With all of the different saws on the market, it can be difficult figuring out what each of them does and which one you need. While we cannot dissect everything there is to know about saws, we will cover the major saws and for what they are used. Rather than considering a group of products within a niche or even an analysis of the general product features, this article will at least provide a stable foundation on which to grow your increasing knowledge. By the end of the article, you should not only be able to identify the most used saws of both the hand and power variety but what they are used for as well.

While there are a number of ways to divide the saw market up, we will focus primarily on its type to provide the bulk of the division. That said, there are a number of saws which make incremental innovations that eventually become popular enough to be considered their own kind of saw. This is generally a reaction of the market where a less advanced version of a saw is still valuable for those looking to spend less money and willing to perform whatever additional task is necessary to use the simpler saw for the more complex cut.

It is worth noting that for most of these saws, regardless of the type, the true value is found in the hands of the craftsman. If you are not a skilled woodworker and purchase a wealth of high-quality woodworking tools, you are not all of a sudden going to start producing significantly improved projects just because your tools are better. As such, this list should serve not only as an intro into saws but as a document to later reference once your woodworking skills begin to develop and grow.

Different Types of Saws

Though every saw is ostensibly designed to cut, depending on the size and shape of the blade’s teeth, the size and shape of the blade itself, and the cutting action. Most saws have conventions within their market that they follow, so you may not have to worry too terribly so long as you get a saw meant for the particular cutting job. In general, saws are broken down into hand tools and power tools, under which there are a double-digit number of saws in each major category.

Between the two major types, there are numerous subcategories depending on which group of major type you are looking. That said, there are still some major differences in terms of when you would use saws with otherwise similar cutting actions. For instance, a hacksaw and a band saw are fairly similar in a number of important ways but primarily in that they both use a narrow blade to provide a highly controllable cutting action. While that may be true from outward appearances, hacksaws are better suited for cutting dense or harder materials while band saws are used for cutting intricate curves and organic lines.

It is worth noting that a number of these saws and their use are based as much around social reasons as pragmatic ones. Power saws make the task much easier, but it is often considered something of a rite of passage for skilled woodworkers to exclusively hand saws as a sign of their mastery. Likewise, the rookie laborer who brings hand saws to a professional job site is liable to be laughed off of the site due to how little use those tools are liable to see.

Hand Saws

hand sawAlmost every hand saw in existence has been around for at least a couple hundred years providing some sense of reliability to their action. While these types of saws are manual, they have the ability to provide unsurpassed precision to their cuts which is necessary for high-level craftsmanship. Of course, what you get in precision you trade off in overall cutting power, which is not the same as the cutting action. Though this is a fairly reasonable adage in that the power and the precision of the cut are inversely related to one another.

Still, this is one of the most important types of saw for a skilled woodworker as you are likely unable to achieve the degree of precision that you can with hand saws. Part of this is due to the fact that hand saws are inherently slower cutting than power saws which provide ample time to course correct. On top of that, you simply cannot generate near the kinds of force from a hand saw that you can from a power saw which further stabilizes the hand saw to allow for the most precise cuts.

Of course, if you are not a woodworker, then hand saws likely seem like a waste of time and energy as they are significantly slower a require far more personal energy to use than a power saw. That said, there are still a few hand saws that pretty much everyone should own due to their utility combined with their price. While there is a power saw that can accomplish nearly every cutting action that a hand saw can, few of them are worth the money if you only intend to use the saw every now and then.

Back Saw

back saw
Backsaws are technically a larger subcategory within the hand saw a category that is focused on providing some of the most precise cuts possible. Though there are actually a couple traits consistent among the group like having a thin blade reinforced with a stiffening rib. Basically, if you have ever seen a hand saw with a metal bridge at the top, then you may very well be looking at a back saw. In fact, one of the other hand saws on our list is a more specialized and popular back saw, though it works a bit differently in terms of cutting action.

Because back saws are designed for precision, their teeth are not engineered the same way as with most saws. For one, a back saw is not really designed for speed or cutting power, and this is especially reflected by the fact that the teeth of a back saw are usually fairly short and close together which reduces the cutting action the saw can generate with a given force. On top of that, as the name implies, the back saw generates its cutting action by pulling the blade towards you rather than pushing it away. It is the use of this motion for the cutting action which allows you to maintain such precision while still applying enough force to cut the wood. These saws are quite often employed to make some of the more difficult woodworking cuts like tenons, dovetails, and miters.

Bow Saw

bow saw
The bow saw is another of many hand saws which, these days, are used primarily by skilled woodworkers. This is actually one of the oldest saw types in history and was used by both the Ancient Chinese and Ancient Greeks. The bow saw is so named because the handle forms either a semi-circle or a trapezoidal shape with the blade spanning the gap. Altogether it looks fairly similar to a bow even down to the fact that this is usually a fairly sizable saw. In fact, the bow saw is one of the largest hand saws, though it is nowhere near as large as the two-man buck saw.

