We imagine that the world can (probably) be easily divided into two groups: those who have a reciprocating saw and those who need them. Seriosuly, as intimidating as the recip saw might seem to the uninitiated, it’s an incredibly useful tool. There are lots of situations in which it’s the only tool that’ll make the cut. But, at $90 or so, a recip saw is bit expensive to just keep around for household tasks — not to mention a bit scary for the average homeowner. Black & Decker’s looking to offer a simpler solution to handle those simpler tasks: a single-speed, cordless, miniature recip called the HandiSaw.
It’ll hit shelves this October, but we had an opportunity to take an early look at one and thought we’d go ahead and pass the information on now.
The HandiSaw will come packaged in a form-fitted, clear clamshell designed to let you pick it up off the shelf and hold it with your finger on the trigger. Obviously it’s difficult to feel the balance of the tool with the packaging still attached, but the whole idea of encouraging you to pick it up off the shelf strikes us as a good one. This is one of those tools you might not really “get” until you put it in your hand. Then it makes lots of sense.
After defeating the clamshell packaging with the Open X or a good ‘ole utility knife, you’ll discover a couple of other items: a wall-wart-style charger and a plastic hanger. (By the way, don’t miss Mark Cuban‘s blog entry about savaging himself with clamshell packaging. Apparently even $1.8 billion in the bank won’t spare you.)
The hanger is pretty slick, as it allows you to insert the tool end of the wall-wart’s cable to turn the hanger into a charging station. (Once the cable’s end is inserted it becomes the fulcrum upon which the tool rests when in the hanging position, both holding the tool in place and making the electrical connection for charging.) If you don’t want to hang the HandiSaw, you can just plug the cable directly into the tool to charge it.
The HandiSaw’s casing is similar to most of the more modern tools we’ve reviewed recently in that it includes carefully-located sections of a softer-durometer material to give you a better, more comfortable grip and hence better control. In this case, the (black) soft material is positioned around the trigger, around the back of the grip, and around the area just behind the front of the tool — all areas that you’ll want to hang on to.
Its controls are also quite simple. To turn on the saw, you must first release a safety switch located on the top of the tool, then squeeze the trigger. It’s a great design; If you have a good grip on the tool, it’s easy to reach the safety switch with your thumb. If not, well, you should. This is a saw after all, and the front of it is indeed sharp.
Speaking of the HandiSaw’s sharp end, we should mention that it’s designed to accept standard jigsaw blades, which means a quick trip to your local big-box home center’ll net you all kinds of blades for all kinds of different materials. Clearly wood blades are the most common, but blades are available for metal (and other materials) as well. Installing (or swapping) a blade is as simple as pressing a release just below the blade and sliding it in or out. The best part: There’s no wrench to lose.
The HandiSaw features an internally mounted rechargable battery — a design feature which simplifies design and keeps manufacturing costs down. The HandiSaw is clearly targeted at homeowners and the DIY crowd, so price is a factor. We’re already finding pre-sale listings on Froogle for around $40.
We definitely like the safety switch. Even though the HandiSaw is a lot more friendly-looking than a full-on recip saw, it still presents many of the same hazards. Some of the best advice we’ve ever received regarding power tools was make sure you have a good grip on the tool before squeezing the trigger, and Black & Decker’s placement of the HandiSaw’s safety switch definitely encourages good behavior as far as grip is concerned. The safety switch also prevents accidental activation of the saw if you happen to carry it in a tool bag or tool box.
(Incidentally, the safety switch is what lets Black & Decker leave the end of the clamshell packaging open to give you the opportunity to pick it up off the shelf. While the trigger is exposed, the safety switch is safely enclosed in the packaging.)
Some of you may be thinking, “But it’s a single speed. I hate single speed tools.” We’ll admit, we thought the same thing. However, in actual use we found the lack of variable speed to pose much less of a problem than we imagined. Certainly it does limit to some extent the fine, delicate work you can do with the saw, but for most general situations the single speed selected by Black & Decker — 1850 strokes per minute — is fast enough to cut well without too much vibration. In short, it’s pretty comfortable.
What really contributes to the comfort of cutting with the HandiSaw is its bent-in-the-middle shape. The bend makes it easy to hold at a variety of different angles, and placing a hand on the grip up front behind the blade gives you a little extra control when you need it. The grips are comfortable. All in all, the HandiSaw feels very solid grip-wise.
The HandiSaw doesn’t cut surprisingly quickly or even tremendously powerfully, but it does cut at a smooth, steady pace with minimal armpower required to guide it or to “bear down” on it. Using the wood blade, we had no problem cutting through 2×4 lumber without the saw “hanging up” or sticking/kicking back. It even leaves a relatively smooth surface after the cut.
We’re fans of the tool-less blade mount; It’s easy to install and swap blades. Not only does that make it handy when you need to switch blades for different materials, it also makes it easy for you to remove the blade before you store the saw — further lessening the possibiltiy of accidents should the tool fall or should the kids get hold of it.
Black & Decker claims the HandiSaw’ll make up to 200 cuts through 1/2″ oak dowels on a single charge. Though we didn’t go out and buy a ton of oak dowels to check up on them, we suspect they’re probably pretty close. We cut through a number of 2x4s with it straight out of the box — before charging it — which leads us to believe that it contains a decently sturdy battery.
The charging system, while a little odd, is certainly effective. If you’re planning on hanging the tool, it’ll be slick. If you’re not, you’ll have to just plug it in and lay it on the bench. We can’t think of any easy way to design a horizontal charging station that wouldn’t be bigger than the tool itself, so hanging it makes sense to us.
Basically, this is a relatively idiot-proof miniature recip saw. It’ll cut effectively, though not necessarily quickly, through some pretty serious wood and metal. It’d also be handy for PVC work or even drywall. Heck, we can imagine numerous uses around the house for it, and at around $40 it’s not going to be a wallet-buster.
It hits shelves this October — just in time for the Christmas season. We can imagine why: It’d make a great gift for any of the new homeowners or burgeoning DIY-ers on your list. Or, grab one for the house. We can think of plenty of situations where a large recip would be overkill if you had a HandiSaw around.