Last Updated on April 10, 2022 by Barry Gray
If you plan to work with wood, then one thing you are going to do at some point is to have to cut that lumber. However, you have a number of different options depending on what you need to do, and that is where I admit it can get quite confusing for some people.
You see, if you are new to woodworking, then there’s a whole lot more to think about than just grabbing a saw and getting to work with it. As you are about to see, different saws are designed to do different things, and being aware of their functions will certainly make your life much easier in the long term.
But this is what I intend to do.
I’m not only going to tell you the five different types of saws you may use. Instead, I’ll also let you know the key advantages, disadvantages, and features you should know about.
My intention is to make your life easier when it comes to working with wood. I know how daunting it can all be at the outset, so hopefully, you will learn a number of new things in the course of the next few minutes.
1. Circular Saw
In my opinion, the circular saw is the most versatile saw out there, and it’s one I personally could never be without in my workshop. It allows you to cut so many different types of lumber and boards that I’m forever having to charge the battery for my cordless DeWalt as I’m terrified it will die on me at the midway point in a project.
But here are the key things I think you should know about if you have never previously owned a circular saw.
A circular saw is available in both corded and cordless versions, and both can perform exceptionally well. Personally, I prefer the cordless version as it does mean the tool is entirely portable, but if you only ever work in a workshop, then the corded version will still do a fantastic job.
A circular saw can be used to cut through all types of wood and also plywood boards. However, the size of the material you can cut is directly linked to the size of the blade.
But what you may not know is that a circular saw can also be used to cut through even some concrete if you have the correct blade installed. However, I get that you will probably only ever use a circular saw on wood, so there is no need to dive into how it works with concrete or anything else.
The Type of Cuts
A circular saw is best used to create straight cuts, but that’s not all it’s capable of. Instead, some models can also be used to cut at angles, which I would recommend you check out simply because it increases its versatility.
Also, one thing you want to know is if it can be used left or right-handed. This determines how the safety guard is set up and how you hold the tool, so check this out before you spend any money.
In addition, a circular saw can work well for both long and short cuts. That’s why it can work well even with cutting boards, as it will just keep on going.
A circular saw should have a number of key features, and one I suggest you get is a laser guide. This makes it so much easier to follow the line you have made, resulting in a far more accurate cut.
But that’s not all.
I would also recommend you check how the circular saw copes with the dust it creates. It makes your job easier when the circular saw comes with a dust blower, which means you maintain sight of your line leading to a better cut.
2. Compound Miter Saw
The compound miter saw is another fantastic tool to have at your disposal, and even though it may not be the first one you consider, I think that’s wrong.
Now, I know some individuals would argue that a circular saw can do the same job as a miter saw, but there’s something cool about a compound miter saw that I cannot overlook. However, I know you want to learn a bit more about a compound miter saw to help you determine if it’s the right saw for you.
Why a Compound Miter Saw is So Good
I love a miter saw because it gives you a strong and stable base to work on, and then there’s the lining up of the actual cuts. Thanks to its design, you can cut angles to perfection, and everything will then be straight.
Typically, you are looking at these saws producing miter cuts of up to 45 degrees, and you are helped by a fence that acts as a guide. Cutting to precise angles is never easy without a compound miter saw, so if that’s something you know you will need to do with some projects, then this saw is perfect.
Also, if you are going to cut crown molding, a miter saw will make the entire process much easier.
What a Miter Saw Cannot Do
However, while a miter saw is a fantastic tool, there are some things it just cannot do. Thanks to its design, it’s unable to cut through boards, so using plywood is out of the question. Anything that comes in a sheet is too big, and you will need to resort to your circular saw or table saw rather than a miter saw.
But there’s also an issue with the cutting depth, and it’s related to the size of the blade. For example, a 10” miter saw blade can cut no more than a 2×6, so if you plan on going beyond that size, then a 12” blade is best.
The Advantages of a Miter Saw
A miter saw does have several advantages over other saws. For example, I find it faster and easier to set up and get those precise cuts than with other saws. This is thanks to the design and how you can set the angle before plunging the blade through the wood.
Also, a compound miter saw is portable, so you can move it around the job site or even just outside of your workshop.
Basically, a miter saw can make straight cuts or at an angle, and that type of versatility has the potential to completely transform how you go about your projects.
3. Reciprocating Saw
If you plan on doing demolition work or cutting drywall, then a reciprocating saw will quickly become your best friend. This saw is certainly different from pretty much any other option out there. Still, when it comes to cutting tree branches, demolition, or even cutting metal via special blades, a reciprocating saw is a great tool to have.
Why a Reciprocating Saw Works So Well
A reciprocating saw has a blade that is not too different from a jigsaw. However, the blade comes out at the same angle as the rest of the saw to create something similar to a knife.
The movement of the blade is then like a cutting motion similar to that knife. You can then start to see why it will work so well at cutting through tree branches or drywall, as that movement is perfect for that type of situation.
But that same movement also limits how a reciprocating saw can be used.
The Teeth are Key
One key feature of a reciprocating saw is the blade’s teeth. They are designed to do a specific job, and you have several different blades to choose from.
