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The Bosch GSA18V is Well-Balanced and Powerful
The Bosch GSA18V compact reciprocating saw is lightweight and more powerful than you’d expect by its looks.
When I first started my construction and remodeling career in 2004, my sentiment was that cordless tools were prevalent in the marketplace only as implements of convenience, and not necessarily for performance or longevity. Corded tools and pneumatics were tried and true and were the core of any construction site for being reliable and steadfast. A lot has changed since then. Cordless tools not only have become as powerful and reliable as corded tools, but in some ways have eclipsed them. This could not more true than with the Bosch Compact Reciprocating Saw.
Specs and Features
The Bosch Cordless Reciprocating Saw has a unique design. Unlike a traditional reciprocating saw with a perpendicular rear handle, the Bosch has a longitudinal pistol grip design. The motor is mounted at an isometric angle to the drive system, up and forward of the handle. The battery mounts behind the handle, which balances the entire tool unbelievably well. The tool is available as a tool-only ($110) and as a kit ($219; comes with an 18V 4.0-Ah FatPack Battery, one BC1880 18V Fast Charger, two 6-inch Bi-Metal Reciprocating Saw Blades, and a carrying case). For testing, I received the tool-only and a Core 6.3-Ah battery and Fast Charger in a separate box. As an aside, I am frequently skeptical of any cordless tool that is sold with one battery. My feeling is that the user will have an unusable tool while the one and only battery is parked on the charger … but more on that later. Some key features advertised on the box of the Bosch compact recip saw include:
- Lightweight Design — Weighs in at only 4.4 lb.
- Ergonomic Soft Grip Handle
- Stroke Length — 0.83 in.
- Toolless Blade-Change System – Fast and effortless blade installation and removal
- Efficient Motor – Delivers best in-class power-to-weight ratio
- LED Light – Provides illumination of the cutting zone
- Switch Lock – Helps prevent unwanted starts for additional security
- Variable-Speed Trigger – Allows easing into the cut
Performance on the Job
What I immediately noticed about the Bosch Compact Reciprocating Saw was that it could be held in the operating position with one hand. I am right-handed, and when using a traditional rear-handled reciprocating saw, I keep my left hand underneath the front of the saw. While this cutting position is still possible with the Bosch, it’s certainly not necessary. In fact, I found the underside of the front of the saw to be uncomfortable. The design is too square and slightly too small. To combat this, I found myself holding the front of the saw with my hand pulled back an extra 1/2 inch or so.
The first task that we used the recip saw for was cutting out the over-sheathed sections of window rough-openings. Wood framing was SPF 2×4 with 1 7/16-inch ZipR Zip System sheathing. The short and well-balanced design allowed for one-handed use of the tool, enabling me to place a free hand on the sheathing that was being cut. I found this be particularly valuable; I didn’t need to rely on a fellow carpenter or helper to handle dropping sections of sheathing after they were cut. My partner and I started cutting with the kit-provided OEM Bosch wood-cutting blade, but were not impressed. Cutting performance noticeably increased by swapping out the Bosch blade for a Freud Diablo blade.
The second task was to cut out an old entry door with two sidelights, which required cutting the nails driven through the jambs into the rough framing. The rounded footplate of the saw allowed me to “roll” the front of the saw on the jamb and through the cut. Previous to handling the Bosch, I was much more familiar with a traditional reciprocating saw, on which the footplate is flat and only minimally pivots on the rivet that fastens it to the saw. The rounded footplate of the Bosch proved to make cutting much smoother with the blade buried into the work. For this task, we used the OEM Bosch metal-cutting blade and were far happier with its performance than the wood-cutting blade’s.
Last, when cutting stair stringers, we typically use a circular saw to cut our pencil lines, but finish out the kerf with either a jigsaw or hand saw. The Bosch was able to handle this task, but it took a bit more finesse, in both the upright and upside-down positions. Sawdust was more prone to collect adjacent to the cut, thereby covering the pencil lines and kerf. So we went back to cutting with a jigsaw, which made a faster, cleaner cut.
Because the tool was shipped to me as separate components, I don’t have a hard case or soft bag for it. I was concerned early on that being tossed in and out of cases with other tools might be an issue, but the tool has proven to be durable. It has been not-so-carefully put in the back of an open pickup truck bed and inside other tool cases, inadvertently brushed with mud, and more. It even survived being dropped off the top of a 6-foot stepladder onto a blacktop driveway. The tool was unscathed.
Pushing the Saw to Its Limits
A reciprocating saw on our jobsites is typically used in short bursts, allowing the tool and battery to take a break and cool off. But to thoroughly test the tool, I knew I would need to work the tool and battery harder than I normally would on a site. I planned a series of tasks to replicate excessive use.
With the battery indicator in the final bar with the light blinking, I brought the battery down to zero power after 21 cuts in 1 ½-inch and 2-inch copper pipe. With little battery life, the saw still managed to cut the copper like a hot knife through butter. I immediately put the battery on the charger and made sure to time its charge. The Core 6.3-Ah battery came to 80% charge in 47 minutes and full charge in 56 minutes. When I took it off the charger, I noticed that the cooling fan was doing its job. The battery was not hot; it was warm only because the temperature outside was in the mid-80s. With a fresh and full battery, I finished the aforementioned task and made four more cuts of the copper pipe. I then swapped the metal-cutting blade for a new 9-inch pruning blade, and I took to my wooded property line. I felled five small trees ranging in diameter from 4 inches to 7 inches. I also limbed and bucked those trees, and made a total of 27 cuts, ranging in size from ½ inch to 5 inches. With the battery indicator down to one bar, I took the saw back to my shop to make 65 cuts in 1 ¼-inch schedule 40 PVC. I also made one long, tough cut in a 6-inch steel pipe with 3/16-inch wall thickness. With the battery indicator in the final “blinking” position, I managed to make an astounding 32 cross cuts in SPF 2×6. With the battery whooped and hot to the touch, I dropped it on the charger. It took eight minutes to cool before taking a charge, and came back to full charge in 70 minutes.
The Bosch Compact Reciprocating Saw did everything I wanted it to, and more. The portability and convenience of a cordless recip saw matched with the power of the Core 6.3 battery make this tool a serious contender in the reciprocating-saw market. I am a contractor with a heavy focus on remodeling, and the Bosch has already taken the No. 1 position in our fleet of reciprocating saws. The performance of the Core 6.3-Ah battery would make any user consider looking into the rest of what Bosch has to offer in its cordless platform. For the nature of the work that we do, having one battery hasn’t hindered our work.
But the one-handed usage of this tool is where this tool really shines. The ability to hold onto the work made this saw cut more efficiently, and it some ways, safer overall. I don’t know if Bosch endorses this, but in a real-world situation, this fact is proven.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jeremy Kassel is the owner/operator of Kassel Construction in Glenmont, NY, as well as the co-host of the House Calls Podcast.
He can be found on Instagram at @kasselconstruction.