Updated on February 9, 2023
Saws have been in use for thousands of years, branching out to fill specific niches as the times, technology, and materials required. Today’s “complete” tool collection will include a variety of saws, from coping saws to hacksaws to any of a number of specialized table saws, and sometimes includes more than one saw of a given type.
There are many specialized cutting tools as well, but they are not commonly used outside of trades they were developed for. Additionally, you may be surprised to find that many saws are regionally called by the name of other saws.
In most cases, the shape of the saw plus the count and shape of the teeth will determine how a saw was intended to be used. Without further ado, here are 32 different types of saws, their uses, and pictures:
Hand saws have evolved to fill many niches and cutting styles. Some saws are general purpose tools, such as the traditional hand saw, while others were designed for specific applications, such as the keyhole saw.
No tool collection is complete without at least one of each of these, while practical craftsmen may only purchase the tools which fit their individual usage patterns, such as framing or trim.
A back saw is a relatively short saw with a narrow blade that is reinforced along the upper edge, giving it the name. Back saws are commonly used with miter boxes and in other applications which require a consistently fine, straight cut. Back saws may also be called miter saws or tenon saws, depending on saw design, intended use, and region.
(see our pick for best bow saw)
Another type of crosscut saw, the bow saw is more at home outdoors than inside. It uses a relatively long blade with numerous crosscut teeth designed to remove material while pushing and pulling. Bow saws are used for trimming trees, pruning, and cutting logs, but may be used for other rough cuts as well.
(see our pick for best coping saw)
With a thin, narrow blade, the coping saw is ideal for trim work, scrolling, and any other cutting which requires precision and intricate cuts. Coping saws can be used to cut a wide variety of materials, and can be found in the toolkits of everyone from carpenters and plumbers to toy and furniture makers.
Designed specifically for rough cutting wood, a crosscut saw has a comparatively thick blade, with large, beveled teeth. Traditional 2-man crosscut saws (aka felling saws) have a handle on each end and are meant to be used by two people to cut across (perpendicular) the grain of timber.
The more common 1-man crosscut saw is great for rough cutting lumber, trimming limbs or branches, and makes an excellent saw for camping or at the job site.
Most closely resembling a coping saw, the fret saw has a long, thin blade for making intricate cuts. The fret saw has a longer, larger frame that allows cutting farther from the outer edges, but the blade cannot be rotated, which results in more tedious and difficult cutting positions when performing intricate scrollwork.
(see our pick for best hacksaw)
Perfect for cutting pipes and tubing, the hacksaw is one of the most common saw types. They are lightweight and versatile, able to cut through wood, metal, plastic and other materials using material-specific cutting blades with a tooth count ranging from about 18 to 32 per inch.
(see our pick for best hole saw)
Attached to a drill, hole saws are used to cut perfectly round holes in wood, metal, concrete, stainless steel, plastic, and other materials. You essentially move up to a hole saw when you don’t have a large enough spade bit.
The blade material can vary according to the material you need to cut. Bi-metal hole saws are typically the most versatile but carbide or diamond coated teeth are often necessary to cut some harder materials.
(see our pick for best Japanese saw)
Built with a single handle and a protruding strong, thin cutting blade, this type of saw is more precise than a back saw and has the advantage of being able to reach places where other saws cannot reach.
These saws are available in three types (dozuki, ryoba, and kataba), and can be used to cut hard and soft woods with equal precision.
Best described as a round handle with a single blade protruding from the top of the handle, a keyhole saw is used to rough cut circles or patterns.
Keyhole saws can be indispensable for drywall, especially when a small section needs to be removed and/or replaced, or where the interior of the wall prevents the use of powered tools.
(see our pick for best pole saw)
Also referred to as a pole runner, this saw has an extendable pole, giving it a reach of 7 to 16 feet (or more), depending on the model. The cutting end is a six to eight inch pruning blade designed for pruning trees.
Many models of these saws are now powered, with a chainsaw-like end and using gas or electricity as a fuel source.
(see our pick for best pruning saw)
Pruning saws most often have a 13-15″ curved blade, protruding from a single “pistol grip” style handle. The blade is wide and has coarse teeth that are able to cut in both directions for faster material removal.
Pruning saws are more commonly found in a homeowner’s toolkit, but they are also widely used by tree surgeons, lawn services, and landscapers.
Rip Cut Saw
(see our pick for best rip cut saw)
Often referred to simply as a “hand saw,” the rip cut saw is a must-have for framing. It has relatively few teeth per inch, but each tooth is a sharpened point designed to remove wood. Anyone who works with wood will have one or more rip cut saws, usually of varying lengths.
