From traditional handsaws to power saws like circular saws, milter saws, and jigsaws, there is a type of these essential woodworking tools for every project, every skill level, and every material. In the post that follows, you’ll find a detailed guide to various kinds of handsaws and power saws.
Depending on their type, hand saws can prove invaluable tools for traditional woodworking projects. A handsaw essentially has two major components: the blade and the handle. And if you look at the blade, you can find a side with teeth, and the other one bare. The side with the teeth is the front while the opposing side, the back.
The teeth on the front can be arranged in a myriad of configurations. You have set teeth, that is, they’re ever-so-slightly angle, in alternate angles: One tooth is bent to the left, the next one to the right, and the one after that to the left, and so on. Arranging the teeth in this fashion keeps the saw from getting lodged in the wood surface while it’s sawing.
Some teeth geometries taper towards the toe (the point opposite to the handle) of the saw, becoming thinner and thinner. If the teeth are set in three different angles, you’ll be able to make fine and precise cuts without a lot of effort.
If you’re familiar with traditional woodworking, you might already know that a thin blade can often buckle or bend under pressure. To prevent it, the back of the blade is reinforced. You’ll find stiff blades like those in dovetail and tenon saws.
Now that you’re all caught up on the terminology, here are different types of hand saws and suggestions for the projects they’re the best fit for.
Let’s kick things off with hacksaws. Initially designed for metalwork, these multipurpose tools work just as great with wood or plastic pipes.
It is merely a U-shaped metal frame, with a fine-tooth thin blade held between.
The blades can measure either 10 or 12 inches, and vary in their teeth density (or teeth per inch.) Some frames are adjustable and let you mount blades of different lengths. More often than not, a screw (or a similar mechanism) is used to create blade tension since it’s much too thin on its own.
Secondly, make sure that the model you pick has a handle that is comfortable, ergonomic, and offers superior grip, even in wet conditions. Note that some handles are better fit for specific hand sizes, so take that into account before you make a purchase.
Finally, consider the blade tension. Measured in either pounds or pounds per square inch, a hacksaw with a higher pounds per square inch means it’ll offer better performance. You’ll find hacksaws rated as high as 50,000 per square inch.
Owing to their modular design, the blades (once they become dull) can be easily replaced. So before you pick a hacksaw, make sure that you’ll be able to find replacement blades for the foreseeable future.
As their name gives away, pruning saws are designed for maintaining a lawn on a budget. They are used to trim (or prune) trees and shrubbery. They have heat-treated sharp teeth, and they are available in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Depending on the live branch you intend to prune, you’ll need finer or coarser teeth sets. If the branches aren’t as thick, a pruning saw with fine teeth should be suitable. For thicker (and heavier) branches, you’d want a saw with coarse teeth. Fine teeth make finer cuts. And conversely, large (or extra-large) teeth save time and produce slightly less clean cuts.
If you want to reach tighter spaces with your pruning saw, you can pick up a model with a longer blade — which also allows for simple pruning.
The handle can be either plastic (low or high grade) or rubber. The better the build quality of the handle, the longer it will last and the more comfortable it will be when you’re making cuts.
If you want to cut wood across the grain, a crosscut saw is a tool designed precisely for that. Unlike typical rip saws that cut along the grain, the crosscut saw has teeth alternate angled teeth. Its blade has 8-15 teeth per inch, and you can use them for both fine cuts while woodworking or coarse cuts for buckling.
To slice through wood with a crosscut saw, start by drawing a straight line on the surface, use small pushing and pulling strokes, making sure that you’re not straying from the path.
Typically, backsaws are reserved for fine woodworking. But what are they exactly? In the simplest terms, backsaws are hand saws that have a reinforced rib on the back of the blade.
Tenon saws and dovetail saws are two of the most common types of backsaws. You also have larger western saws like miter saws or the Japanese backsaws — Dozuki.
They feature a tooth geometry suitable for cutting along the grain. The dovetails have shorter blades and finer teeth, and they’re ideal for fine work, which demands precise cuts. For most dovetail saws, they cut with the push stroke. The handles are available in two variations: pistol grip and straight grip. The pistol grip offers better control than straight grip does.
More often than not, backsaws are much pricier than regular handsaws, so if you’re on a tight budget, you might want to skip them.
Dozuki saws have a straight handle, with fine set teeth, which makes them ideal for flush-cutting. The blade itself is flexible, which lets you reach the base of a pin easily.
Rip cut saws
Rip cut saws are most commonly used for furniture-making and sawing lumber. Rip saws cut (or rip) wood along the grain. Usually, they have 4-7 teeth per inch and are 24-26 inches long. Since the number of teeth here is roughly half of what a crosscut saw has, the cut is much coarser than the fine cuts you can make with a crosscut.
