Choosing the Right Power Saw for the Right Job
RIt’s time to buy a power saw.
You’re going to work on that project you’ve been putting off for a while. All the other things in your life right now are going well, so it’s the perfect time to make your vision a reality. It also means you’ll need to use a power saw!
There are a ton of different types on the market, which means adding one to your toolbox for any home improvement projects is going to take a little research. Deciding on the right power saw for the material you’ll be cutting is essential as some saws will be great for wood but will make a mess of cutting through stone.
Before investing in a saw think about the types of jobs or projects, you want to use it on around your home. As with most things, when it comes to more involved interior design projects, there might be a need to buy (or hire) more than one type of tool to get the job done the way you want.
Material and Cuts
There are four main types of power saw used for home projects:
- Reciprocating saw
- Circular saw
- Miter saw
The different type of saw chosen will depend on the material being used and the cuts you want to make. For example, if you're going to cut stone in the back garden, then a jigsaw isn’t going to be of any use, and just as using a circular saw to cut and shape aluminum isn’t recommended.
The five types of material we’ll include are metal, wood, plastic, aluminum and stone, and each saw has recommendations for its use.
Types of power saw
If you need to make some trickier, artistic cuts, then use a jigsaw. It has some of the thinnest blades of all the power saws, and they can accurately follow a curved line. Lots are available cordless, making them versatile and portable.
They can be used to cut wood, metal, plastics and ceramics. Any material for worktops, counters or tiling makes them the ideal saw to use. If you are going to use it often then get one that has an output of at least 350watts and several different blades. A saw like this can easily cut through wood with a thickness of two inches.
Use this for smaller jobs. If you want to cut long, straight lines, then choose a different type of saw.
Suitable for: chip-free cutting.
Not recommended: stone. It isn’t advisable (or usually possible) to cut this type of material with this power tool.
These are designed for heavy-duty tasks, using an oscillating cutting action to cut through material more aggressively. You should use both hands with this saw, which means it’s often easier to use it for overhead jobs than other saws.
Its oscillating action moves the blade back and forth like you would with a hand saw, but at a much higher speed. This means you get super quick cuts even if the material is thick, but the higher speed results in a rough-around-the-edges finish.
This is the ideal saw when doing home renovations or demolition, to cut through wood or metal or old windows that have embedded nails, as well as with projects involving wooden fencing, decking, and even tree branches.
Suitable for: use on plastic or metal piping and demolition work: removing windows, bathrooms etc.
Not recommended: stone. Other saws are better.
This saw is used for inside projects that involve straight cuts of wood and can be mounted on a table. The larger the saw, the thicker the material you can cut because the saw becomes more versatile. It is also good at cutting sheet materials, but you can also use it to cut through nail-embedded wood, bricks and concrete blocks.
If you choose a larger version, it is easily adjusted and can cut smaller pieces just as you would with a smaller version. Its cutting capacity is linked to the maximum cutting depth of the blade used, and most types are easily adjusted.
Suitable for: straight cuts of wood.
Not recommended: metal blocks or aluminum.
This is like a circular saw but has a pivoting head, which means pulling down the spring-loaded workpiece to cut the material underneath. The settings can be adjusted so that you can cut wood at any angle, which makes it more versatile than other saws.
It is used for complicated wood pieces that need to be cut at different angles but require precision, which the circular saw is unable to do.
Most versions have a laser guide to help with precision and improve the cut line and quality of finish. If you are making picture frames, then this is the ideal tool to use.
Suitable for: angled cuts when laying flooring and tiles, and cutting wood for picture frames.
Not recommended: stone, plastics, aluminum and other metals.
What else do you need to be aware of?
Once you’ve selected the type of power saw that suits your project, it’s sensible to think about other parts of the saw before choosing the exact one.
Power rating – The strength of a power saw is measured in its RPM (revolutions per minute). In general, the higher this number, the more power you get and the greater control.
Parallel guide – If you want precision for straight cuts, then a guide is a must buy. It usually comes standard on most circular saws but can be purchased as an accessory for most saws.
Handle – Choosing a saw with two handles will help you control it properly, especially if you buy one with a large RPM. Having these handles gives you a better grip and a safer cut.
Blades – Whatever saw you choose, you need the right blades to cut your chosen material. Blades come in different teeth settings and different types (steel and tungsten carbide) depending on the material being used.
Remember that using just one power saw and one type of blade that comes with it might not be the best decision for your project. If your budget doesn’t stretch to buying several tools and blades, then you can always inquire about hiring them from a local store.
Brandon Smith is an Editor at TheSawGuy.com – a woodworking & DIY resource for everything from comparing the best table saws and miter saws, down to home and garden projects.