Whether you are looking to cut something neatly or demolish something, having a saw at your disposal can be invaluable. With dozens of different types, though, it can be a bit challenging to know which saw is ideal for which job.
As such, in this article, I take a look at some of the most commonly used types of both hand saws and power saws. Before that, though, let’s take a quick look at what categories there are overall.
What Categories of Saws Exist?
There are two most common ways to categorize saws – by the type of attachment and motion they use to cut and by their power source.
Starting with the types of attachments and the motion used to cut, there are three types of saws. There are those that:
- Use a reciprocating blade (e.g. most hand saws, jigsaw, etc.)
- Use a spinning disc (e.g. circular saw, etc.)
- Use a flexible blade moving in a circle (e.g. chainsaw, etc.)
As for the types of power sources – the categorization I will use below – there are hand saws and power saws.
As their name suggests, hand saws are operated manually either by one person or, occasionally, by two people. Power saws are either powered by electricity or gas. In the case of electric saws, there are both corded and cordless versions.
14 Types of Hand Saws
In this overview, let’s start by looking at the simpler type of saws – those operated manually. Whether you’re just a homeowner or a full-fledged handyman, you should have at least one of the saws listed below in your tool kit.
Standard Hand Saw
This is one of the most affordable types of saws and is ideal for basic wood cutting.
While similar to the traditional one mentioned above, a back saw has – as its name might suggest – a reinforced upper edge. That helps prevent it from bending and so makes it ideal for applications where relatively long and straight cuts are required.
This is the preferred type of saw if you will be using a miter box. In fact, back saws are often called miter saws as well.
Hacksaws are mainly used to cut metals, however, they can also be used for plastics and wood if necessary.
Japanese Saw (Nokogiri)
Unlike Western saws, Japanese saws have a long handle with oftentimes double-edged blade attached to its end. If that’s the case, then one side generally features crosscut teeth while the other features rip teeth. As such, these saws can be very versatile.
The main difference between “regular” and Japanese saws (or “nokogiri”), though, is the fact that Japanese saws cut when pulled rather than when pushed. As such, using them takes a bit of getting used to.
A coping saw is similar to a hacksaw in that it has a fine-toothed blade and a C-shaped frame with easily exchangeable blades. The frame, however, is considerably “deeper” and a bit shorter than that of a hacksaw.
The thin blade of a coping saw allows for small and accurate cuts to be made, and its removable blade allows for holes to be cut without having to cut through the edge of the workpiece. (I.e. you can drill a hole and set the blade inside that hole.)
A finer version of a coping saw, a fret saw features an even thinner blade and an even “deeper” frame. That makes it perfect for very precise non-linear cuts into softer materials like thin boards, plywood, and so on.
This type is not ideal for use with harder and thicker wood pieces as well as with harder materials like metal.
In terms of appearance, the pull saw (sometimes known also as a “dovetail saw”) looks like a squared-off bow saw. However, in terms of function, pull saws operate much like a smaller back saw. These saws differ because they use a thinner blade and feature a handle that is in line with the said blade.
Despite these differences, these saws are still routinely seen in woodworking shops where intricate cuts must be made. That’s because they are capable of cutting kerfs like no other saw.
You may also find a fret saw in an industrial fabrication shop because of its capacity to cut plastic and laminate without much resistance.
If you’ve ever seen a film featuring old-fashioned lumberjacks, then there’s a good chance that you’ve seen a crosscut saw in action. Though these saws are associated with traditional lumber gathering operations, they still see some use today in the logging industry.
These saws are ideal for cutting whole logs up because of their increased length and wider tooth spacing that allows sawdust to be pulled out of the groove as it cuts deeper.
Also, crosscut saws are unique because they are one of the few saw types that you cannot use alone. Instead, you and a partner must place two hands on either handle (located on each end of the blade) and pull toward yourself in a rhythmic pattern.
Pruning saws utilize a curved form factor, starting in the handle and continuing through the length of the blade. That allows this handheld saw to easily and smoothly slice through all types of foliage, including scrubber and low-hanging branches.
This curved shape is also fairly ergonomic, which ensures that the user’s hands and wrist do not tire over the course of a long cutting job.
That’s because the weight of these units allows them to efficiently cut up brush and firewood without becoming bulky in your camping gear.
Compared to many saws, bow saws are also fairly easy for a novice to use. Their thin blade reduces the amount of friction created as the blade’s body passes back and forth inside of a cut. This, in turn, reduces resistance and speeds up the cutting process.
