Without a doubt, saws are some of the most frequently used tools. They can cut a wide variety of materials to turn them into the shape you need them to be or to simply demolish them and make them easier to dispose of. That said, to truly benefit from these tools, you need to be able to choose the right type for your job from the wide variety available out there.
In this article, I will take you through dozens of the most commonly used types of saws.
We will cover hand saws as well as the more convenient power saws. First, though, let’s take a quick look at the categorization of these tools overall.
What Categories of Saws Exist?
There are two most common ways to categorize saws – by the shape of cutting attachment and motion they use to cut and by their power source.
Starting with the former, there are three types. Those include saws that:
- Use a reciprocating straight blade (e.g. most hand saws, jigsaw, etc.)
- Use a spinning circular blade (e.g. circular saw, etc.)
- Use a flexible blade moving in a circle (e.g. chainsaw, etc.)
When it comes to the categorization of saws by their power sources, there are hand saws and power saws. As their names suggest, while the former is operated manually by a person (or two people in some cases), the latter is powered by either electricity or gas. In the case of electric saws, both corded and cordless versions are available.
14 Types of Hand Saws
Going into the list of actual types of saws, let’s start by looking at the simpler ones: hand saws. Whether you’re just a homeowner or a full-fledged handyman, you should have at least one of the types listed below in your tool kit.
Standard Hand Saw
When you imagine a saw, chances are you imagine a standard handsaw – a trapezoid-shaped blade with a wooden or plastic handle on one end.
This is one of the most affordable types of saws and is ideal for basic wood cutting. While it is not ideal for large jobs, when you only need to rip a board or two every now and then, this is the perfect type of saw for the job.
To learn more about how to use a hand saw, read this article. You might also want to learn how to use this type of saw for making long and straight cuts.
While similar to the traditional hand saw 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.
All that said, because the reinforced upper edge is wider than the blade, this type of saw is not ideal for cutting through very thick boards.
The signature feature of a hacksaw is its fine-toothed blade and C-shaped frame. The blades in this type of saws can be easily removed and replaced, and come in a variety of types.
Hacksaws are mainly used to cut metals; that said, they can also be used for plastics and wood if necessary, as long as you equip them with the right blade.
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” as they are known in Japanese), though, is the fact that the latter 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, set the blade inside that hole, and make a plunge cut.
See how coping saws compare with: jigsaws
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. It is also not suitable for cutting metal and other hard materials.
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. The signature features of the pull saw include a fairly thin blade and a handle that is in line with the blade.
The pull saw is great for cutting tree branches and for other rougher cuts where precision is not of the highest importance. That said, it is also oftentimes used to rip boards.
While not all pull saws are foldable, many of them are. That not only makes them compact but also safer than other saws when in storage.
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.
In terms of form, bow saws fall under the broad category of “crosscut saws.” But in terms of function, these saws are a must-have for folks who are adventuring or camping in the great outdoors.
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 their length or it may begin to “bind” or bend, thus preventing forward progress.
See how bow saws compare with: buck saws
Now, I know that I just called the bow saw “ideal” for camping. That’s still true, but some modern saw innovators have created saws that are even further optimized for transport outdoors.
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 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
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.
See how chainsaws compare with: hedge trimmers | reciprocating saws
A jigsaw is one of the most common types of woodworking saws in use today. 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.
To learn how to cut effectively with a jigsaw, read this article. If you need to cut curves, you should also read my guide to making circular cuts with a jigsaw. If, on the other hand, you need to cut plywood, read this article.
See my cordless jigsaw recommendations
See how jigsaws compare with: bandsaws | circular saws | circular and reciprocating saws | coping saws | oscillating multi-tools | reciprocating saws | rotary saws | Rotozips | routers | scroll saws
Bandsaws are, in essence, a form of a stationary jigsaw. Because of that, these units are able to make many of the same cuts as a jigsaw. That being said, bandsaws 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 kind 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.
A bandsaw has many uses including resawing and can be equipped with a number of different types of blades.
See my bandsaw recommendations
See my portable bandsaw recommendations
See how bandsaws compare with: circular saws | jigsaws | scroll saws | table saws
The circular saw is often what most folks think of when a “power saw” is mentioned. These units consist of a circular blade with angled teeth that is placed into rapid rotation by an attached motor. Depending on the position of their motor, they come in two types: worm drive and sidewinder.
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. Because of that, they have many different uses.
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. You can also read this article to learn more about the most common types of circular saw blades.
To learn how to use a circular saw, read this article.
See my circular saw recommendations
See my worm drive saw recommendations
See how circular saws compare with: angle grinders | bandsaws | hypoid saws | jigsaws | jigsaws and reciprocating saws | miter saws | plunge saws | reciprocating saws | rotary saws | table saws | track saws
The miter saw may look a bit like a mounted circular saw, or a chop saw on the surface. But in practice, these circular-style saws are actually masters of making angled cuts through wood and can be used for many different purposes.
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 crown molding.
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.
To learn how to use a miter saw, read this article.
See my miter saw recommendations
See how miter saws compare with: chop saws | circular saws | radial arm saws | reciprocating saws | table saws
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. You can also use this type of saw to square boards.
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.
To learn how to use a table saw effectively, read this article.
See how table saws compare with: bandsaws | cabinet saws | circular saws | flooring saws | jointers | miter saws | panel saws | routers | tile saws | track saws
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 with the right blade choice allow a reciprocating saw to slash through wood, plastic, and tubing with a great deal of control.
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.
To learn how to use a reciprocating saw safely, read this article.
See my cordless reciprocating saw recommendations
See how reciprocating saws compare with: angle grinders | chainsaws | circular saws | circular saws and jigsaws | hacksaws | jigsaws | miter saws | oscillating multi-tools
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.
The oscillating saw is also commonly known as a multi-tool. That’s because it can be equipped with a variety of different attachments that can do way more than just cut.
See my cordless oscillating saw recommendations
See how oscillating saws compare with: angle grinders | Dremels | jigsaws | reciprocating saws
Tile saws take many of their functional cues from the miter saw, with which it shares the capacity to cut at a reliable angle. 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 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.
See how tile saws compare with: table saws | tile cutters
Scroll saws don’t see a lot of widespread use outside the context of a woodworker’s shop. 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.
See how scroll saws compare with: bandsaws | jigsaws
As you can imagine, this kind of power saw doesn’t need much of an introduction.
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.
Because of the immense power required, they are often gas-powered.
Chop saws bear some resemblance to miter saws, 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.
See my chop saw recommendations
See how chop saws compare with: miter saws | radial arm saws
Of course, there are ways to cut wood without a saw. Same with other materials. However, in the vast majority of cases, you will be much better off getting the right type of saw for the job.
Hopefully, this article gave you a good idea of the different types of saws that are out there. 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.