Another highly specialized saw, the veneer saw is designed with a short double-edged blade that has about 13 teeth per inch. This saw is specifically used for precision veneer work, and the short blade prevents it being readily adapted to most other cutting tasks.
Looking very similar to a keyhole saw, the wallboard saw generally has a shorter, wider blade and fewer teeth per inch and often comes in a double-edge variety. It is designed for puncturing through paneling or drywall, and is often used to create starter holes for powered tools.
Rather than simply duplicating various handheld saws, powered saws have evolved to fill niches of their own. For example, a radial arm saw expands on the capabilities of a miter saw and circular saw, but does not directly duplicate either.
Powered saws come in three primary categories: Continuous Band, Reciprocating Blade, and Circular Blade.
Band Saw (Stationary)
(see our pick for best band saw)
This tall, floor-standing saw uses large pulleys above and below the cutting table to move a continuous band with fine teeth to cut through most materials.
Band saws are perfect for intricate cutting of curves into wood, as well as cutting tubes, piping, and PVC, but are limited to a depth of only a few inches.
Resawing (cutting boards so they are thinner) is possible with a band saw by standing the board on its edge and carefully ripping it using a fence. Patience is definitely required for this task.
Band Saw (Portable)
(see our pick for best portable band saw)
A small portable version of the stationary unit, it can accomplish most of the same jobs as its big brother with the portability to be able to take to a jobsite or someone else’s garage.
You are of course more limited as to what you can cut (typically up to 3-4″ diameter pipes) and it takes more effort to make straight cuts, but it can be an invaluable tool especially for plumbers, welders, and metalworkers.
(see our pick for best chainsaw)
As the name implies, a chainsaw uses a linked chain with numerous specially designed ripping teeth. While chainsaws are uniquely designed, they fall into the category of band saws.
Chainsaws are more commonly used in tree work than any other field, and may be essential to homeowners depending on your region.
One of the largest portable versions of circular saws, the chop saw is manufactured in both metal and masonry cutting versions. The concrete cutting saw often includes a connection for a water line to reduce dust while cutting.
Both types of chop saws use toothless blades manufactured with special abrasives designed for the materials to be cut. Chop saws are also known as cut-off saws, concrete saws, and abrasive saws.
(see our pick for best circular saw)
Sometimes referred to as a buzz saw or by the popular brand name of Skilsaw, circular saws use a toothed blade, typically between 7-¼ and 9 inches in diameter.
They are the most common type of powered saw, and accept blades that cut all types of wood, metal, plastic, masonry, and more.
Compound Miter Saw
(see our pick for best compound miter saw)
This is the miter saw on steroids. Compound saws are used to make straight, miter, and compound cuts. Instead of pivoting up and down the way a miter saws cuts, the blade is mounted on an arm that can be adjusted for complex angles, including cuts for complex scrollwork and trim.
The compound miter saw is one of the best time-savers when you need to trim out windows or add crown molding.
As the name implies, a flooring saw is a portable unit intended to re-saw flooring (hardwood, engineered, bamboo, or laminate) to fit. It’s a fairly specialized tool that in essence replaces a table saw, miter saw, and other accessories you may need to cut flooring.
The portability factor is its biggest advantage as you won’t have to spend a lot of time moving materials from garage to room and vice versa when putting in flooring.
(see our pick for best jigsaw)
This handheld saw has a short, fine-toothed blade which moves up and down at variable speeds. This is one of the few saws which are designed specifically for cutting curves and other non-straight lines. Look for a jigsaw with a long cord or even a cordless option.
One of the few saws designed to expressly mimic a hand saw, the miter saw is ideal for use in trim or other jobs involving precise measurements and angle cuts.
A simple miter saw can pivot up to 45 degrees to either side of a straight 90 degree cut, and can be used in conjunction with tables for cutting long mitered ends. With the right blade, a miter saw can even cut some metals.
(see our pick for best oscillating saw)
If Dr. Frankenstein was an engineer, he’d create the oscillating saw. Also known as an oscillating multi-tool or oscillating tool, it has a body that resembles a grinder, but has an oscillating attachment at the end that can be changed out depending on the job.
It’s often considered a more versatile sibling to the reciprocating saw, as it can handle not only cutting, but also grinding, removing grout or caulk, and scraping. At least one brand even offers sanding pads for their OMT.
Available in either vertical or horizontal alignments, these relatives of the table saw are designed to cut large panels. The horizontal models use a sliding feed table while the vertical models either require you to feed the material or have a blade that moves through a stationary panel.
Panel saws are common in cabinetmaking, sign making, and similar industries.
Radial Arm Saw
By placing the motor and blade on an arm that extends over the cutting table, the radial arm saw allows you to make identical compound cuts, miter cuts, and more.
