Choosing the Right Saw for Your Project

A person using a saw on a piece of lumber.

Ever wanted to make a table, but didn’t even know where to begin? Ever attempted to cut a design, but couldn’t make the proper cut with your saw? There are dozens of different breeds of saws. As you begin a project, you may be wondering which saw is right for your job. Some are tailor-made for certain projects, while others have a multitude of uses. When picking your tool you need to know what they are capable of. Here are a few different saws and some of their many purposes.

Hand Saw

A hand saw is probably what you picture when you think of a saw in general. It consists of a blade with jagged teeth, which has one (usually wooden) handle on the end. Hand saws allow you to make a fairly straight cut on a piece of wood by pushing your hand back and forth. If you don’t have access to power, you can use this saw in place of a circular saw. For a quicker job that needs less precision, you can use a bow saw.

Miter Saw

A miter saw is used to make precise angled cuts. There are different kinds of miter saws: basic, compound, and sliding compound. A basic miter saw swivels at the base to allow the angles to be made. A compound goes up and down and you are able to tilt the blade. A sliding compound miter saw gives you more room to cut larger pieces of material. Typically miter saws are used for wood, but other materials like metal can be cut with the proper blade. You might use a miter saw to make a wooden box with no exposed ends or to cut the angles to make a picture frame.

Circular Saw

Circular saw in use.

The circular saw is a handheld round saw that cuts straight through lumber, plywood, and even concrete when you use certain blades. It can make straight, angled, or beveled cuts. There’s even a miniature version available that is battery-powered so you can transport it easily. Circular saws are often used to make furniture or frame a house. With so many options, circular saws seem to be the most popular. They require little setup time and provide many different cuts, making them a common tool to have in the workshop.

Table Saw

A table saw has a blade that can make long, clean cuts. It has an edge (called a fence) that you can line your wood up on to make a straighter cut. The table saw is used more to cut with the grain, while the circular saw is typically used to cut against the grain. Table saws are able to cut a wider piece of wood down to a smaller width. Some projects you would need a table saw for are furniture or bookshelves.


The hacksaw has a thin blade that you can use to cut through fairly thin materials including PVC and metal pipe. A hacksaw is useful for plumbing jobs or making a metal fence.


A jigsaw being used on a piece of wood.

A jigsaw can be maneuvered by the user to make custom shapes. The thin blade moves back and forth quickly, so all you have to do is guide the saw. The jigsaw can be used on metals, plastics, or ceramics depending on which type of blade you choose. Projects that use a jigsaw include birdhouses and other decorative crafts.

Scroll Saw

A jigsaw’s more sturdy cousin, the scroll saw sits stationary as you move the material around it. It can create curves in wood or thin plastic, but you need to be careful because of the thinness of the blade. The scroll saw can make super tight turns, but can also easily break if you push too hard or go too quickly. A scroll saw is often the tool of choice for making intricate designs.