Japanese Saws Vs. Western Saws
When comparing Western and Japanese saws, it’s important to understand that each is designed to function inside a particular tradition — specifically, a particular method of holding and supporting the wood that’s being worked. In the West, woodworkers tend to rely on heavy benches equipped with vises, clamps, holdfasts, and jigs. Japanese workholding, on the other hand, is far more likely to use the woodworker’s body as a workholding device. The Japanese workbench is most often as simple as a beam on a couple of sawhorses or, with some projects, just the floor. While there are many differences between the two styles of saws, there is no right answer is to which one is better. What makes a saw the correct one is if it’s suited for the needs of the project. That’s why many experienced woodworkers keep both types in their shops. They are all highly versatile tools that can cut fine dovetails or slice large pieces of lumber. As long as you maintain your tools, they will serve you for years to come. To learn more about sharpening, you can read our guide to sharpening tools. We also wrote a blog on the different types of Japanese saws you will encounter.
Cutting Direction for Western and Japanese Saws
The method of wood support is really the primary difference between Western and Japanese saws because it affects cutting direction. Western saws almost exclusively cut on the push stroke — that is, material is removed as you push the saw forward through the wood. Japanese saws are the exact opposite, removing wood on the pull stroke. Japanese hand planes, for similar reasons, are also pulled toward the user and not pushed. The handles reflect the proper grip needed to utilize both types of saws. For example, a Japanese ryoba saw has a handle that’s really an extension of the blade. It’s meant to be gripped as a sword with both hands to stabilize your cutting technique as you pull back.
A western saw, such as a dovetail, traditionally has a handle attached to the end of the blade that you grip like a pistol. This stabilizes your elbow as you push through the wood and makes it easy to go forward and backward without bending the blade.
In practice, this means a Japanese saw can be thinner than its Western counterpart and therefore produce a thinner kerf. There’s less risk of the blade jamming, bowing, or bending inside the cut. The metal itself isn’t supporting the power of the cut, and there is tension on the blade, not compression, while it engages the wood fibers. While a Western-style saw can also be quite thin, it requires extra support to remain straight in use, usually in the form of the brass backing rib seen on common tenon and dovetail saws. Many woodworkers actually prefer this Western style of backed saw because the extra weight on top can make it easy to find a perfect 90-degree cutting angle simply by feel.
Adjusting Your Shop for Japanese Saws
If you’re going to use a Japanese saw in your woodworking shop, you’ll need to make a few adjustments. For one, you should replace or remove your existing bench hooks to the far side of your workbench since they’re now anchoring against a pull stroke. You also need to change your stance and body position, particularly with larger saws like the Ryoba, which is designed to be used with two hands, with the user standing centered on the cut line. You may also want to experiment with lowering your work during sawing, as many Japanese sawhorses may stand as low as 6” to 8” off the ground. You can perform crosscuts and rip cuts easily with these, using your body weight (a foot or a knee) to counter the cutting stroke.
Ideal Wood Types for Each
If you frequently use hard maples or exotic hardwoods, you might run into difficulties. Check the details on the saw you’re using to verify what kinds of wood it’s set up for. Western saws are built more rigidly, and so are able to cut through the harder woods. These include:
The Benefits of Japanese Tools
Despite a recent resurgence by small makers of Western-style hand saws, it’s safe to say that Japanese pieces outperform Western ones at lower price points. If you’re on a tight budget and you’re starting from scratch, the Japanese tradition has a lot to offer. It’s especially attractive if space is an issue; apartment woodworking becomes much easier if you adopt some Japanese tools and techniques.
Important Woodworking Advice
An increasing number of shops these days make use of both types of saws. Japanese-style pull saws might handle rough dimensioning, re-sawing, and flush cutting, while Western-style backsaws take care of the joinery. Other users might swear by dozuki for cutting dovetails and tenons. Here, personal preference is key, and the only way to find out what you like is to experiment. Whichever tradition you prefer, there are always constants: make sure your tools are sharp and well-tuned, let the weight of the saw do the work, and measure twice before you cut!
Looking for more woodworking advice? Discover other workshop blogs at Garrett Wade today!
The 5 Best Types of Saws for DIYers
What are the best types of saws for DIY projects? Well the most important saw I have in the shop or on a restoration job site is the one I need to do the task in front of me at that moment. Whether you’re undercutting a door jamb to add a new floorboard or tile, or cutting out studs and plates from a horribly remuddled partition wall addition, the phrase “right tool for the job” exists because it’s true. The reason the saw at hand is the most important isn’t because it’s fancy or expensive or refined; it’s because restoration success is about doing all the steps well with the right tool. If I can’t do a task—large or small, difficult or easy—progress comes to a halt.
