There are a lot of types of saws out there – how are you supposed to pick the best one for you? The answer isn’t always simple, but here is a detailed overview of the most popular types of saws, how they work, and the best-use cases.
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Below is a chart setting out the relative popularity of each saw.
What defines each type of saw?
A miter saw is also known as a drop saw, since you use a handle and lower the saw blade to cut the item. This type of saw makes accurate, quick crosscuts of which you can change the angle.
The table saw is a circular saw blade driven by an electric motor that is mounted either within or on top of the table.
Track saws are a slightly more portable version of a miter saw. They are hand-held, usually have a guide on one side, and use a circular blade.
Circular saws use a rotary motion, with an abrasive disc or round toothed blade, and are often hand-held.
A radial saw is mounted, but the arm is mounted on slides. It uses a circular blade to make cuts.
The band saw is a heavy lifter, with a lot of power. This saw uses a long, sharp, toothed metal blade and wheels to cut at precise measurements.
Each type of saw is unique in its use and power. Here’s an in-depth look into how each saw operates.
Miter saws are stationary saws that are primarily used to cut wood, such as 2×4’s or 1×6’s. While some miter saws are mounted to a benchtop, some can be picked up and moved around easier.
Power miter saws or regular miter saws are a great option for when you need to cut a board in half. A miter saw is stable and very powerful, and since it’s heavy and usually stationary, you can set it on your workbench and not worry about it moving while you’re making precise cuts.
Miter saws are also made so that you can see where the blade is going to cut the board: just set the board against the measurement fence, and move the handle down. Higher-end saws come with laser guides to help guide your cut.
Miter saws can cut at a precise vertical 90 degrees, and some can cut up to 50 degrees at an angle. This makes woodworking situations where you need an angle – like two pieces coming together to form a corner – fit together seamlessly. Other types of angles, like flooring, crown moulding, and unusual angels are made easier by using a miter saw.
A miter saw is made up of the scale, table, guide fence, lock handle, guard, handle, power switch, side rails, and blade.
Another type of miter saw, a sliding saw, makes it easier to cut wide boards that you would otherwise need a radial arm saw for.
Miter saws come in a variety of sizes – for example, a 10-inch miter will cut a 2×4 post at 45 degrees, whereas a 12-inch can cut at 2×6 at the same angle.
Type of cuts
Miter saws are designed so that you can cut your material at angles. The most common cuts made with a miter saw are:
- Beveled and compound cuts
- Trim work
- Crown moulding
- Wall moulding
- Angled cuts
- Regular board cuts
- General DIY
- The main body of a miter saw is usually constructed from metal, such as a high-grade aluminum.
- There may be plastic parts on your saw, such as the blade guard and outside detailing.
- Blades can range in type from:
- Carbon steel (best type for woodworking, 40-80 teeth)
- High-speed steel (best type for plywood, 100 teeth)
- Carbide tipped (best used for aluminum, 60-80 teeth)
- Diamond blade
- Abrasive disk
The cost for a miter saw can vary, depending on the type. A basic miter saw might run around $150 – $250, whereas a compound or sliding compound miter saw could cost in the $350 – $500 range. The most expensive types of miter saws are the double-bevel sliding compound miter saws, which will run around $600 – $800 or more.
- Repeatable cuts: You can put a stop at the end and make repeated cuts at the same length every time.
- Versatile mounting: You can mount a miter saw to a workbench, tabletop, or another work surface, or you can move it around if necessary on a flat surface.
- Angles and slides: This gives you the ability to cut wider pieces out of your material.
- Great for DIYers and first-timers.
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- Black & Decker
Highest rated miter saw on Amazon
If you are a woodworker, one of the best tools to invest in will be a table saw. You can complete cuts in a fraction of the time, with ultra-precise accuracy.
Table saws are perfect for now only cutting down boards, but also making moulding from scratch, or even straightening out crooked or curved boards.
If you need to make numerous repetitive cuts, table saws are a great way to do so effectively and safely.
Unlike a miter saw, the depth of the cut can be adjusted on a table saw. You can do this by adjusting how high the blade protrudes from the table or work surface.
Type of cut
Table saws are what usually comes to mind when you think of needing to rip long boards. There are other types of cuts table saws can do, though, which include:
- Rip cuts: These are what a table saw is most known for, which is when you cut a material lengthwise in a fast and accurate manner
- Cross cuts: Cross cuts, where you go across the width, and is useful when needing to make quick cuts. Many times a jig or sled will be paired with the blade so that your material doesn’t kick back at you.
- Angled miter cuts: While you will need a miter gauge (which you can buy or make your own) in order to make precise angles.
- Large beveled edges: table saws can be especially useful for when you need a very large beveled cut. Especially if a really long bevel is needed, a table saw will save you a ton of time.
- Dado cut: Dado cuts make a wider cut into your material (usually wood) and leaves a groove or channel in it. This is especially useful in woodworking.
