Portable power saws have a lot of use both before you use the larger machine saws, or instead of them if you do not own the big machines. They are very commonly used to cut a board to size before loading it on a table saw, or to get into places to make small cuts on the fly.
The 2 portable power saws of note and great utility are:
- Circular Saw
In a sense, the table saw is the big brother to a circular saw, as the band saw is to the handheld jigsaw. Before we talk about these saws in detail, let’s talk about one option that you will come across in many portable power tools these days, that is, cordless vs. corded.
Corded Saws Vs. Cordless Handheld Saws
Both have their pros and cons and your choice totally depends on your requirements. Here are a few points to help you decide.
Cordless saws are convenient to carry ground. You are not encumbered by cables. For this reason some find them easier to wield, even though they might be a tad bit heavier, because of the battery pack.
However, the difference is not much, as they also have a smaller motor as compared to a corded model.
Which brings up to the next point – that cordless power tools are usually not as powerful as their corded counterparts. This difference is also fading with time as battery technology gets better and we are beginning to get lighter and more powerful batteries.
You have to ensure that your battery-operated tools stay charged. In most cases it’s advised to purchase an extra battery pack so that one can stay charged, while you use another.
A cordless tool is able liable to cost you more. The original cost is more to begin with, and the extra battery packs just add further to the cost.
So if your sawing needs warrant a cordless saw, go for it. You many even want one for the fun of it, even if not right in the beginning, but sometime later when you have cash to spare for tools indulgences!
Corded saws will almost always be more powerful and you will not have to fear running out of power.
Right, lets get started with the first portable saw.
Working With Circular Saw
You will easily and quickly discover many uses for a circular saw, chief among them being cutting up large boards into smaller usable pieces. One hardly expects you to be lifting and running large wood pieces through your table saw.
We mention the table saw here because the circular saw, in spite of all its advantages, it not as precise as a table saw. So you mostly want to be making rough cuts with a circular and finishing the cut on a table saw. If you have to choose one large machine tool for your woodshop, let it be the table saw. The rest can come later. More about the table saw later.
The circular saw, as the name implies has a circular blade and is handheld. It comes with a guard attached to it as well as a guiding rail. It may also have a dust port opening for a dust collector. The depth that this saw can cut depends on the diameter of the blade.
How To Use A Circular Saw
The circular saw is a noisy creature. So wear your earmuffs. Any kind of woodcutting can and does create dust and project wood pieces. Wear your eye protection and a breathing mask.
- Never remove the built in guard. It reduces the changes of injury and accidents a great deal.
- Exert only gentle pressure while cutting at all times. Let the saw do the work.
- If you find the need to exert force, change the blade. It’s most likely blunt.
- Ensure that the bottom of the board or whatever wood you are outlining has enough clearance. You don’t want to cut through the sawhorse or any other support you have kept the board on.
- Don’t forget to clamp. Unless it’s impossible to manage clamp down the wood securely before attempting to run the circular saw through it. This will leave both your hands free to handle the saw.
- Use the circular saw to make rough cuts. Even if you use a guide, you will get much more accurate cuts from a table saw and even a handsaw.
Things To Remember When Buying A Circular Saw
- Ensure that your model comes with a sturdy built in guard.
- Choose a saw that can be fitted with a guiding rail. This will help you make straighter cuts.
- A dust port that you can attach a dust collector or a vacuum cleaver to may be an optional feature on some models. But try to always buy power tools that have a dust management system.
- The size of the blade (the diameter) determines the depth a circular saw can cut. Its usually about half the diameter of the blade. So always check in the specifications.
- Different models vary in power. Get the most powerful one you can afford. And the most comfortable to hold.
- Get carbide tipped blades. They cut faster, easier, last longer and save you money in the long run over cheaper steel blades.
- A circular saw should be able to cut at angles 90° – 45° to the wood surface. Make sure the saw you buy has this feature and the tilting mechanism is smooth and sturdy.
Working With Jigsaws
Jigsaws are a very useful tool to have around. They are used to cut in curvatures, although they can also saw in a straight line just as easily. Jigsaws are popular for another reason. You get an immense variety of blades for a jigsaw to cut all conceivable materials like ceramic, plastic and metal.
You also get many kinds of blades for cutting wood itself. They are designed to get different results, like cut faster or finer, with or against the wood grain et al.
Things To Remember When Buying A Jigsaw
- Jigsaws come in 2 major variations: with OR without a ‘scrolling knob.’ A scrolling knob is located on the top of the saw and turning it turns the direction of the blade, enabling you to cut a curve without turning the entire saw. When operating a jigsaw without the scrolling knob you have to turn the entire saw by hand. One is not necessarily better than the other and which one you buy depends totally on which one you prefer to use.
- Look out for a dust port that can be attached to a dust collector or a vacuum cleaner.
- Variable speed feature. You need this if you expect to be cutting other materials other than wood. For example, plastic needs to be sawed at a slower blade speed in order to generate less heat and prevent melting of the material.
- Buy many blades at one time as they are cheap and it will cut down on your tripe to the store.
Using A Jigsaw
Keep the following things in mind when using a jigsaw. Many points are common to using a circular saw and other kinds of power saws as well.
- Do not exert a lot of pressure to move the saw while cutting. Let the saw do the work.
- If effort is required to move the saw, put on a new sharper blade.
- The blades for a jigsaw are reasonably priced. Buy the best ones. They will remain sharper for long. Buy several of them in one go so that you do not run short in the near future.
- If you are using a ‘scrolling knob,’ you have to exert pressure behind the direction of the blade. This means you will need to press along the side of the saw handle.
- Jigsaws cut on the upward stroke and therefore tend to tear out the surface on top. Keep the board facedown while cutting.
Jigsaws can be a substitute for a band saw, if you are still waiting to get one, for cutting curves. Band saws is a very useful large machine tool for making fine and cleaner cuts. You can manage fine cuts with a jigsaw if you use a blade designed for it.