5 Saws You Should Have in Your Workshop

A Ryoba saw balanced halfway in a piece of plywood.
Josh Hendrickson

Adulthood means you can tackle all kinds of new tasks, including breaking down equipment for projects or cleaning up. If you use the right saw, you can work faster. With these saws in your workshop, no project will slow you down.

Most of us know how a saw works: you move the blade back and forth over the material, and you can either pull or push through it. Different types of saws look the same, so you can assume that a hacksaw, a bow saw and a scroll saw can all do the same job too.

But that couldn’t be further from the truth. The nature of a blade often makes a huge difference in the type of material it can pass through and when you need to use it.

If you try to cut a metal pipe or a tree limb with a standard cross-cut hand saw, you will either break the blade or saw until your arm is about to fall, probably both .

If you have the right saw for the job, it has a huge impact on your workflow. With that in mind, here are five saws that everyone should own.

Draft horses: cross section and crosscut saws

An Irwin Course saw next to a Suizan Ryoba saw.

When you think of a hand saw, you probably imagine a western cut-off saw. These are available in two styles: cross cut and tear cut. The difference is the direction in which you want to saw the plank.

Usually when you buy a board from a crate store, the wood is longer than it is wide. You cut in cross to shorten the board and cut in tear to shrink it.

Josh Hendrickson

Imagine a board made up of stacked toothpicks. A cross section will cut the toothpicks in half, while a longitudinal section will separate them into two whole toothpick packs. The teeth cut transversely cut the grain of the wood and the teeth cut in half separate it during cutting. Technically, you can use either blade for either job, but you won’t get sharp results and it will take more effort.

Because you can usually buy a board that is as wide as you need, you can probably get by with just one crosscut saw. It’s handy if you have both, however, especially if you want to reuse leftover wood from previous projects. We have some recommendations to help you get started.

Manufacturers design modern western hand saws to be disposable. When the teeth are dull or broken, you can get rid of them and buy a new one, but they should last for years. This inexpensive IRWIN Marathon cut-off saw gets the job done. It gives you coarse cuts that you need to sand and clean. And like all Western saws, you have to push a lot with your elbow and shoulder.

Cut-off saw

The Japanese Ryoba saw is very different from the more recognizable Western saw, but it has several advantages. First of all, there are two saws in one: one side is a longitudinal section and the other is a cross section. Second, the blade is thin, so you lose less material when you have seen it. Third, you pull instead of pushing to work this saw. This means that you use your whole body for sawing: arms, shoulders, back, trunk and legs.

It is also much more ergonomic than a western saw. There is a learning curve, but the results you get with a Ryoba saw are thinner and require less sanding and cleaning. Best of all, the blade is replaceable – you only have to buy the handle once.

Crosscut and Ripcut in one

Ideal for fresh wood: bow saws

A Black & Decker bow saw and a Bahco bow saw.
Black & Decker, Bahco

If you have trees on your property or go camping frequently, you will likely need to cut fresh (or green) wood at some point. You might be tempted to grab your handy chainsaw and go to town, but no. Green wood is full of moisture, which causes your hand saw to get stuck and get stuck. You will work harder to saw the limb and ultimately blunt or damage the teeth.

Bow saws are more suitable for work, provided that you use blades designed for green wood. The thin blade is kept under tension so that the wood does not pinch your saw.

Unlike standard blades, which look like a row of serrated teeth, green wooden blades have curves, canals and valleys. These allow moisture from the tree to escape, so that the blade does not bind. The shape of the arch allows you to see through a limb or a log.

The inexpensive Black & Decker bow saw will do the trick. At 21 inches, it is large enough for most medium tasks, such as cutting tree branches. However, it is only delivered with a green wooden blade. If you want dry wood options, you will need to find compatible blades.


The Bahco bow saw offers everything the Black & Decker does, and more. Its 30-inch blade facilitates more important tasks, such as cutting firewood. You can also buy it with a dry wood blade (or just buy the dry wood blades and the swap) if you want to work on large dry and thick wood projects.

A versatile bow saw

For delicate work and complicated assemblies: Scroll saws

An Olson scroll saw with a wooden handle and a Smithline scroll saw with a blue rubber handle.
Olson, Smithline

Most of the saws on this list are large and heavy. They get the job done quickly but are not necessarily precise. They also don’t create a nice cut. The scroll saws are different.

