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Types of Saws for Your Woodworking Shop

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.

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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

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.

box saw

box saw laying in pine tree greenery.

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.


small red hacksaw lying on an oak board in the grass and clover

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.

coping saw

coping saw on white background

With a thin, delicate blade this saw is great for trim work, scrolling, or for intricate and precise cuts.

keyhole saw

small key hole saw on white background

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.

flush cut saw

flush cut saw with blue handle on round wood log and leaves

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.

bow saw

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.

pole saw

manual pole saw leaning on a stack of large logs
electric pole saw orange in color on a long log outside with other logs and leaves around

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.

specialty saws:

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.

Power Saws

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

jig saw

ryobi battery powered jig saw with white background

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.

circular saw

ryobi battery powered circular saw with red diablo blade on black table with leaves

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.

miter (chop) saw

ryobi sliding compound miter saw on concrete floor with white background

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.

table saw

ryobi table saw top with white background in workshop setting

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.


band saw with saw mill and large log in workshop setting

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.

radial arm saw

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.

oscillating saw

ryobi job plus oscillating saw standing on log with leaves

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.

panel saw

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.

scroll saw

ryobi scroll saw table with workshop floor in background

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.

tile saw

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.

chain saw

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.

track saw

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!

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Google Web Story: Types of Power Saws, a Beginner’s Guide

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    February 19, 2020 at 4:35 AM

    Really great article.

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      February 21, 2020 at 8:13 AM

      Thank you so much!

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