So Many Types Of Saws! Which Do I Use For What?

Types of Saws

Considering the great many different kinds of saws that are available on the market, it’s perfectly understandable if you aren’t quite sure what kind of saw you need or even if you are aware of the names of different saws that there are in the first place and the functions of each one.

Fortunately, this article is here to serve as a guide for you so that you can discover all of the different types of saws and their uses so that you can decide what type of saw would best fit your needs. By the end of this article, you will know about all of the major types of saws that are on the market, the design of each one, the intended function for that saw, and any pros and cons that you can compare and contrast to the other types.

Here is a list of the types of saws:


We’re going to discuss powerless hand saws first because they are easily the oldest type of saw and are powered by one thing and one thing only: your muscles. Hand saws have existed in one form or another for many millennia and in ancient cultures all over the world from Egypt to Greece to Japan. Even though many hand saws today are antiques, you can still easily find them at almost all home improvement/construction shops and sporting goods stores. As we will soon see, they come in a multitude of different variations.

In terms of functions, hand saws are extremely simple: they are made up of only a blade and a handle that is either made out of wood or synthetic material. The thicker the blade is, the more stiff and heavy duty it is as well. But even though all hand saws are technically a blade and a handle, there are still different types of woodworking saws that fall under the category of handsaws.

Crosscut Saws

Two man crosscut sawsA crosscut saw is designed to handle crosscuts (as the name suggests) in thicker pieces of wood such as trees and logs. When it comes to hand saws for cutting trees, the crosscut is your best choice. The teeth of the blade will cut at a right angle and cut through the tree like a knife. Since the beveled edges of the blade will cut the wood fibers at a perpendicular position to the grain, the amount of bending that occurs on the actual blade is dramatically reduced.

It should be noted that crosscut saws fulfill many of the same purposes that the mechanically powered chainsaw does as well, which we will explore later on in this article. But the advantage to a crosscut saw over a chainsaw, even though falling a tree with a chainsaw inherently puts less of a strain on your muscles, is that a crosscut saw kit is much simpler and lighter than a chainsaw kit.

When operating a chainsaw, you also have to have safety equipment, oil, gasoline, and a few additional tools. In addition, you have to constantly maintain your chainsaw by tensioning or replacing the chain and tuning the engine. With a crosscut saw, all you really need is a sharpening stone to ensure that the blade stays sharp.

In addition, it is perfectly legal to use a crosscut saw on Federal lands across the country, whereas there are certain areas where chainsaw usage is not allowed. For this reason, it’s often wise to have a crosscut saw as a backup to your chainsaw.

Coping Saws

Coping SawsA coping saw is a small handsaw and is designed to cut very precise patterns and shapes into wood. As you might imagine, the steel blade is considerably thinner than most saws but it is also hardened, and it is stretched in between a U-shaped frame that is attached to either the synthetic or wood handle. The teeth of the blade itself point upwards to the handle.  This stands in stark contrast to the hacksaw, where the teeth are pointed in the opposite direction from the handle. On the coping saw, the blade is very easy to remove because all you have to do is unscrew the handle.

Since the blade is so thin, it is very simple to change the direction of your cutting. You can simply turn the frame of the coping saw in order to change direction, all while continuing to cut at a normal rate. Even though coping saws are traditionally used for cutting wood, they can also be applied to other materials such as metal or aluminum. However, the thin blade will generally produce a less efficient cut in a harder material such as metal, so a more heavy duty blade such as one from a hacksaw is more recommended for these purposes.


HacksawsA hacksaw consists of a handle and a U-shaped metal frame with a blade of fine teeth running along the side that is stretched in between the frame, much like the coping saw we explored earlier. So you might be wondering what the real difference is between a hacksaw and a coping saw. The answer is that the blade of a hacksaw is both thicker and disposable so that it can cut through various kinds of metals. In contrast to this, the blade of the coping saw is much thinner and shorter, and also only generally designed to make more intricate cuts in wood.

The blades of a hacksaw come in a variety of lengths, with most blades ranging in between six inches to twelve inches in total length. There can be anywhere from fourteen to over thirty teeth for every inch on a hacksaw blade as well. Since the teeth of the hacksaw are so small and numerous, you can understand that the blades are a little delicate in comparison to other saws.  Recent models of hacksaws have started to use steel for their teeth, which not only improves their sharpness but also their durability and longevity as well. Nonetheless, it is still recommended that you replace your blades when needed, and that you use the right thickness of blade for whatever job you are doing.


BacksawsBefore we move into mechanically powered saws, the last type of handsaw that we will talk about is the back saw. A backsaw uses a much thinner blade than a regular hand wood saws or crosscut saw, but the durability of this blade is still increased by a stiff rib on the opposite side of the blade’s cutting edge. This also permits the user to have better control over the saw than almost all other kinds of hand saws on the market. The trade off is that there is a limit to the depth that you can cut.


While powerless hand saws are one major category of saws, mechanical saws are the other. The next part of this article will focus on the types of power saws and electric saws. We will use the term mechanical saws to describe both. Mechanical saws have to be powered via another source, whether they be batteries, an electrical wire, or an engine. As we shall soon see, there are even more kinds of mechanical saws than hand saws.

If a saw is mechanically powered, and if it has a rotating blade that is circular, then it’s a circular blade saw. Circular blade saws can be divided into two separate categories – handheld and table.   

Hand Held Circular Saw

buzz sawThe first type of circular blade saw that we will look at is the buzzsaw. This saw has historically been utilized in sawmills where it found favor for effortlessly sawing through wooden beams and logs. Today, the buzzsaw is most commonly handheld and sells in a number of different versions and sizes.

In hand held models of the buzz saw, the piece of wood is instead clamped securely and the saw is pushed slowly across the wood in your desired direction of cut. Some important characteristics of buzz saws is that the cut is made straighter than many other kinds of saws, the surface of the cut will be relatively smooth, and the cutting is completed by the teeth on the blade.

Table Saw

Table SawsA table saw differs from a circular saw in that the circular blade is fixed and comes out of a slot in the middle of the table. Then, the wood or other type of materials is moved across the table and across the table that is remaining in its same location. A workbench saw is the same thing as a table saw, only the workbench is smaller than a traditional table.

Besides chainsaws, table saws are arguably the most risky types of saws to operate and requires a number of different safety precautions to take before and while using them. One of the biggest hazards of chainsaws is known as ‘kickback.’ This is when the blade catches onto your workpiece and then throws it towards the user, often very violently. If thrown back hard enough, it can injure the user severely.

Fortunately, there are several safety precautions you can take to both reduce the chance of kickback happening AND to avoid it should it happen. These are:

  • Never stand directly behind the blade/workpiece when operating the table saw.
  • Keep the blade as clean and as sharp as possible; if the blade is unclean, it can cause pitch to build up that will cause friction and dramatically increases the chance of a kickback happening.  Furthermore, pitch and debris accumulating on the blade will also decrease the quality of the cut, so there’s double reasons to make sure that you wipe down your blade before each use
  • The saw will have to be adjusted so that it is held parallel to its miter grooves; you can tell if the blade is held parallel with the saw’s fence if you see marks that were created by the back of the saw’s blade on the wood, wood composite, or other material.
  • Use the blade guard whenever you can.
  • Ensure that you are always in one hundred percent, full control of the saw. Never begin a cut if you do not have this kind of control over the tool, and ensure that there is nothing in the way that will impede the cut. In addition, never cut through a piece of wood that is too large or too thick for the saw to handle
  • Ensure that no knots or other kinds of flaws exist in your wood; doing so drastically boosts the chances of a kickback happening.

Table saws may sound like a dangerous tool to use, but if you know what you are doing and operate carefully and in full control, you can use them safely. For certain woodworking projects, they are one of the most effective types of saws that you can use.

Radial Arm Saw

Radial Arm SawsOur next type of circular saw is the radial arm saw. This type of saw was invented in 1922 and was initially used to cut longer sized pieces of stock wood. The radial arm saw works by means of a circular blade that is attached to a sliding arm that is held horizontally. This allows it to be dragged across the wood that you would like to cut, making it an excellent saw to use for cross cutting purposes. The radial arm saw is going to be your best alternative to a table saw, assuming a table saw is not what you can do. The reason why a radial arm saw is your best alternative is because it can do everything a table saw can do. It can crosscut, rip, shape or mold, rabbet, and taber cut through wood.