Typically, you are looking at different densities when it comes to the number of teeth per inch on a blade. The greater the number of teeth, the smoother the cut, so keep that in mind when it comes to using the saw.
But that’s not the only good thing about the teeth with a reciprocating saw. They also come at an angle, and that helps the blade to cut through different materials. You can even add special metal-cutting blades and use a reciprocating saw to easily cut down metal poles.
The Downside of a Reciprocating Saw
But it’s not all plain sailing with a reciprocating saw. They do suffer from producing too many vibrations, making it harder to produce an accurate cut. This is due to the movement in the blade making it harder to control, so don’t expect things to be perfect every time with a reciprocating saw.
However, while that may prove to be problematic at times, do remember the reason for using a reciprocating saw in the first place. Honestly, finesse will not be high on your list of reasons for using one.
A jigsaw was one of the first power tools I bought, and even though it has been surpassed by my circular saw, it’s still a valuable tool to have in your workshop. I feel that a jigsaw is versatile because you can make both straight and curved cuts with one tool. Actually, for curved cuts, I think it’s one of the best tools on the market.
How a Jigsaw Works
A jigsaw has the blade dropping down, and the saw rests on the surface of whatever you are cutting. Positioned above the jigsaw, it’s easy to see the blade and then guide it along your lines, thanks to the pivoting shoe.
What it Can Cut
A jigsaw is capable of cutting various materials, but it does have its limitations. A jigsaw can cut through lumber and boards and is also fantastic for cutting countertops.
However, the tool and blade will often just not be as strong as other saws as the blade itself can appear slightly flimsy. That means it’s not a good option for tougher materials, so be aware of its limitations to stop coming up short.
The Advantages of a Jigsaw
I think a jigsaw offers several advantages over other options, and I think the first one is how easy it is to operate a jigsaw. Changing blades and getting ready to use the saw takes little time or experience, and you can simply get on with making those cuts.
I also know that a jigsaw makes life easy for following lines and marks. All it takes is getting used to looking down at the saw from the best angle for you, and it will mean you can follow a line without any problem. This is the perfect saw if you want to make some precise curved cuts.
Disadvantages of a Jigsaw
A jigsaw does have its limitations, so it’s not versatile to such an extent it can do anything. As I said, the blade is often slightly flimsy, so it can struggle with different materials. However, most wood will not pose a problem.
In addition, you need to pay attention to the size of the blade. Clearly, that influences the size of the material you can cut, and the number of teeth can also vary. More teeth equate to a smoother finish, which is something you want to remember.
Another disadvantage is that a jigsaw will often produce a lot of vibrations. This is something you need to become accustomed to, or it could ruin your cuts.
Overall, I do still enjoy using my jigsaw, and it remains my tool of choice whenever I need to make those curved cuts.
5. Table Saw
People make the mistake of thinking that a table saw must always be this huge machine that also requires an even bigger workshop. While those options clearly exist, benchtop versions mean that almost any individual with a workshop will have space for one of these tools.
The table saw does have some very specific uses, but I have no doubt it will transform your projects in next to no time.
Why You Would Use a Table Saw
The main reason why you would use a table saw is to produce long cuts that are also perfectly straight. This is what the table saw excels at, and the accuracy you can achieve is outstanding.
How it Works
A table saw has the blade set into the table, and you pass the wood over the blade to get your cut. A table saw also comes with a fence to guide you, making the entire process exceptionally easy.
You can adjust the blade and speed depending on your needs, and I love having the option to vary the speed to give you some added control over the cut. I find a table saw to be very easy to use as there’s little for you to do before you can put it into action.
Who Would Use a Table Saw?
If you make furniture or carry out projects involving cutting down large boards to size, then I would suggest you get a table saw. It makes short work of these types of jobs, and you will notice how quickly your projects will proceed as a result.
Also, remember benchtop versions do exist, so you don’t always need a large workshop. However, benchtop versions will come with limits on the boards you can work with, so check its capabilities before you go ahead and buy a new model. In saying that, you should still find yourself capable of working with boards of around 24”, even on a benchtop model.
Key Features of a Table Saw
I see there being several key features when it comes to a table saw that you should really pay attention to.
I think the main feature is the table size. This determines the size of the board you can work with as you feed it onto the table and then the off-run as well. Look at both the width and the length, as both measurements are important.
Another feature is variable speed controls. I prefer this option as there are moments when you do need more control, and working at maximum speed is not the best idea. Also, you will often see this listed as the feed speed.
Something else to consider is a dust blower. You want a model that takes the dust from the cut away from you, as this keeps your line clear. However, while every model comes with the ability to attach a dust blower, you may be required to install your own vacuum system.
Overall, a table saw could prove to be essential to some woodworkers, and I’d give owning one some serious consideration.
That is everything I think you need to know about the five most versatile saws that anyone interested in working with wood should know. Now, I’m not saying you need to own each and every tool. That may be too expensive or even not necessary. However, I would certainly carefully consider each one and see how it fits in with the projects I tend to deal with.
Saws make your life so much easier, and power tools mean you can complete large cuts basically in seconds. Any woodworker knows how important these tools are in their arsenal, and if you do not currently own at least one of them, can I then suggest you seek to change that as soon as possible?
Your projects will be transformed as a result.