Power saws are fantastic machine tools, but they can be bewildering. There are so many different types of power saws in a variety of categories and subcategories that remembering what each one does becomes difficult. This article serves as a sort of “comprehensive guide” to explain the world of various types of power saws.
What Are Power Saws?
A power saw is a machine tool that makes use of a blade to cut through solid material. As adhesives and welding become more popular, there’s less need for blades in many applications, but there is still plenty of work for the classic “cutting machine.” Besides the classic “metal-cutting” power saw, there are also applications for wood- and plastic-cutting blades.
Types of Power Saws
Different types of power saws can be grouped into six categories: woodworking power saws, metal-cutting power saws, abrasive-cutting saws, water-cutting power saws, and pipe-cutting power saws.
Woodworking Power Saws
Woodworking tools are the best known in the world, and there is a wide range of machines available. Each one works with a particular material and cuts the material in a particular way. Here’s a look at some woodworking power saws:
Chainsaws: Chainsaws are the most common power saw available. They’re powered by an internal combustion engine and use a thin blade to cut the wood into smaller, more manageable pieces. Chainsaw blades can be dangerous if used incorrectly or with inadequate safety gear, but they’re relatively easy to control when used correctly.
Panel Saws: These are the most common woodworking power saw. These use circular or band blades that rotate at a high speed, and the blade is drawn through a piece of material to cut it into thin slices. In other words, this machine uses a sort of “meat cleaver” approach to cutting instead of a slicing motion.
Circular Saw: This is a handheld machine that spins a thin blade vertically around an arbor so cutting can be done from left to right. It has a corded electric motor that runs at a high rate of speed. Cordless circular saws are also available, but they run on batteries and can’t match the power output of their wired counterparts.
Jigsaw: Much like a handheld circular saw the jigsaw uses a thin blade to cut through the wood in a left to the right direction. Jigsaws are traditionally stand-mounted and might be handheld at times, but they’re always electrically powered and spin the blade at a high speed.
Band Saw: A band saw has a horizontal or tilted work table that allows the material to move into the cutting area. The blade runs horizontally back and forth across the material. Band saws are typically used for cutting curves or bowls into the wood.
Table Saws: This machine sits on a work table and, as the name implies, is generally operated from above. It’s much larger than other saws and spins a large blade at high speed. The blade doesn’t move left to right as it does with other saws; instead, it moves up and down.
Miter Saw: A miter saw is a table saw with an adjustable worktable that can hold material at angles other than 90 degrees, making it easy to cut pieces for framing or roofing purposes. Miter saws are very common in the construction world, and many people prefer them over table saws because they’re more compact and have a smaller learning curve.
Metal-Cutting Power Saws
There are several types of power saws that cut metal, but the basic idea is to spin a blade at a high rate of speed so it can pass through a material with less resistance. Here’s how they work:
Band Saw: Similar to the band saw used for cutting wood, a band saw that cuts metal is typically even more rugged. Materials such as structural steel and iron can be cut using a metal-cutting band saw.
Chop Saw: Chop saws are capable of making very accurate cuts, but the blade is small and rotates at a very high speed. The end result is very clean-cut, making this an excellent choice for home repair work.
Cut-Off Saw: The cut-off saw is commonly mounted to the floor or benchtop and can make cuts of up to ¾ inches thick in steel. The solid cutting wheel spins at 3600 RPM, but there are also chop saws that have smaller blades that rotate at high speeds.
Turret Punch: A turret punch machine uses a very small saw blade to cut through the metal, which is mounted on an adjustable turret. The process allows for precise cutting in a short amount of time.
Sanding belts are the most common type of abrasive cutting saw, but there are also wire brushes and diamond tools available for wet and dry cutting. These machines are typically used for metalworking, but they’re also capable of cutting ceramic materials and hardwoods.
Water-Cutting Power Saws
Also known as waterjet cutter saws, these saws use a pressurized stream of water to cut the material at very high speeds. This process is perfect for cutting glass, metal, stone, and other hard materials.
Pipe-Cutting Power Saws
Pipe-cutting saws are similar to wire-cut machines in that they use a circular saw blade to cut through the material. However, pipe-cutting saws spin at a much higher speed and can make very precise cuts when needed. This makes them perfect for anyone who needs to cut tubing down to size on a regular basis. Typically, pipe-cutting saws are large and extremely powerful.
As you can see, there is a power saw to suit every job requirement. Each machine has a specific function in the woodshop or on the building site, whether it is for cutting metal or making precise cuts in hardwoods. The purchase of a few different types of power saws will not only save you money on replacement blades but will also make it easier for you to accomplish your next project.
After learning more about how all of these machines operate and what they’re used for, you’ll be better prepared to make an informed purchasing decision when it comes time to add one to your tool collection.