RotoZip Is Legendary. Here's Why You Don't Need It.

RotoZip Rotosaw
via Amazon

Like brand names Sawzall, which has come to refer to all reciprocating saws, and Skilsaw, which has come to refer to all circular saws, RotoZip is a brand name that many people use to refer to any spiral saw.

RotoZip has developed such a mystique that it is now considered to be "indispensable" and practically a "required" purchase for homeowners making their initial buy of remodeling tools.

Not so fast.

 This tool does have its benefits, but this may not be for you.

Buy From Amazon - RotoZip Rotosaw

It Plunges, It Cuts:  It's a Spiral Saw

The idea had been percolating in the minds of DIYers and industry professionals for a long time: build a jig saw that can plunge-cut into the material and turn circles without acrobatic maneuvers on the part of the user.

It wasn't until the early 1970s, when Bob Kopras built the RotoZip, that this become possible. Imagine a power tool that transforms from a drill into a saw.  First, you can drill straight into wood or drywall (the plunge part), then move sideways to cut holes (the cut part). It's simply not possible with a drill or router.

A RotoZip looks like a handle-less drill. Its RotoBits move at extremely high RPMs. Start it up, plunge it into the material, then carefully cut out your piece.  

Two Places You Might It

  1. Drywall Work:  RotoZip's most famous use, and the one that spawned its creation: as a drywall tool for cutting electrical box openings--while the boxes are in place. If you think this is a small matter, you've never tried to do this on a large scale.  But if you intend to buy it for this sole purpose--and you're a DIY-homeowner--leave your credit card in your pocket:  it's not worth it. A manual jab saw costs about 90% less than a RotoZip and is much better for single jobs. 
  1. Grout:  You can remove grout manually, but with the RotoZip, it's like a hot knife through butter.

It's a useful tool for cutting rounded or amorphous shapes in many other thin materials like laminate. Changeable bits even allow you to cut masonry.

Don't expect a multi-tool; you won't be picking up a RotoZip whenever you want to chop off a piece of wood.

It's meant for a narrower range of purposes.

How It Performs

RotoZip does cut thin, soft materials well. As long as you pay attention to instructions about moving clockwise or counter-clockwise around the bends, you'll have near-perfect control over the tool.

The included Multipurpose bit plunged into and cut those thin materials (5/8" drywall or 1/4" wood) with ease. Take the RotoZip beyond its intended limits and the bit will start smoking as it tries to penetrate the material.

The key is to purchase the right bit for the job. They have bits for fiber-cement board, windows/doors, tile, grout, laminate, metal, and underlayment, as well as a range of other general-use bits.

Here's What You Might Not Like About It

  1. Dust:  RotoZip throws off an insane amount of dust.
  2. Hard To Control:  It cuts a nice straight line as long as you have set up a guide.  But the high RPMs make this tool difficult to control, resulting in wavy cuts.
  3. Where's the Bit?  With any kind of saw, you need to keep an eye on the cut.  But this is difficult with the RotoZip because the bit is hard to see.  Add the Dust Vault and the bit is invisible.
  4. Heavy Cord:  Ordinarily, I would praise the fat, heavy cord--a trademark of Bosch Tools (Bosch owns RotoZip).  This is one case where the tool is light enough that the heavy cord can affect movement.

    Features That Would Be Nice

    RotoZip is lacking some basic smart features.

    • Better Grip:  It does not have a soft friction grip handle (though the shape of the handle will assist your grip). There is no secure place to store the wrench (I store it on a loop attached to the power cord, but the wrench eventually loosens and falls out).
    • Better Collet System:  But those are minor annoyances compared to the collet system of holding in the bits. Collets are removable metal sleeves that hug the bits and help them fit into the collar of the tool. So, when you change a bit, you need to change the collet, too.  You need to locate a like-sized collet to fit each bit. Because no sizes are indicated on the collets, it's a matter of trying them on one by one until you happen upon the right size.

    Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer.