Different Types of Saws: Uses and Terminologies Explained

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Different Types of SawsSaws are simple machines that have been around for thousands of years. Over time, they have branched out to be categorized into specific niches as the technology changes and as the variety of materials increase. Whether it’s for a professional or a personal project, there are different types of saws that could accommodate different cutting needs.

It is important to use the right type of saw for a particular job to achieve precision and efficiency. When you use the wrong saw with the wrong type of blade, you could end up ruining your tool as well as your material.

Before making your initial cut, make sure to take a look at the material you are working with and decide on the kind of cuts you need. It will help you pick the right saw for many applications.

Today, a complete tool collection would include a variety of saws including some specialized ones and others that are more versatile. Usually, it is the shape of the saw along with the number and shape of the teeth that determine how a particular saw is supposed to be used.

Classifications

There are two main types of saws: the hand saws and the power saws. But there are different varieties of these types of saws used for different purposes.

Types of Hand Saws

The hand saw has evolved to accommodate various cutting styles and techniques. Some hand saws are used for general applications like the traditional hand saw while others have more specialized uses like the keyhole saw. Professional handymen often have at least one of these tools though practical craftsmen or hobbyists may want to keep only the saw type that really fits their cutting needs. Here are a variety of hand saws.

Basic Handsaw

Great Neck SS208 20-Inch Aggressive Tooth Hand Saws
Great Neck SS208 20-Inch Aggressive Tooth Hand Saws

The traditional or basic handsaw is the most iconic and possibly the most reliable of all hand saws. It is most commonly used for cutting wood but often requires a lot of effort even when cutting simple blocks of wood.

Backsaw

Stanley FatMax 17-202 14-Inch Back Saw
Stanley FatMax 17-202 14-Inch Back Saw

A backsaw is relatively shorter than the traditional hand saw and other types of saws. It has a narrow blade and its upper edges are reinforced that’s why it was called the backsaw. This particular type of saw is most often used with miter boxes and usually when you need a consistently fine and straight cut. It is sometimes referred to as a miter saw or a tenon saw depending on the design.

The stiff end of the backsaw is what allows it to give the user more control and precise cutting. It’s normally used for woodworking. As with other hand saws, the backsaw is limited in cutting depth.

Its teeth closely spaced and has little or no set. Some varieties of the backsaw include the mitre saw which is a larger backsaw, the tenon saw which is midsized, and the sash saw which is thinner and more flexible and is used for sashes but there are other subcategories.

Bow Saw

Bahco 10-24-23 Bow Saw
Bahco 10-24-23 Bow Saw

A bow saw is a type of a crosscut hand saw with a relatively long blade and plenty of crosscut teeth. These teeth are meant to remove material as it pushes and pulls. Bow saws are often used to trim trees, prune and cut logs, but it could also be used to make different types of rough cuts.

The modern bow saw usually has a metal frame. As the name suggests, it is shaped like a bow and is sometimes called the Swede saw or Finn saw. It is also used for cutting firewood and cross cutting branches. Traditionally, the bow saw is used to create straight or curved cuts. Do not confuse it with a type of chainsaw that is also called a bow saw.

Butcher Saw

LEM Products 640 Meat Saw
LEM Products 640 Meat Saw

This saw is widely used in slaughter houses for cutting large chunk of meat and bones into different parts. Butcher saw has specialized built material designed just for meat or bone cutting. It is used by professional butchers and chefs.

Coping Saw

Robert Larson 540-2000 Coping Saw
Robert Larson 540-2000 Coping Saw

The coping saw has a thin and narrow blade and is perfect for trimming, scrolling, and other cutting techniques that require precision. It is best for creating intricate cuts. You can use a coping saw to cut a wide variety of materials and it is often one of the tools in professional toolkits of carpenters and plumbers. It’s also a popular favorite of furniture makers.

A coping saw is considered as a type of bow saw but the bow is larger and shaped wider. It is sometimes used to create fretwork though it does not cut as intricately as a fretsaw. Its blade is thicker than a fretsaw but it can cut slight bends and circles if used carefully.

