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15 DIFFERENT TYPES OF SAWS AND THEIR USES

Michael Boyer by Michael Boyer

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Last Updated January 18, 2019

When you need to do cutting work around the house, it’s always a good idea to have the best kind of saw for the job so you can get done quickly and efficiently. Knowing the different types of saws and their uses is important, so we’ve created this guide so you can cut confidently and get the job done with ease.

Woodwork, metalwork, and working with other materials can be truly rewarding. Saws have long been used around the world; in fact, one saw that’s gaining popularity throughout the States originated in Japan. Over the centuries, saws have been used as some of the most useful simple machines that use the power of the lever to cut and rend wood and other types of materials.

Before we start, let’s look at the best uses and traits of the different types of saws that we’ll be covering in the guide:

Type of SawBest UseWhat Makes it Unique?Is it Good for Crosscutting?
HandsawCutting woodThis is a jack-of-all-trades woodcutting saw. You shouldn't have any trouble with just about any wood.There are handsaw models that can be used for both crosscutting and to ripsaw.
Japanese SawsRipping and crosscutting woodThe Japanese saw has a thinner blade that has two edges.The two-edged Japanese saw can crosscut and ripsaw.
Hack SawCutting metal and plasticThese are lightweight saws that are perfect for cutting piping.No
Coping SawIntricate cutsThe blade on this device is very narrow for detail.No
Back SawCutting with a miter boxThis is a shorter saw that allows you to make finer cuts.Can be used for both.
Keyhole SawCutting drywallIf you need to cut holes into drywall, this is the best option.No
Circular SawCutting 2 x 4s quicklyIf you have a lot of wood to cut finely, then a circular saw is a good choice.This saw can be used for crosscutting and to ripsaw.
Jigsaw/Reciprocating SawCutting custom shapesIf you need a specific shape for your project, these saws allows for a lot of control.No
Bow SawCutting logs and pruningIf you need a rough cut for removing material around the house, this is a good option.This saw is primarily designed for crosscutting.
ChainsawCutting wood in a variety of waysWhile technically a band saw, chainsaws work well for tree work.
No
Table SawCutting wood that needs precise depthsThis power saw has a larger blade than you would find on a circular saw blade, and it's easier to adjust depths.No
Veneer SawCutting precisely for veneer workThis is a very small, hand-operated saw that has a finer operation for smaller jobs.No
Band SawCutting through tougher materialsThis product uses a band of metal with fine teeth to cut through objects like pipes.No
Compound Miter SawCreating straight miter cutsThis type of saw has a lot of power for those that need to make a lot of quick, straight cuts.No
Pruning SawClearing away branches, standard bush pruningThis saw has a pistol grip for forward and backward sawing.Can be used for both.

Types Of Saws On The Market

There are a plethora of different saws out there on the market, and knowing what type of saw to purchase is crucial. In this section, we’re going to look at some of the different types of wood saws as well as saws that can cut through other materials like wood and plastic.

Some of these tools are designed to be used by hand and others use power to complete the cut, but all are designed to provide very reliable use:

The Simplest Form of Saw: THE HANDSAW

The-Handsaw

Everyone knows this tool; it has a long blade with a sometimes jagged edge that is attached to a curved handle that you pull to cut into the material. This device is very versatile and can cut through all kinds of wood and metal materials.

As technology progressed, so did the hand saw, but the standard handsaw is definitely the go-to for many people doing simple woodcutting.

Great for Versatility: THE JAPANESE SAW

Japanese Saw

One of the coolest aspects of Japanese saws is that they have the ability to both ripsaw and crosscut due to the fact that these very thin hand saws have two different edges on different sides of the blade.

Additionally, a Japanese saw also has a longer handle, which not only grants a little more leverage for tough jobs where you have to saw through thick wood, but also gives you a little bit more reach than you would have with many of the other types of saws that are featured on this list. With one of these types of saws, you can also cut through denser wood more easily by first starting the cut with the crosscut side and then continuing the cut with the ripsaw side.

The Best Manual Saw for Quick Work: THE HACK SAW

The Hack Saw

The term “hacksaw” makes this type of saw sound a lot less precise than the actual performance that this tool provides. In fact, if you’re cutting through metal and plastic, this can be one of the most precise saws for the job. A hacksaw typically comes in two sections: a C-frame uni-body metal portion that’s typically a strong material like steel and a single thin blade that threads through the C-frame.

Typically, a hacksaw blade should have a tooth count that ranges between 17 and 32 teeth per inch. This tooth count ensures that the blades have enough surface area to cut through the densest of materials.

The Artist’s Saw: THE COPING SAW

The Coping Saw

From a generalized point of view, the coping saw looks somewhat similar to a hacksaw, but the coping saw has a very different use. The first thing that you might notice is that it has a shorter C-frame that’s usually much thinner than other saws. The blade that’s mounted between the two ends of the C-frame is also very thin.

The reason for this unique design is that the coping saw is designed specifically to cut through items like trim; in fact, the coping saw is very popular with artists due to the fact that it is very precise and allows one to cut very tight radiuses. You can even remove the blade altogether and use it to cut the inside of previously-drilled holes.

The Manual Miter or Tenon Saw: THE BACK SAW

The Back Saw

If you like to use miter boxes to ensure 90- and 45-degree angles on your woodcuts, then a good back saw will give you the best precision. For this reason, the back saw has a very thin blade that is also very short.