However, any force applied to these blades must be parallel to its length or it may begin to “bind” or bend, thus preventing forward progress.
These are often known simply as “camping saws” and take their inspiration from the humble pocketknife, another outdoor camping essential. These saws feature a blade that folds up into the handle to maximize the amount of space it takes up in your camping gear.
This folding handle also doubles as a sheath, so it always easy to keep a camping saw properly contained when it is not in use or being transported from place to place. Most models also utilize a tough, rubberized grip to prevent slippage while working in adverse conditions.
The keyhole saw (also known as a “pad saw”, “jab saw”, or “drywall saw”) is a special-use saw by nature, which can be ascertained just by looking at its unique form factor. To that end, these saws typically feature a pistol-style grip attached to a long, serrated blade that tapers to a dagger-like point.
In practice, the shape of this saw’s blade allows it to cut small, often awkward shapes that cannot be created with a larger gauge saw. As a result, these saws are often viewed as the manual equivalent of the electric jigsaw.
Some models also come with a retractable blade to prevent accidental injuries.
As its name implies, the veneer saw is also specialized in nature. To be specific, these saws are designed with a short, double-edged blade that is ideal for cutting veneer and other similar materials.
The blades on these saws typically have about 13 teeth per side, so you will need to clean them out after each pass. The length of these saws makes them impractical for most other jobs. So, in that regard, the veneer saw is a real one-trick-pony.
Unlike the other manual saws in this collection, the bone saw is not made for cutting wood or any other construction material, for that matter. As its name suggests, these saws are designed explicitly for cutting through bones.
While that might feel unwarranted for most folks, these saws often find their way into the toolboxes of hunters who process their own game.
As such, some hunters who often may wonder if these saws can be used for other purposes in and around their crafting space. Simply put, bone saws should not be used for cutting wood, plastic, metal, stone, or any other material.
Instead, you should use the right tools for the job and select a more specialized tool (including from the collection of manual saws above and power saws below).
12 Types of Power Saws (Both Electric and Gas-Powered)
Generally speaking, craftsman and fabrication professionals make use of power saws so that they can efficiently slice through tough materials without tiring themselves out.
However, even DIYers and hobbyists can make use of some of the gas- and electric-powered units in this collection. So, be sure to check them all out to see if your power tool arsenal could use an effort-saving upgrade.
If there is any single kind of power saw that you own, it is likely to be a chainsaw. That’s because these motor-powered saws are able to spin their chain-based blades at rapid speeds and make quick work of all kinds of fresh and processed wood.
With that, a chainsaw can be a major asset when it comes to trimming large branches from trees on your property or slicing up fallen branches after a storm.
Professionals and homeowners alike today use chainsaws and they are available in electric- and gas-powered variations.
Read a detailed comparison with: reciprocating saw
That’s because these handheld saws and their short, fine-tooth blades are easy to operate and maneuver through a piece of wood – including along long, straight lines and around tight curves. Many woodworkers consider these saws to be their workhorse, especially if their projects routinely require them to make detailed cuts.
Because of their widespread use, jigsaws today are built with user comfort in mind. As such, most utilize an ergonomic grip that makes them easy to use for hours on end. Many modern models today are relatively quiet, too, making them optimal for use in an indoor workspace.
Because of that, these units are able to make many of the same cuts as a jigsaw. That being said, these units are stationary in nature and provide their own working surface through which the unit’s blade passes.
Speaking of their blades, a band saw’s name eludes to the type of blades they use. To be specific, a band saw’s blade is a long, flexible piece of metal with teeth that rapidly vibrates while the unit is engaged.
This allows them to make very fine cuts that don’t require nearly as much finishing. However, band saws tend to come up short when it comes to cutting through thick stock and performing rapid rip cuts.
Read a detailed comparison with: jigsaw
The circular saw is often what most folks think of when a “power saw” is mentioned. These units consist of a circular blade with radial, angled teeth that is placed into rapid rotation by an attached motor.
These units are handheld in nature, allowing a user to bring the utility of a table saw with them to worksites away from the shop.
In recent years, circular saws have seen several advancements that have allowed them to become more practical. This is especially true when it comes to their blades, which have a major impact on what kinds of materials they can cut.
For example, a standard circular saw blade usually features hooked teeth that can cut into wood with ease. However, this could be switched out for a diamond-tipped circular blade that could be used to safely and effectively cut through stone or tile.