Crosscut Saw

Lynx 3' One Man Crosscut Saw
Lynx 3′ One Man Crosscut Saw

This type of hand saw is specially designed to roughly cut wood with its thick blade and large beveled teeth. The most common crosscut saw is very useful in cutting lumber, trimming limbs or branches and is great to bring when camping. There is a specific type of crosscut saw called the felling saw which is a two-man saw. Both ends have handle for two people to efficiently cut timbers.

There are small and large types of crosscut saws. Their teeth are close together so it allows for fine work like woodworking as well as for large coarse work like log bucking. The angled teeth allow the crosscut saw to tear along the grain of the wood acting like a small chisel.

Fretsaw

Fret Saw
Olson Saw SF63507 Fret Saw

A fretsaw closely resembles a coping saw. It has a long thin blade that is effective in creating intricate cuts. It cuts finer than a coping saw because of its longer and larger frame. This is what makes it cut farther from the outer edges.

The blade of a fretsaw cannot be rotated so it may be more tedious to work with and you have to find the correct cutting position to properly perform intricate scrollwork.

Hacksaw

Stanley STHT20138 Solid Frame High Tension Hacksaw
Stanley STHT20138 Solid Frame High Tension Hacksaw

Another popular type of hand saw is the hacksaw. It’s great for cutting pipes and tubing. It is one of the most common in all saw types. The hacksaw is very lightweight and has a variety of uses. It can cut through wood, metal, plastic, along with other materials.

You can use different material-specific cutting blades with a hack saw to use it in many different applications. Its tooth count ranges from 18 to 32 per inch.

Japanese Saw

Gyokucho 770-3600 Razor Ryoba Saw
Gyokucho 770-3600 Razor Ryoba Saw

The Japanese saw has a single handle and its protruding blade is strong and thin. It has more precision than a backsaw and is perfect for reaching places that other hand saws cannot reach.

There are five different types of Japanese saw called the douzukinoko, ryoba, kataba, azebiki and mawashibiki. They can cut hard and soft woods with the same precision.

For detailed explanation, check out our best Japanese saw recommendations.

Keyhole Saw

Stanley 20-556 6-Inch FatMax Jab Saw
Stanley 20-556 6-Inch FatMax Jab Saw

This saw has a round handle and a single protruding blade. It is used to rough cut circles and patterns. It is very useful in drywall applications especially when removing small sections. Keyhole saw is also called jab saw, pad saw or drywall saw.

Pruning Saw

Corona RazorTOOTH Folding Pruning Saw
Corona RazorTOOTH Folding Pruning Saw

The pruning saw has about a 10 to 15 inch curved blade that protrudes from a handle with a pistol grip. Its wide blade with coarse teeth is able to cut in both directions which makes it faster to remove material. This saw is also widely used by tree surgeons as well as lawn workers and landscapers.

 

Veneer Saw

Crown 187V Veneer Saw
Crown 187V Veneer Saw

This is a highly specialized type of hand saw that is designed with a double-edged blade. This blade is short and has about 13 teeth per inch. It is typically used for precision veneer work.

Wallboard Saw

GreatNeck 4932 Double Edge Wallboard Saw
GreatNeck 4932 Double Edge Wallboard Saw

It looks a lot like the keyhole saw. The wallboard saw is designed with a shorter and wide blade and has fewer teeth per inch. There are double-edge varieties of the wallboard saw that can be used to puncture through wood paneling.

Types of Power Saws

Power saws are designed to perform a combination of the different handheld saws. These types of saw are used for big construction projects either for woodworking, metal-cutting and concrete-cutting. Its three main categories are the continuous band saw, reciprocating blade saw, and the circular blade saw.

Band Saw

WEN 3962 Two-Speed Band Saw
WEN 3962 Two-Speed Band Saw

There are two types of band saws: the stationary and the portable one. The stationary band saw stands from the floor and uses large pulleys moving through the cutting table. These have fine teeth that cuts through a variety of materials.