Depending on the manufacturer, radial arm saw blades may be interchangeable with circular saw blades, but verify the recommended speed of spin, as some radial saws turn very fast.
Like the jigsaw, this saw has a blade which moves back and forth very quickly. Reciprocating saws are sometimes called a Sawzall®, referring to the original manufacturer of this type of saw.
They are used for cutting tubing, wood, and plastics, and are also used for cutting beneath walls or wood joints because the blades can cut nails as well as wood. An invaluable tool for demolition work.
(see our pick for best rotary saw)
Rotary saws (or rotary tools) have a fixed blade and a small screwdriver-type handle. They are used for everything from crafts to construction, and are ideal for cutting into a wall for access or repairs.
Like the keyhole saw, a rotary saw is essential for drywall, panelling, and a myriad of other small cutting tasks.
(see our pick for best scroll saw)
Scroll saws can operate with a band or a continuous or a reciprocating blade. Similar to coping saws, these powered saws are designed for intricate scroll work, spiral lines, or patterns.
They have the added benefit of a table the material can be laid on while cutting to achieve precise rotation and detail. Creating curves with edges is what it excels at.
(see our pick for best table saw)
Some table saw blades tend to be a little larger than those for a circular saw, and consist of a high speed motor mounted beneath a flat table. To adjust the the depth of cut, the blades rises out of the table bed.
Table saws are great for making numerous rip cuts or preparing a large number of identical sized pieces. These saws accept metal and masonry blades, but take care that the blade design matches the motor rpm.
(see our pick for best tile saw)
Similar in design to a miter saw, a tile saw (aka: wet saw) uses a diamond-coated blade and water cooling system to cut through tiles like butter. It’s used for cutting multiple ceramic or porcelain tiles to the desired shape or size quickly and uses a miter to ensure straight cuts along your cut marks.
Changing the blade will even allow you to cut glass on some models. Note that the reservoir beneath the table must be filled with water before using this tool.
Able to attach to a long gliding rail, the track saw (or plunging saw) is like a souped up blend of table and circular saw with added abilities. It more closely resembles the circular saw in appearance, making it more portable.
Simply line up the sticky-based track with your cut line (which you can see clearly through the track) and stick the saw on its rails. It’ll glide smoothly along the rail creating a perfect cut with almost zero effort.
65 thoughts on “32 Different Types of Saws and Their Uses”
I found this really useful with the pictures showing what they look like! Goodwork!
Great knowledge sharing। Thanks a lot
Thanks a lot! V useful!
This post has helped so much in my skills and my carpentry work. Thank you so much for sharing this great page. GOOD WORK!
thanks for descriptions and uses. Very helpful.
This really helped me in my school work and I did find this really helpful because I’m in year 11 and I am about to start my GCSEs, thanks for this information.
There is a large construction site across from my house. Yesterday, I saw them cutting concrete with something, and it made me curious as to what they were using. I didn’t know there were concrete saws that use toothless blades with abrasives that cut the material. That’s really cool in formation I’ll remember.
I was honestly surprised to see how many saws there are. Not only that, but I didn’t know that they were designed for specific uses, like how a crosscut saw is meant for rough cutting wood. I’m interested in seeing how these saws work now.
Haha, I thought I had a pretty decent collection of saws in my shop. Great list. I highly recommend the Japanese saw. Not very common in the States but pretty well-known in other countries. It cuts on the “pull” stroke which is opposite of most saws. It really comes in handy.
This was really helpful. Thank you for taking the time in providing this info.
I appreciate that. Thanks!
Don’t forget to put together a guide for blades. I ruined a circular saw because the geniuses at Lowes told me to use certain blade to cut laminated countertop and it got stuck. A short guide would be handy.
That’s a great idea. Will work on something like that soon.
This was very useful as I am a divorced female homeowner and yes saws come in handy I have a table, miter and circular saw. I want to learn how to use them bc I want to cut wood dang it lol they don’t look complicated and I’ve seen plenty of men just saw away I’m tring to figure out the different uses bc of angles and these saws move. This was a good guide to knowing what I have.
I also found this very useful. It gave me the exact information I was looking for. Thanks
Thank you I want to learn what the different saws were for. I have a small craft business in my retirement:) never too old to learn.
Glad you found this page helpful. 🙂
Thanks,but I think this should be brought together, compiled and published as a book. Infact I am impressed at this.This is excellent! But don’t relent.
Haha, I wouldn’t go that far but thank you.
really good stuff I think you forgot one saw though
I’m sure I did but now I’m curious which one are you referring to?
This is great! Do you have something like this for other tools?
Glad it was helpful. Yes we do!
i know i’m a goldfish, but what about other power tools? Like drills, routers, planers?
may be in the near future?
We definitely have a few more of these planned but thanks for the reminder to get on them.