Keyhole saws have a very distinctive long blade that narrows towards the toe. The narrow end is perfect for cutting small and hard-to-reach materials. You can choose from a fixed blade keyhole saw or a retractable blade kind. If the full-length of the blade is making it difficult to cut an awkward feature in a material, the blade can be retracted to a length best suited for the task at hand. They’re slightly more expensive than their fixed-blade counterparts.
The cheaper fixed-blade type keyhole saws are typically used in construction. Or more accurately, poking through drywall without having to drill an opening for it first.
If you’re a DIY enthusiast, if you find yourself doing projects or making repairs around the house often, investing in a power saw might be a great idea. They streamline the process, saving you time and effort. Besides, they let you work with a variety of materials, from wood to concrete and everything in between.
A power saw can make the cutting process effortless and precise, but only if you pick the right saw for the right job. There are quite a few different types of power saws available in the market (and we’ll explore them at length), but there are some universal factors that need your consideration.
Jigsaws offer versatility and durability. They provide better maneuverability than circular saws, and for that reason, make better handheld power saws. As for the versatility, jigsaws are useful for a range of surfaces: aluminum, ceramic, PVC, metal (if combined with a robust enough motor), and of course, wood.
But this versatility means that some models are better fit for certain wood types and densities. If you try to cut a thinner piece of wood with a model built for denser materials, the cuts won’t be precise, and it might even damage the unit itself. The manufacturers recommend the thickest rating their jigsaw can cut through. So before you decide to shortlist a few models, here a few factors for you to consider.
Steps Per Minute
The first component that you should account for is the motor since it sits at the heart of your power saw. Steps per minute or SPM is the count of actions (or rotations) on a stepping motor. The higher the SPM, the more powerful the motor (and, in turn, the jigsaw) will be.
Jigsaws work with a reciprocating mechanism, and it cuts with an upward step. Depending on how fine you want the cut to be, you can shortlist blades with tightly packed teeth or if you want the cut to be rougher, widely-spaced teeth.
Strokes or steps have a pre-defined length — the distance the blade moves up and down. The longer the step length (and the number of steps every minute), the more efficient that particular model will be.
Blade Speed Regulator
Note that to keep the SPM consistent when cutting through dense material (so your jigsaw doesn’t slow down), you’ll also need something called a ‘blade speed stabilizer or regulator.’ Without it, the blade will heat up, deteriorating your equipment’s health.
Cordless v Corded
Depending on whether you’ll be using the jigsaw primarily for woodworking as a hobby or for professional use, you can pick from cordless and corded options. If you’re a beginner, a cordless jigsaw unit (which often have high ampere rating and SPM) should suffice.
But if you intend to work for several hours straight, a battery-powered jigsaw might not be ideal. Even if you go with a battery-powered model, the battery capacity and the charging time varies from model to model, so before you take the plunge, look into these details.
In a similar vein, if you do an occasional sawing job, pick an entry-level jigsaw with a 500W power supply, and it should be able to cut through at least 60 mm.
For regular sawing jobs, a 700W unit with 90 mm depth for wood should serve you well. When you’re shelling out a few extra bucks, you’ll be able to adjust the speed settings but ensure that you get at least one-year manufacturer’s warranty.
For professional users, any unit with a rating higher than 700W and the cutting capacity of 135 mm in wood should do.
As the name might give away, circular saws have a blade in the shape of a disc that cuts through surfaces as it rotates. For DIY enthusiasts of all skill levels, circular saws can prove to be invaluable tools if you make straight cuts in wooden materials often. You can use it to make both crosscuts and rip cuts.
Some of the most recognizable features of a circular saw include a retractable blade guard, a shoe, and finally bevel adjustment (which allows you to make bevel cuts) and depth adjustment (which lets you change the depth capacity settings depending upon the thickness of the workpiece.)
As opposed to jigsaws, the blades are measured with their diameter. More often than not, you’ll find 5.5-inch and 7.25-inch circular saws. At their core, there are two types of circular saws designs: Sidewinder and Worm drive.
Sidewinder saws are more common, more lightweight, and more portable. The motor is located adjacent to the blade (right or left), and they’re typically cordless. You can pick up a decent sidewinder model for $100 or so. Sidewinders (or inline saws) that come for a higher price tag than that are usually meant for professional use. Not only are this type of circular saws more convenient to use, but they are also low-maintenance since you don’t worry about oiling their motor mechanisms (as you would with a worm drive.)
Which brings us to our next design, the worm drive. Unlike a sidewinder where the motor is mounted on either side of the blade, a worm drive has a slightly narrower motor installed on the back of the blade. The torque is transferred from the motor to the blade via a set of gears. These gears require lubrication now and then, hence the maintenance.
