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Saws are a critical part of any woodworking shop. The ability to make the most precise cuts, from multiple different angles and depths is critical as projects grow in complexity. There are a few simple tools that will help you to grow your potential project list. Our Simple Guide To Electric Saws will provide you with the basic knowledge you need to understand these tools and how they work. In addition, we will provide some project ideas that suit the particular saw type. And if you have questions about sanding tools, click over to our Simple Guide to Electric Sanders for more information.
Types of Saws
We want to keep this guide rather basic, so we will cover the real workhorses of the shop. Personally, the goal is always to expand my ability to do more types of projects, with the smallest number of tools possible. By focusing on equipment with broad capabilities, it allows me to spend money on wood and other supplies – not tools! To get the most value out of your purchases, we will focus on the big four: Miter Saw, Circular Saw, Table Saw, and Band Saw.
Your Miter saw is going to end up making a lot of cuts for you. Also known as a chop saw, this tool is capable of making straight and angled cuts. Most also have a swiveling blade mount that allows you to adjust another axis, often referred to as a double-bevel saw. Blade sizes vary, but the standards are 7-1/4″, 10″, and 12″. As you might have guessed, the bigger the blade, the larger piece of lumber you can handle. Also, as your blade size increases, so does your price tag. No surprises there, right!
In addition, you will also need to decide whether you want your miter saw to have a slide, radial arm, or fixed blade. Fixed blade models are known to be highly dependable, as there are less moving parts. Sliding and radial arm models will provide you with more versatility in your cuts, at the cost of more complex moving parts. This usually means more maintenance and potential repairs. That said, I would advocate for the sliding or radial arm models because they open up so much potential for great projects.
Having a miter saw in your shop will open up your project potential in may ways. First, it will allow you to safely and precisely create repetitive cuts. Next, it will allow you cut on precise angles up to 90 degrees. What size board dimensions you can safely and reliably cut will depend on your blade size, but you will definitely be able to execute any project that involves 2×4 wood. You will most likely be able to work with 4×4 lumber as well.
With your miter saw, you can now tackle projects like wooden bird feeders, Adirondack chairs, and simple utility shelving. In addition, you could easily create wooden picnic tables, or even hanging barn doors. Comprehensive project plans are available from many different sources. Pinterest has a wealth of ideas, and many of the plans you can find there are free of charge.
Circular saws are handy, portable, and can make a wide variety of cuts. They are very useful for making long, straight cuts in large workpieces. They can also cut angles (bevels) in wood, with limited ranges based on the saw’s manufacturing. Because they are lightweight, they are also easy to maneuver. This comes in particularly handy when your workpiece is bulky, or the cut is out of the working range of a miter or table saw. Generally speaking, most offerings on the market for circular saws are going to be 7-1/4″ blades. There are not too many bells and whistles available for circular saws. Some models have laser guides and emergency stops, but generally look for high amperage and a quality brand name that you trust.
Circular saws are most useful for cutting thin pieces of wood. This makes them ideal for any project that involves plywood. As I stated before, there are myriad plywood projects available on the web. With your circular saw, you can also complete projects like wooden bird feeders, Adirondack chairs, shelving, picnic tables, or even hanging barn doors.
Table saws are true woodworking tools. This is an area where your options start to really open up. Job-site saws, such as the offerings below from Ryobi, Dewalt and Bosch can be accessorized with wheels and stabilizers to make them highly mobile, or they can be fixed in place within your shop. PowerMatic (and many others) make fixed units that offer superior dust collection, precision cuts, and powerful reliability that job-shop table saws cannot deliver. But like most things in life, if you want the premium features, you pay a premium price.
Table saws allow you to make highly precise cuts repeatedly. The fence, a metal divider that runs parallel to the blade, provides a consistent guide to move your workpiece along. In addition, table saws can accommodate many jigs and sleds to make super-precise cuts simply, or allowing you to get consistent and repeatable results on the same cut over and over. Lastly, table saws open up the possibility of using a Dado stack. Dado blades or Dado stacks are illegal in Europe. Basically, this tool allows you to ‘stack’ multiple cutting blades together to notch out wood to a reliable width. Dado stacks are particularly useful for creating box joints in woodworking.
With a table saw in your shop, you can make all of the projects that I mentioned above. In addition, you can start to make chopping blocks, cutting boards, bee furniture (bee boxes), and even cabinets. Jigs and sleds can also be fun to make. Just be careful you don’t fall down a rabbit-hole – making jigs and sleds is addictive!!
Some people will tell you that a band saw is not necessary. However, I felt that our Simple Guide To Electric Saws would be incomplete without mentioning this very versatile saw. Much like table saws, there are a wide variety of band saw options based on your particular needs. If you want something portable, the offerings from Dewalt and Bosch below are perfect for you. If you would prefer a fixed model on a budget, the Ryobi model would be a good starter. And lastly, if you want to set the shop up with a high quality fixed model that will last through years of daily use, choose a model from PowerMatic, ShopFox, or Grizzly.
Band saws are great additions to a woodworking shop because they offer such a high level of maneuverability. By moving the workpiece against a blade, you are able to carve out just about any shape your mind can conceive. This flexibility allows you to create very precise, twisting, turning cuts that other saws simply cannot achieve. Band saws may have limited applications in your creative process, but when you need to use a band saw, no other saw will be able to do the work safely and reliably.
With a bandsaw in your shop, you can cut out any shape that your mind can conceive. Your abilities aren’t just limited to 2-dimensional signs and designs. With the ability to turn your workpieces and cut from all angles, you can even start to create 3-dimensional art in wood or soft plastic.
We hope you enjoyed our Simple Guide to Electric Saws. This guide was far from comprehensive, but we hope it gave you an overview of the various types of cutting tools that are available to you. Every woodworker has their own style and preferences, so we are optimistic that you will take what you have learned today and use it to tailor your shop’s tool selections to your individual needs and wants.