However, you could also argue that the radial arm saw can do everything the table saw can do and then some. Whereas a table saw requires there to be clearance on all sides, there only needs to be clearance on two sides of the radial arm saw. This means that you can keep your radial arm saw positioned against the wall in your shop and thus give you more space in the middle. In contrast to this, the table saw would need to be placed somewhere in the middle of your shop, which can make organization of your other tools and saws more of a hassle.

There’s a trade off to everything, however, and for radial arm saws it’s that they generally have to be tuned in order to complete more precise work. This is because ever since the early to mid 1960s, radial arms saws have been constructed using stamped metal parts, which has unfortunately led to looser tolerances in the actual machine. When your radial arm saw is tuned, the locking mechanism, track arm ways, and motor will be worked on to ensure that they run much more smoothly.

Rotary Saw

Rotary SawsA rotary saw consists of a circular blade that is significantly smaller than other kinds of circular blade saws. As a result, the rotary saw can then be held in hand to make more accurate cuts on smaller pieces of wood or materials such as plywood or drywall, and without the necessity of a pilot hole within that material. Rotary saws are also known as spiral cut saws.

Rotary saws were originally built and intended mainly for cutting through drywall, but it was quickly discovered how effective they were for other materials too and without changing the actual design of the tool. The fundamental design of all rotary designs are the same, and there only exists a few differences between models. For example, some rotary saws will cut on a downward twist while others will cut upwards.   

Tile Saw

DEWALT D24000 1_optTile saws are very similar to miter saws, with the primary difference being that they make use of a blade that is diamond coated with the addition of a water cooling system instead.  The reason why is because the water has to cool the diamond blade.  

Tile saws, like most other saws, come in a wide variety of different blade sizes.  They are also capable of making both square and angled cuts thanks to the adjustable fences, which can stop for making several cuts of the same size for an overall more accurate and precise cut. If you are looking for a tile saw check out our tile saw buyers guide.

Biscuit Joiner Saw

A biscuit joiner saw, also known as a plate joiner saw, is a type of tool that brings two different pieces of wood together.  The reason why it’s called a biscuit joiner saw, however, is because it incorporates a circular blade that is used to cut a hole shaped like a crescent on both wood edges.  A wooden biscuit that is oval shaped is then covered with blue and placed inside of the slot, joining the two boards together.  

It’s not required for you to make the most precise measurements possible with a biscuit joiner saw, because the biscuits will be hidden when both wooden pieces are joined together.  As long as a mark is made for where both pieces will align, you’ll be fine.  The circular blade itself inside of the biscuit joiner saw is spring loaded.  You will then need to line up the machine with where you want to cut and then apply pressure to bring the body of the saw forward against the wood piece to make a cut.  A slot on the side of the base plate will then blow out any waste material.

Miter Saw

The purpose of a miter saw is to make crosscuts on a piece of wood.  There are two kinds of miter saws: manual and power miter saws.  A manual miter saw will be suspended on slides in a miter box, allowing the saw to then make accurate cut.  However, in more recent times, the manual miter saw has been largely replaced by the power versions.

Power miter saws are also sometimes called drop saws.  They can make very precise and also very quick crosscuts on a piece of wood at whatever angle you desire.  The average size of blade in a power miter saw is between eight to twelve inches, which allows the overall body of the saw to be relatively lightweight and compact, as well as easy to Makita 2414NB 14-Inch Portable Cut-Off Sawtransport.  

To use a power miter saw correctly, simply pull the spinning circular blade down onto your piece of wood slowly.  The piece of wood that you are operating on should ideally be held down securely so that it doesn’t move while making the cut, and to ensure a more accurate angle.

In the same family as the miter saw is the metal chop saw. It has the same basic operation as a miter saw except it is specifically intended to be used to cut metal. Since it is used for metal the blades are abrasive instead of cutting and they usually have a spark guard of some sort. Check out our metal chop saw buyers guide.

