5 Saws You Should Have in Your Workshop

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

Adulthood means you have to tackle all kinds of new tasks, including breaking down materials for projects or cleaning. 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 on the material, then you pull or push slices. Different types of saws look alike. So you can assume that a hacksaw, a hacksaw and a coping saw can all accomplish the same task in the same way.

But that could not be further from the truth. The nature of a blade often makes a huge difference in the type of material that it can cut and in which case to use it.

If you are trying to cut a metal pipe or tree limb with a standard cutting hand saw, you will destroy the blade or saw until your arm is about to fall, probably both.

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

The pack animals: chainsaws and rippers

An Irwin Race saw cut next to a Suizan Ryoba saw.

When you think of a hand saw, you probably imagine a Western cut-off saw. These come in two styles: cross section and tear cut. The difference is the direction in which you want to see the painting.

Usually, when you buy a board in a warehouse store, the wood is longer than it is wide. You make a cross cut to shorten the board and a torn cut to reduce it.

Josh Hendrickson

Imagine a board made of stacked toothpicks. A cross section will cut the toothpicks in half, while an angled cut will separate them into two packs of whole toothpicks. The cross-cut teeth cut the grain of the wood and the teeth cut to the tear separate it during cutting. Technically, you can use either blade for either task, but you will not get clear results and it will take more effort.

Because you can usually buy a board as wide as needed, you can probably get away with only having a cut-off saw. This is useful if you have both, however, especially if you want to reuse the leftover wood from previous projects. We have some recommendations to help you get started.

Manufacturers are designing modern Western disposable hand saws. When teeth are dull or broken, you get rid of them and buy a new one, but they should last for years. This inexpensive IRWIN Marathon Cross Saw does the job. It gives you rough 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 has looked very different from the more recognizable Western, but it has several advantages. First, there are two saws in one: one side is a section and the other is a cross section. Secondly, the blade is thin, so you lose less material when you have seen. Third, you pull instead of pushing to work this saw. This means that you use your whole body to saw: the arms, the shoulders, the back, the trunk and the legs.

It is also much more ergonomic than a western saw. The learning curve is rudimentary, but the results obtained with a Ryoba saw are more accurate and require less sanding and cleaning. Better yet, the blade is replaceable: you only need to buy the handle once.

Crosscut and Ripcut in One

Best 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 often go camping, you will probably have to cut fresh (or green) wood at some point. You might be tempted to catch your handy cross-saw and get into town, but do not do it. Green wood is full of moisture, so your saw binds and stays stuck. You will work harder to saw the limb and eventually blunt or damage teeth.

Bow saws are better for work, provided 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, the green wooden blades have curves, channels and valleys. These allow moisture to escape into the tree, so the blade does not bind. The bow shape helps you to see through a limb or log.

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

For the bases

The Bahco bow saw offers everything 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 swap them) if you want to work on large, thick, dry wood projects.

A versatile bow saw

For delicate work and complex joints: Cutting saws

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

Most saws on this list are large and heavy. They do the job quickly but are not necessarily accurate. They do not create a beautiful cup either. Scroll saws are different.

At first glance, they look like a tiny bow saw and that's because they operate on similar principles. The handle holds an extremely thin blade in tension, which means that this saw can do something other than can not: it turns.

With a coping saw, you can do more creative things, like carving a heart in a chair, but you can also adjust a mis-matched joint. This is very helpful when doing something like setting up a trim or replacing a trim.

Most homes are not square and this only gets worse with age. If you try to meet two paintings in the corner of a room, you may find that they do not stay flat. With a coping saw, you can adjust the fit until you get an excellent seal. This is called fitting sealand that's 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 do not need a circular saw on a daily basis, you should not spend too much on a saw. Even blade replacements are inexpensive. Just keep in mind that the handle is not very ergonomic, so you might find it painful to use it for long periods.

A saw doing the job

On the other hand, if you are dealing with a lot of projects that require tricky work, it may be worthwhile to switch to the Smithline. Its rubberized handle feels better in your hands and it's easier to replace the blades. The thicker steel that creates the tension is also more durable than that of the Olson Coping saw.

Good for the long term

For metal and plastic: hacksaws

A hacksaw Slim Gem Tools next to a Har-Den hacksaw.
Slim Gem Tools, Har-Den

If you think a hacksaw looks like a smaller bow saw, you're right. Hacksaws use the same undervoltage principle of the blade as bow and clevis saws. But hacksaws are at the center of the waist and you use them to cut metal or plastic.

You can try to shorten a metal bowl with your bow or saw, but you will simply ruin the blade. This requires a complete reshaping of the sawtooth to cut through the metal. If you look closely at a hacksaw blade, you see that the teeth are forming a wave. When you have to cut metal or tubes, it's time to burst your hacksaw.

The Slim Gem Badger hacksaw is perfect for small jobs. If you need cut brass rods, or even a screw or a bolt, this little guy will do the job. When using the blade, you can replace it without buying a brand new saw. And the rubber grip should keep your hand comfortable.

For small jobs

However, if you need to cut something bigger than a bolt, that's where Lightdot comes in. It's big enough to accept PVC pipes and you can tilt the blade for cuts at 45 degrees. And bonus: you can store your extra blades in the neck.

For the Bigger job

Miter saws have angle on your next cut

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

A miter saw (located outside the United States) cuts essentially a 45-degree angle into a wooden board. If you align two boards cut in miteryou get a 90 degree turn. Frames, boxes, or anything that is square or rectangular often use miter cuts, so you might need a miter saw more often than you think.

You can buy a miter box and a hand saw (which gives you precise cuts at 45 and 90 degrees) or an electric miter saw. When it comes to power tools, miter saws are one of the safest options and, in general, you should use one instead of saw bench as soon as possible.

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

If you do not cut miter joints often, you do not need to spend a lot on a miter saw. With a miter box, you can cut clean angles at 45 degrees (each side). The box also facilitates 90-degree (straight) cuts. This box comes with a saw, but you can use yours if it is prettier (and it probably is).

The basic box and Saw

Metabo is the new name for Hitachi, which has been making reliable power tools for years. This motorized miter saw has a 10 inch blade, which is suitable for most people. It also has a retractable fence for longer pieces of wood and a clamp to secure the material.

A big budget Powered Saw

If you need to cut more than 10 inches, the DEWALT Sliding Miter Saw will do the trick. Not only does it have a 12-inch blade, but you can also pull it toward you, then push it back to cut a total of 16 inches into the material. Like the Metabo, you get a retractable fence, and although it does not come with pliers, you can use yours to secure the wood. The DEWALT also turns left, right and tilts.

Do more in less time

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