Super helpful! Thank you!
I’m looking for a cord type saw like a cord by abrasive to cut bamboo stems (Use by placing the corded saw around the individual bamboo stem and pull backwards and forwards using the metal ‘o’ rings at each end until the stem is cut through retrieve the saw and remove the severed bamboo stem for between the other growing stems.) Would be Ideal for cutting prison bars when you cannot get any other form of saw in place.
Albert – Something like THIS? I’ve seen these used in survival kits.
Very informative. I am just now starting my first woodworking projects, and this gives a girl an “edge” when buying the necessary tools.
I see what you did there. 🙂
Good descriptions but larger pictures would help. I’m not as young as I used to be.
I completely agree. It’s on the “To Do” list.
This is awesome having it with their pictures
Great info. I’m looking for a saw to use when trying to cut dowels flush. Advice please ????
A Japanese saw or other flush cut saw is great for this. Something like this. You may need to use a sharp chisel to make it perfectly flush.
This is awesome. This information is very helpful. My carpentry knowledge thanks you.
This list is great for finding out about the types of saws available, and for most of the power saws, I learned their specific purpose. I’m still a bit hazy on when to use a circular saw versus a chop saw or if it is simply a matter of how much money you can afford to spend.
Here is where I get lost: would a table saw be the best type of power saw for cutting notches into bigger pieces of wood, say a 2” or 4” x 8” or wider, to fasten perpendicular pieces of lumber? Is a table saw capable of making smaller width cuts to remove the interior of the notched out piece or would that require a different type of saw?
If a table saw is too expensive, is a circular saw the next best choice? As a female, I use my girl-y Dremel Ultra Saw which has severe limitations on the depth of wood I can cut (as does an oscillating saw when making plunge cuts), not to mention the expense of having to replace blades so often. However, I know I can control the saw if it kicks, because it is smaller and light enough for me to hold onto it. I am scared I would not be able to control a circular saw if it kicked. It seems like a table saw might be my answer, but I need to know what it will and won’t do to justify the cost.
And I agree, a guide to power saw blades would be great; I would love to learn what “arbor size” refers to!
Thank you so much for providing such helpful information!
Thanks for your comment! A circular saw is a great choice for all-around use since it’s so versatile. It can make quick cuts like a chop saw, angled cuts like a miter saw, and even rip or crosscut large pieces like a table saw (with some type of rip fence jig). But, I don’t think it’s a good first saw since it probably requires the most experience for proper and safe use.
For your needs, it almost sounds like a jigsaw would be your best bet. Unless you need to rip large “sheets” of wood, you don’t really NEED a table saw. For the occasional long rips/cuts, any place you buy your material can cut it down for you (sometimes for free). I think a circular saw is definitely worth owning but I’d wait till you have a bit more experience since it does require more skill to use than most other power saws.
I found this awesome for helping me come up with a great namekian name for a dragon Ball game, thanks heaps =)
Thanks… I think. 🙂
I need to cut off existing external window sills flush with frame to allow me to fix new sill to original frame, what saw would you recommend..?
A reciprocating saw is most commonly used for this. It can also be done with an oscillating tool but it would be much slower.
is there a saw that will cut out a image in ply wood as I draw it out on paper ?
Thanks for the information.
You missed a track saw. Very useful when you don’t have a table saw handy
We originally left out a track saw since it’s essentially a circular saw but we’ll look to add it in if that would be helpful.
VERY HELPFUL!!! Especially pics! Trying to identify the name of the old 2 man tree cutting blade with a handle on each end. Now I know it’s a Felling saw (a kind of crosscut saw)! This saved me going crazy & an argument with the boyfriend lol!
You may want to consider adding the specialized “Jamn Saw” used for undercutting such items as door jambs, kitchen counter kick plates, walls, & doors.
My Dad was a DIYer way back before Bob Villa so he had all kinds of tools. When he passed away I received many of Dad’s tools. What I didn’t get was the knowledge of what each tool is used for specifically. Back then I was into being a girl. Now I am something of a DIYer and I appreciate every bit of knowledge I get. Thank you for such an informative article. Being divorced I find I have a need to do-it-myself!
Hey Kat, thanks for the comment. I love stories like this and I think many readers can relate.
I am looking for two saws for my husband for Christmas. One of them is either a miter saw or compound miter saw. He has called it a chop saw, mounted on a frame, which can be angled. The other I have no idea on after researching. He has asked for a hand saw which would cut a wobbly line, or any shape that he drew freehand. Would this be a mini or hand held circular saw?
A miter and compound miter do the same thing with the difference being that a compound miter saw can also tilt the blade at an angle other than 90 degrees to allow for beveled cuts. A coping saw would probably be your best bet for the hand saw recommendation.