Review By Dean Bielanowski  Ryobi Website -

Ryobi ERS800K / RJ161VK
Reciprocating Saw 


By Dean Bielanowski

The Reciprocating Saw is quite a versatile tool to have in the workshop, or for tasks around the home. You have probably seen pictures or video of tradespeople using it to cut out existing drywall during house renovations, a common task for such a tool, however, the reciprocating saw can serve a much wider variety of tasks.

Here we will take a close look at Ryobi's model ERS800K reciprocating saw (Australian, European model number) which is also an almost identical match (except motor specs and cord connection due to regional power supply differences) to model RJ161VK available throughout the USA/Canada and model ERS-80V in the UK etc.

Off we go...
For starters, the ERS800K ships in a nice molded carry case, which helps protect the saw and allows ease of transportation. I am rather fond of such cases for all my woodworking tools, because not only do they provide a good degree of protection from damage during transportation, but they also stop dust getting into your tools when stored in your garage or workshop. There is nothing worse than picking up a tool with a nice layer of dust all over it after yesterday's woodworking session in the shop, particularly if you do not have enclosed cabinets for tool storage.

Included in the ERS800K kit are the following items:

  • 1 x ERS800K Reciprocating Saw
  • 1 x Wood Cutting Blade
  • 1 x Metal Cutting Blade
  • 1 x Owner's Operating Manual

Saw Specifications & Tests
The ERS800K features an 800 Watt (input) motor, which is double insulated for user protection, pretty much a requirement for almost all power tools in this day and age.
The RJ161VK (U.S. model) features a 6.5 Amp motor.
800 watts is a little over one horsepower and provides enough grunt to tackle most tasks, although we found it to be a little underpowered when rough cutting some dense hardwood blanks for woodturning, although this task does probably go a little beyond what you might call 'common use'. It certainly did cut though them fine, but we had to take it slowly. On softwood, ply and even the scrap piece of drywall we had laying around, there was no problem at all, and we sliced through it relatively easily, even using the standard wood cutting blade that came with the tool. We weren't going to saw down half a wall in the house though, just for the review, but I am absolutely sure it would slice through it like a hot knife through butter.

Speaking of blades, like almost all machinery you buy these days that comes with a blade, throw it out or use it for sharpening practice and go out and buy yourself a better one. The woodcutting blade that comes with saw is not the best, so we grabbed a Vermont American blade from the local hardware store and found the saw performed far better. The Ryobi will gladly accept the generic style blades used by most other reciprocating saws on the market, so there should be plenty of choice.

The motor allows the saw to output around 2,800 strokes per minute (2,400 for the RJ161VK), which is somewhat of a cut above (pun intended) the number of strokes you might achieve with a hand saw! The rapid speed of stroke allows for quick and fast cutting in most materials. Length of stroke on the saw is 3cm, or 30mm. We found the ERS800K to work wonders in the yard where we had to trim many of the trees that had grown a little larger than we wanted, using it as a mini-chainsaw so to speak, but without the danger associated with using one. The ERS800K is quite a safe tool to use, provided you know its limitations and exercise safety precautions. Eye protection should be worn at all times of course. The saw is not terribly loud, so ear protection is not absolutely essential unless you have the saw right up to your ears, but it doesn't hurt to use some if you find it necessary. I remember listening to the maximum safe dB rating the human ear can be constantly subjected to without any permanent damage to in an occupational health and safety class years back, and believe me, the ERS800K doesn't even come close. In fact, most smaller tools don't except for say the universal motors on miter saws, circular saws or the motors on routers etc. Obviously your 5HP+ machines are a different story in many cases, but you only get one set of ears in your lifetime, so you might as well protect them!

Cutting capacity on the ERS800K is 75mm, so that rules out chopping up wider pieces of wood, unless you want to make passes from each side of the piece. There is enough capacity to cut up most of your standard PVC-type pipes and plumping for renovation work, using the right blade of course. And naturally, you can cut many types of metals as well, again, with the right metal cutting blade attached. Cutting various types of material is made possible by the variable speed functionality of the saw. The speed dial is conveniently located on top at the back end of the saw, just behind, but superficial to the trigger. There are six speed settings numbered 1-6, naturally, with 1 being the slowest and 6 the fastest. Generally, with wood products, you would use the mid-higher speeds, metal products the same, depending on type of material, whereas with plastics, you would opt for a lower speed to avoid melting the plastic through excessive heat build-up. The trigger on the saw also allows variable control. The further you engage the trigger, the faster the stroke of the saw, so there is really 2 forms of speed control on the saw.

In testing, we really had little trouble with most materials we put the saw to, and results were excellent, providing you purchase the better quality blades as mentioned above.
The Ryobi reciprocating saw features a tool-less blade change function. This is a godsend, as fiddling around with hex keys, spanners and wrenches can be a pain in the rear end. You simply lift the blade release lever located behind the saw's shoe assembly, hold it up while inserting the blade through the shoe assembly and into the blade mounting assembly. Once in position, lower the blade release lever and your blade is secured and the saw ready to be used. In testing, it took about 6 seconds to remove a blade and install another. A tooled blade change would certainly take longer, so there is time to be reclaimed there.

While we are up front of the saw, the most obvious feature we see is the shoe assembly. This is a rocking support assembly to make use of the saw more comfortable and improve safety when operating the device. Not so obvious from the pictures is the rubber overmold grip that covers pretty much all of the front half of the saw, and the back end of the hand grip. This adds extra comfort for the user and helps prevent slipping of the hands in use. We found the tool to be quite comfortable in use. Vibration-wise, the saw performs pretty well, with no more vibration experienced than you would expect from a spinning motor of that size and power resting in your hands. The weight at 2.9kg is quite respectable and not tiresome unless you are using the saw for long periods of time.

Maintenance-wise, there isn't much to do. Keep it in the case when not in use and clean out the inners of the blade holding area regularly to avoid build-up of dust, plastics or metals for prolonged durability.

We tested the saw out on a number of different materials and it performed adequately in all applications. If you are a home renovator, this tool is a must, but the woodworking enthusiast, or even the woodturner, or gardener would benefit from a reciprocating saw for all the rough cutting tasks you may come across in your woodworking practice. Not a bad tool for the price tag. There are heavier, more powerful industrial reciprocating saws out there, but the price tags are also heavier, however, for value for money, we think the ERS800K is certainly worth considering if you do not have bottomless pockets! For around AUD$139 (or the US equivalent), the price is very competitive.


  • Tool-less blade change
  • Rubber overmold grips
  • Variable Speed
  • Generic blade support


  • Standard blades that come with product are poor

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Ryobi ERS800K Photos
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Note the black ribbed overmold rubber grip to help get your grip!

The variable speed dial is
easily accessed.

The quick release blade lever allows rapid, tool-less blade changes.

The trigger also offers variable
speed control.

The saw will take most standard blades from a wide variety of manufacturers.

Slicing through PVC piping quite easily, even with the stock blade.

Trimming the end of a blank for woodturning.

The ERS800K is a great tool out in the garden as well!

Application photo from
Ryobi USA website.

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