Types of Saws and Their Uses

Hand & Electric Saw Buying Guide UK

Thanks for taking your time to read our article on the different types of saws available on the United Kingdom marketplace. In this detailed article we explain the various saw types available, and what they are used for.

If you have ever needed to buy a saw, then the choices can be truly bewildering. Most people will be familiar with the normal hand saw. However, there are a full range of other types of saw, that are available on the UK market.

Almost always saws are used for cutting wood. That can be any type of wood including the popular soft woods and hard woods. There are however saws for cutting metal, plastic and even masonry.

types of hand saws and electric saws

Alphabetical List of Saws

Just below you will find an alphabetical list of the saw types available. We will then explain each one of these in a lot more detail. We have provided a link in each summary where you can then read even more detail about any specific saw type.

To make things easier we have highlighted in bold those saws which are popular for home use. We have also shown if they are manual or a power tool.

  • Band Saws (Power)
  • Bow Saws (Manual)
  • Chainsaws (Power)
  • Circular Saws (Power)
  • Coping Saws (Manual)
  • Drywall Saws (Manual)
  • Folding Saws (Manual)
  • Fret Saws (Manual)
  • Hacksaws (Manual)
  • Hand Saws (Manual)
  • Japanese Saws (Manual)
  • Jigsaws (Power)
  • Junior Hacksaws (Manual)
  • Laminator Saws (Manual)
  • Masonry Saws (Manual & Power)
  • Metal Cutting Saws (Power)
  • Mini Circular Saws (Power)
  • Mitre Saws (Manual and Power)
  • Power Hand Saws (Power)
  • Pruning Saws (Manual)
  • Pullsaws (Manual)
  • Reciprocating Saws (Power)
  • Scroll Saws (Power)
  • Table Saws (Power)
  • Tenon Saws (Manual)
  • Tile Saws (Power)
  • Veneer Saws (Manual)

That is a surprisingly long list, and yet each saw type does have its own individual purpose as we shall see in the section below.

Manual Hand Saws vs Electric Saws

For most home owners, all they really will need is something like a standard hand saw. A powered circular saw is also useful to own as this speeds up this manual cutting process. They both do the same job, but clearly the power tool will just make this easier and faster.

The only other saws we would recommend for home owners are a hacksaw, which is useful for cutting any type of metal or plastic.

If you plan on laying floors, or doing skirting boards, then a mitre saw would be a very good choice.

In this article we will examine all of the saws that are available, and what they are used for. We shall cover off the manual options first, and then underneath those, we shall look at the electric options.

Saws Powered by Your Hands

Bow Saws

bow saw

A bow saw is a hand saw that is used mainly in the forestry industry, and is designed for cutting trees and lumber. It gets its name as it is shaped like a bow as you can see in the image above.

The frame is made from metal, and attached to that will be a long straight blade with wide teeth for cutting through wood quickly.

Typical uses are for felling trees and making logs for firewood. Its main advantages are that it cuts in both directions, so usually works better with a person at either end, and as such it cuts very quickly.

These are also very good for cutting wet or green wood quickly without sticking.

Coping Saws

Draper coping saw picture

This is a hand saw that can be used to cut more intricate shapes in wood. Again this will mainly be used by joiners and carpenters. Its main use these days is to cut mouldings, and create what are called coped joints.

It has a very thin blade which is stretched quite tightly, between a U-shaped frame, which is then attached to a handle. The blades are easy to change and can be easily adjusted.

The key benefit of this type of saw is the height of the handle, as it allows you to detach the blade, position the saw, and then reattach it to the handle.

There is an electric scroll saw which is the ideal saw for cutting intricate shapes but it is more expensive, and should only be bought by those who regularly need to work with cutting intricate shapes in wood.

Drywall Saws (Jab Saws)

drywall saws

These small drywall saws are also known as wallboard saws, plasterboard saws or as jab saws. They are inexpensive and mainly used to cut out holes in drywall or plasterboard.

That is what most internal walls and ceilings are made from, so can be a handy little saw to own.

The blades usually have triple edge teeth. The blade will also have a sharp point which allows this saw to easily penetrate through the plasterboard.

