Power Saw Safety

Power Saws
By the Editors of RenTrain

Fast, light and adaptable, portable power saws have become virtually indispensible for modern-day carpenters.

Circular saws are handy for either ripping or crosscutting large amounts of lumber. They make short work of big jobs, and can also handle miters and cut grooves.

There are many considerations when choosing the right circular saw for the job, but the most important one turns on the kind of gear system it uses.

Circular saws are divided into two basic kinds: Sidewinders and Worm-drive models. (For our purposes, worm-drives include the newer hypoid gear models). Sidewinders have the motor's shaft perpendicular to the plane of the blade; they typically have smaller motors than worm-drive saws, but they run at higher speeds, making it easier to produce fine cuts in light stock. Worm-drive saws, on the other hand, since the motor is mounted parallel to the sawblade, typically have longer, and thus more powerful, motors running at slower rpms. Because of this, and because of the inherent greater structural strength of the gear system, these saws are prefered for heavy-duty or long-term use...and they have a reputation for absorbing a lot of abuse without complaint.

For small jobs such as installing bookcases your best bet is a light, handy sidewinder. For bigger jobs such as building a deck consider a worm-drive circular saw instead.

Saber saws, also known as jigsaws, will perform virtually any task with the proper blade, but cannot handle large jobs as quickly as circular saws. They are unmatched for detail work, such as cutting curves or holes.

A saber saw is a portable jigsaw. It can perform all but the heaviest tasks, and in some cases will do things no other power saw can accomplish, such as easily cutting curves and holes.

In fact, a saber saw will accomplish so many tasks that the most important consideration in choosing one is not choosing the saw itself, but the blade.

Saber saws will cut through wood, tile, or metal, but they need different blades to accomplish both. If you intend to use a saber saw for more than one task, make sure you have a source for the proper kind of blade...and for replacement blades, since the saber saw blades can dull quickly. In some cases, though, using the "wrong" blade can be an advantage...such as when using a fine-toothed metal-cutting blade for hardwood paneling: the numerous tiny teeth minimize the possibility of splintering.

Some saber saws feature an orbital blade feature, which rotates the blade forward on the upstroke for a more aggressive cut. This can be an advantage when attempting to cut smooth curves. Also, since the blade cuts on the upstroke, saber saws tend to obscure the cut line with sawdust; find a model which incorporates a blower feature to keep the line clear and visible.

Reciprocating saws are the pit-bulls of power saws, biting through virtually anything. They are invaluable for demolition and refinishing work.

Miter saws are specialist machines designed to accomplish demanding tasks. Depending upon model, they can crosscut, bevel, cut simple or compound miters or dadoes, and do so with greater precision than even hand tools.