What Saw Should You Buy First? Advice From Experienced Woodworker


Getting into the world of woodworking can be quite overwhelming; not only are there so many options for tools and equipment that seem tempting to purchase, but many woodworkers have very different opinions as to what tools they recommend. Hopefully, up until this point you’ve had a chance to use some of the most basic tools available to you such as a hammer or screwdriver – or, maybe you’ve got a chance to use some of the more ‘fancy’ electric powered pieces of woodworking machinery.

Whatever the case, if you are truly interested in woodworking than you will certainly require the use of a saw of some sort; whether that is to be an electric saw, a handheld one, a miter saw, circular saw, table saw… it all depends on your needs and the type of woodworking projects you hope to take on with your saw.

When it comes to beginner woodworkers buying a first saw, the best first option is the ‘basic’ hand saw; this tool can perform the most fundamental of tasks that a saw is required for. Beyond a hand saw, other good options for a first saw are pruning saws, hacksaws, circular saws, miter saws, and jigsaw.

There really are many different options for purchasing a first saw; in our opinion, although many people might recommend a table saw as a good first saw for beginners, this is wrong because they are extremely dangerous and can result in lifelong injuries.

In this article, we will break down the various saws we recommend as a first saw purchase (both handheld and electric), discuss why it’s best to stay away from table saws as a first saw purchase, and explain where you should go to buy your first saw.

What Saw Should You Buy First

Best Saws To Buy For Beginner Woodworkers

There is no one single best saw to buy first for beginner woodworkers – however, these are some good options if you don’t know where to start.

First let’s take a look at handheld saws.

Handheld

Some of the best handheld saws to buy as a first saw include:

Basic Hand Saw

If you have a low budget or you only need to do the most basic of cutting jobs, the classic hand saw is a solid option.

You can get a basic hand saw brand new from big box stores (like Lowes or Home Depot) for less than $20.

It is fully functional and able for most simple woodworking tasks; assuming you are still very much a beginner woodworker, you can’t go wrong with owning a table saw.

Most expert woodworkers still use a basic hand saw from time to time, and for good reason – sometimes it’s all you need.

Pruning Saw

A pruning saw is only recommended if you are using your saw specifically for your home (or rental home); it is a common purchase because of it’s intended use, which is to prune.

So, if you don’t need to cut wood but instead just need to do upkeep on your property then a pruning saw is a good household purchase; otherwise, if you want a hand saw for beginners, buy a basic hand saw or a hacksaw.

Hacksaw

Hacksaws are a great first saw to buy for beginner woodworkers because they are very versatile.

This type of saw can cut wood, plastic, and even some metals – hand saws are a great option if you are not cutting wood specifically.

Now, let’s look at electric saws.

Electric

Hand saws are great if you have a low budget or simply don’t want to make the initial investment for a piece of equipment as large and expensive as an electric saw.

But, if you are serious about woodworking and want to dive headfirst into more advanced projects, any of the following saws can be a great first purchase:

Circular Saw

Circular saws are best for sheets of plywood, especially compared to miter saws.

This type of saw is very versaitile; it can handle a lot of different woodworking cuts. That said, it is much harder to make straight cuts then it is with a miter saw, for example.

A major benefit of circular saws is that they are a bit cheaper than the average electric saw – you can get a solid one for around $150 or so.

Circular saws can be either corded or cordless.

Miter Saw

Miter saws are better for lumber than circular saws.

As the name suggests, miter saws are intended for miter cuts – cuts at an angle.

This type of saw is generally less intimidating than a circular saw… this is because a miter saw remains stationary while a circular saw needs to be moved to make cuts. Also, miter saws make straight cuts easy to accomplish – something that’s important for most beginner woodworkers.

If you want to use your saw for home projects (picture frames, doors, etc.) than a miter saw is a great option for a first saw.

Jigsaw

A jigsaw is certainly a worthy option for a first saw, however it is only recommended if you need to specifically do work that involved ‘curved paths’.

For example, if you need to cut holes for wires or pipes – great, a jigsaw is perfect.

But, as far as electric saws go, circular and miter saws are usually better as a first saw for beginners.

Now let’s discuss why a table saw is not a good first saw.

Why Not To Buy A Table Saw

Table saws are fantastic for the following reasons:

  • versatility
  • performance
  • efficiency
  • relatively inexpensive
  • easy to use

Once you become a more experienced woodworker, table saws are the next step up; they are a worthy investment that will pay off when you really start to take on big woodworking projects that demand a piece of equipment such as the table saw.

All that said, here is why we don’t recommend a table saw as your very first saw:

  • safety (this is the main reason – table saws, more than any other electric saw, cause injury like no other… a lot of these injuries result in lost digits or limbs. So, if you are only buying your very first saw, it’s best to ‘work your way up’ and start with something else).
  • price (although you can get table saws for fairly cheap – in the $150-250 range – you generally want to stay away from the low-end table saws. This power tool is meant to last you years, so when the time is right and you are ready to purchase a table saw, you need to look at it as an investment and spend a big chunk of money to get one that will last you a long time).

Not only are price and safety both factors as to why we don’t recommend a table saw as your first saw, but this as well; a lot of the cutting jobs a table saw does can also be done with a circular saw and a clamped fence.

Now, to be fair, table saws are popular for their accurate cutting jobs – you won’t get away with using substitute saws forever. So, when you have ‘surpassed’ the woodworking experience level where you need a piece of equipment like a table saw, then is the time to make the investment.

No matter what type of saw you plan on getting, you will need to make the decision as to where you want to purchase it from in the first place.

Where To Buy Your First Saw

What many beginner woodworkers don’t realize is that you don’t have to purchase your equipment brand new.

Although it can sometimes be risky, Craigslist (and other online marketplaces) are great places to buy woodworking equipment; now, obviously, there are risks associated with this (such as personal safety and the chance of getting scammed) but you can end up saving the price you’ll pay at hardware stores by more than 50% even.

If you’re on a budget – as many beginner woodworkers are – saved money is worth the hassle of shopping online.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for with an online marketplace like Craigslist, buying from big box stores like Home Depot or Lowes work too – the benefit of buying from those stores is that you are guaranteed a fully-functioning, brand new tool as well as personalized help from staff.

Paul Smith

Hi, I am Paul Smith. I am the man behind this blog. I am a passionate woodworker. I would like to share with you guys the experience of learning woodworking.

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