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How to Choose the Best Saw for DIY

How to Choose the Best Saw for DIY

Saws and hand tools on garage wall

How to Choose the Best Saw for DIY: Few things can match the joy of working with materials like wood and creating something to fill your needs with your very own hands. But when it comes to the cut, just what type of saw do you need? This simple guide will help.


By Richardson Akande

Whether you are just starting out or a seasoned expert, it seems that everyone has at least some knowledge of what makes good saw. However, there are different breeds of saw available, depending on what you want to cut. Whether you are cutting through a PVC pipe or piece of timber, or if there is a need to make cuts at certain angles, one thing remains true: There is “the right tool for the job.” Therefore, there is a need to make the right choice among several saws that are available in the market.

Choosing the right saw depends on many factors: power, desired shape, materials to cut, size and depth of cut, and whether the saw needs to be mounted. Let’s check out some saws and see what they can do.

A Guide: How to Choose the Best Saw for DIY

Before You Choose your Saw

Saws are an integral part of the DIY toolkit. Like the hammer, they serve many purposes, especially for tasks that involves wood. However, depending on the task, the type of saw says a lot about how the final work will look.

Therefore, before embarking on the woodworking task, take a look at some tips that will help in achieving a great result.

Beware: Saws Could Be Dangerous

Before going through the best ways to choose a saw, it’s important to know that saws are dangerous, and must be handled with care.

Just like other tools, saws come with certain risks; therefore, make a habit to wear protective equipment any time you use a saw and learn to use the machine before embarking on big projects.

It’s best for new users to learn from others with more experience, and to start with smaller and simpler projects.

Hand Tools or Power Tools?

Once the inherent dangers associated with saws have been considered, the next stage is deciding on the type of saw that suits the job. Broadly, saws can be divided into two groups: Hand Tools, consisting of handsaws and hacksaws, and Power Tools, including (among others) the Circular Saw, Mitre Saw, Table Saw, Jigsaw, and Scroll Saw.

If you are working on a large project, a power tool may be a saving grace, because it may save you time and energy. The beauty is that power tools are getting better everyday in terms of performance and are becoming cheaper at the same time; you may not need to break the bank if you buy one.

However, if you need tools that are less dangerous and cheaper, hand saws certainly tick both boxes. Don’t be concerned: if you want to saw through pipes, tree branches, or even denser types of wood, hand tools will definitely deliver on smaller jobs. Be aware, also, that while with hand tools you are not guaranteed to make clean or better cuts, mistakes causing damage to your materials or even harm to yourself can happen very fast with an equivalent power saw, especially if you are a new user.

Mitre Saw
Photo by Amanda Kariella on Unsplash

Nature of the Cut Says A Lot

There is no single saw that is all-purpose or can deliver on all assignments; no single saw can deliver on all cutting jobs. To determine which saw suits your purpose, a good first step is to determine how you are going to make the cut. Is it against the grain or with it?

Let’s have a look at exactly what this means.

Cutting against the Grain

When you are cutting against the grain, it means you are cutting at a right angle, or perpendicular, to the wood’s fiber.

This is critical, don’t cut against the grain unless you’re certain that it’s necessary. You may damage your materials in the process and waste scarce resources. This type of cut is occasionally called for, however, but take special care to ensure you are doing the right thing.

If it’s necessary to cut against the grain, make sure you use specialized saw for such an occasion, like the crosscut or any other model that fits the task. The success of the task depends largely on the type of saw used, regardless of the expertise of the person handling the saw.

There are special tools and saws available if you are cutting against the grain, although this should be done by experts in the art of wood cutting because it’s delicate and may destroy wood if not properly done. Tools and saws may be damaged too, so it should be a task for people who are already adept at woodworking.

Cutting along the Grain

One of the rules in the carpentry world is to always to cut wood with the grain, and most tools were designed with this axiom in mind. Cutting with the grain is simple and straightforward, the main trick is to identify the grain from the onset.

Inspect the wood to determine which way the grains are pointing, note that all the lines in the wood will point in the same direction. It may be apparent at first glance, but in a few cases it requires close inspection. Once you identify these lines, it will be easy to place the saw to cut along the same axis.

Wood grain seen here running from bottom left to top right. These boards have been cut with the grain. Photo by Andrew Buchanan on Unsplash

Many tools are suitable to cut with the grain; therefore, if the task is to cut the with grain, it is necessary to choose the a tool that fits the task more specifically. In most cases, cutting with the grain is easier and more straightforward, which is why it’s the better way to start for those who are new to woodworking, as the risk of damage to the wood is minimized.

Whether the cutting assignment is against the grain or with the grain, identifying the actual type of cut early will help in choosing the right saw, but there are saws that can work in both occasions. Just make sure you identify the task before choosing the saw.