They come with a fixed blade, and on average they last for about 3 years, even when used regularly. They are a popular tool in the trades, especially for electricians and plumbers.

They will use this for cutting holes for electric sockets, ceiling roses and for pipes.

Folding Saws

Best folding saw picture

These are a great utility saw, that can be used for some basic wood cutting, and they are very popular with gardeners. So whether you want to make some firewood, or curtail the growth of some unruly shrubs, then these are ideal.

Most people tend to use as pruning saws for trimming branches on trees. They do however have plenty of other uses such as when camping. The fact that they fold closed protects the blade, and keeps it safe if there are children around.

It also makes them easy to store as well. They are not an expensive buy, and again, a handy saw to have around.

Fret Saws

fret saw

Fret saws are often referred to as a jewellers saw. At first glance fret saws look very similar in design to coping saws, which we have explained earlier.

There are however some important differences. Fret saws have blades available that are thinner than coping saw blades. This allows for finer turns and thus you can do more detailed work with a fret saw.

Generally speaking, fret saws will turn tighter and leave a smaller kerf. The blades in fret saws are prone to breaking.

A fret saw also allows you to use a broken blade.

Fret saws also have slightly more depth than a coping saw as the handle height is larger.

Most home owners will not ever need one of these as they are used mainly by woodworkers, and for making dovetail joints.

Hacksaws 

stanley hacksaw picture

A hacksaw is used to cut metal. As you can see from the image above, the blade is attached to a strong tubular metal frame. Although designed to cut metal, they are used regularly by electricians and plumbers to cut conduit and pipes.

The word "hack" does of course refer to quite a rough cutting action, but the reality is that a good quality hacksaw, makes a very fine and neat cut.

In the home these can be handy to have for cutting bolts, or cutting conduit for electrical work, or pipes for plumbing work. The blades come in a couple of lengths 25 cm and 30 cm.

The number of teeth can be between 14-32 teeth per inch. The more teeth the finer the cut. There are also smaller versions known as junior hacksaws, which we explain later down this list.

Hand Saws

Hand saw picture

This is by far the most popular of all the saws that you will find around the home, garage of shed. If you simply want to cut a piece of wood, then nothings is quite as handy as a standard hand saw.

These come in different sizes, and they are normally measured in teeth per inch.(tpi) The more tpi the finer a cut that you can get. These are good saws for doing normal straight cuts.

You do however have to do the cutting manually, and that can take a fair bit of effort. Nevertheless, it is always a great idea to have one of these hanging up in your shed or garage.

Japanese Saws

japanese saw

Japanese saws are sometimes called pull saws, and they have blades on both sides. One side is a ripping blade, and the other side is a cross cutting blade. The blades are very thin and so cuts are much neater and precise.

These work on a pull stroke, and that does take some practise to get used to.

The ripping blade is designed to cut along the grain of the wood, and can even be used to cut through hard woods. The crosscutting blade is more precise the the ripping blade when cutting perpendicular to the grain of the wood.

These are very good for making accurate and fine cuts. Typically they can be used to do picture rails and skirting boards.

Junior Hacksaws

Picture of a junior hacksaw

This is simply a smaller and a cheaper version of the hacksaw shown above. Many plumbers and electricians want to try and keep their tool bag light.

Rather than carry the heavier full size hacksaw around, they opt for this lighter junior style.

The blade on this type is really small, and it makes it ideal for cutting plastic pipes. The cut is also really neat and tidy. The blades are also cheaper to buy. It is worth noting that the teeth face away from the handle. Because of that, the junior hack saw cuts on the push stroke.

Laminator Saws

Laminator Saw

These are hand saws but they do have much finer teeth, and those are needed to give a fine finish on a surface. They are used mainly for the manual cutting of laminated or wooden flooring.

The blade has what is called hard point toothing, and that means the blade cuts very straight and very quickly.

They also work well on hardwood flooring. The bottom line is they will not splinter the wood, and many buyers say that these are faster than a jigsaw, and leave a much neater edge.

Manual Mitre Saws

manual box mitre saws

Mitre saws are used to allow you to make cuts with angles. That is very useful for tasks such as skirting boards, coving and framing. The power mitre saw is the ideal saw for this task, but they are expensive.

