When it comes to cutting wood you want to get the right tool for the job. Sure, you could use a handsaw, but then again… what kind? There are also time considerations, so maybe you want a nice electric saw. The next choice, though, is what blade? In today’s article we are looking to help to clear up the haze when it comes to selecting the proper saw for the task at hand. We’re going to discuss 20 different types of saws and their uses in order to give you a little idea what is out there so that the next time you need to do a little cutting you can do it with style!
A little history about the saw
Saws have been in use for a very, very long time. From as long as 14,000 B.C. to 300 B.C., most of the sawing was done with fish bones and sharp stones, with the exception of ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians in around 1500 B.C., who were already employing metal saws. Around 300 B.C. to 250 A.D. stone were being ditched in lieu of that popular metal… iron! Saws were evolving quickly after this, with one of the oldest surviving hand saws being one that was recovered from a Japanese tomb that dated all the way back to the 5th century. Needless to say, the innovations which would follow would change the world. Be sure to check out the Razor Saw link in our references and look for their “History of the Hand Saw’ when you are done here if you’d like some more background. Saws are serious tools with a rich, rich history.
A saw is a saw is a saw… right?
If, by saw, you just mean something that cuts then we suppose you could say a saw is a saw. The fact of the matter is, however, that there are numerous saws that you can choose from and if you ask a professional, there is INDEED a huge difference in time and efficiency that comes from simply selecting the right saw in the first place. We’re going to go into a few different examples of some different saws, some familiar and others that might be a little new to you, in order to better present the argument that there is merit in selecting the RIGHT saw for your job.
Saw #1 – Panel Saw
The panel saw is one that you will encounter most in carpentry work. This handsaw typically measures about 20 – 22 inches in length and is capable of doing rip cuts and cross cuts (along the grain vs. across the grain). In appearance it looks like your ‘standard hand saw’ (but it isn’t, more on that later!), with an ergonomic handle and as the blade tapers at the end it angles upward about 40 degrees.
Saw #2 – Folding Saw
Sort of a ‘saw pocketknife’, the folding saw is simply a portable saw that you can fold out a small, straight and serrated saw blade for when you need one. While it won’t handle big cuts, of course, they can be nice to have for quick tasks or when you are camping.
Saw #3 – Pruning Saw
A Pruning saw possesses a 13 – 15 inch blade which is slightly curved and serrated for cutting down small branches. The handle is almost shortened, very much like a gun handle and the curved shape of the blade makes it much more efficient for slicing vegetation. The length also gives you a better reach so these are very handy for the garden.
A Hacksaw employs a frame known as a ‘c-frame’, which means that after the handle you have an extended arm which curves down from the top and an attachment on the corresponding point in front of the bottom of the handle. This allows for the suspension of a removable blade between the handle and the termination of the upper arm. These blades will usually have up to 32 teeth and can be used to cut plastic, wood, and even metal!
Saw #5 – Crosscut Saw
When you are cutting against the grain, the Crosscut saw is the one that you need. These long saws terminate at a squarish end and tend to be fairly thin (they bend and wobble so they aren’t really about precision). The blade itself has larger teeth than some saws and includes beveling, allowing it to bite deeply into rough lumber for cutting.
Saw #6 – Coping Saw
A Coping saw closely resembles a Hacksaw in appearance, though it employs more of a ‘D-Shaped’ frame and is typically employed with thinner blades with numerous, fine teeth. Changing out the blade is done quickly and easily and this is a good saw for a number of plumbing and carpentry projects and can even be used to do a little etching
Saw #7 – Bow Saw
Great for curved and straight cuts, the Bow saw gets it name from its appearance. Instead of sporting a handle that sticks out from the whole, the handle on a Bow saw is incorporated on the Bow design. This
“Great for curved and straight cuts”
gives you more control over the straight, removable blade. Said blade is designed for crosscutting and as such the Bow saw is an outdoor saw, best for pruning, removing branches, or even sawing logs.
Saw #8 – Wire Saw
While a standard saw cuts with it’s teeth, a wire saw cuts with abrasion. Typically appearing as two rings with a length of wire between them (single or multiple braided strands), these saws sometimes even employ diamond particles in the wire but the type of Wire saw that you will use depends on your cutting needs. Due to their portability, these are a favorite to have in the toolbox for backup or in the backpack for camping.
Saw #9 – Keyhole Saw
A Keyhole saw is a small, handheld saw which employs a rounded, wooden handle and a long, thin blade which is serrated and terminates at a narrow point. Keyhole saws are great for drywall work and having one allows you to easily cut holes or curve out pieces as you like.
