Types of Saws for Woodworking

types of woodworking saws

Those who work in construction will inevitably have to deal with some type of wood. Depending on your hobbies or jobs, the types of saws for woodworking you may desire to purchase can vary as well.

What are the main types of saws?

Saws vary from the most basic cutting tool to the more advanced type of powered machinery.

In general, there are hand and power saws, with many variations for each of the two main categories.

Carpenters or those with a home workshop will need to purchase a different array of saws.

Knowing the type of saws you need may seem challenging, so this article will break down the available types, what they are best for, and how they all work.

Hand saws

A hand saw is a type of woodworking saw that is manually operated by hand. You can divide hand saws into the categories of the panel, back, and frame saws.

Types of hand saws

Panel saws

panel saws

Panel saws include a handle and thin, flexible metallic plate with no rigid frame. They have larger teeth and, in general, are used for cutting rough boards quickly to length or width.

These hand saws are quite common, usually cost little, and are easy to find at your local hardware store. A panel saw is essentially a hand saw which is short enough to slit through the lid panel.

Back saws

back saws

Back saws include thin plates for the metal and have finely grained teeth. They aid in precision cuts when dealing with wood.

Typically, they include steel backs and rigid brass to keep the plate from bending, which allows rigidity for accurate wood joint cuts.

The smaller the teeth are, the finer your cut will be. In the past, back saws were primarily utilized by cabinetmakers and joiners and typically cost more than normal hand saws.

Frame saws

frame saws

Frame saws use the tension between two arms to keep the blade tight. When utilized in tandem with a narrow blade, frame saws are ideal for cutting in curves.

Conversely, a narrow blade can handle rough logs and cutting boards with a larger blade.

These saws come in various shapes and sizes. Small teeth work better for fine work, and large teeth work better for rough cutting.

Tooth count

tooth count

The number of points per inch refers to the number of saw teeth per inch. This is a critical factor in choosing hand saws for key purposes.

Large hand saw teeth quickly cut through wood, but leave the surface rough. On the other hand, small hand saw teeth are cut accurately and finely but are not practical for long widths or lengths.

When you are using regular hand saws or frame saws, cross cut teeth are often smaller than rip teeth. With back saws, cross cut and rip teeth vary in size. Tooth count is measured in either teeth per inch (tpi) or points per inch (ppi), and the number is typically stamped into the plate of the saw.

PPI is the more common method of calculation and is determined by counting a single point to another. TPI is determined by counting the full set of teeth. Tooth counted can also be deduced during the sharpening process.

Hand saw parts

hand saw parts

Above are the parts that encompass a traditional hand saw.

Power saws

Power saws are incredible tools for woodworkers, especially for thicker cuts. It’s almost impossible to perform efficient and precise cuts without using electric saws.

Many types of machines exist in the power saw category. Everyone has a different method of operation and purpose. The good news is that you don’t need to break your wallet to find power tools. It all depends on your intention.

Types of power saws

Circular saws

circular saws

The circular saw is the definitive power-cutting tool. These are found in every toolbox and wood shop. They are noted for having a round, circular blade containing teeth designed for repetitive, fast cuts.

Common uses for circular saws include fast panel cutting, rough framing and carpentry, fence building, stair, and deck building, as well as finish and trim.

Even though they are powered by electricity, circular saws are meant to be used by hand rather than mounted on a bench. The two common types of circular saws include direct drive and worm drive.

Direct-Drive Circular Saws: These are power saws operated with one hand and are the most common of the two different circulars saw types. Their blades are mounted at a 90-degree angle to the electric motor. Each of them has fixed handles on the top rear of the device and is activated with a finger trigger.

Worm-Drive Circular Saws: These are more powerful and the larger of the two. While they still include toothed circular blades, the blade is parallel to the electric motor. You turn the shaft like a worm or a screw. Worm-drive circular saws are operated using two hands. The first operates the trigger and rear handle, while the second guides the saw from the top. Diameter of the blade range from 10″ to 12″.

Using a single machine, you can achieve three primary cut types.

Combination Cuts: Combination blades are designed to perform the cutting operations of both cross and rip cuts. These are the standard blades found on circular saws.

Crosscuts: These are the primary woodworking cuts and work across the grain of the wood. The majority of lumber pieces are manufactured with the woodgrain parallel to the length.

Rip Cuts: These circular saw cuts are typically found in rough carpentry more than they would in fine woodworking. They cut the lengthways of wood along the grain and are typically utilized to make panel sections and smaller lumber.

Table saws

circular saws

Most woodworkers consider their table saw to be the anchor point of their shop. Table saws have been utilized for several centuries and have three primary designs.

Each of them serves the same purpose of making fast and accurate cuts to wood. However, these different designs are utilized in various locations. Much of this depends on what the woodworker is using their table saw for in addition to where they are operating it.