Concrete Saw

Concrete SawsConcrete saws can, as the name of them strongly implies, cut through materials such as concrete and asphalt. Concrete saws will either be powered by an internal combustion engine or by electricity, but regardless, they all use a diamond cutting blade that can cut through the harder surfaces of asphalt and concrete.

Nonetheless, no two diamond cutting blades are created alike, which means there are some factors you will have to keep in mind in order to perform the cutting task for your particular project as well. The specific diameter, size, and quality of the diamond blade are just three things to keep in mind before making a purchase.

Keep the project involving cement or asphalt in mind before you buy a concrete saw, because it’s vitally important that the diamond saw blade you select matches the type of concrete or asphalt that you plan on cutting them. Reinforced concrete, for instance, will have steel bars within them while others won’t have it. As a result, reinforced concrete and non-reinforced concrete will require two different kinds of blades for you to cut through.

Something else to keep in mind is that the majority of diamond saw blades that are currently available on the market are made for wet cutting. This means that they have to be to be used with the recommended amount of water in order to cut through concrete or asphalt that is exceedingly abrasive or hard. If the blades are not used with the recommend amount of water, the diamond part of the blade could wear down and eventually break. It is then very possible that either a part of the blade or a part of the saw will come flying back at the user or another person who is nearby and cause serious injury or death. When purchasing a concrete saw or the blades for it, confirm without any shadow of a doubt about whether or not using it with water is necessary.

Finally, pay very close attention to the overall engine horsepower of the saw. The more horsepower the saw has, the more of an impact the diamonds on the blade will receive while in the process of cutting through concrete or asphalt. In contrast to this, should there be a lesser amount of horsepower in the engine of the saw, then the diamond concentration of the blade will be lower and softer, and the blade likely sharper as well since it is receiving less impact from the asphalt or concrete.

If you are looking for a concrete saw check out our best concrete saw guide.

Types of Circular Saw Blades

The standard blades for circular blade saws are either used to cut through wood composites or actual woods itself. The speed of the cut will be determined by the actual number of teeth that are present on the blade. If the blade has less teeth, it will cut faster; if it has more teeth, it will cut slower. However, blades with more teeth will also make a final cut, so there’s a trade off to it.

The additional primary types of circular saw blades are:

  • Framing Blades: framing blades always have twenty four teeth and are used for speed rather than a fine cut.
  • Plywood Blades: Plywood blades always have at least one hundred teeth, sometimes more, and are designed to operate at slower speeds while making a final cut.
  • Rip Cut Blades: Rip Cut Blades will have anywhere from sixteen to forty teeth and are the most aggressive types of blade that you can buy.
  • Crosscut Blades: Crosscut Blades have anywhere from forty to eighty teeth and are designed to make a cleaner cut while operating at a slightly slower speed.


A mechanical reciprocating blade saw is defined as any type of mechanical saw where the blades moves in a back and forth motion in order to cut through the materials. Like circular bladed saws, reciprocating blades saws can either be fixed to a secured platform or they can be held and used in the hand.


JigsawsThe jigsaw is also known as the saber saw. It is a very small and lightweight saw that is designed to be held and used in the hand. The blade of the jigsaw is very narrow, enabling it to cut shapes that are more irregular and curvy than what other saws could cut through. In fact, so efficient is the jigsaw at cutting curvy shapes in wood that it is rather inefficient at cutting a straight line.  This is both a major pro and con to the jigsaw.

There are different kinds of blades used for the jigsaw, and each type of jigsaw blade is designed to complete a different task. For instance, some blades are better designed for cutting through softer materials, others for flush cutting, and others for a tighter curve.

The biggest negative to jigsaws is controllability. The jigsaw blades are weak and they also have no support at the lower part of the blade. In order to make a good cut (and to use the saw safely), the blade rollers must be present. The rollers are there to keep the blade properly aligned. Never force the blade of the jigsaw to move in a different direction when cutting a curve; rather, you should steer it softly in order to make the safest and most high quality cut.

Scroll Saw

Scroll SawThe next type of mechanical reciprocating bladed saw that we will look at is the scroll saw.  Scroll saws, as you may know, have a very narrow and thin blade that is held in between a platform and the arm of the saw. This simply the perfect type of saw for making a more intricate cut in the wood, to the point that many consider woodworking with scroll saws to be more than just a hobby, but an art. This is because you can literally cut any shape you desire into the art simply by moving around the piece of wood as it relates to the blade.