Saw #10 – Razor Saw
A great saw for jewelry makers and for model hobbyists, the Razor saw doesn’t have any teeth, but rather manifests as a wooden handle with an extending arm which fits a long razor. This lets you cut softer materials like cheese and it won’t rip up wood the way that other saws will. These are handy to have.
Saw #11 – Wallboard Saw
This looks very much like a Keyhole saw, with the chief differences being that it employs a shorter blade, often double-edged, with fewer teeth. Also like the Keyhole saw, it is chiefly employed for drywall where it is is great for puncturing and cutting.
Saw #12 – Japanese Saw
Looking rather like an exaggerated scalpel with a wooden handle and a strong, razor-type blade, these saws are less common in the States but useful to have. They come in 3 varieties (Dozuki, Kataba, and Ryoba) and these saws are capable of precision cutting both soft and hard woods alike. The wooden handle also gives you the ability to reach some difficult spots with your blade but you should know that it uses a ‘pull stroke’ for cutting, rather than the ‘push’ of a standard saw.
Saw #13 – Fret Saw
A Fret saw is a type of Bow saw with a longer C-shape too it. This looks a bit odd with its small, removable blade, which hosts up to 32 fine teeth for making deep and tricky cuts. Use it instead of your Coping saw for when those cuts get complicated, you’ll be glad that you did!
Saw #14 – Rip Cut Saw
Rather than stick it in the beginning, we thought that we would put the old standard saw in a little later in the list. This is the most common saw in the world, described best as bearing a long, triangular blade that terminated in a straight line at the end (think of a bike ramp with the triangle cut off the lowest bit). The sharp teeth make it excellent for framing but its uses are numerous. If you don’t already have one or two in your own tool set then we-d be very surprised.
Saw #15 – Veneer Saw
This is one saw that looks very different from the others. Imagine a wooden handle that terminates at a flat rectangle, spaced horizontally at the termination where the handle is vertical. The handle is not straight, but rather tilted so that it may be used in veneer work at awkward angles when needed and its teeth are fine per the necessity of the type of work it does. This typically translates out to 13 teeth per every inch of utility portions of the blade.
Saw #16 – Back Saw
The Back saw looks a lot like someone took a butcher knife and gave it a Saw handle. The straight blade is reinforced with a backing on the top that allow you to make the straightest of cuts by taking advantage of the extra leverage which is provided. Back saws are typically employed in Cabinetry work.
Saw #17 – Carcass Saw
While the name is a bit scary, the form and the function has less to do with a horror movie and much to do with precision. This cross-cutting saw is great for adding definition to dado edges and working with tenon shoulders.
Saw #18 – Compass Saw
The last of our Keyhole-saw lookalikes, the Compass saw has a longer, thin blade and is designed for making twisting cuts in hard-to-reach places, making it a useful backup for your Keyhole saw .While you don’t have to have all of the keyhole-type varieties, if you do a lot of drywall work then they are certainly good to have.
Saw #19 – Camping Saw
For the survival types out there, the Camping saw is like a standard folding saw except that you can find a number of bells and whistles to go with it. Available in different sizes, these are nice on camping trips
“Cutting off samples for a little whittling at the fire”
for trimming when you need to clear an area a bit, cutting off samples for a little whittling at the fire, and more! While they can’t do as good of a job as the bigger saws these are easy to stow, they don’t take up much space at all, and there are many popular styles out there to choose from. Take a look at a few and see what you think. We bet you’ll be ordering one for yourself soon!
Saw #20 – Bone Saw
We save the scariest for the last. While used a lot in surgery, these saws are seldom employed in DIY projects. They are, however, GREAT for cooking, allowing you to cut through meat and bone like a pro. These saws are generally small, with just enough handle to get a good grip and a square-shaped blade with a wavy, S-type termination at the end of the blade. The next time that you are cutting up ribs or excising soup bones, consider obtaining and using a bone saw. They will make the work easier and your friends will think twice about trying to tell you how to Barbecue those sweetly-trimmed ribs!
Some closing words
In today’s article we have discussed 20 different types of saws and gone into their uses, so that you can better have an idea of what is out there for the next time that you need a little heavy-duty cutting power. This list is by no means exhaustive, however. There are many, many more saws out there and we invite you to take a little trip to the hardware store to do some exploring. Who knows… you might just find a saw that fits your work and hobbies perfectly! Until next time, happy sawing!
Makezine; “Hack, Jig, Miter, and Cope: 10 Types of Saws and Their Uses”
Razor Saw; “The history of the hand saw”