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Wood saw buying guide

Wood saw buying guide

Joan, Young art-school graduate, Cardiff

Guide written by:

Joan, Young art-school graduate, Cardiff

5 guides

When it comes to cutting wood, universal hand saws offer the most versatility. But there's a specific saw out there for every type of wood-cutting task. From scroll saws, Japanese saws and log saws to power saws such as jigsaws, circular or reciprocating saws, read on to find the right woodworking saw for you.

Important features

  • Hand saw
  • Power saw
  • Type
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There are two different categories of saws used to cut wood: hand saws and power saws. The cutting action of all saws is basically the same: a row of small, sharp metal teeth are used to cut through the material.

1. Hand saws

If you're looking for a budget-friendly saw for occasional use on a site without electrical sockets, then a hand saw will be ideal. But that's not to say that this type of saw isn't suited to a variety of jobs. Depending on the space you have available and what you plan to cut, the universal hand saw will generally live up to its name!

2. Power saws

Power saws are more expensive but also more efficient. Say goodbye to physical effort, and hello to comfort!

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Wood saws

Hand saws are essential tools for any DIY enthusiast because they are practical, relatively compact, easy to transport and not overly expensive. They come in useful in many situations: cutting off overhanging branches, chopping logs for the wood burner, repairing furniture, building a tree house, and so on. There's a different kind of saw for each and every job. To avoid any teething problems, let's take a look at the saws!

1. Universal hand saw

The universal hand saw (sometimes called a general purpose or simply a hand saw) is the type of saw most people are familiar with, because it is the most versatile. Universal hand saws have different sizes of teeth designed for different types of cutting. Large teeth make cutting easier, but the cut edge will be rough. In contrast, a fine toothed saw will give a cleaner and more precise cut. In general, the key point to remember is that the larger the teeth, the faster you will be able to cut through a piece of wood, but the rougher the edge will be. And vice versa: a saw with small teeth will allow you to make more precise cuts, but the job will take longer and require more effort.

2. Tenon saw

Tenon saws can be used with a mitre box to make accurate angled cuts (45°/90°). The fine teeth of this saw allow for quick, neat cutting of door trims, battens and other interior woodwork. Be careful, however, as these saws can also cut off your fingers!

3. Japanese saw

Japanese saws are gaining in popularity. They feature a fine-toothed flexible blade which bends in order to access difficult-to-reach places. These saws are ideal for making clean and precise flush cuts. Unlike traditional saws, they cut on the pull stroke, which requires less effort. Don't try to cut roof rafters with this type of saw, though – it's not worth the hassle!

4. Jab saw

The long "nose" (the thick, rigid, pointed blade) of a jab saw (also known as a keyhole saw) allows you to work in confined spaces. You can make straight and curved cuts or make a circular cut in the middle of a panel.

5. Scroll saw

Scroll saws feature a thin blade held taut by a U-shaped frame, and are ideal for making curved cuts. These saws are favourites among model makers who need to make precise, intricate cuts.

6. Flush cut saw

As implied by their name, flush cut saws are designed for making flush cuts. The blade has a slight indent to prevent injury to the user during cutting. They are used for finishing work.

7. Log saw

This type of saw is used for cutting logs and large pieces of wood to keep the fire burning on long winter evenings. With their huge teeth and steel frame, this is the saw of choice of both woodcutters and psychopaths...

8. Pruning saw

No surprises here – a pruning saw is used for pruning. A handle, a curved blade and a bit of muscle power is all you need to saw!

9. Frame saw

You're more likely to find this kind of saw at a flea market than in the workshops of today's young carpenters; it's the type of saw your grandfather used. These saws feature a rectangular wooden frame, with the blade forming one of the sides. They cut well, but are somewhat old-fashioned.

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Scroll saws

Power saws make cutting easier and allow you to work more quickly and accurately. They're also a lot more exciting for the seasoned DIYer compared to their hand-held counterparts! There are different types of power saw for all kinds of jobs. But be careful of your fingers – these saws will chop them right off!