I mainly rely on five saws to see me through: a reciprocating saw, circular saw, miter saw, table saw, and a Japanese handsaw. While having these saws is great, it’s only half the battle. Using them efficiently and safely is the other half. Everything from the right blade to the right accessory combines to make good work great and keep your restoration train running down the rails.
A reciprocating saw–also known as a “recip saw” or “hognose saw”–was invented by the Milwaukee Electric Tool Corporation in the 1950s and branded Sawzall, is used mainly for demolition. While this word is generally anathema in a restoration context, I’ve seen many wonderful old homes chopped up into rental units where what once were doors have been studded up and drywalled over. Then there are the original basements retrofitted with awful 1970s paneling and landscapes littered with rusting store-bought metal sheds.
Chances are very good that as an old-house restorer, you’ll need to take some things apart before you can have a shot at putting them back together, and the tool for this go-hard-or-go-home work is a reciprocating saw.
Choosing the Right Blade for a Reciprocating Saw
For cutting through most construction-related material, I use a 10″ “demolition” blade on my reciprocating saw. Designed to take a beating, these blades’ small, hook-shaped teeth are configured for cutting the hodgepodge of nail-embedded wood, plaster, drywall, and just about anything else you’ll find.
Outdoors, if I’m cutting apart a metal shed or some fence posts, I’ll use a metal-cutting blade. Since unsupported metal will usually flop around, I minimize that vibration by pressing the shoe of the saw firmly against the work.
If I have to cut tree branches (or roots, for that matter, which are common obstacles in post holes) I swap out the blade for one with more aggressive teeth, such as the Skil “ugly blade.”
Reciprocating Saws Make Demolition Easier
One thing I really rely on this saw for is what I call Smart demolition—in other words, I can use it to remove an item carefully. Take, for example, a door opening that’s been covered over with studs and drywall. I can use the reciprocating saw to cut the drywall away in manageable pieces. Then, instead of pounding on the studs nailed into the jambs and floor to pry the nails or dislodge the wood (which doesn’t work, by the way), I run the saw between the member that’s staying and the one that’s going, and cut the nails. This frees the work piece without bashing it, and minimizes both work and collateral damage.
Circular saws are the big daddy tool for just about any project, and they come in two flavors: sidewinder and worm drive:
- Sidewinders are lighter and smaller, and generally have the blade on the right side and the motor projecting out the left.
- Worm drives are front-heavy, in-line saws named for the worm gear inside that turns the blade. I’m a worm-drive guy myself—its configuration jibes with the way I work, letting me make my cuts faster—but both configurations get the job done.
Restoration projects often require rough carpentry—a floor has been damaged by a longtime leak; a porch is falling apart; the bathroom floor framing has been eviscerated by previous plumbers. A circular saw is the go-to tool for cross-cutting and ripping framing members and sheet stock like plywood.
Using a Circular Saw to Remove Flooring
A circular saw is also the tool you need for removing a damaged floorboard. You simply make two passes down the length of the damaged board—enough to get a bar in there—then carefully pry the two pieces free. Removing the bottom of the groove on your replacement piece lets you easily lay it into the void.
Setting the circular saw to the right depth and keeping a keen eye on the blade will enable you to make the precise cut required for removing damaged floorboard because you want to cut up to—but not into—the adjoining floorboard. This is one of the many reasons I like worm drives: Despite weighing nearly twice that of a sidewinder, the blade is on the left, so as a right-hander, I can see what I’m doing without craning my neck over the saw.
Using a Circular Saw to Trim Door Bottoms Stiles
A circular saw, a straight-edge called a shoot-board, and a fresh blade are my first picks for trimming door bottoms and stiles. I can set the saw and straight-edge to make precise cuts in century-old doors to square them up for new openings. The worm drive’s in-line body easily passes by the clamps that hold the straight-edge down—not always possible with a sidewinder’s outboard motor.
If there’s a core to my tool setup, it’s the miter saw. While it can be used for cross-cutting framing, angling pergola rafters, or slamming through umpteen fire-blocks, it is primarily a finish tool I rely on for trim—base, casing, chair rail, crown—and my standard is a 12″ dual bevel sliding compound miter saw.
Set Up a Proper Work Station For Your Miter Saw
But a miter saw isn’t magic. In order for it to really shine, it needs to be set up properly—not on the ground with a couple of bricks on either side—to hold up a 12′ length of crown molding.
While I’ve built a custom work table for my miter saw, you can buy stands or build out less involved setups with just a few 2x4s, a sheet of ¾” plywood, and some 2×4 blocks.
The Importance of Infeed Outfeed Support
Whatever route you choose, the thing that makes a miter saw effective is what’s called infeed and outfeed support—surfaces on the left and right of the saw that support the work, enabling you to cut it accurately.