- Rabbet cuts: This is similar to a dado cut, except that you are working only on the edge of the board to create a groove. This type of cut is traditionally used in table and cabinet making.
- A table saw has a circular saw blade and blade guard.
- It is mounted on an arbor, or a type of bench that it is built into.
- It has an electric motor (which either runs on gears or by belt) and a crank.
- The main saw body is usually made with a mix of metals, such as aluminum.
- The top is usually a cast steel or aluminum top, but some come with foldable legs.
- There will be a rip guide fence, and potentially a miter gauge.
A base model table saw can run you around $300, but a larger saw that is of contractor quality will cost upwards of $1,000. For most at-home uses, an 8-12” saw will more than suffice. 8” will work for a lot of small cuts, and 12” will be great for deeper cuts, but the average 10” will be perfect for most woodworking and carpentry.
- Repetitive cuts are a breeze
- Perfect for cutting large boards into smaller boards
- Very accurate cuts
- Able to do miter and angle cuts
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- Shop Fox
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A track saw, or plunge saw, is usually used in woodworking to make very long cuts.
Track saws are attached to a guiding rail. You attach the rail to the wood, lining up the exact path that you’re about to cut, and the base sticks to it. Then you slide the saw down the rail, creating a smooth, straight cut.
The track saw uses a circular blade with a hooded blade. While not a powerful as a table saw, a track saw can make many of the same types of cuts, but at a smaller scale. That makes them perfect for cutting through plywood or on a job that requires portability. Track saws also have a built-in dust collection system, which makes cutting in areas without good circulation a lot easier.
To ensure a perfect cut each time, a track saw needs to have a more precise set-up.
While some professional shops may prefer the larger, stationary table saw, a high-quality table saw will be a great investment for the DIYer who needs long cuts but more flexibility in where those cuts are taking place.
Type of cut
- Long, straight cuts: An example could be a side cabinet project or another project with ultra-long cuts.
- Plywood: A track saw is a perfect choice for on-site plywood cutting. A track saw can cut large, unwieldy plywood sheets down that can then be carried over to a table saw
- Drywall cuts: Track saws are perfect for cutting drywall due to their dust-collection, cutting down on the mess
- Circular blade (various types, see miter blade types)
- Blade cover (usually plastic)
- Plunging mechanism
- Guide rail/track, usually metal
- Track adjustment
- Dust collection system (usually a vacuum hose)
The cost of your track saw will vary depending on the kit you buy. While you can buy the saw itself, most of the time they will come with a track and related accessories. While a base model will cost around $250, the average is around $500 for a solid kit. Higher-rated kits can run $650 – $800, depending on track sizes and blade types.
- More portable for cutting long lengths than a table saw
- Very accurate
- More versatile than a table saw
- Perfect for drywall cutting
- If you take off the track it turns into a circular saw
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When it comes to portability, the use and versatility of a circular saw is unmatched.
Circular saws are electric saws that use a round, flat blade to cut a variety of materials. Circular saws can cut metal, plastic, wood, or other types of materials, depending on the blade choice.
In addition to the main body, circular saws will have some kind of on-off trigger, an arbor nut, blade, guide bar, blade protector, and bevel adjustments.
Circular saws are super adjustable. There are height and depth of cut adjustments, as well as bevel and angle adjustments. This hand-held tool can be adjusted to be left-handed or right-handed, and can be mounted to tables or mounts for extra support.
The arbor nut plays an important role in the use of a circular saw. The nut holds your chosen blade in place, ensure that it does not fall off or come flying back at you.
There will be a safety switch built into the body mount. In order to operate a circular saw, you will need to press or adjust the safety switch, and then pull the on/off trigger.
Types of circular saws & cuts
- A worm drive circular saw has a motor mounted in the back, which makes it thin but long.
- Non-sealed motor casing, which will require oiling
- This saw is used for plunge cuts wide board cuts.
- The configuration of the blade and gears produces significantly more torque.
- These have larger cutting teeth, but are more powerful
- A sidewinder, or in-line, a circular saw is a compact saw that is balanced to put the heavy side of the body over the solid side of your material
- Runs very quickly
- Very lightweight, making them useful for overhead cuts
- Hypoid circular saws also have rear motors
- Sealed motor casing
- Beveled wheel with teeth that hooks a spiral gear
- Good for handheld cuts
- Useful for cutting substantial pieces or wet wood
- An abrasive circular saw uses a composite friction disc, not teeth
- These saws are best for hard materials
- Sometimes abrasive saws are set up as handheld, but mostly they have a miniature table or mount
- Types of cuts could include pipe cuts, concrete, and asphalt
- Biscuit joiner circular saws are used to join wood pieces
- Best used to join wood without visible nail holes
- Cuts small slits in the same spot of two sides of a board
- Carbide circular saws are named after the blade that is used on them.