The bow saw, despite its size, is used primarily for fairly precise cuts, though it can be used to make quicker cuts as well. However, most bow saws use a thin, narrow blade which can get caught in the wood while cutting if you are not careful. Though the size may make it seem ill-suited for the task, the bow saw was one of the first saws used to make circular cuts. The primary benefit of the bow saw is that you maintain a great deal of control while still being able to produce a good deal of force. Of course, these days, many people would be put off by the sheer amount of open space necessary to use this saw compared to others–including many, if not most, power saws.

Coping Saw

coping saw
Though it may seem a bit odd, the coping saw is actually one of the older metal hand saws with its origins dating back to the development of metallurgy. Though it is was one of the more popular and common saws of its day, these days coping saws are generally used by woodworkers more than general professionals. This is because coping saws are an incredibly precise cutting saw used for some of the finest and most difficult work. Keep in mind that the coping saw is paired with the coping joint as opposed to the more common and easier miter joint.

The coping saw is noted by its C-shaped frame embedded into a handle across which is stretched a thin, narrow blade. The teeth are exceedingly small and close together in order to provide a more consistent cutting action. This means that it is also a fairly slow cutting saw, though this does at least make it a bit easier to handle. In fact, the most complicated part about using a coping saw is figuring out what is the proper cut before making it. Still, few saws, hand saws or power saws, can make the kinds of irregular cuts coping saws can.

Crosscut Saw

crosscut saw
When you mention the term “hand saw” to someone, this is likely the type of saw that immediately comes to their mind. This is by far the most common type of hand saw and is still used today despite the fact that numerous power saws are designed to make this type of cut. Of course, an excellent design in engineering can only be improved upon so much, though there are actually a couple of different types of crosscut saws. What all crosscut saws have in common are larger teeth which are further apart to generate a more aggressive cutting action.

However, because it is a hand tool, the crosscut saw allows you to make this difficult cut with a more aggressive cutting action without losing much precision. This is why the crosscut saw is still popular today, though like with most hand saws, it is far more commonly used by woodworkers. One word of note regarding the crosscut saw is that it is actually one of the more difficult hand saws to use. Basically, the aggressive nature of the cut digs the teeth deeper into the wood than is always ideal and forces the use of a particular type of technique. If you do not use the proper cutting technique with a crosscut saw, then you are going to deal with the blade catching.

Compass Saw

compass saw
Though it may seem so at first glance, a compass saw is not a handsaw designed to make a plunge cut. Instead, a compass saw is designed to provide a similar kind of value as the coping saw with some minor tradeoffs. Clearly, based on the design, the compass saw features a pistol grip which is intended to allow the user to still generate a decent amount of cutting power despite the blade. However, the blade itself is not necessarily a problem in this regard as it can be made with a relatively aggressive cutting action.

That said, most compass saws will feature blades with teeth that are on the shorter side and closer together in order to provide precision to the cut. In this way, the compass saw is ideal for making irregular cuts, especially if they have tight turns. However, the reason you would opt for a compass saw over a coping saw is due to the fact that the compass saw can be used in a number of positions and places which would be extremely awkward, if not altogether impossible, to use a coping saw.

Fret Saw

fret saw
One look at a fret saw and it will likely remind you of an exaggerated coping saw, though that is a completely reasonable assessment as it is meant for many of the same tasks. In fact, you can consider the fret saw to be a bit of an improvement on the coping saw, though they are still somewhat different in terms of their appropriate setting. Specifically, the fret saw features a much larger frame in order to accommodate significantly larger workpieces. Basically, the coping saw is great when trying to make an irregular cut along the edge but begins to run into trouble at a rather shallow point in larger workpieces.

The fret saw seeks to alleviate this issue by providing significantly more relief from the frame, allowing you to make the cut much deeper into a larger workpiece than a coping saw could. Outside of the depth into a workpiece, the fret saw can cut, there is not that much difference between it and a coping saw. Not only that, but the fret saw is also capable of making much sharper turns in an irregular cut than a coping saw generally can.


hack saw
The hacksaw is likely most famous for being the saw commonly smuggled into prison in a confectionary to cut through the prison bars. The truest part of that trope is the fact that hacksaw blades are generally able to cut through a wide range of materials, especially the blades of today. A traditional hacksaw features a thin, narrow blade that ostensibly provides it the ability to make irregular cuts, but its actual purpose and frame preclude that. That said, hacksaw blades are known for being fairly brittle and this is due to the blade doing its best to maximize both the precision of the cut as well as the aggressiveness of the cutting action.

This is accomplished with the type and arrangement of the teeth which differs from most other blades in a number of ways. The most important difference between a hacksaw blade and others is that the teeth are set in a wave pattern rather than an alternating pattern. This allows the hacksaw to still generate a decent cutting action even though the teeth are extremely short and spaced closely together. It is worth noting that there is a panel hacksaw which features the crosscut and rip cut design with a hacksaw tooth arrangement.

