Coping Saw vs. Jigsaw: Which to Use?

Coping Saw vs. Jigsaw: Which to Use?

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Two very popular types of saws when it comes to woodworking are coping saws and jigsaws. Yes, both are popular, and both have their uses, but they are not at all the same thing. Let’s determine what exactly these two tools are, what makes them similar and different, and which one you might want to use for your next project.

Coping Saws and Jigsaws: The Basics

Before we talk about the similarities shared and the differences between these saws, let’s first figure out what exactly they are.

What Is a Coping Saw?

Coping Saw A coping saw is a medium-sized handheld saw. One of the defining features of a coping saw is that it is manually powered. This is a specific type of manual saw used exclusively for woodworking and carpentry. A coping saw is actually a specific type of bow saw.

It is a bow saw because the frame that holds the blade creates a bow shape. With a coping saw, that bow shape is more rectangular than circular. In other words, there is a very long and thin blade that is affixed to a rectangular frame.

A coping saw features a very thin, flexible, and fine-toothed blade that is generally between 9 inches and 12 inches in length. This type of saw is used mainly to create interior cutouts and to create intricate external shapes. One of the most common uses of the coping saw is to cut moldings. It may also be used for fretwork.

What Is a Jigsaw?

Jigsaw On the other hand, we have the jigsaw. This is a powered saw that may be either battery-powered or corded. Jigsaw blades are also extremely thin and flexible and have fine teeth. Jigsaw blades are usually 4 inches, Although some may be longer.

One of the defining features of a jigsaw is that the blade moves in a reciprocating motion. The blade moves up and down extremely quickly to make intricate cuts. Due to the thin and fine-toothed nature of the blade, a jigsaw is ideal for cutting many irregular curves and shapes.

Similarities of Coping Saws and Jigsaws

Now that we know what both coping saws and jigsaws are, let’s figure out what makes them similar.

1. Same Type of Blade

The first similarity here is that both of these saws have the same type of blade. Both saws feature very thin, flexible, and fine-toothed blades designed for intricate work.

2. Both Blades Reciprocate

Both the coping saw and the jigsaw also feature a reciprocating blade. Now, a coping saw, due to it being manual, reciprocates due to your own arm movement. A jigsaw is of course powered, but nonetheless, the blade still reciprocates.

3. Both Can Serve the Same Purpose

Generally speaking, both of these tools serve the same purposes. Coping saws are designed to make interior cutouts and to work on curved exteriors. Jigsaws can also do these two things. A coping saw may also be used to cut thin pieces of wood, plastic, or metal, and a jigsaw can do the same.

4. Materials They Can Cut

The other similarity shared by these two saws us is that both are generally designed to cut the same types of materials. Both are designed primarily to work on wood. That said, depending on the type of blade, both may also be able to cut PVC, plastic, metal, and other similar materials.

Coping Saw in Use

Differences Between Coping Saws and Jigsaws

Now that we know what makes coping saws and jigsaws similar, let’s figure out what makes them different.

1. Power Source

The primary difference here is of course that a coping saw is a manual saw whereas a jigsaw is a powered saw. I wrote more about the differences between hand and power tools here.

2. Blade Size

Another primary difference between these two types of saws is that coping saws usually have very long blades that are anywhere from 9 to 12 inches. Jigsaws, on the other hand, usually have 4-inch blades.

3. Cutting Motion

Another big difference here is that with a coping saw, you usually saw vertically. This is so you can apply pressure from the top down. The blade moves back and forth on the horizontal plane. With a jigsaw, on the other hand, the blade moves up and down on the vertical plane. You generally push a jigsaw forward, whereas you pull a coping saw downwards.

4. Speed and Ease of Use

Something that does of course need to be said is that because a jigsaw is a powered saw, it’s automatically much easier to use. Simply put, a jigsaw works much faster than a manual coping saw, so if you need speed, it is the saw of choice.

That said, some people do find jigsaws a bit difficult to use because they move so quickly. It’s very easy to make a mistake with a jigsaw. Coping saws cut much slower, which allows some people to operate with more precision.

Jigsaw in Use

5. Cutting Depth and Capacity

One of the biggest differences here is that when you are doing interior work with the coping saw, you first need to disconnect the blade from the frame, then pass the blade through the hole, and then reattach the blade to the frame.

Due to this frame, when you are doing interior cuts, the cutting depth is somewhat limited. This is not the case with a jigsaw, because only one end of the blade is attached to the machine.

This means that you don’t need to detach the blade to work on the interior of pieces of wood. Simply put, a jigsaw more or less has unlimited cutting depth when working on interior pieces due to the lack of that C-shaped frame.

That said, if you are cutting very thick pieces of wood, particularly the exterior, the 9 or 12-inch blade of a coping saw might perform better than the shorter 4-inch blade of a jigsaw. When it comes to large exterior curves, the coping saw is probably the better option.

6. The Ability to Cut a Curve

Yes, both coping saws and jigsaws are designed to cut curves and irregular shapes. However, due to the shorter blade and speed of a jigsaw, it tends to work better for very irregular shapes and tight curves. Coping saws are usually better for gradual curves or circles.

Coping Saw vs. Jigsaw: Which of the Two Should You Use?

If you are cutting smoothly curved exteriors of wood, then it is a coping saw that will work best. However, if you are cutting out the interior of wood, and you need unlimited cutting depth, then a jigsaw is the way to go.

Moreover, if you just need a lot of speed and you have a lot of cutting to do, a jigsaw is the tool of choice. A jigsaw is also going to be a much better option for cutting small pipes and pieces of plastic.


Now that you have all of the necessary information, you can make an informed decision between a coping saw and a jigsaw.

How Do Coping Saws and Jigsaws Compare with Other Tools?

See how coping saws compare with: fret saws | hacksawsscroll saws

See how jigsaws compare with: bandsaws | circular saws | circular and reciprocating saws | oscillating multi-tools | reciprocating saws | rotary saws | Rotozips | routers | scroll saws