Band saws are very effective in making intricate cuts especially curves in wood. They can also cut tubes, piping, and PVC but they have a limited cutting depth.

A portable band saw can perform a lot of tasks as the full sized band saw but is compact. There are more limitations in a portable unit and it may require more effort to make straight cuts. It is often used by plumbers, welders, and metalworkers.

Chain Saw

BLACK+DECKER LCS1020 Chainsaw
BLACK+DECKER LCS1020 Chainsaw

The chain saw has a linked chain designed with ripping teeth. It is another type of band saw and is most commonly used in tree work.

Chop Saw

Evolution Power Tools EVOSAW380 Chop Saw
Evolution Power Tools EVOSAW380 Chop Saw

Chop saw is used for cutting materials in fixed and steady manner. It has a so called “D” handle used to push the saw downwards just like chopping on a chop board. There are two blades associated with this type of saw. The abrasive and cold saw blade. Chop saw can cut wood, PVC, metal, plastic and concrete.

Check out our best metal chop saw recommendations.

Circular Saw

SKIL 5280-01 Circular Saw
SKIL 5280-01 Circular Saw

It is sometimes called a buzz saw. The circular saw has a toothed blade and is the most popular type of power saw. It can be used with a variety of blades that allow it to cut all types of wood, metal, plastic, and even masonry.

Just like chop saws, circular saws have two blade classifications. The cold saw blades for cutting metal and abrasive blades for wood cutting.

Check out our best metal cutting circular saw recommendations.

Compound Miter Saw

DEWALT DWS779 Compound Miter Saw
DEWALT DWS779 Compound Miter Saw

This is a more advanced version of the miter saw. It can create straight, miter, and compound cuts. Its blade is mounted on the arm so it doesn’t have to pivot up and down. It can cut complex angles including scrollwork. Using a compound miter saw saves a lot of time when trimming windows and adding crown molding.

Jigsaw

BLACK+DECKER BDEJS600C 5.0-Amp Jig Saw
BLACK+DECKER BDEJS600C 5.0-Amp Jig Saw

A jigsaw is a handheld power saw that has a short blade with fine teeth. It moves vertically at different speeds and is one of the few that can cut curves and other non-straight lines.

Panel Saw

Powermatic 1510007 511 Vertical Panel Saw
Powermatic 1510007 511 Vertical Panel Saw

A panel saw or also know as sliding panel saw is a type of saw which is used for panel processing applications like cutting sheet stocks in a crosscut manner. This saw is a versatile cutting tool used mostly for woodworking.

Reciprocating Saw

DEWALT DWE305 Reciprocating Saw
DEWALT DWE305 Reciprocating Saw

This works similarly to a jigsaw with a blade that rapidly moves back and forth. It’s ideal for cutting tubes, wood, and plastics. It can also cut beneath the walls or even wood joints since the blades can cut through nails. This power saw is crucial in demolition jobs.

Rotary Saw

DEWALT DW660 Cut-Out Rotary Tool
DEWALT DW660 Cut-Out Rotary Tool

The rotary saw, also referred as cut out tool has a fixed blade and its handle is shaped like a screwdriver but larger. It is used for a wide variety of applications including crafts, construction, and wall repairs. The rotary saw is an essential tool for drywall, paneling, and different other small cutting tasks.

This saw is also used in medical practice.

Scroll Saw

WEN 3920 Scroll Saw
WEN 3920 Scroll Saw

Scroll saw is a type of saw designed for woodworking. It works like a sewing machine where the blade move upwards and downwards. It is also noted for its silent cutting process. It is used for cutting sharp interior cuts, intricate curves and joints. It is also used for designing wooden ornaments and figurines for decoration.

Check out our best scroll saw recommendations.

Table Saw

DEWALT DWE7491RS Jobsite Table Saw
DEWALT DWE7491RS Jobsite Table Saw

The blades of a table saw are larger than those of circular saws. This saw has a high-speed motor below a flat table. It is great for doing rip cuts and large batches of identically sized cut pieces. You can use metal and masonry blades with a table saw.