This manual mitre saw does exactly the same job, though clearly it will be a slower process and you will have to do the physical cutting.

They come in different styles, but essentially there is a base that holds the board to be cut. In addition, there is a fine tooth blade attached to a saw, and this saw can swivel to different angles, that you can quickly and easily set.

Once set, you then allow the saw to drop down a set of guides, and begin to saw the wood at the required angle.

Masonry Hand Saws

Masonry saw picture

There are hand saws that are suitable for cutting through brick and block. These saws are a lot more popular than you may first imagine. They are mainly bought by people who don't want the expense of buying a power masonry saw, or an angle grinder.

They work effectively if you only have to cut a few bricks or blocks, but wouldn't be suitable for bigger projects.

Pruning Saws

pruning saws

As the name would suggest a pruning saw is a handy saw for pruning trees, shrubs and bushes. They do come in a few different styles such as straight, folding and also telescopic.

The type that you pick will depend on your individual gardening requirements.

They are essentially a lighter version of a hand saw. The teeth points will be slightly harder than a hand saw, and slightly more spaced. That prevents the teeth from sticking as there is a lot of moist sap in trees.

Bow saws are used for cutting trees, but the pruning saw is a lot more easy to move about and allows you into tighter areas.

Pull Saws

pullsaws

Pull saws are a popular choice for many trades people, but they can also be useful around the home. They are similar in many ways to the Japanese saw. With some pull saws however, they can also be angled to cut door jambs, as shown in the image above.

They work on a pull action which takes a little getting used to. One edge is a ripping blade for quick cuts, and the other edge has a cross cut blade, which is best for finer cutting.

Tenon Saws

Tenon saw picture

This is a more specialist saw, and will mainly be used by joiners and carpenters. Its main use is to help make fine cuts, used for woodworking joints. It makes straight cuts and is often used in larger pieces of sheet wood.

The edge of the saw is usually made from brass, and has around 13 teeth per inch. Some people refer to this as a back saw.

Veneer Saws

veneer saws

This is a more specialist saw, designed to cut veneer and as such is very thin with very fine teeth. You can get these in the style shown in the image above, but also as a straight saw that looks similar to a standard saw.

If you have a surface, such as a veneer surface, and need a really fine precise cut, then a veneer saw is going to be your best option.

Power Saws

Below we have explained the many power saws that are available on the UK market.

Band Saws

band saw

A Band saw is an electric powered saw with a band of teeth that rotates on two wheels through a table. A set of guides above and below the table hold the blade in position. You can then place a board on the table and push it through the rotating blade.

They are available in benchtop or floor standing models and are an expensive purchase. They are used mainly in woodworking but can also be used to cut metal and plastic with the right blade inserted.

The average home owner will never need to own one of these. You will find them in woodworking shops, kitchen manufacturers and some factories. Some very keen home DIY people may have a benchtop version of these in their garage of work shed.

Chainsaws

Picture of a chainsaw

The best of the saw world. These saws can just about take on any cutting task. They are especially great for cutting trees, or larger branches.

Many people use these for cutting down trees or larger shrubs and then using those for firewood.

These are available as electric corded options, though the majority of people like the idea of a gas powered chainsaw. That is simply because they allow you to take your chainsaw, to wherever you need to use it, without having to worry about an electric supply.

These are ideal for felling trees and for cutting up branches into logs very quickly. They are used predominantly in the forestry industry, but also by farmers and landscape gardeners.

Home owners with wood burning stoves, or those with large gardens to look after will find a chainsaw very useful. The average home owner will simply never need one.

Circular Saws

Circular saw picture

There are a lot of different electric power saws on the UK market. The circular saw is probably the most popular of all of them. Essentially all there is to it, is a small circular blade, which is powered by a motor.

These are all about quickly cutting through wood, and they make straight cuts. A guard protects the blade. These can be used as a portable saw, but quite often they are attached to a stand, and the wood is brought to the saw.

Many people also use these as a table saw by inverting them.

They are a fairly crude type of saw, but they are really fast, and that makes them popular in the construction industry in particular. They are however very versatile and that makes them a popular choice for anyone who likes DIY.

For home use they can be used for building decks, fences and for general woodwork. There are also mini circular saws, which are popular and we have covered those later in this article.

