10 Different Saws and Their Uses (Hand and Power Saws)

Last Updated on December 8, 2023 by Web Operator

Saws are designed for different purposes. So, what are the different types of saws and their uses? 

There are two basic types of saws: Handsaws and power saws. Handsaws are hand-operated. They are powered by human strength and require a considerable amount of energy to operate. Some examples are bow saw, crosscut, coping saw and Japanese saw. However, power saws are powered by an electric outlet or battery. They include bandsaw, circular saw, reciprocating saw, and chop saw. 

Read on to learn more about the different types of saws and their uses. 

As earlier stated, Handsaws are hand-operated tools. They’re made for multipurpose cutting and are pretty useful when you don’t have access to an electric circuit or a battery to run your power saw. 

That said, Hand saws require a lot of effort to operate. Hence, most people will avoid using them if they can. The following are some of the most popular hand saws and their uses

Bow Saw 

bow saw

Also known as the Swede saw, bow saws are a type of handsaw that is shaped like a bow. It is a crosscut saw with a long, wide blade that has crosscut teeth. It works in a to and fro motion to make its cut. Bow saws come in different sizes; some are large while others are small. They are inexpensive, versatile, and easy to carry.

Below are things you can use bow saws for:

  • Pruning: Bow saws are great for pruning small and medium-sized tree branches
  • Tree felling: You can use a bow saw to fell a small tree 
  • Cross-cutting: You can use a bow saw to crosscut logs for an open fireplace or wood stove

Back Saw

using back saw

When speaking of Handsaws, the back saw is the ultimate precision tool. They have short and narrow blades with a stiffening rib on the side opposite the cutting edge.

Also called a reinforcement spine, the stiffening rib gives the back saw more control and better precision compared to other handsaws. The rib provides the power for precise cuts while the blade executes the rest of the job. There are different types of back saws. They are: tenon saw, gentleman’s saw, and dovetail saw.

The following are some of the uses of a back saw:

  • Cut Tenons: Tenon saws are used to cut tenons to fit into a mortise slot to make a mortise and tenon joint.
  • Crosscut: Back saws are used to make precise crosscuts. Some back saw blades have rip-filed teeth that allow them to cut with the grain. However, others have cross-cut teeth which allow them to cut against the grain. 
  • Cut Dovetail Joints. Dovetail saws are specialist tools for cutting dovetail joints. They are designed to create small and precise cuts like the pins and tails in dovetail joints. 

With their ability to make precise cuts, backsaws can also be used to cut miters or detail the edge of a dado. 

Coping Saw

coping saw

Coping saws come with thin, narrow steel blades which makes them ideal for making intricate cuts. Due to their ability to make intricate cuts, they are sometimes used for fretwork. However, they cannot quite match the intricate cuts produced by an actual fretsaw. 

While they are primarily for cutting thin wood, coping saws are quite versatile. With the right blade, you can also use them to cut metals and even plastic. 

Coping saws are great for cutting through pieces of softwood. They’re primarily used for cutting trim work like baseboard and cornice moldings. If you have to choose between a power saw and a coping saw for precision work, coping saws usually come out tops. They are also good for making curved cuts and cutting straight lines. 

Fret Saw

fret saw

Also called the jeweler’s saw, a fret saw is similar to a coping saw. However, it is smaller and has a thinner blade. This allows it to cut tighter curves and create more intricate cuts than the coping saw. However, it cannot rotate to make intricate scrollwork which creates awkward cutting positions. Also, their thin blades are quite fragile and require a lot of care to avoid breaking. 

Fretsaws are best used for making intricate cuts on wood and plastic. You can also use them to cut scrolls on plywood. When you need delicate work with tight radii, the fretsaw is the best tool money can buy. 

Japanese Saw

japanese saw

The  Japanese saw’s key features are its long handle and its thin, narrow blade. It’s designed for easy handling which helps it to deliver precise cuts. The long handle also allows you to make cuts from different angles. Japanese saws come in three different forms. There’s the ryoba, the dozuki, and the kataba. 