Japanese Saw

japanese saw
As mentioned prior, the Japanese saw is technically part of the back saw group in the hand saw type. Still, even within the back saw group, the Japanese saw has almost a mythic quality to it with the type of cutting action it provides. However, this saw is fairly different from most other backsaws in that it almost resembles a chisel, which is also a common hand tool used in woodworking, though its action is far different. A Japanese saw relies on the quality of its materials combined with the arrangement of its teeth to achieve one of the best back cutting actions available.

The Japanese saw uses the backstroke as the cutting action in order to provide additional precision since you cannot effectively lean into the stroke. While this will increase the length of time and number of strokes to make the cut, it helps ensure that you do not make a mistake. In this way, the Japanese saw is somewhat similar to the coping saw which also relies on the backstroke to generate its cutting action. It is worth remembering that the Japanese saw and its cutting action were not designed to be used on hardwoods as the native Japanese wood is usually softer.

Keyhole Saw

keyhole saw
Much like the coping saw has the fret saw which seeks to improve upon the original’s strength at the risk of over-specialization so too does the keyhole saw improve upon the compass saw. Much like compass saws, a keyhole saw features a pistol grip in order to provide the ability to generate cutting power even when the saw is used in an awkward manner. In fact, the whole point of the keyhole saw in the first place is to provide even more maneuverability in locations that are either a tight fit or awkwardly built.

As such, however thin and narrow the compass saw’s blade may be, the keyhole saw’s blade will be that much thinner and narrower. On top of that, a keyhole blade’s teeth will be near file thin and spaced as closely together as they can be. While this does make for some slow cutting, it does at least provide the keyhole saw with far more precision than most of the other saws used, period. One interesting aspect of the keyhole saw is that it is also made in a retractable model to set the length of the blade as needed.

Pruning Saw

pruning saw
This is the first saw on our list that has no real use or place in the standard woodworking shop and instead is meant to be used by professionals and homeowners. As the name implies, a pruning saw is designed to be used to help trim branches from trees and other foliage. Pruning saws actually come in a number of different sizes to accommodate different sized plants, though the flip-out pruning saws are likely not the best for most people. Beyond the different sizes, some manufacturers have actually borrowed the bow saw’s design to make a bow pruning saw for additional stability and generated force.

This saw features a blade with long teeth which are spaced further apart to help generate an aggressive cutting action. It is this same aggressive cutting action that makes the pruning saw a poor choice for most woodworking projects unless you are explicitly working within the ‘Rustic Style”. On top of that, rarely does a homeowner or landscaper care if the cut on a branch is smooth and precise.

Rip Cut Saw

rip cut saw
If you feel like you have seen this hand saw before, then you are probably right as the rip cut saw is not terribly different than the single-person crosscut hand saw. Instead, the rip cut saw is distinguished primarily by the way the saw blade’s teeth are arranged. For instance, a crosscut saw blade will feature long teeth spaced further apart to generate a more aggressive cutting action. The rip cut saw, on the other hand, features much smaller teeth that are closer together in order to provide a more precise cut.

Keep in mind that rip cut saws are designed to cut with the grain of the wood and can occasionally almost slice through the wood quite easily. However, rip cut saws are especially difficult to use if you are not an experienced woodworker because the force used to generate the cut can easily throw you off course.

On top of that, the rip cut saw still suffers some of the difficulties the crosscut saw does in regards to technique. However, since the teeth are much shorter and closer together, there is less opportunity for the teeth to catch even if you have bad form. Still, improper technique can at least make using a rip cut saw slow going if not imprecise.

Veneer Saw

vaneer saw
Veneer is a thin slice of wood, well below ¼”, which is usually stained and then adhered to the face of another piece of wood. While veneers get a bad reputation because they are often cheaply applied to inexpensive items and have a dated feel, woodworkers can use veneers to make gorgeous looking projects for significantly less money. Of course, when applying a veneer on your own, you still need to cut the sheet of wood to match its base. This is where a veneer saw comes into play and is designed explicitly for this purpose and will not be too terribly effective outside of it.

Because veneer is wood but is also fairly delicate, a veneer saw is designed to use one of the least aggressive cutting actions around. It achieves this by having exceedingly short teeth placed close together with as many as 60 teeth per 1” sq. The veneer saw also features a curved blade edge so you can more effectively transfer cutting force throughout the entire motion of the cutting action. Veneer saws can be used as either push or pull-action hand saws, but are generally used as a pull-saw.

Wallboard Saw

wallboard saw
The wallboard saw is one of the few hand saws that is almost explicitly designed to be used for a professional purpose exclusively. This is not to suggest that a woodworker could not find a use for a wallboard saw, but other saws would perform those functions better. A big part of this has to do with the fact that most wallboard saws feature relatively long teeth spaced further apart than most. While this allows the wallboard saw blade to generate an aggressive cutting action, the blade is rarely longer than 6”. This means that the wallboard saw blade is only effective for rough cuts less than 6” in length.