Having this allows you to see what you’re doing—notably which side of your pencil line the blade is passing through. When I position the work in my miter saw, I look right down the blade plate and line up my pencil mark with the edge of a blade tooth, making sure to keep the thickness of the blade on the waste side of the piece. It might sound simple, but it takes practice.
Choosing the Right Blade for a Miter Saw
Use premium blades for premium work, like Vermont-American’s King Carbide or Ridgid’s titanium-coated sawblades. They’re expensive but worth it, because they cut accurately and cleanly, and you can sharpen them multiple times.
Portable Table Saw
Another “frame-to-finish” tool, a table saw is designed to cut planks down their length, a process called ripping.
While some portable job-site table saws are capable of opening wide enough to cut a 24″-wide piece of sheet stock like MDF or plywood, they’re really not designed for it, and it’s dangerous (not to mention almost universally inaccurate) to try. This is the domain of the circular saw (and shoot-board, if you need accuracy), or full-fledged contractor or cabinet saw with infeed and outfeed support.
Uses For Table Saws
Table saws are the main tool for tuning a board to the right width and sometimes thickness. They’re Hyper-handy on any project using tongue-and-groove material like flooring or pine paneling. Not only can you use a table saw to rip boards to make graceful transitions around corners, but you can remove the bottom or back part of a groove to lay it over the tongue of the previous board as you near the end of a run. You also can use them to cut the parts for a cabinet face frame, or to trim cedar starter-strips or final pieces on siding jobs.
Much like the miter saw, a table saw benefits from outfeed support. I’ve had terrible luck with the various roller stands you can buy in stores. However, a site-made table that’s a little lower than the saw’s deck works great. One of my favorites is a Rockwell Jawhorse with a 2×4 T-clamped in the jaws at the right height.
Choosing the Right Blade for a Table Saw
When cutting material that will show—say, a threshold for a flooring project, parts for a bookcase, or a column wrap—the better the blade, the fewer saw marks that will appear in the cut. Always look for saw marks on an appearance-face cut and sand them out, because they become glaring once painted or stained.
The Freud Fusion blade is one of the best all-around table saw blades I’ve worked with. It leaves a very clean cut and ably handles most materials.
One final note: If you’re super-serious about woodworking or doing a large-scale molding or cabinet package where you’re milling the parts, a job-site-type table saw isn’t enough tool. It will get you by, but the heavier iron of a contractor or cabinet saw will do it better. They’re bigger, more expensive, and not intended to be moved often, but they deliver the power and stability that type of work demands.
Japanese Ryoba Saw Vs Western Benchtop Saw
I’ve already said that the most important type of saw I have is the one I’m using at the moment. However, a saw that continually gets me out of scrapes is my Japanese handsaw.
I don’t use it frequently, and you could make the case that the raft of new oscillating tools could take its place, but I love it for undercutting door jambs to accept new flooring. I can run the tool flat and make the cut easily—about a hundred times better than any jamb saw I’ve ever seen.
The tool cuts on the pull stroke (most Japanese saws do this), and because in most cases the teeth go all the way to the end of the blade (check before buying), I can essentially cut out of a corner.
The Right Saw for the Job
There are more types of saws, of course, and all have critical-need uses: A jab saw for working plasterboard, plaster, or drywall; a coping saw—one of my absolute favorites—for inside corners on various moldings (molding is almost always more accurately installed by coping rather than mitering); even a chainsaw for anything from lot-clearing to firewood. But no matter how big or small your stock of saws, the most important tool in your arsenal is the one you need to get the job done.
The Best Saw for Cutting Wood, According to Thousands of Customer Reviews
Welcome to the Thomas guide to the best saws for cutting wood 2023. Thomas has been connecting North American industrial buyers and suppliers for more than 120 years. When you purchase products through our independent recommendations, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Any carpenter or contractor knows the value of owning one or two quality saws to make precise cuts for woodworking jobs. Using the right saw for the job can be the difference between ruining an expensive quality piece of lumber or completing a beautifully finished project.
JAPANESE SAW vs. WESTERN SAWOne Small Difference Separates Hand SawsBut Which Should You Buy?!
With literally dozens of saws to choose from, all with specific features, it can be difficult to decide the best one for your needs. Before buying a woodcutting saw, it’s essential to know about the different saws on the market and what each of these tools is designed to do.
Different Types of Saws
Most saws for woodcutting are now either battery-powered or electric. Although the technology for battery-operated models has improved dramatically over the past decade, some professionals will argue that the most powerful saws are still electrically powered. With that being said, cordless models are an excellent option for areas that don’t have an electric power source. Below are the most common saws for home or professional use.
