Choose the Right Saw For The Project

Cutting Construction Materials and Wood Using Hand and Power Tools

When people think of a saw for a particular DIY project, they usually think of a circular saw (generically referred to as a Skil saw) or a hand saw. But the reality is that there is a broad range of saws available; each developed for a specific task. So, when planning a DIY project, choose the right saw for the job.

When Using a Saw, Follow Wood Shop Safety Rules

Remember the safety rules learned in high school wood shop and metal shop:

  • Always wear safety glasses.
  • Don’t wear loose clothing.
  • Keep jewelry to a minimum.
  • Tie back any long hair.

Start With the Basics – Hand Saws

Before power tools became prevalent, the most common saws were hand saws. That doesn’t mean their time is over; in many cases they’re the best choice. Here are a few of them:

  • The Hand Saw – The hand saw, also called a panel saw, was the workhorse in the old days of carpentry and home construction. The two types are the rip saw (used to cut with the grain), and the crosscut saw (for cutting against the grain). Oddly enough, sawyers of old used the hand saw as an instrument, calling it a musical saw or singing saw.
  • The Hack Saw – The hack saw is used for cutting metal and plastic PVC pipes, although it comes in handy for many other uses. Electricians use hack saws to cut rigid metallic conduit.
  • The Coping Saw – The coping saw looks like a short hack saw with a very small blade – about an eighth of an inch from the tip of the teeth to the ridge. This saw is useful for getting into tight places and cutting curves. It’s also used when cutting and installing baseboard.
  • The Dovetail Saw – The dovetail saw is used for hand cutting dovetail joints. Its got a metal cap spine on its back to keep it rigid.
  • The Back Saw – The back saw is used with a miter box to cut miters in casings for windows and doors. It’s also used for cutting baseboards.

Table Saws for Tough Tasks

Table saws are basically large circular saws mounted to a metal table. They make precise cuts on thin and thick lumber. To control the cutting precision, they employ a rip fence and a miter gauge (or crosscut fence). There are three types of table saws:

  • The Benchtop Table Saw – The benchtop table saw is the smallest of the three. It was designed that way to enhance portability. This allows the building contractor to easily bring precision cutting to the workplace. For working with large stock, use rollers, table extensions, and outriggers.
  • The Contractor Table Saw – The contractor table saw is larger than the benchtop table saw and is too heavy to move around much. But the weight lends it stability. It’s mounted to a base.
  • The Cabinet Table Saw – The cabinet table saw is more sophisticated and stable than the contractor table saw. It’s also more powerful, requiring a 220V dedicated electrical circuit. It features an anti-kickback device.

Portable Power Tools: Saws

Portable power saws are used for convenience and special purposes.

  • The Circular Saw – The circular saw (Skil saw) has replaced the hand saw for home wood framing. Think of it as a table saw with a handle.
  • The Jigsaw – The jigsaw has a blade that goes up and down rather than in a circular motion. It’s ideal for cutting arcs or other shapes.
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