This is why the wallboard saw is actually meant to be used to cut into drywall, though it can often cut wood well enough too. Still, the wallboard saw features a sharp tip which would bend or break against wood but is effective at creating a pilot hole in drywall. That said, the aggressive nature of the blade’s cutting action does make this an incredibly effective blade for sawing through a thick rope and other fibers. In fact, the wallboard saw is pretty similar to the pruning saw if you shrunk it down.

Stanley Saw Set

stanley saw set
A Stanley saw set is a couple of things, but it is first and foremost not actually a saw. Instead, a saw set is a tool which allows you to adjust the position of a saw blade’s teeth along the edge of the blade. The Stanley saw set itself does not cut anything and is also actually an example of an eponym where the brand replaces the word, like with tissue and Kleenex. That said, a saw set is an incredibly useful tool for anyone to use, though it is most commonly used by woodworkers.

The main reason that a saw set, whether Stanley or otherwise, is a good tool to have is that it allows you to make simple repairs to your saw blades that much easier. Once you attach the tooth, you will need to reset it, if only back to its original alignment. On the other hand, experienced woodworkers know that the alignment of the saw blade’s teeth will directly impact what kind of cutting action you will generate. In order to increase or decrease the level of the blade’s bite, you can alter the teeth’s alignment.

It is worth noting that if you do not know much about how your saw blade tooth’s alignment affects the cutting action, it is probably best to leave it alone until you do. On the other hand, many of the finest craftsmen swear by their own blade repairing techniques or those of other hand-repaired saw blades.

Power Saws

power saws
Unless you are working on a project that requires a great degree of precision, more often than not it is simply more convenient to use a power saw over a hand saw. If you are at a job site that requires you to make a large number of cuts, then you will definitely need to use a power saw over a hand saw. However, much like with hand saws, power saws are divided up into a number of different types which themselves are often divided into further subtypes within their specific markets. On top of that, there are a few other major ways that power saws are distinguished more broadly.

Beyond the specific types of saws which we will get to, power saws are often differentiated between whether they are handheld or whether they are stationary. However, beyond the simple handheld and stationary distinction, the stationary power saws are further broken down into the portable and truly stationary models. The truly stationary models are also known as cabinet power tools and are noted by the large base and frame body. The portable power saws that are not handheld generally come with a stand and are known as professional or contractor grade power saws.

The larger the saw, generally the less precise the cut which is why power saws are more often used for volume cuts rather than precision cuts. That said, there are a fair number of smaller power saws which can make incredibly precise cuts and others which are designed to be the most precise regardless of the type or size of the power saw. Also, unlike some product categories, power saws are almost never gas-powered unless it is an industrial power saw which are used to cut timber into lumber.

Band Saw (Stationary)

band saw stationary
To be clear, a stationary band saw can be a couple of different things depending on which market you are looking at. The professional carpenter or woodworker will likely consider a stationary band saw to refer to a cabinet band saw which is so large and heavy that it needs to be wheeled into its location and will regularly be bolted into the ground. This kind of band saw is often fairly impressive in terms of not only how well it can cut but how many different types of cuts it can make. There are actually tables made to house a portable band saw so that it can be used similarly as a stationary band saw but the impression is fairly poor.

A band saw is fairly different than other types of power saws in that it does not feature a circular blade nor does it use a reciprocating cutting action. In fact, this is one of the few power saws, other than the portable version, that uses a continuous loop blade. The loop allows the band saw to use a single edge much like circular saws without the blade having to be so large. Because a band saw uses a continuous loop, the blade can be fairly narrow and thin which makes it great for making irregular cuts. Band saws also have the advantage of being able to easily cut other materials like plastic or metal thanks to a stabilized cutting action.

Band Saw (Portable)

portable band saw
Though we mentioned that most power saws will not be suitable for woodworking finishing cuts, there are a couple which can serve effectively with the intermediate cuts. The portable band saw is one of a few such power saws and does so by effectively balancing the cutting power and the precision. However, a portable band saw has to further balance this equation with the ease of using the power saw. This is because portable band saws come in a wide range of sizes with some of them being far more compact than others.

That said, we noted that portable band saws are more suitable for intermediate cuts because manufacturers have not yet found a way to generate more cutting power without further destabilizing the cut. As such, many portable band saws are legitimately powerful saws on par with some mid-tier circular saws in terms of raw power. On the other hand, if you get a portable band saw that can swivel, you can reach areas with a type of cutting action that you normally would not otherwise be able to do.

On top of that, portable band saws are also fairly effective at cutting other materials like metal or plastic. Though people have a tendency to favor a smaller portable band saw for precision cuts or frequent use. This creates another give and take dynamic where the smaller portable band saws are also often less powerful. While this is great for the precision of the cut, it often decreases the speed with which you can work.

Chain Saw

chain saw
A chain saw is a type of saw where a spurred chain is run against a guide bar to generate a cutting action. This is easily one of, if not, the most aggressive types of power saws available and is not for the inexperienced or faint of heart. That said, this definitely depends on whether you are using a gas-powered or an electric chain saw as the same kinds of disparities appear here as well. In fact, electric chain saws are often some of the more difficult products to purchase since they often underperform in terms of raw power.

Gas-powered chain saws, on the other hand, have a completely different issue which is that they are incredibly difficult to control and dangerous. Granted, there are gas-powered chain saws with smaller engines that are easier to control, but few gas-powered chain saws are easy to manage. It is also worth noting that chain saws have a number of durability issues, regardless of which kind you get or which brand you get it from. Granted, some brands are more durable and reliable than others, but the nature of chain saws make them less durable.

This is not to suggest that a chain saw will break down after a few uses, but if you do not know how to use one, you should probably buy a dozen extra chains. Though gas-powered chain saws are predominantly used by professional landscapers, consumers with large plots of a wooded property would do well to invest in one as it will be able to handle bigger jobs than a comparable electric chain saw.

Pole Saw

pole saw
This is a lesser-known kind of power saw as there is a hand saw type of tool on which this is actually based. The pole saw is an incredibly specialized type of saw which is used for an incredibly specific purpose, but it is still likely a saw that every homeowner should have. As the name implies, a pole saw is just that: a chain saw blade stuck to the end of a long pole. It is worth noting that the saw blade of a pole saw is usually not that large, especially considering the overall size of the pole saw, but it is still fairly awkward to maneuver due to its poor center of gravity.

This type of saw is used to prune trees and other foliage that is too high to safely reach without some kind of cumbersome harness. It is important to note that despite being a miniature chain saw, the pole saw is only designed to prune and trim branches, not actually cut through the trunk of a tree to fell it. Unless you have a lot of fast growing trees, there is a good chance that you do not actually need this product and will have a tough time justifying the purchase. That said, it can make many jobs so much easier that it might just be worth the cost to save the hassle.

When judging a pole saw, obviously, the maximum length of the pole will be one of the more relevant specs, though it may not matter as much depending on the height of the trees you need to trim. While pole saws were initially gas-powered, most of the new models are electric, so it is important to get a powerful one. While this applies for all saw, pole saws more than most need extra cutting power to get through the raw wood of a tree.

Chop Saw

chop saw
The chop saw is one of the first developments of the circular saw for non-industrial fields, though there were industrial chop saws as well. The whole point of the chop saw is to provide a strong cutting action when making cross cuts to lumber. It is worth noting that a chop saw looks nearly identical to a miter saw except for the fact that the chop saw cannot pivot. It is the ability to pivot which gives miter saws their eponymous name and allows them to make cross cuts at an angle. While there was a short span where consumer-grade chop saws were manufactured, few consumer brands still make dedicated chop saws.

Instead, the term chop saw has fallen a bit out of favor or is often considered a synonym for a miter saw. However, the true appropriate use for a chop saw is still a circular saw attached to an arm which makes a plunge cut to crosscut. The difference is that chop saws these days are some of the most powerful power saws on the market and are not really designed to be used by consumers. At this point, a chop saw is generally so specialized that you can really only justify the price if you make dozens, if not hundreds, of cross cuts a day. Otherwise, you are better off getting a high-quality miter saw since you will get more use from its versatility than you likely would from the raw cross-cutting power of a chop saw.

Circular Saw

circular saw
Of all the different types of saws made and used in the world, the circular saw is easily the most popular regardless of the metric you use to judge it. This has a great deal to do with the fact that circular saws are incredibly versatile in the hands of a skilled individual. In fact, the overwhelming majority of power saws are simply a modified design of the base circular saw. However, for this buyer’s guide’s purposes, a circular saw will refer to the handheld device that uses a motor located to the side of the blade to generate a cutting action.

This type of motor and blade circular saw arrangement is called a sidewinder design and provides arguably the most control from a circular saw. Granted, this does not make the circular saw the most precise, even in the power saw category, but it offers one of the best combinations of cutting power, control, and precision that the power saw category has to offer. Of course, the specific combination of those traits will generally determine for which purpose the circular saw is best suited.

For instance, there are sidewinder circular saws which can produce up 15 amps of power, but that will generally cause the power saw to vibrate such that the cut is inherently less precise. As such, a finishing circular saw will rarely have more than 12 amps of power and generally closer to 10 amps of power. Likewise, the size of the blade and the type of blade you use will heavily impact what types of cuts for which the circular is best suited. It is worth noting that a big part of the circular saw’s versatility comes down to the fact that it can make every kind of cut with the proper bracing and technique.

