5 Saws You Should Have in Your Workshop

A Ryoba saw balanced halfway into a piece of plywood.
Josh Hendrickson

Adulthood means you get to tackle all sorts of new tasks, including breaking down materials for projects or cleanup. If you use the right saw, you can work faster. With these saws in your workshop, no project will slow you down.

Most of us know how a saw works—you move the blade back and forth across the material, and either the pull or push stroke slices through it. Different types of saws look similar, so you might assume a hacksaw, a bow saw, and a coping saw can all accomplish the same task equally well.

But that couldn’t be further from the truth. The nature of a blade often makes a huge difference in the type of material it can cut through, and when you should use it.

If you try to cut a metal pipe or tree limb with a standard crosscut handsaw, you’ll either wreck the blade or saw until your arm’s about to fall off—probably both.

If you own the right saw for the job, it has a massive impact on your workflow. With that in mind, here are five saws everyone should own.

The Workhorses: Crosscut and Ripsaws

An Irwin Course cut saw next to a Suizan Ryoba saw.

When you think of a handsaw, you probably imagine a western crosscut saw. These come in two styles: crosscut and rip cut. The difference is the direction in which you want to saw the board.

Usually, when you buy a board from a box store, the wood is longer than it is wide. You cross cut to shorten the board and rip cut to narrow it.

A board with the words "Rip cut" on the horizontal and "Cross Cut" on the vertical.
Josh Hendrickson

Imagine a board composed of stacked toothpicks. A crosscut will cut the toothpicks in half, while a rip cut will separate them into two bundles of whole toothpicks. Crosscut teeth slice through the wood grain, and rip cut teeth separate it as it cuts. Technically, you can use either blade for either job, but you won’t get clean results, and it will take more effort.

Because you can generally buy a board as wide as you need, you can probably get away with owning just a crosscut saw. It’s handy if you have both, though—especially if you want to reuse leftover wood from previous projects. We’ve got a few recommendations to get you started.

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