 

Flooring Saw

SKIL 3601-02 Flooring Saw
SKIL 3601-02 Flooring Saw

This power saw can be used to re-saw flooring. It can work with hardwood, engineered floors, bamboo, and laminate floors.

Radial Arm Saw

Woodtek 148256, Machinery, Radial Arm Saws
Woodtek 148256, Machinery, Radial Arm Saws

You can create identical compound cuts, miter cuts, and more with the radial arm saw because its motor and blade are placed on an arm extending on a cutting table. This type of saw is very expensive.

Saw Terminologies

Here are some of the words and terminologies that you need to be familiar with as you learn more about the different types of saws and how to use them.

Anti-stick coating

A coating applied to saw blades to decrease friction and heat buildup. This allows a smoother and quitter cutting.

Arbor

This is the shaft in a saw that is driven by the saw’s motor which makes the blade turn. It is sometimes called the mandrel.

ATB (Alternate Top Bevel)

The part of a saw blade that is opposite the teeth. It is usually facing up.

Baseline

The baseline of teeth in a hand saw is an imaginary line that connects the points of the saw teeth at the bottom.

Bore

This is the diameter of the arbor hole.

Carbide Tips

You may notice the term carbide tips when looking at different blade types. A carbide tipped blade is guaranteed to stay sharp much longer than ordinary steel blades. This is because of its material, tungsten carbide which is one of the hardest materials that have ever been made.

Carbide Tooth

A saw blade with carbide teeth have longer lasting tips and sharper cutting edges. They resist impact better because of the cobalt and tungsten composition.

Chipping

When a saw blade begins to get ragged edges, this is called chipping. This is due to the lifting of the blade and tearing of the wood fibers as the saw blade exits the material.

Combination Saw Blade

There is a type of blade that can be used to rip or cut through the grain of wood and crosscut across the grain. It makes a saw very versatile.

Conical Tooth Grind

This is when the tooth of the blade has a negative radial relief angle.

Crosscut

A type of cut that is made across the grain of the wood.

Cutoff

This is what you call the wood cuttings or other smooth cuttings of plywood or chipboard. It can also refer to cuttings of paneling and pressboard among others.

Cutting Angle

This is the angle from the upper side of the blade to the material that you are cutting. Some call it the rake angle.

Diameter

You can measure the diameter of a saw blade from the furthest edge of one tip to the opposite tip. Blades with larger diameters are considered industry quality because it can facilitate more teeth which creates a smoother cut. It also means that each tooth requires less effort and the blade will last longer.

Ferrous

Saw blades that contain iron.

Finishing Saw Blade

A type of saw blade that have more teeth which makes for smoother cuts.

Flat Top Grind

It’s a type of saw blade teeth that are flat on the top and has a zero-degree top bevel angle. These blades are durable and long lasting and can be used for ripping and other applications.

Grain

Another term related to using saws. The longitudinal fibers in wood.

Groove

A type of cut made across the wood grain and has two straight sides. Each side is at a 90-degree angle and a flat bottom.

Miter

When you cut material for an angle joint, the process is called miter hence the term miter saw.

Nonferrous

Saw blades that are a type of metal that does not contain iron such as aluminum, lead, brass or copper.

Plane

This term is used to describe the process of making a surface smooth or even in woodworking. When a saw blade is labeled as a planer or a planning saw blade, it means that it creates a very smooth cut.

Plate

In a carbide tipped circular saw, the plate is the steel part of the blade without tips. It can also be the body of the saw or describes how thick the body is.

Plough

A type of recessed cut on the grain of the wood. It has 2 straight sides at 90-degree angles.

Rabbet

A rabbet is an open-ended cut made along the edges of a material which usually joins another workpiece to create a joint.

Ripping

A type of cut where the blade saws the board in the direction of the board grain.

Runout

This is how much the saw blade wobbles or moves from side to side while being used. It’s also called a warp. The less wobble, the better a saw blade performs.

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