Of all the tools that a woodworker works with, power saws fall in the indispensable category. In modern woodworking, some projects are impossible to execute without these tools. Power saws make the work easier and allow projects to complete faster.
The shape, type, and number of teeth on a saw determine its use. In the beginning, power saws replicated handheld saws and provided them with power through electricity or gasoline. But over time, they evolved into specialized categories.
A power saw typically consists of specialized blades, a set of teeth, chains, and wires for electric supply. The power saw blades fall into three primary categories, circulating blades, rotating blades, and reciprocating blades. You can read more about woodworking saws in another interesting post of ours.
Types of Woodworking Power Saws
There is a wide variety of versatile and highly specialized power saws in the market. The right type of power saw for you depends on your budget, your need, and the space you have in your workshop. Here are the most popular power saws you can choose from:
The table saw, as its name suggests, is fixed on a table. We also call it a bench saw. Table saw uses a circular blade that runs on an electric motor. It requires a large space and can deliver accurate cuts.
Adjustments in the table saw blade allows a varying depth of the cut as well as the angle. Some even come with a sawdust suction system. Table saws primarily make three types of cuts — ripping cut, dado cut, and a crosscut.
For protection against accidents, a table saw comes with a range of safety features like blade guards, anti-kickback pawls, riveting knives and splitters, magnetic switches, push switches, and in some cases, even automated sensors.
Band saws consist of closed bands made of steel and which rotates on pulleys. The sharp and long metal blades have teeth and run on a continuous band between a set of wheels.
Band saws are relatively easy to use, occupy less space than a table saw, and are useful for cutting thick wood pieces. We use them to make complex shapes and cutting curves.
Of the handheld power saws, the jigsaw is one of the most commonly used among various types of woodworking power saws. A jigsaw has a reciprocating saw blade operated by an electric motor and comes with a soleplate. It can be corded or cordless and is ideal for cutting 45° angles and making miter joints. The saw’s size and weight allow for making plunge cuts, curved lines, bevel cuts, and straight lines. They are ideal for cutting complex shapes and curves.
Scroll saws come with a limit of how deep and wide they can cut. However, they are the most preferred saws for detailed work. Scroll saws consist of thin blades that have an up and down movement.
The action of a scroll saw is like a sewing machine that we can operate using its paddle. The reciprocating blade is like a double-ended jigsaw and is five inches long, a quarter-inch thick, and arranged vertically.
A Scroll saw is easy to use and is one of the safest power tools that you can get. Many variants come with dust blowers to keep your work surface clean. The foot pedal provides a safety feature where the saw stops in less than a second if needed.
We can mount and fix them on a table or use them as a handheld tool. This feature makes the saw highly versatile, especially for cutting plywood. These saws come with a circular blade and rugged teeth rotating around an arbor.
A popular tool in sawmills, the circular saw, is used for making straight, quick, and long cuts. A circular saw makes ripping cuts that are long cuts made along the grain of the wood effectively.
There are three popular types of circular saws – the worm drive saw, in-line or sidewinder, and the hybrid circular saw based on the motor’s location on the tool and the cuts a woodworker needs to make.
The reciprocating saw is a great remodeling tool for a woodworker and is typically used as a demolition tool for removing drywall. It is a lightweight tool making it an ideal choice for overhead work, especially when working on a ladder.
The cutting action of the reciprocating saw occurs as a result of the push and pull motion of its electric-powered blade. The blades are tapered and short, making plunge cutting jobs easy.
The precision of reciprocating saw cuts depends on the pressure applied on the saw, speed of the blade, and the geometry of the cutting edges, making it necessary for the woodworker to know how to use the tool to achieve the best results.
The best power tool to make 90° and 45° crosscuts is a miter saw. The miter saw makes compound angle cuts, bevel cuts, and regular crosscuts. We can mount a miter saw on a table for better control.
A miter saw consists of a motor to power the tool, a blade or a cutting edge, the miter that can make miter cuts on both sides of the wood simultaneously, a single or double bevel miter, and an optional dust collection mechanism.
Advanced versions of miter saws have a laser guide system with lights that guide the woodworker to achieve a high degree of precision. Adding a table extension to the saw provides better support and balance.
Chain saws are portable power tools that rotate a chain of blade teeth around a guide frame. When the saw engine or motor starts at a high speed, it engages a centrifugal clutch that makes the cutting possible. We use this simple tool for pruning, bucking, and tree felling. While gas chainsaws are the preferred choice for large jobs, there are saws that run on electricity that may be corded or battery-operated. However, most chainsaws run on gasoline. They can also be used for cutting rough cut lumber or carving chainsaw wood sculptures.
Chop saws are specialized saws that can make a very accurate square cut. People often confuse these saws with the miter saw as the blades both operate in an up and down motion. Since chop saws can only move up and down, we use them for square cuts, whereas the miter saws can also make angular cuts because of the flexible motion of the blades.
If your work calls for long, accurate, straight cuts, you can use a circular saw, a table saw, or a track saw. If you need a cheaper machine that can be held by hand, your choices narrow down to a circular or track saw. A track saw has a long track and a full 360° angle range. It uses a plunge cut mechanism and has a long metal guide to cut through long lengths of material. Track saws are preferred when there is a need to cut long sheets of plywood accurately. A track saw cuts through wood, plastic, and even metal.
The pole chainsaw or pole pruner as we also call it is the preferred saw to be used in a garden where trees and branches need pruning regularly. The shape of this saw allows it to cut in hard-to-reach places precisely. Pole chainsaws work either through gas or electricity. Gas-powered pole chainsaws are noisy and can be more expensive, but they are better than the electric pole chainsaws for the freedom and flexibility they give to the woodworker.
We use a flooring saw, as the name suggests, to cut through the flooring of different materials like wood, vinyl, laminate, etc. The flooring saw is a type of circular saw fixed on a guiding rail and held together by a metal base.
Flooring installation is tricky and needs different types of cuts that require various types of saws. A flooring saw can make rip cuts, crosscuts, and miter cuts precisely and make your life easy.
The tile saw cuts tiles and other ceramics. It uses simple physics to snap tiles. The saw first draws a straight line on the tile’s surface needs cutting, then applies pressure simultaneously on both sides of the line on top and directly under the line at the bottom. This application of precise pressure snaps the tile accurately. Since the line drawn on the tile uses a diamond tip and heats the blade, it needs cooling down with water giving the saw the name “wet tile saw” sometimes. You can use a tile saw without water, but you must use a dust mask when doing so.
To sum it up, power tools make woodworking quick and efficient but never ignore the safety precautions needed to avoid nasty accidents. Therefore, always wear protective gear while using any woodworking tools, powered or otherwise.
Ensure the cord is not in the way while working, and always check if the raw material has blockers like screws or nails that can damage the tool. Finally, remove the blade from the wood only after the motor stops.
Power tools have revolutionized the woodworking industry, and having a few of them in your collection expands your work scope. Knowing the different types of woodworking power saws will help you choose suitable ones for your woodworking projects.