The three different types of table saws include:

Cabinet Table Saws: These are the large workhorses that stand on the shop floor. They are extremely heavy, with ballast weights and cast iron frames. This ensures the tool remains rigid, allowing the woodworker to pass huge panels and massive timbers through the revolving blade.

Every cabinet table saw has an adjustable fence and a tilting blade. This allows bevel cuts.

For the blade specifically, the diameter will usually range from anywhere between 7 to 12 inches. Industrial and commercial table saws have blades even larger. Nearly every cabinet table saw is driven by a pulley and belt system.

Benchtop Table Saws: These are the most compact of table saws, designed for tight spaces and light duty work in comparison to Cabinet Table Saws. You will typically find them in commercial business locations or home hobby shops where they tend to secondary duties. They include portable extensions and direct drives with varying speeds over belts and bulky pulleys.

Contractor Table Saws: These are extremely portable and are easy for contractors to quickly set up and break down when leaving the shop. Portability does not give away precision and power, however. Industry-leading table saws are extremely accurate and can make multiple cuts through highly dense materials. Blade diameter for contractor table saws ranges from 7 to 10 inches.

Miter saws

miter saws

Miter saws combine the functionality and features of the table and circular saws. The word “miter” is a reference to an angled cut. They are the closest thing that resembles a hand saw.

Powered miter tools are often called chop saws, drop saws, and cut-off saws. All serve the same purpose, which is to move a spinning circular blade across the face of the wood.

Over the years, miter saws have significantly evolved. Nearly everyone is plugged into the outlet instead of being operated by a battery. Blade sizes vary from anywhere between 7 to 12 inches, depending on the application.

The three main types of miter saws include:

Compound Miter Saw: These are complex and include a blade fixed at different side angles as well as vertically. They are challenging to make without electric power.

Straight Cut-off Miter Saw: These are the lowest cost and simplest of the three models. Blades drop straight down and pass along the wood. You can preset different angles, with several of the most common being 90, 45, and 22.5.

Sliding Compound Miter Saw: These allow the blade to be positioned in the same ways as straight cut-off and compound miter saws, but the sliding arm allows the blade to travel much farther.

Band saws

band saws

Most band saws are expensive, but the average shop owner has at least one lying around. Band saws achieve a cutting tack for wood that cannot be achieved in any other way. In principle, they are quite simple.

However, band saws contain three primary moving parts. Two are below the work table, and two are wheel-mounted. The band is locked in place with guides and revolves using the drive wheels. Bands stick to the wheels with urethane adhesive or rubber tires.

Band saws come in a multitude of electric motor ratings and sizes. You will often find them in small shops for light work or in large commercial facilities to cut raw timber.

Oscillating saws

oscillating saws

Also known as multi-tools, oscillating saws serve many functions. They are irreplaceable for making flush woodcuts against tight spots or walls.

You can even change the saw blade and turn the multi-tool into a polisher, sander, scraper, or metal saw.

The act of oscillation means traveling back and forth. This is exactly what these saws do. Certain oscillating saws are capable of moving at 20,000 strokes per minute. At such a rate, their intense vibration performs the cutting word.

Furthermore, most oscillating screws work without a cord and demand minimal power. This makes them suitable for 14, 18, and 24-volt rechargeable batteries using lithium-ion. As such, multi-tools are friendly in small spots where the room is limited.

Scroll saws

scroll saws

Scroll saws are comparable to band saws, though they are typically smaller. They appear similar to sewing machines. Such specialized saws are the main tool of modelers and fine furniture makers. They are perfect for artists.

With scroll saws, the material passes through a blade mounted in the opening of a face and deep throat.

Yet, when the band saw blade spins continuously around a revolving loop, a scroll saw blade can cut back and forth. They are similar to jigsaws yet offer much more stable cuts as the blade anchors at the varying ends.

The blade can be easily taken apart and passes through a hole in the piece of work to allow for interior cutting. They aren’t often seen in large construction projects but instead lend themselves to creative shops.

Jigsaws

jigsaws

One of the best beginner woodworking tools people invest in is a jigsaw. This is because they are simple to handle and are not nearly as dangerous as circular saws or other types of aggressive electric tools. This makes them relatively safe for those new to woodworking.

Jigsaws move back and forth like other types of saws yet have the baseplates sit flat on the surface while the saber scrolls through.

Chainsaws

chainsaws

Chainsaws operate like loose, mobile band saws. Their chain revolves with sharp cutting teeth along the blade. A chainsaw is the definitive, high-speed machine for cutting wood.

You may also know them as power saws, and while some can craft amazing works of art with them, chainsaws exist for outdoor use. Models come in different bar sizes and power levels. The chainsaw bar is the rail guide that the chain travels around.

When operating a chainsaw, you must handle it with care. While every powered cutting tool comes with hazards, serious injuries are possible from accidents.

What makes these devices so dangerous is their potential kickback. This is when the spinning chain hits a fixed object it cannot pass through, and the energy reverses, causing the bar to leap back to the user’s direction.

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