Circular saws are the most popular tool types to cut lumber, plywood, or other materials that require a straight line cut. A circular saw features a powerful circular metal blade that is helpful in making accurate cuts. These tools are available either in corded or battery-powered models and you can also get a circular saw with a laser for even more accurate cuts
Miter saws can cut angles between 45–90 degrees to create a finished look on a piece of lumber and are one of the best circular saws where a large cutting width is needed. The tool is adjusted to the proper angle by rotating the table and tipping the head of the tool sideways until the desired angle is reached.
Used chiefly for its lightweight and compact design, a jigsaw can create round or curved cuts. The motor on a jigsaw isn’t very powerful, so it isn’t recommended for use on harder materials like concrete or stone.
Perfect for slicing into narrow corners, this tool can also be referred to as an electric handsaw. The blades can be interchanged to expand their uses and to be able to cut more depth depending on the model.
These power tools are primarily used to cut large limbs from trees. To learn more about chainsaws and best picks, visit our article here.
As the name suggests, reciprocating saws have a reciprocating motion and are ideal for carving walls that circular saws or other types of saws aren’t designed to cut. The metal blade on this tool is narrow with long teeth, and there is an adjustable shoe that helps extend the life of the blade. The shoe can also be modified to create more control when cutting items that may bend. Usually lightweight, some reciprocating saws can be used to slice lumber with one hand and have similar functions as a chain saw.
Nothing works better for straight cuts than a plunge saw. It can make more accurate cuts due to its guide rails, powerful motor, and laser guide. Handypersons can also use this circular saw on various materials, such as plywood, plastic, or metal.
Compound Miter Saw
Unlike other miter tool models, a compound miter saw is used for angled cuts in lumber or other materials. It is the best circular saw to trim Windows quickly or dock a baseboard.
Thomas’ Top Picks for the Best Saws for Cutting Wood in 2023
Below you’ll find a list of the best woodcutting saws (and other material like plywood), including circular saws, that provide an accurate cut, with models that are light in weight, corded and cordless, ideal for professionals or homeowners alike, as well as those on a budget.
Best Budget Woodcutting Saws: GALAX PRO 4Amp, 4.5-Inch Budget Saw | Buy Now
Best Worm Drive Saw for Woodcutting: SKILSAW SPT77W-01 15-Amp 7 1/4-Inch Worm Drive Saw | Buy Now
Best Dual-Bevel Compound Woodworking Miter Saw: Makita Cordless 6.5-Inch Compact, Dual-Bevel Compound Miter Saw | Buy Now
on these top power tools, including a look at their features, is below.
listed in this article were as shown in US on amazon.com (USA) as of April 2022.
Best Cordless Circular Saw—POPOMAN Circular Saw Cordless
Get the job done with this lithium-ion battery-powered circular saw from POPOMAN, which is one of the best-rated circular saws. This power tool is one of the best circular saws to cut various materials due to its multiple blades. Each blade is designed for a specific material like plastic, metal, or tile. It is also lightweight and includes a laser for incredibly accurate and straight cuts and a dust blower that can be connected to a vacuum port.
One satisfied buyer reviewed this circular saw and wrote, “For a battery-powered model, it’s incredibly strong, can create an angle from 0–45 degrees at a depth of 1–11 inches at 90 degrees and 1 ⅛-inch at 45 degrees. Power safety features include a metal blade guard, rubberized grip, and a double protection button,” and another added, “Great circular saw. Lightweight. Easy to use and adjust. Accurate cuts. Best battery life of any of my other tools.”
Power: 4 amp motor
Max Speed: 4,500 RPM
Blade Length: Three blades at 4.5-inches
Best Corded Woodcutting Circular Saw—Makita Circular Saw Corded
This powerful Makita is on of the few corded circular saws on the market with the blade located to the left of the machine, providing a better site range than right blade models. This power tool can not only make precise cuts in a straight line, but it also has impressive safety features like an electric safety brake and a lock button. The heavy-duty motor allows this circular saw to slice a variety of materials with ease. The only downside to this model is that it doesn’t have a laser guide.
“I have used this saw in the trades for everything,” raved one shopper, and continued. “I have always had two of them. One for on the ground and one for on the roof, so that when I’m doing framing, I have a saw for each person. I used Matsushita blades for this saw, and it cuts perfectly with little to no tear-out.” Another customer added, “Great little saw. Plenty of power. Took some getting used to having the blade on the left after a lifetime of right side bladed saws, but better visibility is one reason I bought it.”
Power: 8.0 AMP motor
Max Speed: 8,000 RPM
Blade Length: 5.5 in.
Best Lightweight Woodcutting Circular Saw—WORX Lightweight Circular Saw
One of the best circular saws that can be transported to different job sites, this WORX lightweight circular saw weighs a mere 5.07 pounds. Its left blade design is in the user’s line of sight, making it easier to make straight cuts while its strong motor can get through a range of materials. This tool comes equipped with a laser guide, dust blower, safety button, and the ability to make simple and quick depth modifications.
One customer wrote, “I bought this to use on a few light woodworking projects involving cutting openings in ½ inch plywood, and hard to reach areas of ⅝ inch sheetrock in the ceiling. It does a nice precise cut, and the saw went through the plywood easily. The saw is lightweight to hold, [and] well-balanced. ”
Power: 6 AMP
Max Speed: 4,000 RPM
Blade Length: 4.5-inch
Best Budget Woodcutting Circular Saw—GALAX PRO Budget Circular Saw
Designed for light projects, GALAX PRO’s circular saw is a steal at just under US60. This small circular saw with laser has the same features that are included in much pricier models, including a dust blower, blade guard, safety release, and safety guard. The laser guide with a scale ruler allows users to create more precise cuts, bevel cuts, or even a plunge cut.
“Perfect for small to medium projects at [an] affordable price,” explained one happy reviewer. “Powerful enough to [be] a small one-handed tool. Easy to control,” and another added that the circular saw has safety features that are “easy to understand and use. In fact, this saw is easier to use one-handed. It’s also easy to miter the saw to cut at an angle, or to change the depth of the saw’s cut. This makes the saw pretty versatile for its low price.”
Power: 4 AMP motor
Max Speed: 3,500 RPM
Blade Length: 4.5-inch blade
Best Heavy-Duty Woodcutting Circular Saw—Makita Heavy-Duty Circular Saw
For bigger projects, nothing provides a better performance than this attractive Makita circular saw. Its large cutting capacity and powerful 15 amp motor make it a contender for the best circular saw for creating straight cuts in large pieces of lumber with just one pass. Although it is a bit heavy, it features two grip handles and its balanced weight allows easy control when making significant cuts. This tool can also create an angle up to 50 degrees.
One pleased purchaser explained, ”A bit on the heavy side, but that is to be expected from a saw this size. Best part is you can cut a 4 x 4 in a single pass.” Another added, “The saw is fairly heavy but makes for easier hard cuts. It’s Comfortable and powerful and well worth every penny!”
Power: 15 amp motor
Max Speed: 4,300 RPM
Blade Length: 10 1/4-inch blade
Best Miter Woodcutting Circular Saw—DeWALT Miter Circular Saw
Professionals who need a heavy-duty circular saw to create miters won’t be disappointed with this DeWALT tool; according to thousands of customers, it’s the best circular saw for making miter cuts. The stainless steel plate has 10 positive stops, a detent override, and a cam-lock miter grip to ensure more precise cuts. Other features include the ability to create miters at a depth of 6 ¾ of an inch, and a beveling capacity of 0–48 degrees in both directions.
One reviewer reported, “If you aren’t already aware, this DeWALT 12-in sliding compound miter saw is already one of the most highly rated miter circular saws on the market. It’s perfectly suited for job sites as well as garage shops for the DIYer. It is a hefty piece of equipment that feels solid in all the right places. With a 12-in blade and the ability to slide, this saw is capable of cross-cutting very wide stock.”
Power: 15 AMP
Max Speed: 3,800 RPM
Blade Length: 12-inch
Best Reciprocating Woodcutting Saw—BD Reciprocating Hand Saw
This battery-powered reciprocating saw gets the job done for projects that don’t require a circular saw. It’s easy to use, has a pivoting shoe for greater control, an electric brake for added safety. The blade can also be installed upside down, so the teeth point up for flush cutting. This tool is compatible with any 20V lithium-ion batteries from this popular brand.
One customer clarified, “Finally got my tree branches cut using my new saw, and it was effortless. Then tackled taking pallets apart by just cutting through the nails. Zip Zip, like butter, took no time at all! Absolutely love that you just push a button to change the blade, so quick and easy.”
Power: Lithium-Ion Battery
Max Speed: 3,000 RPM
Blade Length: Comes with a 5-inch blade and accepts blades up to 12-inches
Best Worm Drive Woodcutting Circular Saw—SKILSAW Worm Drive 01 Circular Saw
This 01 circular saw from SKILSAW received consistently high reviews for having the most powerful motor in its class. This model is one pound lighter in weight than the previous SKILSAW (SKIL SHD77) model while still boasting the same features. Its worm drive motor allows this tool to slice through almost any material easily and make bevel cuts. This is the best circular saw for many different projects, big or small, due to its power, cutting depth, almost all-metal body, and dual-field motor.
One shopper raved, “Cut through a 2×4 like it was swiss cheese. Feels smooth and quiet too. And heavy in the hands, so it’s easy to cut nice and square. Just square up the shoe to the workpiece, eyeball, and make the cut.” Another five-star reviewer added, “The Skilsaw model 77 worm drive circular saw sets the bar for all uses. Whether cross-cutting or ripping, this saw plows through material like butter. If you are a carpenter, you know the quality of the 77. Best framing saw in the world!”
