Different Types of Electric Saws and When to Use Them

Saws have been around since ancient times, and they're still indispensable tools today. Of course, saws have come a long way, and DIY-ers and professionals in the twenty-first century have far more convenient and precise options to choose from than our ancient ancestors did. In fact, many saws today are powered by electricity, meaning the user can focus on guiding the saw or making the right types of cuts rather than having to use their own physical strength to get the job done.

If you're interested in adding an electric saw or two to your collection, you likely want to know more about the options on the market today, so you can make a smart choice that will come in handy on your next project. In this guide, we'll discuss several different types of saws and their applications.

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Electric vs. Hand Saws

Electric vs Hand Saw

First, it's helpful to understand that saws mainly fall into two categories: electric and manual hand saws. Hand saws are traditional tools that don't rely on any type of power. This means you have to provide the power with your own elbow grease. If you stop into your local hardware store, you may be surprised by how many types of hand saws there are to choose from. For both electric and manual saws, there are many options, each designed for specific applications.

It's typically a good idea to have a traditional hand saw in your toolbox for general purpose cutting. It has a large, toothed blade that can cut through wood with a back-and-forth sawing motion. For many projects, though, an electric saw is ideal since it does the hard work for you. An electric saw can also make more precise cuts than a hand saw.

Electric saws either receive their power from an outlet or a battery. Corded tools have certain advantages — they tend to supply stronger power than their battery-powered counterparts, and you never run out of power, as long as you're plugged in.

However, cordless power tools come with their own advantages, as well. A cordless tool allows for greater mobility, since you don't need to be near an outlet. This can be especially helpful when you're doing work outside rather than in a workshop.

12 Types of Electric Saws and Their Uses

So, what are the different types of power saws, and which ones should you have? The best saws to have in your workshop depend on the projects you work on. In most cases, you can enhance the versatility of a saw by purchasing blades intended for cutting through different materials. You can switch out the blades to take on different cutting projects.

To determine which saws are best for the types of projects you work on, you need to know what saw options are available and how they're used. Some of the most common types of saws include:

1. Band Saw

Band Saw

band saw is a floor-standing saw that works similar to a jig saw, but in this case, you have the benefit of a stationary table setup. The blade, which consists of a long, thin band of toothed metal, is oriented either vertically or horizontally and moves continuously with the help of a pulley system. There are band saws designed to cut wood, metal or both. In addition to wood and metal, a band saw can also cut through some other materials, such as PVC.

These saws are ideal for cutting circles, curves and irregular shapes. Depending on the length of the blade in a band saw, you may be able to cut several boards at a time, stacked on top of each other, to more efficiently produce matching curved pieces. With a vertical band saw, the blade cuts straight down, which minimizes the amount of sawdust or other particles that end up on top of the piece you're cutting. This feature can be helpful when you need to see a line you've drawn on the material to guide your cut.

If you need your band saw to move from job site to job site, you can choose a portable unit. Portable cordless band saws are smaller handheld devices, so they won't offer all the same capabilities, but they can still accomplish many of the same tasks as long as you have a steady hand to execute them.

2. Chainsaw


If you've ever had to cut down a tree, you're probably familiar with a chainsaw. A chainsaw is a type of band saw that's named for its rotating chain of sharp teeth. In addition to using a chainsaw to cut trees, you can also use them to trim and shape hedges. Some artisans even use chainsaws for wood carving.

In addition to electric chainsaws, you'll see gas-powered options on the market, as well. A gas-powered chainsaw typically offers more power than electric options and can also power longer bars to cut through larger trees. Because of the motor, though, they are louder and heavier than electric options. Electric chainsaws tend to offer less power than gas chainsaws, but they are quieter and may be more convenient if you don't want to keep gas on hand.

If you want to match the mobility of a gas-powered chainsaw, opt for a cordless electric chainsaw like the Milwaukee® M18 FUEL™ 16" Chainsaw. You'll have to recharge the battery once it has maximized its operating potential, but while you're using the chainsaw, you don't have to remain near a source of electric power.

3. Jig Saw

Jig Saw

jig saw is a handheld electric saw with a short blade that moves up and down at a specified speed and comes in both corded and cordless varieties. Jig saws can cut straight lines, but they are more prized for their ability to cut curved and irregular lines. However, to do so precisely requires a steady hand. Jig saw blades are thin and are not designed for heavy work, but they are capable of cutting through a variety of materials, including wood, metal, plastic and ceramic tile.

While it takes some precision to get cuts perfect, overall, a jig saw is easy to use. This, combined with its versatility, makes a jig saw an excellent choice for someone who wants to have a few key tools on hand for home projects. A jig saw is the perfect combination of a portable band saw and a scroll saw. When you want to do some light-duty curved cutting with a handheld tool, a jig saw is an indispensable tool.

4. Chop Saw

A chop saw, also called a cut-off saw or abrasive saw, is a portable saw with a circular blade that drops down and is designed to cut straight rather than curved lines.

A chop saw is able to cut through a variety of materials. Chop saw blades don't include teeth. Instead, they have abrasives to help them cut through various materials. Some blades are specially intended for metalwork, and others are for masonry work. Chop saws are also known as cut-off saws, concrete saws and abrasive saws.

Whatever you're cutting, a chop saw is large and powerful. In fact, it's one of the largest circular saws you'll find in a portable form. Chop saws are often compared to mitre saws, but mitre saws are better for detail work. Chop saws are better suited to heavy-duty applications.

You can find a variety of cordless cut-off saw options, including the new MX FUEL 14" cut-off saw from Milwaukee. The new Milwaukee MXF314-1XC offers lightweight construction and provides quick cuts, convenient portability and greater power than other cordless cut-off saws on the market.

5. Circular Saw

circular saw, also called a buzz saw, is one of the most popular types of powered saws on the market. It uses an encased circular blade that cuts in a rotary motion. The base of the saw will be flush with the material you're cutting to hold it in place. A circular saw is one of the best and easiest tools for cutting straight lines. It is handheld and comes in both left and right-handed options, so anyone can conveniently use this portable tool. Cordless circular saws are available from a number of popular manufacturers if you want greater portability or may not have access to a power source.

You can choose a circular saw blade designed to cut different materials, such as plastic, wood, metal, masonry and more. Some blades are abrasive, but most blades for a circular saw are toothed. You can typically adjust the depth of the cut you want to make by setting how far out the blade will emerge from the base of the saw.

As with the jig saw, a circular saw works for many applications, from carpentry projects to home improvement projects, so it's a good tool to keep in your collection. Its larger cousin is the table saw, but for many DIY-ers, a circular saw is enough to handle any job cutting straight lines.

6. Reciprocating Saw

Reciprocating Saw

Like a jig saw, a reciprocating saw has a blade that quickly moves back and forth to cut. They can cut through various materials, such as wood, tubing and plastic. Reciprocating saws can also cut through metal, including pipes and nails. Reciprocating saws are considered to be one of the best electric or cordless saws for demolition projects.

By choosing a “nail-cutting” wood blade, you can easily cut through walls, roof shingles and more, where nails are embedded into wood. Without a reciprocating saw, these tasks would otherwise require multiple tools and would be more complicated to accomplish. Reciprocating saws are not difficult to use, but it takes some practice to feel out how much pressure you should apply in different situations. Typically, you'll need to apply some forward pressure and rock the saw back and forth, while maintaining a steady grip.

Reciprocating saws aren't the best choice for precision work or curved cuts, but they are great for getting the job done when you need help with a demo project.

7. Compound Mitre Saw

The compound mitre saw is a more industrious version of the standard mitre saw. A compound mitre saw is not a hand saw, but it is still fairly portable, so you can take it from job site to job site as needed. The circular blade is attached to an adjustable mounted arm.

This saw is able to do three types of cuts: straight, mitre and compound cuts. A common example of a straight cut you might make with a compound mitre saw is a cross-cut on a board. Mitre cuts are angled cuts. Typically, the application is bringing two pieces together to create a 90-degree angle, such as in the case of baseboards or molding.

A compound mitre saw can also handle compound cuts, which are essentially mitre cuts and bevel cuts combined — this means you can cut an angle across a board and also tilt the blade while you do it to create an angular cut along two different axes. Because of this, compound mitre saws are especially useful when it comes to cutting trim pieces, and they can even help you create more elaborate moldings.

8. Mitre Saw

Miltre Saw

mitre saw is a simpler version of a compound mitre saw. It can make straight and mitre cuts, but not compound cuts. For many applications, this is enough, especially when it comes to flooring projects. As with a compound mitre saw, a standard mitre saw is not handheld. Rather, it is designed to sit on a tabletop.

A mitre saw resembles a chop saw, but is a much better choice for more clean and precise cuts. Some mitre saws are known as sliding mitre saws. With these models, you can pull the arm forward while cutting in order to saw through wider materials. Whatever model you choose, mitre saws are fairly easy and safe to use.

A mitre saw is a good general piece of equipment to have for woodworking. Whether you want to do angled cuts for trim work or cross-cuts on boards, a mitre saw is a good choice.

9. Rotary Saw

A rotary saw, also called a rotary tool, spiral cut saw or cut out tool, features a blade that spins. Rather than a typical saw blade, the cutting implement more closely resembles a bit on a power drill. With a rotary saw, you can cut lines and patterns in a variety of thin, solid materials, such as wood, drywall, aluminum and more.

Because of the unique design of a rotary saw, you can cut directly into a material without having to first create a pilot hole. A pilot hole is a small hole to get your cut started. With a rotary saw, you can skip this step and cut straight into a solid material.

Rotary saws are often used to cut into walls for repair work, but they can also be used for many other projects. Rotary saws are even valuable to emergency responders, such as firefighters, because of their ability to facilitate a forced entry.

10. Scroll Saw

Scroll saws are one of the best saws for cutting wood. It combines reciprocating, band and continuous blade functionality, making it a versatile option. A scroll saw is not a handheld saw. Instead, the saw stays in place, and you maneuver your material under the blade. If you see one of these tools, you'll likely be struck by just how thin the blade is. The delicateness of the blade is what makes a scroll saw so special.

Scroll saws are known for their impressive level of fineness. They are the perfect tool for making intricate patterns and clean, accurate cuts. If you want a saw to help you with artisanal woodworking, a scroll saw is essential.

There are other saws you could use to make curved cut, such as a jig saw, for example, but no other saw will give you the same level of precision. While your average DIY-er may not need a scroll saw in their tool collection, a serious woodworker isn't likely to be without one.

11. Table Saw

Table Saw

table saw is a large type of electric saw which is freestanding. It includes a circular blade that extends down below the surface of the table. This means you can push your material up to the blade, and it will cut right through without you having to lower the blade down.

Table saws are most often used to cut wood, but they can cut plenty of other materials, too. Just make sure you choose the right blade for your application. Table saws can handle both straight and angled cuts, which adds to their versatility. They are often used to efficiently cut boards to size.

Some homeowners may be able to accomplish the same tasks as they would using a table saw with the aid of a benchtop saw or handheld saw and would prefer these more compact options. However, if you have a permanent workshop setup, a table saw can be a nice addition. However, keep in mind that table saws can be dangerous tools to use if you're inexperienced, so always take precautions and wear any necessary safety equipment.

Cordless table saws like the Milwaukee® M18 FUEL™ 8-1/4" Table Saw (Milwaukee 2736-21HD) may be a good option if portability is important or there is a power source easily accessible on your job site.

12. Track Saw

Track Saw

The last electric saw on our list is the track saw, also known as the plunging saw. This saw has a unique design, which includes a long guide rail in addition to the saw itself, which uses a spring-loaded and hinged circular blade to make cuts. A track saw essentially combines the function of a table saw and a circular saw into one piece of equipment. Like a circular saw, as opposed to a table saw, a track saw is fairly portable.

To use a track saw, you clamp or stick the guide rail onto the material you plan to cut. Then, you simply use the track saw to cut along the guideline. This method ensures you'll get a perfectly straight cut every time.

Track saws can cut through different types of materials and levels of thickness. Track saws are especially prized by carpenters who work on cabinetry, countertops and other projects that require expert precision. They can also be helpful on any project where you need to make accurate plunge cuts.

Find Saws Fit for Any Job From Construction Fasteners and Tools

Find Saws Fit for Any Job From Construction Fasteners and Tools

Whether you're looking for the most versatile, all-purpose saw you can find or looking to add to your collection of specialty saws for various tasks, Construction Fasteners and Tools has what you need. We carry electric saws from well-respected brands like Bosch, Dewalt, Makita, Milwaukee Tool and more. At Construction Fasteners and Tools, we have tools to help any DIY enthusiast or professional get the job done expertly and efficiently.

Browse through our selection of corded electric power tools and cordless power tools online, and be sure to stock up on other workshop essentials while you're at it. Contact our team if you're looking for a product you don't see, or if you have a question we might be able to help you with.