When setting up a workshop, it’s helpful to know the different types of saws and what they do to help decide which to buy first. This is by no means a comprehensive post as there are too many specialty saws to list here, but it will cover the most common ones you will likely find at the store.
This page includes affiliate links. If you make a purchase using the link, I may receive a commission at no additional cost to you.
I feel like there may be a need to get back to the basics. I love tools and I want you to love them too.
I am hearing from people that some are confused about what certain tools do, or afraid to give them a try. I want everyone to leave this site with some extra knowledge and maybe want to attempt something new. So, I have decided to do some posts on the basics of working with wood.
Hand saw vs. Power saw
I find it easiest to put saws into two categories: hand saw and power saw. Hand saws are powered only by manual labor and some can wear you out quickly, power saws use electricity to run thus saving energy and time.
Hand saws have a place in the workshop. smaller cuts are generally achieved more easily with the right kind of handsaw. You will find a much larger variety of specialty saws in this category.
Probably what everyone thinks of when the term handsaw comes to mind. The box saw is a basic saw with sharp teeth that will cut quickly. When used with a miter box, the “boxed” end makes miter (or angled) cuts easily.
This is one of the most common types of saws. It can cut through metal, wood, plastic, and other material using material specific blades. Perfect for cutting pipes and tubing.
With a thin, delicate blade this saw is great for trim work, scrolling, or for intricate and precise cuts.
Used to cut rough circles or patterns, a key hole saw is great for cutting drywall when you’re not sure what’s behind it so it’s safest to skip the power tools.
As the name implies, a flush cut saw is used to cut something flush with the surface. It has teeth down both sides of the blade and tends to be very thin and flexible. It is great for cutting wooden dowels or door jambs when installing flooring since in thin profile allows you to get very close without damage.
Used more outdoors than inside, the bow saw cuts with both backwards and forward motions. Beat for trimming branches, pruning, and cutting logs, it can be used for other things as well.
A pole saw is a blade on a long (usually extendable) pole used to cut branches and limbs up high. A manual one will have a long string or cord to maneuver the blade. Most pole saws found in home improvement stores will be powered versions.
There are way too many specialty saws to list here. Generally designed to meet a very precise need, a woodworker can collect these over the years when building a project to make a specific cut.
Electric: corded vs. battery
Power Saws can also be mechanized by electricity which can get to the device by cord or a battery.
There are advantage and disadvantages to both. Corded tools tend to be more powerful and work a bit faster, though confining you to the area within reach of the cord.
Battery operated devices are more portable, though extra batteries are always advised as should you lose your charge, there is a delay before you can get started again. Also, several tool manufacturers have cordless systems with interchangeable batteries, allowing you to spend less on your overall collection of tools than you might had to spend otherwise.
Types of Power Saws
A jigsaw is designed specifically for cutting curves or other non-straight lines. It has a thin blade and cuts in a straight up and down fashion at variable speeds.
A circular saw is the most popular power saw. It typically has a toothed blade shaped like a wheel on a center post to cut many different types of materials. Blades are generally easily changed for material types and they can be many different sizes.
While technically two different saws, the miter saw is frequently referred to as a chop saw. A chop saw goes up and down to make straight cuts and is usually used for flooring and trim pieces. A miter saw can be maneuvered to cut at different angles (generally between 0-45º) for moulding and decorative pieces. Variations and add ons can be a slide to cut larger width of product and the compound option will angle two ways (vertically and horizontally) to make more complex cuts.
A larger circular blade with a high speed motor, mounted beneath a flat table makes a table saw. Usually a table saw will come with a stop for securing a size, they are one of the easiest saws for making long, straight, ripping, or repetitive cuts. The blade moves up and down to match the material thickness. These can be intimidating at first, though with attention and the proper safety precautions, it may become your favorite saw.
A floor standing bandsaw is used to rip boards into thinner pieces, make intricate or curved cuts into wood, or cut pipes and tubes. It is generally very large and heavy and can take up a lot of floor space and has a limit to the thickness of the material it can handle.
Bandsaws are not quite as common as they once were in shop spaces. There is a portable version that does the same jobs on a smaller scale, though can require concentration to keep cuts straight.
Generally used for making identical compound and miter cuts, the radial arm saw places the motor and blade on a long arm that extends out over the worksurface. If you own a Sliding Compound miter saw, you may never find the need for this saw.
Sometimes referred to as a multi-tool, this saw moves a blade side to side rapidly to cut. These are generally very portable and blades are easily interchangeable to cut many different types of materials. With specific attachments, oscillating saws can also handle caulk and grout removal, scraping, sanding and even glass cutting and grinding.
Generally found in big box home improvement stores, a panel saw takes up a lot of floor space. It can be a vertical or horizontal alignment and breaks down large panels of material quickly. Other than retail, panel saws are mostly found in cabinet and sign making workshops.
The purpose of a scroll saw is to create intricate scrollwork, patterns, or spiral lines in materials using a thin blade or band. An added benefit is a small table or ledge to support the work while cutting, thereby enabling an easier range of motion.
A tile (or wet) saw looks a lot like a small table saw. It uses a diamond blade and reservoir of water to mitigate the heat production when cutting both ceramic and porcelain tiles. The reservoir MUST be filled before using or you will quickly ruin your expensive blade.
Used for outdoor cutting, as the name implies, a chain saw uses a chain on a long bar to essentially rip material apart. Generally used to cut down trees and bushes, they come in varying bar lengths, and can be an essential tool for a homeowner.
A track saw looks a lot like a circular saw attached to a straight bar or track. The track of the saw secures to rip down large panels, or make long, straight cuts in materials more easily than with a circular saw. It’s certainly a great option if you don’t have the room for a table saw.
Well, there you have it, my not so comprehensive guide to the different types of saws you may come across. Did I miss one you think is important? Hit me up so I can add it in!
Sharing is Caring! Please pin and share this post!