1. Jigsaw

Jigsaws are very easy to handle and have a small, thin blade which cuts with a back and forth motion. You can use this type of saw to cut straight lines or curves quickly and accurately. However, they are not suited to making long, deep cuts as the blade tends to bend and create a skewed cut.

2. Circular saw

It has to be said: the circular saw is the king of wood-cutting power saws! Equipped with a rotating circular blade, these saws cut perfectly straight, clean lines. The cutting depth and blade angle can be adjusted to cut grooves and angled cuts up to 45°. All in all, this is an excellent saw to have in your workshop!

3. Plunge saw

A plunge saw is a circular saw with a cutting depth which can be set to zero, allowing you to start cutting in the middle of a workpiece and move the saw down through the entire depth of the wood. It is used in very specific cases.

4. Mitre saw

The mechanical equivalent of the mitre box, mitre saws are attached to the workbench and allow you to quickly cut straight lines and grooves at regular angles. Different sizes are available. This kind of saw is ideal for longer woodworking projects (e.g. installing wood panelling or a parquet floor).

5. Sliding mitre saw

The sliding mitre saw is similar to the mitre saw, but it is mounted on an arm so you can use it to cut bigger pieces. Simply place the wood you want to cut on the workbench, position the saw in front of it and make the cut. Sliding mitre saws can also be used to make mitre cuts.

6. Scroll saw

Scroll saws feature a flexible blade and tiny teeth – which are held taut by an oscillating arm – making them perfect for cutting out jigsaw puzzle pieces. It has a tilting table for making angled cuts and is a must-have saw for anyone needing to make precise cuts (such as model makers, for example).

7. Band saw

The band saw is the largest type of power saw (even the mini versions!). It has a continuous blade, which is held by two wheels, and accurately and effortlessly cuts through much larger pieces of timber than other type of saw. Its tilting platform means nothing is impossible – this is a saw for the master carpenter!

8. Reciprocating saw

The reciprocating saw is a bit like a mechanical version of the universal hand saw. You can use it to make the same types of cuts with less effort. This type of saw will prove to be a good investment for repeated use, if you want a more comfortable option or have tricky cuts to make.

9. Table saw

As with all fixed machines (and unlike hand-held power tools), with a table saw you place the piece of wood on the saw. You can use a table saw to make straight and angled cuts, and the cutting depth can be adjusted. This type of power saw is especially suited to longer, repetitive projects (installation of wood panelling or parquet flooring, etc.).

10. Hole saw

This is actually a drill accessory which allows you to drill large holes. You install the hole saw on the drill chuck.

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Drill chucks

Make a habit of maintaining your saws: clean them, check the blades and other components for wear and store them carefully to keep them in good working order. Due to their electric components and features, power saws require a little more attention.

  • Most power saws have an induction motor, so after some time you will need to replace the carbon brushes.
  • The blades of power saws must also be replaced, and it is important to choose the right type of blade by taking into account the intended use, required length and quality, materials to be cut, and fitting type (blades for jigsaws, etc.).
  • Circular saw blades generally have the same characteristics, but you must also pay attention to the bore diameter and the blade diameter.

Don't use a wood saw to cut metal though as you'll quickly regret it. And remember – if a saw can cut through wood, then it can also cut off your fingers!

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Guide written by:

Joan, Young art-school graduate, Cardiff, 5 guides

Joan, Young art-school graduate, Cardiff

I realize many of my works, fed by my taste and my passion for DIY, might be called “made up. My projects are born from reflections (more-or-less logical to others but they always make sense to me.) This process has culminated in the realization of a mobile greenhouse so I can walk my plants, an effervescent aspirin, a dispenser built from canned foods. I consider DIY to be a way of moving at your own pace. We live in a world where the uncomfortable idea remains that our failings often teach us more than the projects themselves would. My wisdom is useful to me, whether it’s re-machine screws, reel a reel from camera springs, or using a torch. I am delighted to use my experience and finally be able to share it.

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