Scroll saws fall into different classifications depending on the distance from the rear of the saw to the blade. This is referred to as the throat depth, and it alone decides how large or thick the wood can be for the saw to cut through. A throat depth of twelve inches is considered to be small in regards to scroll saws; most scroll saws will have a throat depth of at least thirty inches, if not more. The biggest con to the scroll saw is also its biggest pro: that using it requires a lot of creativity from the user. This is yet another reason why many people consider woodworking with scroll saws to be an art.

Another advantage to scroll saws is how few other tools, if any, are required for the project. Since the scroll saw alone can cut out intricate joints and accurate curves, additional tools are not required to get this done. In addition, scroll saws are very safe to use so long as you keep your fingers away from the blade of the saw itself while using it.

The most popular type of scroll saw is referred to as the parallel arm saw. In this design, a motor is bolted to the rears of the arms of the saw, with both arms being held parallel to one another.  Sometimes, the arms will be C-shaped. Before the parallel arm saw, the most popular kind of scroll saw was the rigid arm saw, that is constructed out of one piece of a cast iron frame. However, rigid arm saws are no longer in regular production.

If you are looking for a scroll saw check out our best scroll saw guide.

Reciprocating Saw (Sawzall)

Milwaukee 6538-21 Reciprocating SawA reciprocating saw is a kind of saw that can make a cut on a piece of wood or other kind of work piece by pulling and pushing a reciprocating motion on a blade.  Reciprocating saws have typically found their place in construction work, and are also known as sawzalls.  They have a large blade that almost looks like a jigsaw.  

Despite being the same in their basic operation, reciprocating saws are still very different in terms of their overall power and features.  Some are small and handheld models that you can carry with you, while others are large and more difficult to transport around.  

There are also a wide variety of different blades that you can buy for reciprocating saws as well.  Some blades are designed for cutting wood, while others are designed for cutting composite materials and even metal.  Blades that are coated in an abrasive material are intended to cut through rock and tile. If you are looking for a reciprocating saw check out our sawzall buyers guide.

Mechanical Saws with Continuous Band Blades

Band Saw

Band SawsA band saw is defined as a type of stationary saw where the blade is made out of a constant band of metal that rides on wheels. The wheels of the saw, meanwhile, will rotate on the exact same plan. This results in a cutting action that is uniform, and is ideal for cutting through almost everything under the sun ranging from timber to meat and even metal.

An enormous advantage to the bandsaw is how it can cut both straight cuts and curved cuts. But regardless of the type of cut that you want to make, all that you have to do is to set the blade guard to the proper height, meaning that it’s just a little taller than the wood’s height. If you leave too big of a gap in between the blade guard and the wood, the blade could meander and not only result in an improper cut, but potential injury as well.

When cutting curves with a bandsaw, you would be wise to physically mark or draw the line with a sharpie or other form of writing utensil before making the actual cut. Then, feed the wood into the blade very slowly. DO NOT, under any circumstances, actually force the wood into the blade. Instead, simply put it gently and allow the blade to do its work.

If you notice that the blade is starting to slow down against the wood, your natural instinct may be to stop cutting, but you should avoid this. The blade slowing down against the wood is referred to as binding, and it simply means that you are trying to cut a curve that is too tight. You can quickly remedy this by pushing the wood more gently and then trying again after you have cut through to an edge of the wood. In other words, you simply have to make a few shallow or short cuts instead of one big, long cut.

However, if you make a large number of shallow cuts and the blade only continues to bind, then completely switch off the power to the saw and slowly but steadily pull the blade from out of the wood.  Then, start again. When using the bandsaw, before trying to rip out the wood you need to confirm that the blade’s tension is correct. This means the guides of the blades have to be set in the correct manner and the blade also has to be sharp. If any of these conditions are not properly met, then the blade will meander around the wood and prevent you from making the straight cut that you desire. As with any saw, ensure that your hands are kept clear of the blade for obvious safety reasons.

If you are looking for a band saw check out our best band saw guide.


