Sawzall vs oscillating tool: FIGHT!
March 25, 2021 9:44 AM   Subscribe

What tool is best to have around after you've used it to help get big tree roots out?

My side yard has some large (maybe wrist-sized) tree roots that make mowing difficult. As best I can tell, these come off an ash stump that has some new growth. I wants them gone before I use my fancypants new 'lectric mower.

I'm not going to use an axe or mattock because I am too klutz and I like having feeties. We already have a bunch of ryobi 18v tools, so whatever I get would be ryobi unless there's something good enough to be worth getting into a whole new cordless ecosystem. I only lightly resent buying a ~USD100 tool to use once, since it would still be much cheaper than paying people who know what they're doing.

Which leads to the real question: after I've used the tool for its real purpose of root removal once, what's best to have sitting in the garage? A sawzall? Oscillating multitool dingus? Sumthin' else?
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The oscillating tool is probably more useful in the long term, but unless the tree roots are quite small, I suspect it will be much more frustrating to use on the roots than a reciprocating saw would be.
posted by likedoomsday at 9:54 AM on March 25, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Not quite the sort of answer you’re asking for, but an oscillating multi-tool dingus won’t help with your tree roots. The Sawall is at least useful for your current needs.
posted by jon1270 at 9:57 AM on March 25, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Reciprocating saw (Sawzall). An OMT would be a poor choice (I own both devices).
posted by aramaic at 9:59 AM on March 25, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: A sawzall is pretty useful for pruning and demolition. I'm doubtful that an oscillating multi-tool will be helpful with pruning, but it is nice for cutting trim and other small jobs in awkward spots.

If you do get a sawzall grab a 5 pack of pruning blades, cause you will bend a couple learning how to use the tool.
posted by gregr at 10:00 AM on March 25, 2021 [9 favorites]

Best answer: A cutting disc for a drill might be cheaper and take up less space if you already have a drill. Or a non-electric keyhole saw, if you're up for an arm workout.
posted by eotvos at 10:01 AM on March 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: We use our sawzall for a done of stuff.
Shower demolition and Couch demolition in the past. A little bit of log sawing now. Rough cuts on pic pipes, etc.
It’s very useful to us.
posted by SLC Mom at 10:01 AM on March 25, 2021

Best answer: I too have both devices. Both are things I pull out only occasionally. I also have a fairly heavy duty (Festool) jigsaw, and the jigsaw would probably do for most of the things I've used the Sawzall for, but it's nice to have the Sawzall as a dedicated "I care less if I ram the end of this thing down in the dirt to cut tree roots".

I got the Sawzall when I was redoing the plumbing in the house, and I could have saved several hours of demolition if I'd had it sooner.

And, yeah, it's totally cool for breaking down brush and tree limbs and such, and feels a lot safer and easier to control than a chainsaw for that sort of application.

The oscillating multi-tool is fantastic for those tasks when I absolutely need to cut something flush off. Last time I used it I was cutting an in-place jack-stud to lower a sill a little bit, so needed to cut it without cutting the neighboring stud or the siding/sheathing in the house. It comes out every few years for some weird ass detail work like that that'd otherwise be hammer and chisel territory, but it's not as awesome as I really want it to be.

If you get one, get the Sawzall. (And, yes, Sawzall is a trademark of Milwaukee.)
posted by straw at 10:04 AM on March 25, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The business end of a sawzall is isolated from the vented motor end which is half the reason it is the right tool for this job. Other things like drills and jigsaws are going to get dirt in there working parts.

Also anything with a rotary action will tend to bind up as tension in the wood is relieved. This will happen with the sawzall as well but it is a lot less dramatic with the linear action.

I use a Milwaukee blade called "the axe" for this kind of stuff.
posted by Mitheral at 10:27 AM on March 25, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Another vote for the Sawzall. I've used them for demo projects (small and large) and every time I rent one I think about picking one up.
posted by jquinby at 10:27 AM on March 25, 2021

Best answer: Yeah if you have a house, you'll end up using a sawzall regularly. They're great for pruning all sorts of stuff.
posted by GuyZero at 10:44 AM on March 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Okay, sawzall it is. Thanks everybody!
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 10:53 AM on March 25, 2021

Best answer: I bought a sawzall at Harbor Freight for like $25. I use it to cut tree roots and branches regularly.
posted by The_Vegetables at 10:54 AM on March 25, 2021

Thanks everyone, this thread answered a question I didn't know I had.
posted by matildaben at 11:57 AM on March 25, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Cheap corded recips aka sawzalls, would be ideal for this application.

However, if you are contemplating expanding your DIY toolbox, I highly recommend buying into the Ryobi One+ platform which all share the same batteries/charger. There are several hundred tools available, including a recip and multi tool (oscillating). They are not professional quality like Milwaukee, but unless you are a tradesperson, the quality is more than sufficient.
posted by walkinginsunshine at 12:28 PM on March 25, 2021 [3 favorites]

It looks as though you've decided, but there's another option. I prune big branches with a hacksaw, because the thin blades don't bind easily in a cut, and they're disposable. Also the saw is cheap, and useful for a lot of things.
I've put a sawzall end on into a cut and it's pretty hairy. You absolutely have to wear goggles and hearing protection.
posted by AugustusCrunch at 2:21 PM on March 25, 2021

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