In addition, you’ll also notice that the top of this tool is reinforced to provide extra strength as you cut through narrower boards and 2 x 4s. If you need a cut that is consistently fine and straight, then there’s just no better option than the back saw.

The Drywall Specialist: THE KEYHOLE SAW

The Keyhole Saw

If you’re going to be cutting into drywall by hand and need very precise cuts for things like outlets and wire holes, then a good keyhole saw is a great tool to start with. This device is held like a standard saw, but when you look at it you’ll notice that the blade comes to a relatively sharp point so you can get it into the drywall material easier.

You’re not going to get a lot of precision with one of these since they are designed primarily to cut rough patterns that can be resolved later; however, if you need to do some quick initial work by hand, then this is one of the best hand saws to start with.

The Old Powered Standby: THE CIRCULAR SAW

The Circular Saw

Now we’re getting into the realm of the power tools that can make it much easier to cut large amounts of wood in a shorter time. In fact, professional woodworkers that do a lot of commercial carpentry will swear by the circular saw due to its ability to cut wood at a nearly frenzied pace. These saws are sometimes called buzz saws, and the blades of these electric tools are usually about 7-¼ and 9 inches in diameter.

They are also very versatile; it’s not uncommon to use a mini circular saw to cut through wood, metal, ceramics, and plastics, and you can get the top quality circular saw blades that work for both crosscutting and for creating rips in the wood.

The Best Saw for Tight Shaping: THE JIGSAW/RECIPROCATING SAW

The Jigsaw

No matter what name you call it – the jigsaw or the reciprocating saw – this particular machine can be very useful on the worksite. This saw has a very fine-toothed blade that’s fairly small so that you can cut shapes and curved lines.

One of the most noteworthy features of the jigsaw is that the blade actually moves up and down, which makes it great for tight shapes. Like the circular saw, this product is a power saw, so unless your tool is pneumatic or cordless, you’re going to need to power it via an electric AC outlet.

The Outside Crosscutter: THE BOW SAW

THE BOW SAW

One of the best features of the bow saw is that it is a simple tool to get your outdoors work done quickly. This tool is designed primarily for crosscutting, and it has several crosscut teeth. As a general rule, crosscut saw blades have smaller teeth than other types, and these teeth work in a fairly unique way.

The teeth on the blade are designed to angle backward and are somewhat like a knife in their function. For this reason, pruning, log cutting, and trimming are all done easily with a bow saw.

The Logcutting Saw: THE CHAINSAW

The Chainsaw

Everyone is familiar with this type of woodworking saw. In fact, carpenters have used this saw for more than a hundred years. As one of the first mechanical saws on the market, the best chainsaw works well to complete just about any work around the yard.

Using a chain and tooth system to quickly cut into the wood with a ripping motion, these saws are best for clearing tree limbs or even completing imprecise work on various types of wood around the yard.

The Best Saw for Big Jobs: THE TABLE SAW

The Table Saw

While a circular saw can be very useful when you want to cut more wood than you could with a standard manual saw, a table saw provides a little more oomph.

This type of saw isn’t nearly as portable as the circular variation, but if you need to cut wood at a fast pace, this is the best choice. With a table saw or a hybrid table saw, the large spinning blade extends upwards from a workbench. To cut wood precisely, you can use the guides and depth adjustments to work the wood along the blade.

For Precise Cutting: THE VENEER SAW

The Veneer Saw

Veneer is usually just a bit too thin for a standard saw, which is why one of these manual tools can be very useful. A veneer saw is a small handheld tool that has a blade that can be even shorter than the handle. Per inch, you can expect about 13 to 14 teeth on a veneer saw, and this specialized saw is typically used just for precision veneer work.

Curve-Cutting Made Easy: THE BAND SAW

The Band Saw

In both the portable and stationary versions of the band saw, you use power to cut through wood, tubes, and piping fairly effortlessly. These saws use a thin band-like blade that’s mounted on pulleys to cut through most materials with an up and down motion. As a result of the thin blade design, you can even do some intricate cutting that will allow you to slice shapes into the material that you are working with.

The Powered Miter Cutter: THE COMPOUND MITER SAW

The Compound Miter Saw

Do you need the precision of a back saw but also need to work fast and efficiently? Well, a compound miter saw may be your go-to because it is a powered saw that allows straight and angled cuts. In fact, you can even make compound cuts with one of these, so windows and crown molding can be cut with ease.

Also check our latest reviews about the top quality miter saw blades and best miter saw stands on the market.

The Homeowner’s Friend: THE PRUNING SAW

The Pruning Saw

If you find yourself constantly cutting tree limbs that are out of the reach of other saw types, then a pruning saw, which has a long curved blade, may be a good product to grab. In many cases, the blade of one of these saws may be as long as 15 inches, which provides plenty of reach for the removal of pesky branches.

This type of saw is also useful for homeowners that don’t want to invest in a chainsaw and just want a tool that can clear away excess wood from their property.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there is a veritable ton of saws out there for you to use for your next job. All of these are excellent hand tools and all have a specific use that can make your work much easier than if you just used a one-size-fits-all tool.

In addition to the tools covered in this guide, there are other electric and hand saws on the market like chainsaws and bow saws, but the products featured here will give you the widest range of usage so you won’t run into problems when doing carpentry work.