How to Choose the Right Power Saw for the Job
By: Danny Lipford
Power saws are essential tools for many home improvement projects, but it’s important to know which saw to use for what job:
- Circular Saw: This saw has a disk-shaped blade and is the most common power saw owned by DIYers. It works well for both crosscutting and ripping lumber to size. The use of guides makes cutting with a circular saw more accurate.
- Jigsaw: Also known as a sabre saw, this is the saw to use for curved or inside corner cuts. The narrow blade and up and down action makes this saw less accurate than the circular saw on straight cuts.
- Reciprocating Saw: Like the jigsaw, the reciprocating saw uses an up and down motion, but the design of the tool makes it the saw of choice for demolition and working in tight quarters.
- Miter Saw: This bench or table mounted circular saw is perfect for making accurate angle cuts on molding and crosscuts on narrow lumber. A standard miter saw pivots in one direction for angled cuts while a compound miter saw is adjustable in two directions to make more complicated compound angle cuts.
Watch this video to find out more.
- Homeowner’s Guide to Handsaws (article)
- Understanding Power Tools (article)
- Choosing a Saw for Your Workshop (article)
- How to Make Perfect Crosscuts and Rip Cuts with a Circular Saw (video)
If your projects call for cutting, you need to know which saw to use and when, so consider this.
For straight cuts through thick or thin material, the circular saw is the best option. The round, rotating blade delivers clean, straight cuts over long distances.
If you need to make curved cuts or inside corner cuts, a jigsaw is a more suitable choice. The short, narrow blade of this tool moves up and down rapidly, which makes turning easier but doesn’t make long straight cuts too accurately.
The reciprocating saw operates with a similar action, but it’s intended more for getting it’s blade into tight spaces. The blades for this tool are a bit larger and often able to cut metal as well as wood, so they are ideal for demolition work.
For more finished work with molding, the miter saw is the right choice to make. It’s essentially a circular saw mounted on a fence, so you can adjust the angle of cut from zero to 45 degrees in either direction. A compound miter saw will pivot on two different planes to allow you to make even more complex cuts.