Power: 15 amp motor
Max Speed: 5,300 RPM
Blade Length: 7 ¼ inch
Best JigSaw for Woodcutting—BD Saw
For projects that demand round cuts, this jigsaw takes the cake. The adjustable shoe offers greater balance and the ability to make beveled cuts, and the wire guide keeps the line of sight clear. At the same time, the ¾ inch blade renders more accuracy, and four settings provide more variability for curved cuts.
One customer who raved about the price and power of this tool explained, “Any jigsaw will be a little noisy, but this one seems a little quieter. I need [a] cut with a lot of curves, and this bad boy delivers with ease,” while another added, “Really nice jigsaw, very powerful and makes clean, smooth cuts.”
Power: 5 AMP
Max Speed: 3,000 SPM
Blade Length: 3-inch blade
Best Cordless Dual-Bevel Woodworking Circular Saw—Makita Cordless Compound Circular Saw
This Makita tool is the best circular saw for projects that an extension cord just can’t reach. This 18V battery-powered compound miter saw can miter detents at five different degrees, create 0–52 degree miters, and angle 0–46 degrees in both directions. The solid aluminum base stabilizes this machine while cutting, and the electric brake offers added safety. LED light increases visibility, and the Star Protection ensures the tool doesn’t overheat, overload or over-discharge.
“It is a Lamborghini/Ferrari of the miter circular saws,” expressed one happy buyer, and continued. “Small and light yet powerful. The electric brake is a dream! Stops the blade in less than a second, increasing your productivity. Working light and cut-line laser. There’s not much left to ask from a miter saw. Oh, and the blade is a dream too. Leaves the cut surface ready for finishing.”
Power: 18V battery
Max Speed: Automatic speed change
Blade Length: 6.5 inches
Best Woodcutting Saws of 2023—Summary
With all of the available options for woodcutting saws, it can be challenging to decide which model is the best multi-use tool and which features to go for. SKILSAW’s circular saws (US179 (Was US199.99), Amazon) are a top choice for professionals looking for power and variability, and nothing was better rated for creating a miter or beveled cut than the Makita cordless compound miter saw (US544, Amazon).
We hope our review of the best saws for woodcutting, including the best circular saw, has been helpful. For more similar suppliers, including suppliers of saw blades, milling saw blades, table saws, and metal circular saw cutting blades, consult our additional guides or visit the Thomas Supplier Discovery Platform.
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Which Saws Are Best For Ripping Thick Stuff? [Video]
Due to various workshop moves I haven’t always had a bandsaw but whenever I do get the opportunity it’s the first and only machine that I make space for. It’s sole purpose in my workshop is for ripping.
The ability to rip down thick stock can help you make the most of the wood that you have to hand, and this will save you a lot of time at the very initial stage of prepping.
If your ripping needs aren’t enough to justify a machine then there’s still plenty of hand saws to pick from.
Western Rip Saws
An obvious choice is a big old Western rip saw. When it comes to ripping then as a general rule the bigger and rougher the better. They tear through the wood at a good old rate but burn out will come fast. I’d say they’re also the easiest saws to learn how to sharpen with.A shorter finer backless saw will be much more useful throughout your work though than something that’s fully dedicated, and you can even consider this hardpoint option if you want something low cost that’ll just about do the job straight off the shelf.
My Favourite Hard Point Saw
You’ll be able to see how well this Irwin saw cuts in the video (I have no affiliation).It’s only 22″ in length and yet I’ve often grabbed it for making thick rips. The unique thing about this particular hardpoint is that it’s well suited for ripping; it’s the only one I’ve found that is.
Of course if you have the budget for a nice new re-sharpenable saw, or the time to fettle an old one then I’m not discouraging you. Just be mindful of the extra learning curve if sawing and sharpening are new to you.New skills such as saw fettling take time. Bear that in mind if you’re just wanting to crack on.
Japanese Pull Saws
In many ways Japanese saws are the opposite of a big coarse western rip saw.They’re extremely thin in comparison and about half the length.
In general I find Japanese saws to cut extremely fast.However when it comes to through ripping of think material they’re much slower. This is partly because as a western woodworker we’re probably just using a big Ryoba (double edged), as something more specialised may be difficult to source.
But still, the slower inch per minute time can be made up if there’s a lot to cut as I find sawing with these falls into much more of a rhythm and is something I can maintain for a good long while.
Western rip saws can feel a bit like grunt work powering through a cut, whereas Japanese saws are much more about finding that rhythm (think the tortoise and the hare). Sawing with these can almost feel therapeutic.
Something worth noting here though is that these saws respond better if used as intended. Don’t go at it with a westerner’s stance and approach.
