When doing anything from painting to building a deck, or fixing your car to fixing a leaking pipe, having the right tool for the job can save you a lot of time and headache during the project. When it comes to woodworking, you will need a few saws to get most projects done, but the list of saws on your wishlist can get really long.
It is important to start with the basics and understand how to tell which saw is the right one in each situation.
To start off, you need to know the different types of blades. You can generally break saw blades into straight and round blades. Round blades, like you, would find on a circular saw, table saw, or miter saw will generally make clean straight cuts. When it comes to straight blades they usually reciprocate in their cutting action. Unfortunately, this means the saw will cut better in one direction than the other and you will end up with a rougher cut. The exception to this is the band saw that gives you a good clean cut thanks to its ability to cut in one direction. These blades beat the rounded blades in their ability to make curved cuts as well as thick cuts in industrial applications. Understanding the differences between the blades will make it easier to pick the right saw.
If you come across a cross-cutting situation you will likely reach for a miter saw or a circular saw. The circular saw is perfect when portability is important and you don’t need perfection. Use a square to guide the saw in these situations to better control the cut but in theory, you have an infinite cut length. In most situations though, you will want to use a miter saw. While the cutting window is different for each saw, you are usually limited to making cuts on a 2×12 at the most. Thanks to the mount that this blade is attached to, and the fence in which will hold the wood, you get clean straight 90-degree cuts with ease. Remember that when you have to make a cross-cut, you typically want a circular saw or a miter saw. The circular saw wins out in portability, cut length, and versatility. The miter saw wins out the inaccuracy, and when it comes to making repetitive cuts.
If you need to rip a board down to narrow it or cut a sheet of plywood, you will want to use a table saw or a circular saw. The table saw is perfect for going with the grain. While this is typical because trees grow tall with the grain and therefore boards have the grain travel longways, the table saw is set up to make long accurate cuts. It has a guide for the wood and amount to hold the blade similar to a miter saw, but the geometry allows you to move the board across the blade for a long distance. Table saws have received a reputation for being on the dangerous side but with modern technology, a good clear understanding of the user manual, and a sharp blade they will be your best friend on a lot of projects. If a table saw is out of your budget, you lack the space for it, or you need something a little more portable, you will find yourself grabbing the circular saw. You can swap out the blade from cross-cutting for a better-suited blade and it becomes a great tool for rip cutting. You won’t get the accuracy you could with a table saw but similar to its comparison to the miter saw, the circular wins in portability, and an infinite cut window. They are typically only limited by depth. You can even accessorize and get your circular saw a fence T, a rail, or a good chalk line to give it some guidance on making long cuts. With some practice, you will be able to make really clean long rip cuts.
Beveling or cutting an angle onboard, you can use an assortment of saws. All of the saws mentioned so far usually come with the ability to tilt the blade and make bevel cuts. When choosing the saw, all of the same pros and cons for each applies. One of the most common uses of beveling is crown molding. If you find yourself putting up crown molding in a room make sure to measure many times and think through the angles multiple times. In this situation, a miter saw is almost a necessity.
Not all cuts are straight. If you want to add some contour to a project or cut around an obstacle you will need to break away from the straight cutters. Now you will be choosing between a jigsaw or a band saw. There are more options like a scroll saw but those are the two most popular. The band saw makes better cuts than the jigsaw, but it is usually mounted in a shop and the board has to be manageably-sized to where you can hold it while cutting. The jigsaw is portable, and with the right blade can do some fine work. One perk to the design of the jigsaw is that you can make inside cuts, for example, a donut hole out of a donut, without cutting through the outside. Simply drill a hole big enough to fit the blade and go to town.
As you get more comfortable with each saw you will find more and more creative ways to use each, as well as understanding the right job where each saw would shine. Just because the saw can cut, doesn’t mean you should use it in that situation. Frequently, using the wrong saw will leave you unhappy with the results and starting over. When you start a project, keep in mind the saw you will need to perform it well. Include that tool purchase in the project budget if you don’t have it or borrow one from a friend. You’ll be glad you chose the right power saw for the right job.
This article is provide by Brandon Smith who is an Editor at TheSawGuy.com – a woodworking & DIY resource for everything from comparing the best table saws and miter saws, down to home and garden projects.