At first glance, they look like a small bow saw, and that is because they operate on similar principles. The handle keeps an extremely thin blade in tension, which means that this saw can do something that others can’t: it spins.

With a scroll saw, you can do more creative things, like sculpting a heart in a chair, but you can also adjust a mismatched joint. This is very useful when doing something like installing a crown molding or replacing a floor covering.

Most homes are not square, and it only gets worse with age. If you try to meet two boards in the corner of a room, you may find that they are not aligned. With a scroll saw, you can adjust the fit until you get an excellent seal. This is called a coping joint, and this is how this saw got its name. With the right blades, you can cut wood, plastic or metal.

The main selling point of the Olson Coping saw is its price. If you don’t need an adapter saw every day, you shouldn’t be spending too much on just one. Even blade replacements are inexpensive. Keep in mind that the handle is not very ergonomic, so you may find it painful to use for long periods of time.

A saw that gets the job done

On the other hand, if you are tackling many projects that require delicate work, it might be worth switching to the Smithline. Its rubberized handle feels better in your hands and it’s easier to replace the blades. The thicker steel that creates tension is also more durable than that of the Olson scroll saw.

Good for the long term

For metal and plastic: hacksaws

A Milwaukee hacksaw next to a Har-Den hacksaw.
Milwaukee, Har-Den

If you think a hacksaw looks like a smaller arc saw, you are right. Hacksaws use the same principle of a live blade as bow saws and scroll saws. But hacksaws fall in the middle when it comes to cutting, and you use them to cut metal or plastic.

You can try shortening a metal tub with your bow or your chainsaw, but you’re just going to ruin the blade. It requires a complete overhaul of the saw teeth to cut through the metal. If you look closely at a hacksaw blade, you see that the teeth form a wave. When you have to cut any type of metal or tube, it’s time to take out your hacksaw.

The Milwaukee compact hacksaw is perfect for small jobs. If you need to cut brass rods, or even a screw or bolt, this little guy will do the job. When you use the blade, you can replace it without buying a completely new saw. You don’t even need tools to replace the blade. And the rubber grip should keep your hand comfortable.

For small jobs

However, if you need to cut something larger than a bolt, this is where the Lightdot comes in. It is large enough to accommodate PVC pipes, and you can tilt the blade for 45 degree cuts . And bonus: you can store your extra blades in the handle.

For big jobs

Miter saws have the angle on your next cut

A Metabo miter saw, a GreatNeck miter box with hand saw and a DEWALT miter saw.
Metabo, GreatNeck, DeWalt

A miter saw (miter outside the United States) mainly cuts a 45-degree angle in a wooden board. If you line up two boards cut in miter, you get a 90 degree turn. Frames, boxes or any other square or rectangular object often uses miter cuts, so you might need a miter saw more often than you think.

You can either buy a miter box and a hand saw – which gives you precise cuts at 45 and 90 degrees – or you can buy a motorized miter saw. When it comes to power tools, miter saws are one of the safest options and, as a rule, you should use one of them instead of a saw bench as soon as possible.

A motorized miter saw can cut at angles that miter boxes do not offer, and they are quick. But a miter box and a saw are much cheaper. They are also softer on the material and leave you with a cleaner edge, so this option might be better for more delicate jobs.

If you don’t cut miter joints often, you don’t need to spend a bundle on a miter saw. With a miter box, you can cut sharp angles of 45 degrees (on each side). The box also facilitates 90 degree (straight) cuts. This Greatneck box comes with a saw, but you can use yours if it’s prettier (and it probably is).

The basic box and saw

Metabo is Hitachi’s new name and they have been manufacturing reliable power tools for years. This motorized miter saw has a 10 inch blade, which is suitable for most people. It also has a folding fence for longer pieces of wood and a clamp to fix the material.

An economical motor saw

If you need to cut something larger than 10 inches, the DEWALT sliding miter saw will do. Not only does it have a 12 inch blade, but you can also pull it towards you and then push it back to cut a total of 16 inches in the material. Like the Metabo, you get a folding fence, and even if it doesn’t come with a clamp, you can use yours to fix the wood. The DEWALT also turns left, right and tilts.

Do more in less time

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