Flooring Saw

flooring saw
A flooring saw will resemble a number of different saws on this list, but it appears to be the closest to a radial arm saw if the blade was set extremely low. That said, the flooring saw is also fairly similar to the compact circular saw as both use a small blade with solid amounts of power to provide a smooth cutting action. That said, the flooring saw’s name may give the wrong impression as this saw is not designed for serious cutting jobs. In fact, a flooring saw is not even usually designed to cut real wood in the first place.

Instead, a flooring saw is designed to cut laminate flooring pieces which places it squarely in the power saws intended to be used by professionals only. Woodworkers would likely find little use for a flooring saw, even if they wanting to lay down a custom wood floor. Of course, if you are a professional contractor, chances are you do lay down a fair amount of laminate wood flooring. In that case, a flooring saw is pretty much a necessary piece of equipment unless you are comfortable with either rough flooring edges or sanding down the ends of the laminate floor planks.


Though many power saws are designed either to be used by professionals who will possibly make hundreds of cuts in a day or for rougher cuts, a few power saws are designed with precision in mind. Though woodworkers will often own a number of the power saws which make the more common cuts, few power saws can be used for even their intermediate cuts before finishing. A well-made jigsaw is arguably one of the most useful types of power saws and can accomplish cuts that give even hand saws trouble.

The most important thing to remember about jigsaws is that they were made to allow quick, irregular cuts. Quick is a relative term in this context as the thin, narrow blade of the jigsaw will require a pilot to get it started–though the pilot hole does not usually need to be that large. Jigsaws use a reciprocating cutting action but have blades with short, densely-packed teeth. This allows the jigsaw to cut through a wide range of materials including pretty much any kind of wood as well as softer materials like plastic and metal.

One tough decision you have to make with jigsaws involves the motor’s power since the more powerful the jigsaw, the less precise the cut. On top of that, jigsaws also will feature a choice between a pendulum and an orbital cutting action. The pendulum cutting action provides a more precise cut but is slower to cut through the material, while the orbital cutting action chews through the material much quicker but leaves a rougher cut in its wake.

Miter Saw

miter saw
Out of all the different types of power saws, the miter saw is definitely one of the top few power saws owned by professionals and consumers alike. Because of the ease that this type of power saw allows you to make one of the most important and common cuts in woodworking, the miter cut, it is generally considered near invaluable for most even amateur woodworkers. That said, the miter saw is technically just a chop saw with the ability to pivot. This being the case, it is important to remember that miter saws make plunge cuts, which allows them to make cross cuts but not rips.

When choosing a miter saw, clearly one of the most important considerations are the various miter cuts the saw can make. Generally, miter stops of 22.5-degrees and 45-degrees are the most common, but a number of manufacturers actually provide miter stops above 50-degrees to give woodworkers a bit of extra workpiece material to work with. It is worth noting that a miter saw is unlikely to produce the kind of power that a commercial chop saw will, but there are plenty of miter saws out there which produce 15 amps. So it is not as if miter saws are grossly underpowered for the task they are expected to perform.

Compound Miter Saw

compound miter saw
A compound miter saw is incredibly similar to a miter saw in terms of how it functions which makes choosing a compound miter saw easier if you have already learned about basic miter saws. Before discussing the functional differences and similarities, it is necessary to state that you actually do not need a compound miter saw to make any kind of cut. In fact, the whole creation of the compound miter saw is a matter of convenience combined with opportune engineering. Once you have a functional saw blade that can pivot, there is no good reason to leave it able to do so in only one direction.

This brings us to the primary difference between a miter saw and a compound miter saw which is that a miter saw is able to pivot along a single plane while compound miter saws can pivot in two planes. This second plane allows you to make what is known as bevel cuts which cuts an angle through the edge rather than the face. On top of that, many manufacturers have started making double compound miter saws which can make bevel cuts in either direction.

This is important because the technique for making a mirrored bevel cut on a standard miter saw involves difficult inversions that can trip up even the most experienced of woodworkers every now and then. In order to alleviate this unnecessary difficulty, manufacturers made the pivot point be able to swing left or right. Now you no longer need to consider the reverse opposite side of the workpiece to make a proper bevel cut in either direction.

Sliding Miter Saw

sliding miter saw
It should not be all that surprising at this point to find that the miter saw is one of the most innovated power saws in the market which is a reflection of how important this kind of saw and cut is. It is also a reflection of a general design which can be drastically improved with a number of seemingly minor improvements. It should be noted that while there are a couple of sliding miter saws that only feature a single miter, the overwhelming majority of sliding miter saws are also compound miter saws.

That said, when you add the price increase from a compound miter saw to the price increase of a sliding miter saw and compare it to the price of a standard miter saw, the sliding miter saw is significantly more expensive than a standard miter saw. As such, you likely need to be either a professional laborer or an active woodworker to justify purchasing a sliding miter saw over a standard model. On top of that, the additional action of the sliding miter saw also makes precision a bit more important, so you may want to stick with a 12 amp model rather than the 15 amps.

