I own a few tools that I simply could not live without anymore now that I own them and a – any – recip saw is definitely among those. For years I have always looked at sawing tasks with disdain, knowing full well I would hack away at a piece of metal – or even just wood – for an eternity just to get one cut done.
The first time I built a tire table I spent a good hour hack-sawing through the bicycle rims, a task that the reciprocating saw did in about five seconds per cut.
Ever since I bought the saw I have gotten a ton of use out of it and together with the Makita 18v angle grinder I have made scrap art, built a trailer into a flea market stand on wheels and built a workbench for my truck.
So I feel that for a hobbyist I get my money’s value out of my tools and if you are looking for a quick summary of this review I can say that the Makita XRJ04M is a really nice tool. Since this was my first Makita power tool when I purchased It I bought the pack with battery and charger on Amazon and I have to say that I really like the case it comes in. That is my main complaint about (other) Makita tools, some of those boxes are horrendous and that leads to me carrying most of my tools in a regular duffel bag.
But the tools themselves have all been more than worth my money so far.
For the long form and details read on:
I feel the one area where tools differ from the same tool of a different brand is the handling. Frankly we live in great times where phones can take perfectly good pictures and all tools that you can find in a store can be bought with little concern. However there are some differences in the practical use of a tool that can make it enjoyable to use or not.
For a neutral-negative example I want to take my angle grinder, I am not a fan of the way the switch has to be activated with the thumb and would rather have a trigger style switch like this recip saw has. It all still works just fine, has little influence on the way the tool performs but I am bothered just a little bit by it each time I pick up the tool. Well, that is true for angle grinders in general, each time I pick one up I feel like I have a lethal death machine in my hand and wonder who in their right mind would switch it on.
With the Makita recip saw however I find the handling nothing short of exceptional. I really like the safety that sits above the handle, you push it in with your thumb for action mode and back with your index finger to enable the safety. This is so convenient that I never forget to activate the safety when putting the tool aside, it’s even a little fun in some strange way.
The grip itself feels very nice in the hand, slightly rubberized and both large and small enough for any kind of hand size. My hands are somewhat large, but there is enough space left for either really big hands or for me to use it with thick gloves. It almost feels like they knew what they were doing.
The front grip feels just as nice, my only complaint would be that both grips get slightly slippery when wet. Not so slippery that you would have to fear losing control, but it certainly leads to a „death grip“ of sorts that could maybe be remedied by using some kind of grippier rubber with maybe some perforations or something. It is not bad though, just something I noticed that I would maybe change. But then again, most of the time you won’t be using this tool in wet conditions, it’s just something that happens to me often with all the mud and grime working with magnetfishing finds.
Makita 18v Battery Life
The battery life of modern tools is something I am both happy and unhappy about. On the one hand it is no less than amazing how far technology has evolved in this regard from even ten years ago when a battery powered screwdriver was a mere toy and lasted for ten minutes at ten percent of the power of a corded one.
These days you can run power hungry tools like chainsaws (!) or angle grinders and it doesn’t matter if it’s a corded one or not. If you compare today’s battery powered screwdrivers it’s just a world apart, they have become so powerful that most people don’t even know of their potential. You can sink massive screws into hard woods using an impact drill, even the regular drills can pull some serious weight.
That truly is amazing, but on the other hand battery life will probably always try to catch up with expectations. Batteries could be twice as large and twice as powerful and you’d still think „meh, I wish these would last longer“.
That being said I am perfectly fine with the runtime of my Makita battery tools, I can run the angle grinder non-stop for around fifteen minutes on the large batteries and this saw for about twenty minutes. Since no one uses tools non-stop you can easily stretch one battery over an hour or more and with a set of three batteries I can work for hours. With a power supply nearby it’s a non-issue to begin with, even the large batteries charge in forty minutes so a set of three and a power supply will allow you to work all day.
Using this setup I don’t even run into any problems even though I work from the back of my truck and have never once parked near a power outlet so far. I sure wish it was easier to find power access in the city, but that’s a whole other topic.
Just this morning I cut down four bicycles we found while magnetfishing, took out the wheel hubs and cleaned them up with the wire brush attachment on my angle grinder and did it all on two 6ah Makita batteries. Third party batteries actually, I found that you can get two for the price of one and they work just as well as the original in my experience.
The toughness of most tools can be summarized as „pretty tough“ and the Makita recip saw is no exception in that regard. If anything it excels, I often used it on some pretty gnarly rusty iron from our magnetfishing trips without cleaning them up first and so far nothing has managed to even gum up the front or get into the motor area.
I am quite happy with the toughness of the tool and I expect it to last a long time. But in all fairness I would expect a flea market Sawzall to last me a long time as well. Over the course of my life I have not broken many tools under regular use, only those old battery powered screwdrivers with non-swappable batteries that thankfully are a thing of the past.
With that in mind I think that it is actually best to treat tools as high quality throwaway items, as weird as that may sound. What I mean by that is that they are of such high quality that I could see myself using the same tools in a decade, but if one broke tomorrow I would have easily gotten my money’s worth out of it. I mean these essential Makita power tools (angle grinder, sawzall, impact and screwdriver) all cost pretty much a hundred bucks, it’s hard not to get that money back just in the savings of not hiring a professional on a single job.
One thing to keep in mind is that there is a newer, brushless version of this tool out there and I would recommend to spend the extra twenty bucks because with this brushed model you apparently have to swap the brushes every now and then. I can however say that I have owned this tool for well over a year now and it’s still running like new.
I hope you found this review useful, I have written another one on the angle grinder(s) I own and if you want to see the Makita Sawzall in use I have this video where I used it to build the workbench I have on my truck: