Types of Power Saws and How to Safely Operate Them

Types of Power Saws and How to Safely Operate Them

There are many different types of saws available depending on your cutting needs. It is important to pick the right saw for the right job. Using the wrong type of saw, with the wrong kind of blade, could result in ruining both your tools and your materials. Before you make that first cut, look at what kind of material you are working with and what kind of cuts you need to make. This information can help you pick the right saw for any application.


Types of Saws


The blade on a bandsaw is a thin, metal band with a large surface area—this makes it great for cutting metal. Bandsaws are frequently stationary saws with a built-in cutting table, though portable bandsaws are available as well. Band saws come in a variety of sizes, both in the capable height (“resaw capacity”) and width (“throat”).

  • Can cut wood or metal
  • Can cut on curves with some precision
  • Generally used for “resawing”—cutting boards into a smaller thickness

Circular Saws

Also referred to as “buzzsaws,” circular saws are portable, electric saws with a rotating circular blade. These come in a wide variety of styles, accommodating many different blade sizes and types.

  • Good for cutting lumber
  • Cuts quickly and easily
  • Not recommended for finishing work

Chain Saws

Chainsaws are motorized, handheld saws which usually run on a two-stroke engine (an electric option is available). They consist of a cutting chain that has sharp teeth, revolving around an extended arm.

  • Made for felling trees or cutting brush
  • Ideal when a lot of power is needed
  • Not recommended for carpentry or similar work

Jig Saws

Also known as “saber saws,” jigsaws are lightweight and handheld. They have a vertical blade that moves up and down, cutting on the upstroke. Jigsaws come in variable-speed types, and may include lights and laser lines.

  • Designed to cut curves, rather than straight lines
  • Good for detail cutting and making inside cuts (such as a window hole)
  • Recommended for wood, plastic and some metals

Masonry Saws

Masonry saws are sometimes called “concrete saws” and are made specifically for working with concrete. They have a unique, diamond blade designed to slice into extremely hard materials.

  • Made for concrete and other masonry materials
  • Come in varying weights and sizes to accommodate a range of material

Miter Saws

Power miter saws are good for making quick and accurate crosscuts. The miter saw has a rotating circular blade fixed onto a table. They are similar to a table saw, but perform angled cutting and use a blade that offers precise finishing.

  • Used for miter cutting wood or aluminum trims
  • Different kinds of miter saws can make different, specialty-angled cuts
  • Can be adjusted on two planes to make items that meet on a corner

Reciprocating Saws

A reciprocating saw is a powerful, electric hand saw. It has a push-and-pull, reciprocating blade, like a hand saw but with power. Reciprocating saws range from light to heavy duty.

  • Adaptable to many needs
  • Can quickly cut through most non-masonry materials
  • Good for demolition

Table Saws

Table saws are constructed of a circular blade, fixed into a stationary tabletop. The blade stays in a fixed location while the material is moved across the blade to make the cut.

  • Designed for cutting wood
  • Fence allows for more accurate cutting of straight lines than any other saw
  • Can also cut laminate, plastics and other soft materials
  • Not recommended for cutting metal

Other Power Saws

There are many other types of power saws, each designed for its own particular application. You may use a chop saw or cold saw for metal cut-offs. There are also an entire range of metal cutting circular saws, designed for metalwork exclusively. If you are working with drywall, a spiral saw is great for making cutouts without the need of a pilot hole. Also, oscillating tools are available for flush cutting and cutouts.

Saw Safety

Regardless of the material you need to cut—or the saw you use to do it—there are certain safety guidelines that apply across the board. Make sure to take every precaution before starting up an electric saw, ensuring that the area is clear for cutting and that all components are working properly. Taking a few minutes before you begin the work can help prevent accidents and injuries later.

  • Wear the proper safety gear when engaging an electric saw. This includes:
    • safety glasses or goggles, or a face shield
    • appropriate hearing protection
    • a respirator or dust mask when exposed to harmful dusts
  • Ensure that the blade that you have selected is clean and sharp
    • Sharp blades work better and are safer
  • Check the saw for proper blade rotation/movement
  • Keep all cords clear of cutting area
  • Check to see if your saw is specific to right- or left-handed operation
    • if you are other-handed, check the owner’s manual for any additional safety requirements
  • Always operate saw with both hands
  • Use all the guards that come with the saw—they’re there for a reason!
  • Carefully read the manufacturer’s instruction manual before using any power saw





The product statements contained herein are intended for informational purposes only. Such product statements do not constitute a product recommendation or representation as to the appropriateness for a specific application or use. W. W. Grainger, Inc. does not guarantee the result of product operation or assume any liability for personal injury or property damage resulting from the use of such products.

Published Date 06/2016