaukee Tools manufacturer, referring to a general-purpose reciprocating saw.

Can a Sawzall cut metal?

Yes, a Sawzall is powerful enough to cut through metals. You can use it to cut copper, cast iron, steel, aluminum, among others.

Can I cut the galvanized pipe with a Sawzall?

Yes, a Sawzall can cut through a rigid galvanized pipe, provided you have the right blade for the job.


A Sawzall or reciprocating saw cuts through a push-and-pull motion of the blade. It is a must-have tool for window fitters, construction workers, and emergency rescue teams. Thanks to its ability to cut through almost any metal.

Marcus Weldman

Marcus Weldman is the main author of Marcus is a tool and DIY enthusiast. He spends his time discovering the comparative differences and practical limits for all kinds of tools.