ChainsawsA chainsaw is one of the most popular kinds of saws and it’s also one that practically everybody is aware about. Even if you’ve never physically used a chainsaw you have, at the very least, seen or heard one being used. As a result, you probably also have an idea of how to use one. However, the biggest issue with chain saws does not have to do with proper stance or technique (even though both are major safety concerns), but rather with the maintenance of the saw itself. If you keep your chainsaw improperly maintained, it can ruin your saw in addition to posing a major safety risk to you and those who are around you.

First of all, a chainsaw is defined as handheld saw that is motor driven and usually gas powered, and is used for sawing through thick brush or falling trees. Chainsaws offer the best combination of portability and power, which is why they are very common. Electric chainsaws are also sold, but these offer significantly less power than gas powered ones and furthermore require you to be connected to a power outlet. Gas powered saws can be taken anywhere and used as long as you keep them gassed, oiled, and maintained.

The overwhelming majority of gas powered chainsaws are powered with a 2-stroke internal combustion engine, more commonly referred to as 2-stroke chainsaws. They will require there to be at least two to five percent of oil in the fuel in order to ensure proper lubrication of the motors. In contrast to this, the motor for the best electric chainsaws will remain lubricated for the entire service life of the saw.

The bar of the chainsaw is kept lubricated by bar oil (also known as chain oil). The same kind of bar oil can be used on all kinds of gas powered chain saws. However, it’s important to ensure that the chainsaw’s bar is kept properly lubricated at all times because the sawdust will quickly soak it up. Two-stroke chainsaws also come equipped with a chain oil reservoir that should be refilled when you refuel the gasoline tank. The reservoir should provide enough bar or chain oil to last you until refueling is needed, even though the sawdust will be working to soak up that oil.

It truly cannot be enunciated enough about how important it is for the user to keep the bar of the chain saw oiled and enough oil in the reservoir. This is because one of the leading causes of damage in chainsaws is the lack of bar oil, or having the wrong viscosity in that oil for that matter. Examples of damage that can be inflicted on your chainsaw as a result of the wrong type of bar oil (or the lack of oil all together), is the wearing of the bar or the chain physically coming off of the bar (which can result in severe damage to the user).

In addition, it is vitally important that you keep your chain as sharp as possible in order to prevent them from becoming blunt. Should the chain of a chainsaw become blunt, it will produce even more sawdust (which soaks up more of your bar oil), and will also require you to provide more pressure to cut through the wood. The biggest factor that leads to a chain becoming blunted is if it comes into contact with metal, rocks, or dirt and soil. Making sure that chain only comes into contact with wood, as the chainsaw was intended to, the chain will keep a sharp edge over a significantly longer period of time. Furthermore, the sharper the chain is, the less force you will have to exert to cutting through the wood.


Hopefully, this article has shown you the great diversity that saws come in. From powerless to mechanical and electric, from circular to flat, from big to small, and from having many teeth to too few teeth, practically every kind of saw that ever would be invented already has so.

Saws work effectively by being able to cut efficiently through a wide range of different materials, ranging from wood to composites to synthetics and organic materials. This is completed by either a blade, chain, or wire that uses a serrated edge of many, small teeth. This guide has taught you about the different kinds of saws there are, the design of each one, and the functions that particular saw serves.   

Saws are also one of the most commonplace of all tools for a reason: they are versatile and they are handy. That’s why people beyond normal industrial or construction workers have to buy them. Ordinary people use saws on an almost weekly basis for home improvement, yard work, and for building projects.

It is recommended that before purchasing a saw, you handle it personally in your hands so you can be sure that you are fully comfortable with your purchase. You may find that you prefer a saw with a synthetic handle, for example. Or, you may speak with a retailer and find out that you need a saw with many smaller teeth for your particular project, rather than a saw with a lesser number of big teeth.

As a final word, you now have foremost knowledge of the names of different saws, the different types of saws that you see being used in construction, types of saws and their uses, and the pros and cons of each kind of saw. Just as there is no one tool in your toolbox that complete all of your tasks, there is also no one kind of saw that can complete every kind of a project that you would need a saw for. Keep your project in mind when buying a saw, and then purchase the best kind of saw for that project based on the information that you have gained in this article. 

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