In terms of the actual difference, a sliding miter saw has an arm which allows the blade to slide towards the user. This provides some notable versatility in the fact that it allows you to make small rip cuts, transition from a plunge cut to a rip cut, and make larger crosscuts than the saw blade is otherwise able to make. Of course, the actual range of the sliding arm is rarely much longer than 1’, so you are still fairly limited in terms of the additional cuts a sliding miter saw can make.

Radial Arm Saw

radial arm saw
The radial arm saw is another configuration of the ever popular circular saw, except this one is designed for far more precision than most circular power saws are able to accomplish. The radial arm saw achieves this feat by providing a frame and base to both guide the saw as well as stabilize the blade during the cut. While this is still not technically as precise as a patient woodworker can achieve with hand saws, it is still too close for most craftsman to tell.

It is worth noting that a radial arm saw was used for similar purposes as the miter and the chop saw, though it is no longer purchased for those purposes these days. In fact, the sliding miter saw directly borrows the sliding horizontal arm from the radial arm saw. Though it may seem outpaced by more modern technology, the radial arm saw still provides value to woodworkers.

This is because most miter saws, including sliding miter saws, are incredibly powerful compared to a radial arm saw. Not only that, but most sliding miter saws feature blades twice as large as those used with radial arm saws. While this may seem like a fault to some, experienced woodworkers understand that it is the combination of a smaller blade with a less aggressive action and a slightly weaker motor that enables the radial arm saw to provide the precision it does.

Reciprocating Saw

reciprocating saw
A reciprocating saw looks fairly similar to a jigsaw and in a number of meaningful ways is, in fact, fairly similar to a jigsaw. In fact, the jigsaw itself is a miniaturized version of the reciprocating saw which was designed well before the development of electricity which relied on water or manual power to operate. That said, reciprocating saws these days have a bit more limited of a use than you might think and is generally limited to the professional jobs.

This is because a reciprocating saw not only has a reciprocating cutting action but also features a far more aggressive cutting action than most other reciprocating saws. As such, this type of saw does not provide the kind of precision that an experienced woodworker would prefer and is just as often used in the process of demolition as it is in construction. That said, one of the best uses of a reciprocating saw is in the remodeling industry where you might need to cut through metal like fasteners still embedded in the wood or pipes.

Despite the fact that it has an aggressive reciprocating cutting action, reciprocating saws will still require a pilot hole. The reciprocating saw has a blade that is far thinner than it is narrow, but it can still accomplish some fairly impressive curved cuts. Depending on how rough of a cut you are willing to accept, you can further improve the reciprocating saw’s cutting action by getting one with an orbital cutting pattern as opposed to a pendulum one–though this further decreases the precision of the cut.

Rotary Saw

rotary saw
A rotary saw can actually mean a couple different things as it is a saw used to make precise plunge cuts with an aggressive cutting action on a wide range of materials and is used primarily for rescue missions. Of course, for woodworking and associated uses, a rotary saw may also be known as a rotary tool and does not at all resemble any kind of saw with which you are familiar. Instead, a rotary saw looks a lot more like drill bit attached to a larger body.

However, this power saw is capable of making some of the most complicated and difficult types of cuts a breeze in the hands of an experienced user. What makes the rotary saw even better is that it finds legitimate use and value in both professional and woodworking projects. For a professional contractor, the rotary saw allows you to make difficult plunge cuts and cut outs without the use of a pilot hole and thus without the need for an actual drill. It can also be used to make fairly precise cuts in drywall without accidentally tearing out a chunk of the wall in the process.

For woodworkers, the rotary saw offers some of the best versatility out of all of the power saws made, though you get out of it what you are capable of putting into it. Basically, though the rotary saw is capable of accomplishing much, it is truly a testament to the skill of the woodworker who gets the most out of a rotary saw. This is because the saw itself is capable of incredibly intricate and exquisite woodwork, but you still need the skill to pull it off.

Oscillating Multi-Tool

oscillating multi tool
It is debatable as to whether or not an oscillating multi-tool is a true saw or not, but it is definitely an effective tool for cutting wood–as well as most materials. Of course, the oscillating multi-tool is fairly similar to a rotary saw as well, at least when it is being used to cut. Therein lies the rub: an oscillating multi-tool can do far more than cut, and it does not cut in the way we normally think a saw would. Whereas we generally consider a saw to be a toothed blade which runs across a material to cut it, an oscillating multi-tool uses incredibly small movements to make its cutting action.

This has a couple of consequences but the most important is the fact that this is likely the most precise power saw available. Basically, because the part which cuts only makes small movements, it does not generate the kind of torque most other saws do. While that torque is great for cutting, it also has the unfortunate side-effect of creating a lot of vibration which makes the cut less precise. By using such small motions and generating so little comparative torque, an oscillating multi-tool can make cuts that most power saw could only dream of making.

