What Type of Saw Should I Use?

July 16, 2013 at 12:31 pm
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Using the right saw can have a profound impact not only on the finish of your project, but the ease with which you can cut materials. Attempting to use the wrong saw for the material that you’re cutting can sometimes be dangerous, occasionally just not work at all, and always compromise the quality of the finish.

Trying to use the big, blunt teeth of a concrete saw on wood simply wouldn’t work, and in reverse, trying to cut concrete with a wood saw would at best wreck the saw itself with comparatively little impact on the concrete. That’s a fairly extreme example of course, but using the right type of saw is important in order to get the quality finish that you’re striving for.

Find out how to cut a perfectly straight line with a handsaw here.

The guide below will help you select the correct saw for the job and material(s) that you’re working with.

Universal Saw - this saw is a tool kit essential as a general all round saw, although it is best suited as a wood saw. It is possible to sharpen this type of saw, but the vast majority are treated as a disposable piece of kit as the initial cost (especially in packs) is usually much less than the sharpening service.

You can buy a variety of lengths, blade shapes and tooth configurations to more closely suit the project that you're working on.

Click to buy a universal saw
Hacksaw - designed for cutting metal, the fine teeth and narrow blade of this type of saw make it suitable for cutting other materials, such as plastics. Hacksaws are available in a variety of sizes and 'arch' shapes, the smallest being the 6 inch junior hacksaw, although the blades are usually a standard length to allow easy replacement.

The shape and stiffness of the arch will determine how much the blade flexes on the push stroke, which can in turn have an impact on the lifespan of the blade. Consequently, cutting on the pull stroke can increase the life of the blade.

Click to buy a hacksaw
Coping Saw - the blade of a coping saw is hardened and very thin (almost to the point that it looks like a piece of wire with serrations on one side) and detachable so that it can be removed, passed through a drill hole and reattached, allowing the user to make intricate cuts on the interior of a piece of wood if necessary.

The thin blade makes it possible to cut curves with comparative ease.

Click to buy a coping saw
Tenon Saw - this type of saw is designed for furniture making, particular making mortice and tenon joints. The stiff metal ridge along the back of the saw blade keeps the blade from flexing, so gives greater stability to the saw blade. The ridge also adds weight to the saw, which helps it cut more easily.

The cutting action when using a tenon saw varies compared to other saws, using a forward stroke (rather than a forward and back motion). The teeth of this type of saw are typically rip filed, meaning that they have no 'fleam', or angle on the tooth itself, so the effect is like lots of miniature chisels.

Click to buy a tenon saw
Demolition Saw - this is essentially a universal saw, with a high tensile blade and more teeth per inch, to allow it to take on a variety of materials including lightweight building blocks, plastics, metal and of course, wood.

Click to buy a demolition saw
Bow Saw - so called because it does look very much like an archer's bow, with its large, well spaced teeth and very thin blade, the bow saw is perfectly suited to cutting live (green) wood or hard dead wood from trees. Bow saws are available in a variety of sizes, from the very short (less than 24 inches) to very large saws which are best operated by two people, one at each end of the handle.

Click to buy a bow saw
Pull Saw - traditionally a Japanese saw, the pull saw is designed to cut on the pull stroke and clear the sawdust on the push stroke. By cutting only on the pull stroke, the blade does not have to be as thick as a universal saw which has to resist buckling on the push stroke. The result is less resistance for a finer, faster, lower effort cut. The blades are extremely difficult to sharpen though, so for most users, this is essentially a disposable saw.

Click to buy a pull saw
Drywall Saw - also known as a jab saw, the long, thin and stiff blade is designed to be pushed through materials (such as plasterboard) so that cuts can be made to accommodate features such as electrical sockets. Some drywall saws have teeth on both edges of the blade to aid multi-directional cutting.

Click to buy a drywall saw
Concrete Saw - this saw has large, hardened teeth to enable cutting through blocks and stone. For comparison, a concrete saw has less than 2 teeth per inch, whereas a universal saw is around 7-8 tpi and a hacksaw is often closer to 30 tpi.

Click to buy a concrete saw
Compound Mitre Saw - this saw is used for cutting angles accurately. Powered versions of the saw usually comprise a circular blade which moves both back and forward, side to side, as well as on a pivot through 90 degrees above a fixed bed. This range of movement allows a variety of angles to be cut. The handsaw equivalents work on exactly the same principles, as a way of cutting precise angles, often for framing, architraves or beading.

This type of saw can also be used for coving, although powered versions are generally too powerful for this purpose.

Click to buy a compound mitre saw