Types of Saw

The Handsaw

Handsaw
Photo by Matt Artz on Unsplash

The humble handsaw is arguably one of the most popular tools for DIY, ideal for carpentry and many other types of woodwork. If you don’t have access to electricity, you can use this instead of a circular saw. It can make straight cuts on a piece of wood and it’s easy to use and maintain.

It is good for basic household repairs, being designed for both hard and soft types of wood, and, if well maintained, has sharp teeth that can very make fine cuts. However, if you want to cut pipe or metals, handsaws will not make a good fit.

The handsaw can cut wood into different shapes and sizes, but it requires some training on how to hold the saw to make straight cuts, without turning it curvy or ruining the wood.

If you are cutting 2×4 or 4×4 boards, handsaws may not be convenient to use, especially if you have a large amount of cutting to do. In this situation, splashing out on a circular saw may be a worthwhile investment.

The Hacksaw

Hack saw
Photo by Barn Images on Unsplash

The hacksaw is a modern and industrial version of the handsaw. Unlike the handsaw, which often features a wooden handle and blade that are not designed to be easily replaced, the hacksaw typically has a metal hand and readily interchangeable blades. These blades come in many types depending on the material to be cut, and being designed to allow easy blade replacement means that the hacksaw can be a very convenient and adaptable tool that allows for the cutting of many different types of material.

The hacksaw is good for cutting pipes, PVC, conduits, and metal sheets. Therefore, if you are working, or preparing to work on metals and pipes, or making different shapes and cuts in the process, the hacksaw may be the cool option to try.

The Circular Saw

Circular Saw
Photo by George Pastushok on Unsplash

If you are likely to be involved with large jobs, a power saw is definitely a better option. The circular saw is the most useful, popular, and versatile from the power saw family. It can be table-mounted or hand-held. 

It is powered by an electric motor, and the circular saw can be fitted with different types of blades for various uses, which depends on the material and the shape you desire. Multipurpose blades are perfect for ripping wood and making crosscuts. 

With different blades that can cut masonry, plastics, metal, and wood, the circular saw is a general-purpose saw, which can be is useful in many situations and, unlike the table saw below, can even be used to cut against the grain.

The Miter Saw

Mitre Saw
Photo by Annie Gray on Unsplash

The miter saw is a close relative of the circular saw with a few minor but critical differences in its features. If you are after precision cuts, then the miter saw should be your number one option, as it is capable of making precision cuts at different angles both with and against the grain. 

Because of its heavy base, the miter saw should be mounted on a table; however, many modern versions are lightweight, making them more portable and potentially negating the need for mounting. A protective disc houses the saw blade and the arm is adjustable, which enables the saw to lower, glide, pivot, and rise, as the case demands, to produce custom cuts at desired angles.

The Table Saw

Not merely another member of the long list of available saws, the table saw’s strengths lie in the fact that it can easily make long, clean cuts thanks to its specialized blade. It is designed with an edge, or fence, you can align your wood against to make straighter, cleaner cuts.

The table saw is typically used solely to cut with the grain, as opposed to the circular saw, mentioned above, which is also used to make cuts against the grain.

To cut a wide piece of wood down to smaller lengths and widths, the table saw is ideal, and therefore, when making bookshelves or furniture, the table saw should be considered as the first option. It is able to accurately cut both longer pieces, such as shelves and panels, as well as pieces requiring a finer touch, such as brackets.

The Jigsaw

Another member of the power saw family, the jigsaw is good to make custom cuts or shapes. Unlike the circular saw and handsaw, the jigsaw can also cut ceramic materials, plastics and metals so you as you are using the correct type of blade. 

For technique, you simply need to guide the saw as the thin blade reciprocates (moves back and forth) and the saw rest glides across the material you are cutting. This saw is ideal, amongst other things, for making decorative craft and birdhouses. Additionally, in most cases, a jigsaw allows you to tilt the saw and cut at a predetermined angle.

The Scroll Saw

The sturdy relative of the jigsaw, the scroll saw remains stationary while the user moves the cutting material around it. It can cut wood and plastic, and is capable of making superbly tight turns, but this intricacy comes at a price: Extra care must be taken due to its delicate blade, which can easily break if it is put under too much strain. However, if you want to make intricate designs, the scroll saw is one option to consider.

In Conclusion

With many options available in the saw family, choosing the right saw maybe a little challenging. 

However, it is better to think through what kind of job you need the saw to perform since there is no single saw that can perform all tasks. Though some are more versatile in adapting to more than one task, or working on more than one material, therefore, check through saws that are available in the market, what options they bring to the table, and what you need the saw to do. 

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