Saws should be chosen based on the material type to be cut and the particular task being performed. Each type of saw has it’s own purpose, may be available in a variety of sizes, and offer safety and convenience features which vary by manufacturer, style, and application. For example: Circular saws are used to cut a wide variety of construction materials with an appropriate blade. They are manufactured in a variety of sizes that can be selected according to the project. Simple projects with 1″ x 4″ or 1/2″ plywood material may only require a 5-3/8″ cordless trim saw, whereas beam construction could require a circular beam saw with a 21″ course toothed blade, and cement fiber plank siding installation using a 7-1/4″ circular saw with the appropriate blade.
While most stationary saw models are primarily used in the carpentry trades, most portable models are also employed in plumbing, electrical, and other construction and facility maintenance trades. As in the case of numerous hand tools and accessories, many of the saws types have become known by industry workers as common trademark, brand, or model names:
- Circular Saw- Skilsaw™ (Skilsaw Inc.)
- Reciprocating Saw- Sawzall® (Milwaukee Electric Tool Company); TigerSaw® (Porter Cable Tool Company)
Blades come in various sizes and configurations. When choosing a saw for a particular cut, it is important to consider the type of material to be cut and the finish desired. Saw blades are rated in teeth per inch (t.p.i.), The lesser t.p.i., or the lower the revolutions per minute (r.p.m.), the rougher the finish of the cut will be. Always check the r.p.m. rating of both the blade and the saw to ensure they are compatible. Choosing a toothed blade or abrasive cut-off blade that is not rated for the r.p.m. rating of the saw can result in catastrophic blade failure and injury.
The thickness of the saw blade is referred to as the Kerf. This measurement is the width of the path of the cut where material will be removed. For accurate final dimensions, the kerf of the blade should always travel on the waste side of a marked line.
Additional Basic Saw Terminology
- Rip Cut- cut follows or goes with the grain of the material.
- Cross cut- cut goes across the grain of the material.
- Push-block/Push Stick- A hand-held device designed to push the work piece into and past cutting edges on stationary power tools.
- Scroll action- blade strokes perpendicular to material surface. Common to saber saws, scroll saws, and reciprocating saws.
- Orbital action- blade follows arcing path. Available option for saber and reciprocating saws. Aids in cutting pipe and round or circular materials.
- Never disable manufacturer installed guards or safety devices.
- Always use safety glasses.
- Do not use a saw for any purpose it’s features are not intended for.
- Always refer to manufacturer’s operating instructions and safety procedures prior to operating any power tool.
*Kickback is caused when the material binds with the blade or fence of a saw resulting in the material being forcefully ejected, often drawing the operator’s hand/s toward the moving blade, creating the potential for serious injury or death. Although kickback is regularly associated with table saw use, the same potential hazard exists with circular, reciprocating, saber and any other type of saw. In addition to material being ejected and the operator being drawn toward the blade, kickback can also result in portable saws being ejected from the material toward the operator.
Saw Types and Applications
Circular Saw- portable (framing and trim)
Circular saws are used to cut a wide variety of construction materials with an appropriate blade. They are constructed in various sizes that can be selected according to the project. Simple projects with 1″ x 4″ or 1/2″ plywood material may only require a 5-3/8″ cordless trim saw, whereas beam construction could require a beam saw with a 21″ course toothed blade.
Circular Saw Parts by Gwen Arkin & Clifford Rutherford is licensed under CC BY 4.0
Circular Saw Safety
Miter Saw- cuts angles, compound angles & bevels
Miter Saw Parts by Gwen Arkin & Clifford Rutherford is licensed under CC BY 4.0
Miter Saw Safety
Table Saw- for rip & cross cuts of sheet goods and lumber stock
Table Saw Safety
Sabre Saws (Jigsaw) and Scroll Saws- curved cuts, uses U-shank and/or T-shank (bayonet) blades
Jigsaw by Dexter Corpuz is licensed under CC BY 4.0
Reciprocating Saw- rough cuts and demolition
Reciprocating Saw by Gwen Arkin is licensed under CC BY 4.0
*Many jigsaws & reciprocating saws can be used in either scrolling or orbital modes
A variety of saws are available for masonry and mechanical applications and may be specific to a specific trade or task. Examples:
Band Saws – vertical and horizontal models for wood, metal, & other material applications
Band Saw by Gwen Arkin is licensed under CC BY 4.0
Tile Saws – ceramic, porcelain, quarry, clay, and glass
Block Saws – concrete, brick, and glass
Masonry Saws – Blades used for tile, cement, brick, & asphalt are usually diamond coated or abrasive. The can also be used wet or dry.
Tile Saw by Clifford & Rosemary Rutherford is licensed under CC BY 4.0