The ryoba is double-edged. It has a small teeth edge for cutting across the grain and a bigger teeth edge for cutting with the grain. Meanwhile, the dozuki is best for precision cuts. It can cut tenons and dovetails.

Lastly, the kataba has a single edge with seven crosscut teeth in a repeating pattern. It is designed for cross-cut on solid wood, laminated wood, plywood, and sawn wood. 

Reciprocating Saw

Unlike handsaws, power saws are mechanical tools. They are powered by an electric outlet or a battery. They are used for cutting different shapes in different materials like wood, metal, concrete, and plastic. Power saws comprise chains, sets of teeth, sturdy blades, and other parts. Below are some of the basic types of power saws and their uses:

reciprocating saw

Reciprocating saws are power saws with short blades. Their blades cut through materials with a push and pull motion. They can cut wood and all forms of metal including copper, steel, and aluminum. 

Reciprocating saws are primarily used for demolition, remodeling, and construction work. You can use them for the following jobs:

  • Cut through wood with nails embedded. 
  • Cut through plaster boards and joists
  • Cut adhesives like mastic and scrape



Jigsaw blades are even shorter than reciprocating saw blades. They cut materials with a rapid up and down movement. It has a corded and cordless version with the cordless version giving you more freedom as you cut. Jigsaws also comes with a sole plate that allows you to make cuts at angles of up to 45 degrees to create miter joints.

Jigsaws allow you to cut different materials like wood, laminating floor, metal, acrylic, plywood, and chipboard. You can use them to make straight cuts, bevel cuts, plunge cuts, and curved lines. 

Circular Saw

circular saw

Circular saws are the most popular power saws. Their blades measure up to 9 inches and are covered with teeth. The blades are of different sizes and they rapidly spin inside the baseplate to cut through materials. 

Circular saws are versatile and allow you to cut a variety of materials. They can cut masonry, plastic, metal, and wood. With circular saws, you can make rip cuts, miter cuts, crosscuts, and even straight cuts. Circular saws come in different forms. They include:

  • Concrete model: They are designed to cut concrete, tiles, and bricks
  • Abrasive model: It has an abrasive disc for grinding
  • Cold model: They are designed to cut metals
  • Cordwood model: They are designed to cut wood. 

Table Saw

Like circular saws, table saws have circular saw blades that are used for making precision cuts. The blade is mounted onto a slot on a metal table. The workpiece is laid on the table and pushed to make contact with the saw blade to make an accurate cut. Unlike portable circular saws, table saws are stationary and usually take up a sizeable portion of your workspace. 


Table saws are used for cutting with the wood grain (rip cut) and cutting across it (cross cut.) You can also use table saws to make the following cuts:

  • Bevel cut
  • Cut rabbets and grooves
  • Cut joints: tenon, lap, dado, dovetail, and finger
  • Kerfing



The bandsaw has a long blade that has an endless band of toothed metal that is stretched between multiple wheels to cut a workpiece. Its tooth load is evenly distributed which allows it to make uniform cuts. It can also cut curved or irregular shapes like a jigsaw. 

You can use band saws to make curved cuts in wood. You can also use them for resawing, milling lumber, resetting boards, and cutting other materials like metals and even PVC pipes. 

Final Thoughts

The above saws aren’t the only saws available on the market. There are other power saws and handsaws designed for special cuts like pruning saws, wallboard saws, and flooring saws. However, the saws on this list are amongst the most popular saws for woodworking, lumbering, and metalworking. 


  • What is the best power saw for crosscutting?  The circular saw is the most useful power saw for cross-cutting
  • What is the most versatile saw? Table saws are incredibly versatile. You can use them for all kinds of woodworking projects including spline cuts, picture frames, and tapered cuts. 
  • What is the best saw for ripping wood? While many saws can make rip cuts, the table saw provides more accuracy and is thus the best saw for ripping wood. 
Photo of author

Barry Gray

Hi, I’m Barry. I’ve loved woodworking and bringing things back to life for more years than I care to remember. I hope my passion for tools comes across loud and clear in everything you read here on The Tool Square.

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