Jigsaws

bosch jigsaw picture

These remain very popular with many UK buyers. These can be used to make straight cuts and curved cuts. In many ways they are the electric version of the coping saw.

They are ideal for cutting patterns on sheets of wood, and a typical task is cutting a sink shape out of a worktop.

They are available as both corded and cordless. The cordless variety is becoming a lot more popular, but you will find that they are also more expensive.

Masonry Saws

masonry saws

These are the beasts of the saw world. They can be used to cut stone, brick, paving stones and even reinforced concrete. These will either be powered by electric or by a petrol engine.

They use a high torque motor along with a diamond blade to do their work. They will have a safety guard for very good reasons which should never be removed.

If you plan on doing any work with paving stones, window installation or general landscaping then one of these will be an invaluable asset.

Metal Cutting Saws

metal cutting saws

Most home owners will use either a hacksaw or a junior hacksaw to cut metal when required. However, if you need to cut metal on a regular basis, then you should consider a power tool for doing that.

These are powerful power tools that get the job done without any great effort and very quickly. These come as electric corded and cordless options from the leading tool brands.

Mini Circular Saws

piture of a mini circular saw

We explained the uses of circular saws above, but there are slightly smaller versions of these available. They are known as mini circular saws, or one handed saws.

They are particularly useful for cutting through floorboards, cutting laminate flooring and other odd jobs of this nature. The beauty of these is that you can use them one-handed, and that allows you to use the other hand for holding things.

Mitre Saws 

mitre saw

The electric mitre saw, as the name would suggest, is designed to cut mitre joints. It is however worth pointing out, that it also can easily act as a circular saw as it does straight cuts as well as mitre cuts.

On many of the models, they can also do single bevel and double bevel cuts, ideal for those of you who like to do woodworking.

They can then combine both a bevel and a mitre to make a more complex "compound joint." So as you can see these are a very useful electric saw to own.

We would recommend buying a sliding mitre saw, as that means you can cut wider timber, making your purchase much more useful.

Power Hand Saws 

power saws

The power saw has a number of uses in the home and garden. It is also very useful for many DIY projects. They can be used for cutting wood and other materials.

They are similar to a reciprocating saw, which we explain just below, but there are differences. 

The main difference is the power saw has a slightly wider blade than the reciprocating saw, and the power saw's blade is tapered.

Reciprocating Saws 

reciprocating saws

The reciprocating saw has many uses and is a highly versatile saw to have. It is used widely in the construction industry to help tear down plasterboard walls and stud walls.

Many gardeners also use these for cutting branches.

You can buy them as corded or cordless options. The blades are replaceable and you can get different types of blades for different types of material.

Scroll Saws 

scroll saws

The scroll saw is a specialised saw that is used to cut intricate curves and shapes in wood. The blade is very find and as such it allows for very find, accurate and neatly finished work.

A great choice for certain hobbies such as toy making and anything wood related where a lot of cutting is required.

These are used mainly by woodworkers, craftsmen, and artisans.

Carpenters will use the scroll saw to make dovetail joints when manufacturing furniture or something like kitchen cabinets.

Table Saws 

table saws

If you want a really useful saw to have in your garage or shed, then the table saw is an excellent choice. You simply put the wood on the machine and let the blade do its work.

Now of course you have to mark the wood, draw a line but that is something you have to do anyway. The table saw just makes that task a great deal easier.

They are particularly good at cutting sheet wood.

Tile Saws 

tile saws

There are a number of tools on the UK market that will help you to cut tiles. It really is hard to beat an electric tile saw. Rather then risk breaking tiles using the scoring method, this type of saw just makes the job a great deal easier.

You mark your tile, set it on the machine, clamp it into place and let the blade make an accurate cut. These can be used for any type of tile, and can also be used for wall and floor tiles.

So hopefully, you are now much better informed about the wide range of hand saws and electrical saws that are available, and what they are used for. Most people will want to own a basic hand saw, and something like a circular saw, or even a mitre saw.

If you plan on doing some work in the home or garden, then we know that at some stage you will need to own a saw, or a variety of saws. The type you need will depend on the task that you want to achieve.

Hopefully we have been able to explain what is available, and what they are used for.

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