Are you preparing for home renovations in 2012? A good handyman can cost upwards of $50 per hour, and more often than not, what you're paying him (or her) for isn't so much knowledge or how-to (most of what you need to know about basic home repair is on YouTube), it's the tools with which to do the job. There's an affordable power saw for just about every conceivable use, from cutting delicate stencils into wood to demolishing an old barn, log by log. Below we've got four types of power saws that will come in handy for home renovations and repairs.
Perhaps the most useful saw of all is the circular saw: as hand-held saw featuring a rotating blade, this is the perfect choice for cutting lumber with or across the grain, or on the bevel, as well as sawing through masonry and ceramic tile, when exact precision isn't necessary. Circular saws are available in both cordless (battery-operated) and corded styles, though their blade sizes range from 5-3/8" to 6-1/2" in diameter (cordless) and 7-1/4" in diameter for corded models. Corded models' power is measured in amps, and cordless saws' power in volts power: look for a saw with 13 to 15 amps or 18 volts or more for home use.
Other features you might look for when shopping for a circular saw are an electric brake to stop the blade quickly and a shaft lock to change blades easily. Manufacturers also make left-handed saws, that are more comfortable and safer for people who are left-handed.
When buying a cordless saws, look for a lithium-ion battery, which will hold a charge much longer than other batteries. Be aware that some merchants may sell saws without a battery at a much lower price. A good lithium-ion battery can set you back $75 to $100 or more, so you're better off purchasing a saw that comes bundled with a battery. A good example of a versatile cordless circular saw for home use is the above-pictured Dewalt DC390K 6-1/2" 18-volt Cordless Circular Saw Kit ($174 via "DEWALT25" with free shipping, a low by $15 ). A good quality corded model is pictured-left, the Skil 7 1/4" 15-amp Circular Saw ($79 with free shipping, a low by $8).
Jig or Saber Saw
Where as the circular saw is the muscle of your tool collection, the jig saw is a sculpting saw able to handle delicate cuts. Jig saws are much lighter and use a thin up-and-down reciprocating blade, perfect for cutting curves in wood, following stenciled designs, and cutting intricate holes in drywall. These kinds of saws can also be used, with the proper blade, on metals, plastic, and ceramics. Features to look for on a jig saw include variable speeds, an orbital blade motion, a laser line, dust blowers, and lights to illuminate your cut.
Again, this kind of saw comes as either a battery-powered or corded model. The corded saws are lighter, which is an advantage when cutting with them for an extended period of time. They're also less expensive than the corded models: the above-pictured Black & Decker JS515 4.5-amp Variable Speed Jig Saw ($19.98 with $5.99 s&h, a low by $4) is a good example of a cordless jig saw.
This saw has a wide push-and-pull reciprocating blade in a heavy-duty housing the size and heft of a small fire log, and is the perfect tool for demolition. The Dewalt DW304PK 10-amp Reciprocating Saw ($79.86 with free shipping, a low by $8) can be used to cut through wood, drywall, nails, other metals, pipes, aluminum siding, plastic, and just about any other material you can think of. If you're going to do any significant tear-down, you need this saw.
Although it comes both corded and cordless, the average homeowner won't want to spend the $150 for a cordless one when you can buy a good, much lighter, corded model for much less. Look for a reciprocal saw with orbital action, variable speeds, and tool-free blade changes. Buy extra blades, too; with heavy use, these blades don't stay sharp for long.
The miter saw, also called the chop saw, works like a guillotine with a rotating circular blade. The user brings the rotating blade down onto a piece of wood mounted on the bed, resulting in a clean, accurate cut. A good miter saw can be adjusted on two planes, allowing you to make the compound cuts necessary for wall trim that meets on inside corners.
Miter saws vary in size as expressed by the diameter of the saw blade, from 8" to 12"; the larger the blade, the wider the board the saw can cut. The smaller end of the range is fine for home shops. When shopping for a miter saw, consider teh A good deal on a compound miter saw is the Hitachi C10FCH2 10-inch Compound Miter Saw ($149 with free shipping, a low by $10) and features that include: a laser guide, a dust collector (they really produce dust), a good blade guard, and a rotating vertical pivot head that will allow you to make those compound cuts.
The table saw is much like a circular saw turned upside down and permanently mounting in a housing. When it comes to making long cuts — like ripping an 8-foot 2x10" board in half lengthwise, it is the perfect tool. A table saw, like the Rockwell RK7240.1 13 Amp 10-Inch Table Saw with Stand ($129.99 with free shipping, a low by $40) is also a more accurate alternative to the circular saw for cutting across the grain and doing miter and bevel cuts: it makes precise cuts because as you feed the wood to the blade, the cut is perfectly visible, and a side rail guides and holds your material in place.
A general rule of thumb for wood shop table saws: the bigger table the better. The overall weight of a table saw can vary and if you're interested in a more portable table saw, look for a collapsible platform. If the saw will be stationary in your shop, go for a heavier model.
Matching the right power saw to the task at hand can lead to easier, more accurate work, and accuracy is what it's all about, right? As Dale Carnegie once said, "Don't try to saw sawdust." Make the right cut the first time, every time, with the proper power saw.
Front photo credit: Build.com