Though they tend to be seen a little less than the other two options, frame saws are actually one of my favourite choices. If I had no bandsaw and was frequently finding myself with lots of thick rip cuts to make then I would invest some time into dabbling with these more. I’ve only ever worked with frames that I’ve made myself (which can also make them a very cost effect option) but there are blades with all manner of teeth configurations for you to choose from.This blade is actually a Japanese tooth pattern that works best on the push.
These saws cut very fast. And if you get into the right position they’re easy to find a good rhythm. They are very different from conventional saws so expect a bit of a learning curve while you get used to them.
Repurposing a bandsaw blade is another great route to try with these saws. You’d have full ability to set them up just how you need that way.
I can’t tell you that hefty, thick rip cutting is ever going to be a breeze, but at least there are plenty of options to go at.
If you’d like a more complete overview of the basic hand tools I’d recommend, then have a read of our guide for your getting started tool kit.
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About Richard Maguire
As a professional hand tool woodworker, Richard found hand tools to be the far more efficient solution for a one man workshop. Richard runs ‘The English Woodworker’ as an online resource and video education for those looking for a fuss free approach to building fine furniture by hand. Learn About Richard The English Woodworker.
Комментарии и мнения владельцев
Insightful as usual! I’m currently in the midst of the conundrum of about the “cost” of keeping a western saw sharp vs a hardened japanese saw. When it comes to the frame saw (I don’t have one) I’m wondering if setting the blade to the pull stroke makes a difference? It would seem to bring into play the same body dynamics you mentioned about the japanese saws.
The single most important thing for ripping with a western saw is shown at 8:39 and forward: Bring your off hand across and hold it crosswise on the top of the handle. It’s hard to see until the last few seconds, but my bet is that Richard will agree that it feels like the sawing motion starts from the hips. With the work vertical in the vise and the saw held with the other hand across, a lot of the stress on the torso is removed, the work is shared between both arms, and that “set up a rhythm” thing Richard mentions kicks in with a lot of power coming from the hips and legs. If you haven’t done this before with a classic saw handle, your eyes are going to open in surprise. All those dips and wiggles and doodles on the top of the saw that you always thought were cute decorations end up being the perfect shape for the off-hand. Even that little curly-cue on the handle that looks totally pointless serves a purpose as the cross-hand pinky settles into it. Old Disstons are like this, but some of the “it looks fancy” saw handles seem to have been made after people forgot about this purpose and they don’t fit the hand. For me, I have trouble with the Japanese saws because my arms are long. I need a long saw plate and, for the method just described, I feel like I need to cut on the push. They are wonderful saws, but not for me. One thing…please look at your hand hold on the frame saw at 5:41 where you have your hand on the upright instead of the doinky uncomfortable round handle. Doing exactly that brought me into the emergency department with a tendon injury. I was dumb and was using the wrong blade, so the saw jammed, then let go. When it leg go, the saw drove forward and a drove my knuckles into the work. The doctor wanted to do exploratory surgery and repair for a suspected ruptured tendon, but I tried guitar therapy instead and got lucky. The lesson here is that I think that the handle on a panel saw serves a protective function. When you have your hand in a D-handle, you have some protection. On the Japanese handle, the fist orientation is different and I think the risk is less, but on that frame saw, that vertical part of the frame begs “hold me,” and it isn’t a freebie. That injury was over a decade ago and it still bugs me. So, all that said……I use a Band saw. Sometimes I’ll rip by hand, like when the wrong blade is on the bandsaw and I have a few feet of 4/4 or when I just feel like it, but hats off to the Mighty Bandsaw. Worth every penny.
Good call on the hand guard issue. I think Paul Sellers has a video on making a frame saw with a hand guard. So you are not the only one with this concern.
As a German i can tell you, the round “handle” isn’t to hold the saw. These are only to fix the blade and to switch the blade and they are called “Hoernchen”.You hold the saw at the verticals. When going to rip with a frame saw, the blade goes vertikal up and down, both hands holding the frame and the blade is turned 90° to the frame, paralell to the midle frame peace. This kind of sawing is called ” Fausten”. And please excuse my bad English.
I’ve been working wood for 50 years on and off, hybrid for about 6 years and you are spot-on as usual! I have a bandsaw for re-saving, a planer because hand surfacing is a huge waste of time IMHO, and a mortiser due to carpal tunnel syndrome. Being 68 I have a limited number of years to build furniture so try to optimize my time by using machines when it makes sense and hand tools because I love using them. Merry Christmas!
