In my years of building and remodeling, I've seen high-quality flooring, top-dollar fixtures, even knot-free, dead straight, 2x stock fill dumpster after dumpster. But now, some cities and counties in our area require 65% or more of demolition waste to be diverted from the landfill, so we gladly practice deconstruction. Deconstructing a house requires a "velvet hammer" approach and the need to balance speed, safety, and precision. On the short list of our must-have tools for this is the recip saw.

Our recips run nearly eight hours a day, so we choose the most powerful we can find. "The burlier the better" was our only motto until we tested the new Fuego recip saw from Ridgid. The Fuego is an ultra-precise, lightweight saw designed for one-hand operation, and perfect for reclaiming delicate materials like cabinetry and moldings.

The first feature we noticed is the round rail shoe surrounding the blade. This gives a sturdy base to make clean, perpendicular cuts without marring most surfaces. Unlike the Fuego's big brothers, the short 1/2-inch blade stroke and a smooth variable speed trigger make excising old door jambs a breeze. No jumping around with the blade "stabbing" into the jamb with this saw.

Any tool that can do a multitude of jobs while operating safely is a keeper, and the Fuego does just that. Imagine using a standard recip saw with one hand while on a ladder. Lightweight yet powerful at 3.4 pounds and with a 4 amp motor, it is well designed and balanced to be operated safely with one hand. And the built-in LED headlight comes in handy to keep you on your mark.

Using a fine jigsaw-style blade on the Fuego lets you make even tidier plunge cuts with unparalleled precision, ideal for removing HVAC piping or ducting without destroying hardwood floors.

The versatility of the tool is not limited to deconstruction. We had the Fuego on one of our new construction sites, and the tradesmen went nuts for it. Our plumber was wedged into the farthest regions of a very tight crawl space, doing battle with a faulty P-trap installation. Armed only with his full-sized recip saw, he couldn't make a clean 90-degree cut on the drain line, which was tucked up in a narrow joist bay. We handed him the Fuego, and he was delighted with its cramped-space performance. The fixed-rail fence coupled with the short blade stroke make for perfect perpendicular cuts in tight spaces. The comfortable handle, long trigger, and balanced weight facilitate using the tool in many different orientations, and the variable speed trigger kept less-then-secure materials, such as long vent pipe runs, from jumping around while being cut.

Our electrician loved the overall dexterity of the tool, saying that "it made cutting in boxes without damaging the wires a snap." The Fuego is ideal for anyone who works in tight spaces.

One thing to keep in mind: We tested the Fuego head to head with our full-size saws using identical blades, and the Fuego quickly fell behind in cut speed. But the tool was not designed to take the place of a full-size recip saw, and is best as a complimentary tool to a standard 12- to 15-amp recip saw.

The Verdict

The Fuego one-handed recip saw can do many tasks neater, safer, and faster than a full-size recip saw. It's a must-have for all deconstruction, remodeling, and, yes, even demolition work.

Jay Williams is owner of RE-construction in Golden, Colo.

Ridgid Power Tools
Fuego Saw R3030
Price: $99