Read a detailed comparison with: reciprocating saw
To that end, miter saws are the go-to power tool for craftsmen who want to make mitered joints between two workpieces. Craftsmen may also find this kind of saw useful if they routinely need to cut molding and trim pieces.
Apart from their angled hardware, miter saws also make the process of creating an angled cut easy through the use of built-in guide boxes. These allow the miter saw’s arm to be lowered into the exact same place time and again, thus ensuring that every 45-degree cut is as precise as the last.
While many saws that are mounted to a table might be called a “table saw,” only the original table saw – with a high-speed motor and blade mounted inside of the table itself – is capable of making reliably straight cuts through any gauge of wood.
Moreover, making deep or shallow cuts with these saws couldn’t be easier. That’s because a user can easily adjust the depth of a table saw’s blades before sliding the workpiece along its flat upper surface.
Most table saws are made for exclusive use with wood, at least by default. However, many modern models can be fitted with metal-cutting and masonry blades to provide a contractor with more operational versatility.
However, any supplementary blades used on a table saw must match its RPM rating or risk damaging the unit.
As its name implies, a reciprocating saw is best known by the reciprocating motion of its outward-facing blade. You may also recognize this type of saw based upon its elongated form factor, which usually features a rear pistol-style grip and forward-mounted support point.
All of these elements combined allow a reciprocating saw to slash through wood, plastic, and tubing with a great deal of control. To learn how to use one, read this guide.
Reciprocating saws also go by other names, including Milwaukee brand’s well-known name “Sawzall.” Regardless of what they are called, reciprocating saws are a must-have for demolition work. This is especially true when it comes to their capacity to cut thin pieces of metal, including nails.
The oscillating saw’s form derives from that of the reciprocating saw. However, when it comes to its function, this type of saw trades out its reciprocating end-mounted blade for a bottom-mounted oscillating blade.
When in action, an oscillating saw may remind you of a grinder. That makes a lot of sense, given that these saws can make quick work of caulking, grout, and other masonry materials.
Often, an oscillating saw will be kept on hand to take care of masonry demolition that a standard reciprocating saw cannot handle. So, to a certain extent, it’s worthwhile to keep both handy if you are planning to take on a major demolition project.
However, as their name implies, these saws are specifically designed to cut through tiles, ceramics, and other dense, yet fragile masonry materials. To do this, these saws are almost always equipped with a diamond-tipped circular blade that can resist a great deal of friction.
That being said, these units often need to be cooled continuously to prevent that friction from warping the blade’s teeth. As such, some models allow for an attached water source to continuously apply water to the cutting space while the tile saw’s blade is in motion. As a result, a tile saw may also be referred to as a “wet saw” among craftsmen.
That being said, in the hands of skilled craftsmen, a scroll saw can be used to make the most intricate cuts through flat woodwork pieces possible. To make that possible, these units feature an ultra-thin blade that creates almost no drag while passing through a piece of wood.
As a result, a woodworker can achieve an impressive level of detail in their cuts by carefully manipulating the workpiece in question past the scroll saw’s blades.
In particular, you’ll see this kind of saw used to make wood toys, as well as very detailed trim pieces for cabinets.
A concrete saw, in essence, is a circular saw that has been designed for use while attempting to slice through concrete and other comparably dense materials. To make that possible, these units utilize heat-resilient blades, often with diamond-tipped teeth.
Their handheld nature also means that they can be used to repair asphalt as needed.
Chop saws bear some resemblance to a miter saw, particularly when it comes to their arm-operated circular saw blade. However, chop saws differ from their cousin in that they use a specialized abrasive circular saw blade type that allows them to cut through some of the toughest materials around.
To that end, bricks, iron piping, and sheet metals are all no match for this kind of saw.
Generally speaking, DIY craftsmen don’t have much use for this kind of saw. However, most contractors and industrial construction teams will keep one of these saws handy for accomplishing some of their toughest jobs.
If you’re working on building up your personal or professional saw collection, then you have a lot of options to choose from.
As you’ve seen, there are a wide variety of general-use manual and power saws that can make quick work of most standard slicing and cutting jobs. There are also a wide variety of special-use saws that can enable your team to make specialized cuts with all of the precision and power possible.
Regardless of what saws you or your team needs, be sure to invest in the best possible hand and power saws for your industry. You won’t regret putting a bit of extra money into a set of saws that can perform all of your worksite jobs both safely and efficiently.
In the meantime, you can also learn how to cut wood without a saw.