Wow ALWAYS so many insightful points to learn from your blogs and videos. Thanks Richard. The suggestion to use a disposable hard-point to get on with making projects was an eye opener which got me out of a rut when I saw this a few years ago. The brick bolted made me chuckle- there’s always another way to get the job done
Thanks Richard. Nice to see this covered from different perspectives. In my brief years working with hand tools, I have never enjoyed a heavy rip, resawing is even worse. Pure punishment, but it’s nice to know even the pros don’t enjoy it. In general I track better with a western saw and a straighter, cleaner cut = less cleanup of the face afterwards. For me it’s pay now or pay later! KB
I stopped using panel saws as I got better with frame saws. I like them a lot. They sharpen easily. They can cut very fast. I cut hardwoods almost exclusively. Relaxed rip filed for crosscut and ripping. 6 and 9 tpi depending on operation and wood thickness. I like the long relaxed stroke I can take with them. A short saw for smaller work like cutting tenons. with 9 tpi. A long 3.5 tpi for really big rips. There are two things about frame saws that I don’t hear discussed much. Since the blade is so narrow compared to a panel rip, it’s a LOT less work to use the same tpi with the same rate of cut. The frame saw can be pulled effectively. It mixes up muscle wear if you’re cutting a lot, and it makes a difference for me. Oh, and another thing. Effective horizontal ripping is possible too since you can turn the blade. That is, the board can be in a vise like you were going to joint the edge, the frame is vertical and the blade is horizontal.
I usually rip on my Band saw, but I have had to hand rip oak when making a rail for a stairs. My shop doesn’t really work for long boards longer than around 6 feet. When I want a quick result I’ll rip on my table saw. I nearly always crosscut using a handsaw which was converted from a rip saw. I’ve had a difficult time finding old crosscut saws. I’ve now new hands saw except for a Japanese saw that sees very little use. When ripping with a hand saw, I put the board on a long Douglas Fir 4X6 on saw horses. Then just start cutting. With the coarse toothed saws, it goes quickly enough, but the arms get tired. Use the two-handed trick and a D-8 Disston with the thumb hole. It’s a good deal easier on elbows.
Very good video. I been trying hand tool now for maby a year or so. I love it. But when it does come to ripping, even 3/4 stock its challenging. Especially when I look over to my right and see a 10 inch tablesaw sitting there. The hand tool users that I read about or see on you tube make a whole lot of sense. I can bare the thought of selling all my power tools. So I am looking for balance between the two. plus my time allocated for practice with hand tools is very limited. Thanks again.
100% Richard, many years ago I got a Frame saw with two different blades from Dictum, 600mm size. I’ve used it most to cut firewood, with a Sandviks aggressive bow saw blades fitted, meanwhile Camelia oil has preserved the barely used blades. Access to a bandsaw etc! But a rare bit of madness at Lidl, must be a dozen years ago, got me into the Pull saw. They had an actual Japanese 265mm pull saw, cane handle – hook blade, for peanuts, In the Middle of Lidl !! Wickedly sharp, ripped and cross cut with a super light touch. It Also ripped flesh too easily if mishandled and makes an excellent workshop wasp swatter, long, light and whippy. Real Japanese replacement hook blades fit the handle, the first blade is still ‘sharp’, just it’s lost a few hardpoint teeth spoiling it’s cutting action. The Z-saw company, go view – (z-saw.com) – have a staggering variety of saws. One group is a relatively inexpensive range of interchangeable blades and handles, (sold over here as the Vaughan Bear Saws) with blades from a fine toothed flush dowel blade, thru to your Ryoba and a longer 14″ carpentry crosscut blade. Two handle styles, a pistol grip or a straight ryoba handle all can be mixed and matched – and dismantled to drop in a tool bag. It’s getting the idea into your head, that the sawblade is a razor/scalpel blade not a Disston. It cuts superbly for so many years, the performance drops off, teeth get damaged then swop it out. Like you say the Western saws require fettling too quickly. The frame saw?, it still hangs on the wall it’s got a Z-saw cross cut blade from Dictum.com waiting to be used, I’ve recently retired so no bandsaw access!! I like the idea of the rip saw frame, you could use a pair of Hacksaw tension assemblies to hold and pull on both ends of the blade. The front end of an Eclipse 20T, (the pin hook, square rod, big washer and wing nut). I’ve used this assembly to upgrade cheap picture frame saw parts, vastly improved tension on the blade. Excellent rants, thoughtful commentary, real world experience make the best videos on YouTube.
I would very much love to see you do a Roubo-style frame-saw build! Speaking of the traditional western hand or panel saw… do you ever use an over-hand ripping method with that kind of saw? A while back I picked up one of those hard point saws at the big box store, just to give it a go (I do have other, ‘nicer’ saws but figured I’d try it out). I couldn’t find anything set up for a rip cut; I think I’ve seen some online that have more of a three-facet cut like a Japanese pull saw, but this one – despite saying ‘hybrid’ – definitely cuts way ‘easier’ on the cross cut, and ripping is just a mess. Both cuts are super rough and messy. Guess I’ll keep that one in the camping kit for firewood or something!