- This blade has cemented carbide teeth
- This saw is made to cut materials that are very rigid
- Carbide circular saws can use horizontal or vertical slides
- Multiple cuts can happen with vertical slides
- A concrete circular saw is also known as a grinder or slab saw
- Motors range from fuel, hydraulic, electric, or pressurized
- Usually uses a diamond blade
- Cuts include concrete, asphalt, brick, tile, metal, and tough materials
- Can be used with water to cut
- A flip circular saw acts like a combination of a table and miter saw.
- Can make cross cuts and angle cuts
- Mounted blade
- A metal cutting circular saw is made specifically for cutting through metal surfaces
- Metal cutting saws are designed to protect from shards or sparks that occur with metal cutting
- Slow cutting
- Significantly smaller blades than standard circular saws, but much sturdier
- The body is traditionally made from plastic
- A motor, either battery-operated or a plug is needed
- Circular blade
- Metal guide
- Plastic trigger
- Arbor nut
A circular saw is a more cost-efficient option for those looking for a saw with a lot of versatility. On average, a mid-range circular saw will cost in the $60-$150 range.
- Many different types
- Continuous motion cutting
- Usually weigh under 10 pounds
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Many woodworkers like to pit radial arm saws against the table saws. While a table saw is great for rips and crosscuts, radial arm saws are great for ripping on a single pass, as well as being able to sand and plane.
Radial arm saws are versatile. They very accurate, especially when performing cutoff work. A radial arm saw is similar to a circular saw, but it is mounted on an overarm, or adjustable arm.
The motor and blade are connected by a yoke to the overhead arm. The arm can be adjusted both horizontally and vertically. The blade can be tilted, which makes cutting angles a breeze.
Radial saws require more attention to detail, as you must use the protractor gauge and adjustments precisely in order to get a perfect cut.
Typically, a radial saw will use a 10” blade, and can cross cut over a foot. Radial arm saws are a great option for moulding and dado cuts needed for furniture and profile cutting.
A radial saw is used on a fixed work surface but is different in that it is suspended over it. They will have a guide fence, which you can reposition for your project.
A radial arm saw is unique in that the saw blade itself moves, rather than the stationary band or table saw.
Type of cuts
- Dado cuts
- Rabbet cut
- Cross cuts
- Rip boards
- Simple or compound miter cuts, and angels
- Taper cut
- Open mortises
- The radial arm saw is mounted to a flat surface, usually wood or metal
- Circular saw with a variety of blade options
- There will be a handle, usually plastic
- Anti-kickback device (usually metal
- Plastic blade guard
- Metal body
- Electric motor
- A variety of attachments are available to pair with radial arm saws, such as:
- Disk or drum sanders
- Drill press
- Planer heads
- Jointer heads
Radial arm saws have been slowly disappearing from the consumer market as more contractors and carpenters move towards a compound miter saw with a sliding arm. On average, a mid-range radial saw will cost around $600, while professional-grade kits can cost upwards of $10,000.
- The largest array of cuts and angles possible
- Ultra-powerful cutting abilities
- More precise cuts than other types of saws
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Highest rated radial saw on Amazon
A band saw (or bandsaw) is a versatile power tool that can be used for both craftwork and delicate cutting alike. Band saws are also perfect for cutting decorative pieces for mouldings, furniture, and cabinetry.
A band saw is traditionally used to cut curves, such as legs. However, it can also rip regular lumber or crosscut smaller pieces. It is the best power tool for irregular shapes that a straight angle or line would not be suited for.
A band saw is made up of a set of wheels connected to a thin rotating blade. This is all mounted on top of a flat, stable work surface, run by an electric motor. Band saws usually come in kits that you assemble yourself.
There can be huge band saws, or smaller, more agile models. The smaller ones are more portable and can be moved around, whereas the large ones can cut at a higher capacity.
The blade of a band saw is unique in that it is a toothed metal that is stretched out between two wheels.
Type of cuts
- Curves! Curves are the band saw’s forte, allowing you to cut precise curves in a variety of materials
- Traditional straight cuts
- Rough cuts
- Veneer cuts
- Irregular shapes
- Motor (usually a ⅓ or 1½ horsepower)
- Wheels, traditionally made of metal and covered in rubber
- Thin, rotating blade (comes in a variety of materials, such as steel, diamond, and carbide)
- Tension guide
- Some higher-quality band saw kits come with roller-bearing guides
- Guide fence
- Miter gauge
Depending on the kit that you purchase, the cost in band saws has a large range. Extra accessories, blades, and guides can quickly increase the price. A deluxe bandsaw ranges around $900-$1,000, whereas a mid-range model might run you around $350-$500. If you’re willing to sacrifice horsepower, an entry-level model will cost you around $200-$300.
- A band saw can cut a large array of materials, from timber to metal to wood
- They have rip fences, miter gauges, and more, making them ultra-versatile
- Unique blades allow for irregular cuts and unique projects
- The dual-bearing blade helps for more precise finishes
- Less waste happens during the actual sawing
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