The 5 Most Popular Workshop Saws and What They Do

Posted by on Dec 30, 2021

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Outfitting a woodworking shop can be daunting. For starters, which saws will you need to build your projects? Table saws and band saws can easily cost thousands of dollars, which may be a bigger check than you’re willing to cut for a new hobby. 

A lot of what’s necessary depends on the projects you’ll build. If you’re just putting together a mennonite style chair every few months, you can probably get away with a few cordless tools. If you’re starting an artisan carpentry business, a table saw could be a wise investment. Below are the basics about some hand and power tools found in many wood shops.

Panel Saw 

Panel saws are often the first saws a young woodworker learns how to use. A saw with a rip tooth pattern excels at cutting with the grain of the wood. Its primary application is a long cut that requires pushing power, such as framing or carpentry projects. The blade can be used on plywood and similar materials. A saw blade with cross cut set of teeth cuts against the grain of the wood, which comes in handy when you need to cut a board in half. 

A panel saw blade typically features at least eight teeth or more per inch (TPI). Some have a fine-tooth edge with 20 to 30 teeth per inch. The saws are designed to work quickly but the end result isn't as smooth as you might expect with a power saw. 

While many panel saws are disposable — you throw them out when the teeth get dull — you may want to invest in one that can be sharpened and utilized for years. Power tools often do most of workshop wood cutting these days, but panel saws still come in handy when cutting down large pieces of wood that are too thick to easily divide with a shallow power saw blade. 

Western and Japanese Style Saws 
Western and Japanese style saws have many similarities and are both good for fine woodworking such as furniture making. Western saws cut on the push stroke and Japanese cut on the pull stroke. Western saws come in three sizes: dovetail (small), carcass (medium) and tenon (large). Dovetail saws are known for cutting dovetails and other fine joinery. Carcass help build furniture “carcasses.” 

Tenon saws tend to work on larger jobs, in this case wood that’s about a quarter-inch thick. For a beginner, a Japanese straw can be easier to handle because the teeth make it easier to cut. Both western and Japanese saws are designed for the user’s index finger to guide the cut of the saw by extending it out from the handle. When you get your first saws, be sure to pay attention to the size and shape of the teeth, which should be in line with the work you want to do with them.

Circular Saw

These days, a cordless circular saw is standard for cutting or ripping sheets and boards of wood. With the right jig, a circular saw can even cut circles. If you're shopping for one, make sure you can set the depth of the blade. A bevel angle is also great for cutting angled edges. You may also want to consider getting an accessory such as a straight line cutting jig for cutting an edge on sheet rock or a wood board. If you’re going to be cutting a lot of a specific type of material, such as plywood or laminate, be sure to get a blade made for it. 

A jigsaw is a versatile tool that cuts curves and non-straight lines. The blade can bend at an angle, so it's possible to cut along any line without lifting the piece being worked on, and allowing for faster-cutting speeds than with a coping saw. When you shop for one, be sure to check the oscillating modes, which can help the saw get through tougher materials. A solid base also ensures the saw will remain steady. Make sure the blades you buy for the saw are appropriate for the materials you’ll be cutting. By the way, some crafters confuse jigsaw and sabre saws, but they're actually different. 

Table Saw
A lot of woodworkers think a table saw is a must for all serious shops, but it can be a big investment and you may not need one. With a cordless tool, you’re taking the tool to the wood. With a table saw, you’re putting the wood on a table with a saw in it. Such a setup can be great if you need to cut a lot of boards with very exact dimensions and “long rips.” As Everything House explains in the video above, if you need to do cabinetry or custom trim, a table saw is the way to go.

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