A trip to the tool department of your local home improvement store to buy a power saw can leave you a bit overwhelmed if you have never bought a power saw before or if you are buying one as a gift. This overview will give you a good starting point to determine the saw or saws that will be most appropriate for your home workshop.
Types of Power Saws
Sliding Compound Miter Saw
A sliding compound miter saw is a very versatile and basic saw. The blade is for cross cutting (across the grain) of boards and for double mitering corners. Double miters are used in crown molding and other woodworking applications. They typically are sold in sizes according to the width of the board they are capable of cutting. Common sizes are 8, 10 and 12 inch sizes. After setting your board in the table, the saw is used in a sliding motion by lifting the blade assembly and pulling toward you then lowering the blade and cutting the wood by pushing the blade through the wood toward the fence. This saw has taken the place of radial arm saws in many home workshops.
One of the main benefits of circular saws is their portability and versatility. They can be used for both ripping (with the grain) and cross cuts (across the grain). You can buy several different types of blades and use them for many applications from chopping 2X4’s to cutting large pieces of plywood. Circular saws can also be very dangerous because they are hand held and freely moved by the operator. Safety knowledge and comfort level are factors to consider. There are many newer models on the market now with upgraded safety features.
Chop Saw or Miter Saw
A chop saw is fairly limited, but it is a quick way to chop through a lot of wood. It will generally make a single miter cut and sometimes a double miter. A chop saw is for cross cuts. They come in sizes according to the size of board they will chop. They are used by lifting the saw assembly, placing your board against the fence and cutting downward in one motion. There is also the capability of putting a stop on the bed so you can cut multiples of the same size quickly and accurately.
Table saws are for ripping through the wood with the grain. They make straight cuts and beveled straight cuts. There are several blade types that can be purchased for table saws. You can use them for cutting long dados for shelf building. Table saws have a movable fence for cutting accurate straight cuts in the width that you need. A table saw is necessary for cabinet making and furniture making.
A band saw is another very versatile saw. A band saw blade is a belt that moves in a continuous loop. It can cut curves and circles as well as straight cuts. The width of the blade impacts the ability to cut detail. The more narrow the blade the more you can manipulate the wood into tighter curves. The size of board that you can cut will be determined by the throat of the blade. This is the distance between the blade and the body of the saw. Band saws come in many sizes from very large to very small so you will want to give consideration to what type of projects you will be using it for.
Scroll saws are used for very detailed decorative applications. It has a single thin vertical blade and can be removed and reinserted in an interior portion of the wood to cut holes and other negative internal spaces. Many hobbyists use scroll saws. Throat size is also a consideration and can be quite large to accommodate large pieces of wood.