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Can I and how do I sharpen reciprocating saw, or Sawzall (as some people call it) blades?

I have some that go dull and I want to know if I can't simply sharpen them instead of them going to waste. If I can sharpen them where do I go? from the front of the tooth or the back? Any angles to be aware of? Knowing anything would be very helpful.

  • Do you mean a reciprocating saw or sawzall? – Matt May 4 '16 at 3:27
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    Used Sawzall blades make good marking knives when they wear out. Just use a grinder to grind off the teeth and shape the profile and mount in a block of wood for a handle. Be sure to quench the tool in water when it gets hot to touch during grinding. – grfrazee May 4 '16 at 12:53
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    @Matt, What is the difference between the two? – Ljk2000 May 4 '16 at 12:59
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    The short answer is that you don't sharpen them. Throw them out and buy new ones - they're less than $2 each and not worth the time to sharpen. There's a reason they come in multi-packs. – Doresoom May 4 '16 at 13:56
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    Frankly, it never occurred to me to sharpen one. They're like #2 Phillips screw driver bits - designed to be used then tossed (or lost) when they are no longer functional. (There's a reason those bits come in 30-packs, too.) – FreeMan May 4 '16 at 16:44
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Rambling backgrounder -- sorry: these are typically called 'reciprocating saws', though the Kleenex of the bunch is the Sawzall (r) by Milwaukee. (edit to say that will only be a meaningful statement to people that read the edit history of the original question...)

While there are many different tooth profiles available in reciprocating saw blades, a typical one will look a lot like a normal sawblade. You could google 'sharpen a handsaw blade', and you'd get an idea of how to do it (flatten, sharpen, set, if memory serves, but I could be very wrong).

Except that the teeth are typically smaller and more closely set. So most people I know consider these blades to be consumable and disposable.

The only other advice I can offer is to avoid overheating the blade while cutting -- this seems to dull more quickly. Use all of the blade's sharp parts... in other words, use up the teeth near the shoe, then use the end teeth for something like a plunge cut.

  • I think Sawzall blades have induction-hardened teeth, so sharpening them like a normal handsaw will not work. – grfrazee May 4 '16 at 12:55
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I have some that go dull and I want to know if I can't simply sharpen them instead of them going to waste.

Like all blades they will go dull after repeated use and become less efficient. A grinding wheel or cut off wheel with a profile that better matches you blade (You can easily shape your own) would be a simple approach to this. Most wheels have flat edges. Using something harder to grind the wheel will give you a better edge to fit in between the teeth.

These blades are usually fairly cheap. It might not be worth your time to get perfect teeth or even have them professionally sharpened like those you would need on a good handsaw. Running the teeth through the wheel you can touch up a blade in less that a couple of minutes. Reciprocating saw blades are not meant for creating nice clean edges which is another reason you don't need to worry about the end result as much. For the most part just match the angle of the blade as best as you can.

Wheels are preferred for speed and something like bi-metal blades could easily be tougher than your files.

Here is a video of a gentlemen running a blade under a grinding wheel.

Though should help you get more out of your blades.

Commercial Options

Of course depending on how serious you are about this concept there are dedicated tools for this job as well. Like this one I found from Jarvis. Not advocating the product as I know nothing about it just showing you there are products out there.

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Secure the saw blade in a vise or clamp it down and using a trangle file, try to match the angle of the teeth and simply give a couple strokes to each tooth. Lay the file in the first gullet (space between the teeth) and give it a couple strokes. Then on down the line. The more consistent and evenly you cut, the better your results but perfection is not necessary.

If the file cannot cut the metal then the next best option would be to use a small rotary tool such as a Dremel with a grinding stone or cut-off wheel. Give each tooth a touch with the stone and again, just attempt to maintain the angle of the original teeth. One could also use a bigger hand-held grinder though that could be unwieldy and difficult to get a good result.

Whatever method you use, the more consistent you are, the better your results but even a very bad attempt will likely restore useable function to the blade. Whether it's worth the time versus purchasing a new blade depends on the situation. There are many contexts where it could make sense to do this and I've definitely been in these situations. Perhaps you are short on time, the store is far away, there is only a little more cutting to do, you are not able to get to a store at all etc.

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