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Whether using hand tools or power tools for your next woodworking or metal project, there’s no getting around one essential: the humble saw. As one of the essential tools of every woodworker’s arsenal, choosing the right saw for the job will make your projects easier and more satisfying.
To give you a head start on figuring out which saws can be used for which types of jobs, we’ve put together this guide to 21 styles of saws and their uses. By examining their qualities and features with us, you’ll better understand why each saw was created – and what sort of project it’s meant for.
Whether a small home woodworking project or a larger construction job, you’ll be fully prepared to choose the right saw for the job.
While more and more handymen are turning to power tools for their convenience and accuracy, hand saws give a feel for your materials that can increase accuracy and encourage the production of a sophisticated finished product. They’re the go-to of experienced woodworkers for small projects, and a pleasure to use.
A basic hand saw is a staple for home toolboxes. Hand saws have long, flexible blades with teeth slightly offset to allow for continuous sawing. Depending on the type of job it’s intended for, a hand saw will have different types of teeth:
With hardened teeth fused to a flexible steel back, hacksaws are more suited for metalworking than woodworking. They’re the ideal saw for cutting thick metals, such as bars and tubes.
Better known as a lumberjack saw, two-person crosscut saws have a leading edge that leans back slightly and sharpened at an angle to form a precise edge and tip. Each tooth acts like a knife to score the wood, allowing sawdust to fall out as the blade passes by. They’re the right choice for cutting joints or sawing a plank to length.
Sometimes you can find pruning saws mounted to the end of poles for working on tree limbs, but as a hand tool, it’s great for reaching low-hanging branches or a line of dense vines. Designed specifically for use in managing trees and shrubs, pruning saws have many more teeth per inch than comparably sized saws. With a curved handle and blade, they can make quick work of trimming branches even in hard-to-reach areas.
Narrow blades are fitted to a small, lightweight frame in the bow saw. This makes them perfectly suited to making curved cuts, as they can be turned 360 degrees to move frames out of the way. At 8 to 12 inches long, they’re hardy enough to saw through thick sections of solid wood.
When you go camping, space and weight are premium assets. This is where a camping saw comes in handy. Portable and foldable, camping saws are made to deliver maximum cutting power while taking up only a fraction of the space of standard hand saws. Especially useful for trimming trees and dividing firewood at your campsite, we’re a big fan of models that come with a sheath and non-slip grip.
Japan has a robust tradition of developing specialized saws for every job imaginable. The common characteristic for all Japanese saws is that they cut on the pull stroke rather than the push that is common in Western blades. This means the blades can be made much thinner, allowing for virtually no tearing of the grain.
The fret saw takes its name from the type of work it’s made for – latticework, from the French word for lattice, “freter”. A variation on the bow saw designed for cutting tight curves, fret saws are appropriate for very intricate work. Their fragile blades are equipped with up to 32 teeth per inch, making them both more accurate and more fragile. The name “fret saw” is sometimes used interchangeably with “scroll saw”.
With relatively thin blades and small, finely set teeth, back saws can be used for precise work. A heavy strip of brass or steel wrapped over the top edge of the blade helps to keep the blade straight, and the extra weight makes for easier cutting with less force applied. They are available in a variety of lengths and handle styles, variously referred to as tenon saws, dovetail saws, bead saws, and blitz saws.
Veneer saws are for small, fast work. Their blade size gives them a very limited range, but within that range, they can work quickly and deliver very smooth results. Just make sure that you keep the teeth clean of debris. Used with the aid of a straight edge, these saws can cut square-edged wood perfect for butt-joining matched veneers. Their reversible double-edged blades have fine teeth with no set.
Like the fret saw, blades of the coping saw are held under tension by their metal frames, and usually, measure 6 inches long. They’re most useful for cutting curves in solid wood. Because of how narrow the blades are (with 15 to 17 teeth per inch), they’re unable to be sharpened and must be replaced when dull.
With a dagger-like point on the front of the blade, the keyhole saw – also called a pad saw, jab saw, or drywall saw – is used for cutting small, awkward shapes. Available with either a fixed or a retractable blade, they can make comparable cuts to the more popular electric jigsaw.
Specifically designed for cutting drywall, wallboard saws have teeth on both sides of a long, slender blade. A pointed tip allows for piercing cuts without drilling a pilot hole. Look for hardened or tempered blades to extend the lifespan of these hard-working saws.
Also known as a “butcher’s saw”, handheld bone saws have a similar design as the common hacksaw. Unsurprisingly, they are used for cutting through bones – most commonly by deer and other big game hunters. Look for all stainless-steel construction to prevent corrosion from animal blood.
Power tools have led the way in building technology, making projects faster and easier to accomplish with minimal strain and effort. From tabletop to battery-powered, electric saws can make even the largest projects quicker and easier. The following 7 types of saws will keep you covered from the most intricate to the heaviest jobs.
Property owners with a lot of trees probably have a chainsaw in the shed. Since the development of the first industrial chain saw in 1918, they’ve been used for felling trees of all sizes. Chainsaws with electric motors can be powered either by a battery or a power cord and tend to vibrate less than gasoline-powered models. This makes them a popular choice for reducing fatigue on jobs that require a long duration of chain saw work.
A circular saw is the power tool version of the hand saw. Portable circular saws are one of the most convenient ways to bring the utility of a table saw to work on-site. They allow for ripping and crosscutting woods of all types safely and easily and have long been a standby of carpenters and construction workers because of their light weight and portability. By changing to different blade types, you can easily use a circular saw for metal, stone, or ceramics as well.
Miter saws are designed for making angled cuts. A miter is a joint cut between two pieces of wood by cutting equally angled surfaces at the end of both pieces. Miter saws are equipped with boxes that guide the angles of these cuts, making the production of perfect 45-degree angle cuts quick and easy. They’re an indispensable tool for cutting molding and trim.
A table saw is a cutting blade held in place to make precise, exacting straight cuts. At their most basic, table saws consist of a powered rotary saw blade sticking emerging from the center of a flat worktable. Most table saws are fitted with fences and guides for safety and accuracy and are used to cut boards to size. Woodshop safety is essential when working with table saws, and you should always seek proper training before using one.
Designed to cut curves and details, the jigsaw has a thin blade that can be tracked around a cutout so you get exactly the design you want. Also known as a “saber saw”, jigsaws are a versatile workhorse tool. Equally capable of making straight and curved cuts, their lightweight construction makes them most suitable to thin and man-made boards. Comfortable to use and relatively quiet, they make a good first investment for a small home woodworking setup.
Most often used for heavy construction jobs, reciprocating saws take the design of a jigsaw and orient it onto a handle that allows for vertical work. They’re especially useful in cutting drywall when accuracy is not as much of a concern. Technically, “reciprocating saw” can refer to any blade that cuts with a back-and-forth motion but is most often understood to mean this saw used in construction.
A band saw is kind of like a jigsaw connected to a table. Band saw blades are a continuous loop of metal that is driven over two or three wheels. Unlike tables saws, there is no danger of kickback in using a band saw. While it may not rip or crosscut as cleanly as a radial arm saw, its safety has made it a popular choice among cautious woodworkers. In addition, band saws run relatively quietly and can make a good addition to any workshop located in a quiet neighborhood.