However, much like with the comparison between hand saws and power saws, what the oscillating multi-tool gets in precision, it gives up in speed. As such, while the oscillating multi-tool is still light years faster than a hand saw, it is still one of the slowest cutting power saws made. That said, the versatility of an oscillating multi-tool in that it can be used to sand, polish, and perform a number of different tasks make this a ‘saw’ that every household should own.

Scroll Saw

scroll saw
Scroll saws are an interesting power saw that is similar to a band saw in some respects but uses a reciprocating blade as opposed to the bandsaws looping blade. Not only does the scroll saw use a reciprocating action as opposed to a continuous one, but the blade is also extremely thin and narrow. This blade works similarly to cutting action of hand saws as the fret saw or the coping saw but obviously increases the speed significantly. That said, the scroll saw is not anywhere near as reliable and precise and the hand saw models.

Still, the scroll saw is not without its benefits, and precision is definitely one of the scroll saws major advantages. Of course, the scroll saws used to make the finest examples of its capabilities are all pedal-operated. Though, the scroll saw is capable of making some truly exquisite cuts in the hands of a capable craftsman. In fact, this power saw got its name because of the intricately curved cuts required to produce the scroll-head decorative finish.

Like with some of the other more specialized power saws, the scroll saw does not require nearly as much on raw cutting power as some other power saw types may. The cutting action is designed to be precise, not fast, though the primary advantage of the scroll saw over its alternatives is that it provides the best combination of speed and precision for curved cuts.

Table Saw

table saw
It is likely between the circular saw and the table saw as far as which is the most common and popular type of power saw. This is in a large part because the table saw is ideal for making one of the most common types of cuts: the rip cut. In fact, there are commercial grade table saws able to make thousands of long rip cuts through the hardest woods every day, though you are not going to find those at your local hardware store. That said, there is still a fair amount of variation within the table saw group.

One thing that remains constant throughout the table saw group is that they are all stationary power saws, though many of them are portable. That said, the nature and price of a stationary saw almost inherently make it the wheelhouse of professionals and woodworkers. Of course, there is a big difference between a small, portable table saw made for a consumer-grade market and a professional cabinet table saw bolted into the floor of a large woodworking shop.

As such, this is one of the few power saw groups which offer such a range of functionality that you have to judge them within their settings. Portable table saws, contractor table saws, and cabinet table saws are all appropriate for different tasks. While those are not the hard, set standards, most table saws will fall into one of those categories which generally increase in power, precision, and size as you go up–not to mention the price.

Worm Drive Saw

worm drive saw
The worm drive saw is actually the specific name of a type of circular saw and is actually the original type of hand held circular saw even before the sidewinder circular saw which we now consider the standard circular saw. The primary difference between the two types of circular saws is the placement of the motor. For a sidewinder circular saw, the motor sits to the side of the blade which increases the power saw’s precision. A worm drive saw, on the other hand, has the motor positioned behind the blade which increases the torque and overall cutting power.

Unfortunately, the worm drive saw falls to the same dichotomy that all power saws must face between power and precision. As such, with the motor positioned behind the blade, the worm drive saw can generate more torque but is significantly more difficult to control. In fact, the old adages about circular saws and how they can be difficult or dangerous comes primarily from using worm drive saws. Kickbacks and drags are incredibly common from worm drive saws if you are not an experienced user and have a firm grip.

Because of this unique combination of power as well as mobility, even if it is a bit limited in some respects, worm drive saws are excellent for making longer rip cuts, thicker plunge or cross cuts, and virtually any kind of rough cut. As such, most worm drive saws these days are used for framing jobs when constructing new buildings. Worm drive saws are also excellent if you need to cut incredibly dense, hard, and thick pieces of wood on site. Also, though it is an older design, the worm drive saw has greatly benefited by the continuing development of ancillary technology.

Tile Saw

tile saw
This is easily the least common type of saw and by far the least “saw-like” kind of power saw on our list outside of perhaps the oscillating multi-tool. From first glance, the tile saw also looks a bit like the flooring or radial arm saw. However, the tile saw’s blade remains stationary and you feed the tiles into it much like you would a table saw. That said, the actual cutting action of a tile saw is incredibly different than the cutting action of any other kind of power saw.

First, the tile saw uses a blade with no teeth, because teeth, even extremely small ones, would generate too much friction and vibration to cut through the brittle stone without breaking it. However, the toothless blade still generates a significant amount of heat which can burn the stone and cause the blade to catch on and summarily break it. In order to alleviate this issue, tile saws have a pump which forces water through a line and onto the blade. This alone completely changes how you have to use this power saw compared to the others as well as how you choose one too.

It is worth noting that most tile saws come in their own self-contained package that includes a base and water reservoir. While this technically makes the tile saw a stationary kind of power saw, it is one of the portable stationary types that are generally compatible with most types of stands. One thing to keep in mind is that the tile saw does not actually need to be anywhere near as powerful as the types of power saws which make dry cuts. In fact, the amperage of the tile saw could create more issues than it aims to solve if that increased power risks generating too much heat or torque.