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Saws and Their Uses Page 1

Updated on March 21, 2013

Glossary of Terms

Heel: The end which is closest to the handle.
Toe: The end that is farthest from the handle.
Front: The bottom edge of the saw
Back: The top edge of the saw
Teeth:Sharp protrusions along the front of the saw used for cutting
Gullet: The valley which sits between the points of the teeth.
Rake: the angle of the front face of the tooth.

Points per inch (25 mm): The measure of the amount of points on teeth in a 1 inch(25mm) length.

Kerf The correct definition of the kerf is dependent on several factors: the width of the saw blade; the set of the blade's teeth; the amount of wobble created during cutting; and the amount of material pulled out of the sides of the cut. It is commonly referred to the width of the cut made by a blade.

Set: The degree to which the teeth are bent out sideways away from the blade in both directions To allow the saw blade to move through a cut easily without binding in most modern saws that are serrated, the teeth are set, so that the kerf (the width of the cut) will be wider than the blade itself.

Hand Saws

Large hand saws most typically have a reasonably thick blade which makes them less flexible when used to rip and cut through material. They are generally used for cutting timber into smaller pieces or lengths. However, saws that have a thin blade are too flexible and require more stiffness This is achieved using several methods e.g. by holding them in tension in a frame, or by backing them with steel or brass. These types of saws are generally used in Joinery of Cabinet making and are known as backsaws. Some examples are:

Japanese Saw

The Japanese saw is a saw used in woodworking and Japanese carpentry that cuts on the pull stroke, It has a thin blade for making fine cuts and is used for cutting small stock. Although originating in Japan, it has gained more popularity outside of Japan in recent times. there are several different types that include;

A Ryoba Saw. It has teeth both sides. One side for cross-cutting, the other for making a rip cut.
A Ryoba Saw. It has teeth both sides. One side for cross-cutting, the other for making a rip cut.


The Ryōba is a multi-purpose carpentry saw that has two cutting edges. The name Ryōba loosely translated in English means "double blade". There is a cross-cutting (yokobiki) blade on one side and a ripping (tatebiki) blade on the other. It can be used for cutting with or against the grain.

An Azebiki Saw
An Azebiki Saw


A small ryōba saw that is used for cutting into the flat surface of a board rather than from the edge. The blade has a convex curve which can begin the cut anywhere on the surface.

Mawashibiki Saw
Mawashibiki Saw


The Japanese version of a keyhole saw that has thin blade used for cutting curves. The name translated into English means "turning cut".


This saw has a dispodable blade. The name translated to English means "changing blade".

Tenon Saw
Tenon Saw

Tenon Saw

The Tenon saw is a mid sized back saw with relatively fine teeth that is used to cut tenons in mortise and tenon joinery. It is also used in a mitre box for cutting a 45 degree angle across stock. Tenon saws are available with rip-filed teeth for rip cutting and cross-cut for cutting across the grain.

Dovetail Saw
Dovetail Saw


Dovetail saw has a thin blade and is either brass or plastic backed. It leaves a fine kerf which is ideal for cutting dovetails.

Veneer Saw. Used for cutting hardwood veneer.
Veneer Saw. Used for cutting hardwood veneer.

Veneer saw

The veneer saw is a small double-edged tool for cutting thin hard wood veneer. It has a narrow curved blade which facilitates precision work. It also has an elevated and offset handle.This makes it possible to cut flush to a surface.

The variety of teeth shapes on a cross-cut saw
The variety of teeth shapes on a cross-cut saw | Source

Other Types of Saws

Crosscut saw

A cross-cut saw is a saw with a blade that is used to cut wood across the grain of timber. They can either be small or large. Crosscut saws with small teeth that are close together are generally used in woodworking. Cross-cut saws with large teeth are used for course work for example with log bucking or falling trees and can be powered by both hand or electricity.

The cross-cut saw differs from a rip saw in that it is designed to slice through timber whereas a rip saw is designed to tear along the grain. Some cross-cut saws use special teeth called "rakers" designed to clean out the cut strips of wood from the kerf. Cross-cut saws generally have smaller teeth than rip saws.

Crosscut saws are designed to cut on the push stroke, however there are saws such as Japanese saws that are designed to cut only on the pull stroke. One other feature of a cross-cut saw is the wooden handle with the return edge at right angles to the back of the saw blade. This allows the saw to be utilized as a square for marking materials to be cut at right angles.

How A Crosscut Saw is Made

I thought this would be interesting. Enjoy!

A Rip Saw. A rip saw is used to make a cut parallel to9 the grain in timber.
A Rip Saw. A rip saw is used to make a cut parallel to9 the grain in timber.

Rip Saw

In woodworking, a cut made along the grain in the work piece is known as a rip cut.

A rip saw is a saw that is specially designed for making rip cuts. The cutting edge of each tooth has a flat front edge and is neither angled forward or backward. This allows each tooth to act like a chisel as opposed to being knife-like, as with a crosscut. This also prevents the saw from following grain lines, which could curve the path of the saw.

Like cross-cut saws and indeed most saws made outside of Japan, the teeth are designed to cut on the push stroke. As previously stated, Japanese saws are designed to cut on the pull stroke. Another example of a saw designed to cut on the pull stroke is the flush-cut saw. Rip saws typically have 4-10 teeth per inch, making them relatively coarse.

Fret Saw. Handy for cutting shapes away from the edge of stock.
Fret Saw. Handy for cutting shapes away from the edge of stock.

Fret Saw

The fret saw is a saw used for detailed cutting work for example, in Intarsia. It has a very distinctive appearance and seems somewhat out of proportion to other saws because of the depth of its frame coupled together with the short five inch blade.

The fret saw has much shallower blades which allows tighter curves to be cut. However the blades are more fragile than in similar types of saws and this makes them more susceptible to breaking.

The fretsaw is similar in many ways to the scroll saw, which is essentially a powered fretsaw with a table. Blades between the two tools are usually interchangeable. Scroll saws are often known informally as "fret saws".

Coping Saw. A close relative to the fret saw.
Coping Saw. A close relative to the fret saw.

Coping Saw

A coping saw is a sort of hand saw used to reduce complex external shapes and inside cut-outs in woodworking or carpentry. It is extensively utilized to cut moldings to develop coped rather than mitred joints. It is occasionally made use of to develop decoration though it is not able to match a fretsaw in the ins and out of a cut, especially in thin materials.

A coping saw with the correct blade attached can also be used to cut through tubular aluminium and various other little steel objects. Although typically used to make cuts in thin material such as ply, the coping saw can also make cuts in thicker stock with a lot of practice.

A plywood saw. Also know as a drywall,pad or jab saw. Used for cutting holes in stock without drilling first.
A plywood saw. Also know as a drywall,pad or jab saw. Used for cutting holes in stock without drilling first.

Plywood Saw

A ply board saw is a saw that has a fine-toothed cutter that lessens tearing of the external plies of a piece of plywood. An extra collection of teeth on the curved upper side of the cutter permits starting of a cut on the inside of a panel without needing to pierce a starting opening. The typical plywood saw blade is around 11 inches long and has 14 tpi (teeth per inch) making it a fine toothed saw..

For more information on Saws and Their Uses please see page 2.


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