Worm drives differ in their operating speeds also. Where sidewinders operate on 6,000 RPMs, worm drives can only produce around 4,500 RPMs. So sidewinders offer better maneuverability, lightweight, low-maintenance, and faster-operating speed. On the other hand, worm drivers are better suited for heavy-duty construction work.
Corded v Cordless
If budget is a constraint, a corded circular saw would be the obvious choice, but if you’re working in a building under construction that doesn’t have power, a cordless model might save the day.
For a corded unit, the power rating should be around 15 amps. There are 12-amp and 10-amp saws available also, but they’re rare. Since your saw will be your trustee companion for years or perhaps even decades to come, you should pick a higher power rating since the difference in price is only marginal.
Unlike corded circular saws, cordless circular saws are rated by the voltage of the battery that powers them. Most commonly, you’ll find 18V-saws, but there are higher voltage saws offered too. To estimate how long the battery will last, you can consult the amp-hour rating — which should be around 5-9 hours for most models.
There are a few other terms you should familiarize yourself with. Horsepower is something that represents the amount of torque the motor outputs, but it’s measured without a workpiece. With circular saws, you can calculate the depth capacity depending on the angle at which the blade is beveled.
At a 45-degree angle, the cutting depth is decreased than it is at 90 degrees. Speaking of which, bevel capacity is the maximum slope (usually 45 degrees), you can achieve with your saw.
Designed exclusively for woodworking, bandsaws let you carve intricate patterns or cut wood in irregular shapes. Let’s start with the type of band saws: stationary base and portable.
If you have a workshop, a stationary model might be a great idea. They can weigh as much as 500 kilos, so evidently, they’re permanently set up and designed for use regularly. These bandsaws vary in cutting height, table width, wheels, materials, and blades.
Cast-iron V Welded Steel
The frames can be cast-iron or steel. Cast-iron is more traditional, heavier, and it offers more stability, while welded steel frames are lighter and have bigger dimensions.
The same materials are used for the table as well (which is the surface where the wood sits). But for more budget-friendly and less durable tables, aluminum is also utilized. The tables can also be titled and adjusted up to a 40-degree angle.
Underneath the table sits a motor that transfers torque to the wheels via belts, which then drives the blade (or blades since bandsaws can have more than one). As for the horsepower on the motor, a 1 HP motor should suffice for most simple DIY projects, and if you are doing some heavy-duty woodworking, a 2 HP motor should be enough.
The blade moves in a ribbon-like fashion, and while it is continuously rotating along with the wheels, and only a small part of it comes in direct contact with the workpiece. The wheels can be either cast-iron or welded steel, and they offer a fly-wheel mechanism to run the blade. The blade themselves can be a foot long. And their width is directly linked with the radius of the wheels.
So far, we’ve only discussed power saws built for precise sawing jobs, but reciprocating saws are designed for heavy-duty work like demolition, renovation, and lawn-keeping. They can slice through several workpiece materials, including wood, plastic, ceramics, drywall, and metal.
But before we get into different features of reciprocating saws, let’s explore what they are. The name comes from the up-and-down movement of the blade (which resembles a jigsaw), and they make the sawing process effortless and safe. And you can also cut tight, inaccessible areas with ease.
Cordless V Corded
The first thing you’ll need to choose is whether you want the cordless or the corded version. Same as most powered saws, corded variants are powerful yet lightweight. But if you want more mobility, you might want to consider a cordless option. Cordless reciprocating saws are battery-powered, hence more portable.
Orbital Action and Speed
As mentioned above, the blade moves up and down, but thanks to orbital action (which can be turned on and off), you can make coarser cuts with side-to-side blade movements.
Aside from the motion, you can also adjust the speed of the blade. For metal workpieces, you can set the pace to low, and if you’re cutting wood, the rate should be faster.
For safety purposes, your reciprocating saw must have auto-stop brushes, which bring the blade to rest instantly, increasing the life of your blade.
The saw battery-ratings range between 12V-36V, but instead of voltage, amp-hour or watt-hours would be a better standard of how much work output a motor can provide.
To protect your eyes and face from flying splinters when using woodworking tools, always wear safety goggles and a mask. As previously described, try picking the right kind of saw for the right type of project.
After you’ve picked a type, inspect the saw blade for damaged or dull teeth. But don’t test the sharpness with your fingers, because you don’t want to risk a laceration. If they are broken or dull, the saw is likely not safe for use.
When you’re sawing, use a clamp to hold the workpiece firmly in place and use long and slow strokes (directed at an angle away from your body) to make the cuts. To make the cuts precise and straight, you can also use a guide.
Power saws are dangerous equipment, which can cause serious injury if not handled properly. Most models feature a safety button to prevent the saws from turning on accidentally.
So, there you have it. An in-depth and detailed guide to getting started with saws. Whether you need to cut lumber, make carpentry with intricate cuts or elaborate shapes, slice PVC, or do metalwork, there’s a saw type for your project.