5 Types of Saw for Cutting Shapes Out of Wood

At first glance, there are so many different saws that their purposes may seem unclear. However, if you are interested in cutting shapes out of wood, there are certain types of saws that you will need to use. What follows are the best motorized saws and hand saws used for carving out the shapes you want in your woodworking projects.

Best Saw for Cutting Shapes

Saw for Cutting Shapes
The truth is that you can use a wide range of saws to cut different shapes. Even the basic table and circular saw can be used to create certain shapes in wood. However, the following three saws are generally considered the best in terms of their shaping abilities. This makes them a must-have for your woodworking area if you need to cut complex profiles.

1. Scroll Saw

The scroll saw is arguably the best motorized or electric saw used to cut a wide variety of shapes out of wood. The design itself allows for precision cutting with maximum control. The scroll saw consists of a table where you place the wood, a thin, reciprocating blade, and a long arm that holds the blade while allowing larger pieces of wood to be cut.

Cutting shapes in wood using scroll saw

The advantages of a scroll saw start with its ability to move the workpiece freely on the table that allows for precision shapes to be created when pushing the wood into the blade. Furthermore, for cuts to be made inside the wood, the blade can be removed and replaced so that it sits inside the circumference of the hole. The long arm allows for larger pieces of wood to be cut.

The scroll saw is not very portable, although it is small enough to be carted and set up in different locations. And it cannot carve shapes into wood that is too large to pass under or inside the arm. But these are small disadvantages to an otherwise superb machine. You can find more about scroll saw and its uses here.

2. Jig Saw

This is the portable, handheld power tool that works on similar principle of a scroll saw. An electric jigsaw is a small device that uses a reciprocating blade. Instead of feeding the wood into the blade, you push the jigsaw into the wood itself. Jigsaws are quite popular thanks to their low price, small size, and precision cuts that it can perform.

Cutting curve on plywood with jigsaw

Unlike a scroll saw, only one end of the jig saw blade is mounted on the tool and other end is free. You can find a detailed comparison between these tools on our Jigsaw vs scroll saw article.

Because the blade is free on one end and you are pushing the jigsaw into the wood, it will not be quite as precise as a scroll saw. But this is the only significant downside. Otherwise, the jigsaw is the perfect portable electric saw to take to any job site. Removing and replacing the blade is simple and it is reasonably priced to fit most budgets.

3. Vertical Band Saw

The band saw is a large device that consists of a long, thin blade that moves continuously over two or more wheels. On top of the bottom wheel is a table where the wood can be placed for cutting. It may not be quite as well suited for cutting accurate shapes into wood such as the scroll saw, but it can do the job fairly well.
Band Saw
The one downside is that the bandsaw is not a portable device. In fact, it is a fairly large shop floor tool even compared to a scroll saw.

The blade circulates at a much slower speed. And there is a danger if the blade should come apart while spinning on the wheels, but with proper safety precautions it should not be an issue. Changing out the blades is time-consuming, but for many it is worth it given the versatility and precision of the band saw.

The advantage of band saw lies in its ability to cut much larger and thicker workpiece. While cutting internal shape is possible, you will need a band saw blade welder to do it. With the help of a fence and wide blade you can also get accurate straight cuts. This why a vertical band saw is used for resawing wood.

Hand Saw for Cutting Shapes

If you do not have an electric saw to cut the shapes that you want, there are hand saws that can do the job as well. While it does take more time, and in some circumstances may not be as precise as the electric versions, the following hand saws can do the job.

4. Coping Saw

The coping saw resembles a hacksaw in its general shape. A long, thin blade with a wooden handle that uses a square, C-shaped metal frame for support. It was invented some time in the 16th century thanks to new innovations in metal technology. The frame allows the blade to be easily attached and detached when needed.

Coping Saw cutting molding

Coping saws are mostly used to cut moldings and to made coped instead of miter joints. It is a good, all-around saw for creating shapes, but it is not as precise in some circumstances compared to the fret saw. Because the teeth are pointed towards the handle, it is the pull stroke that makes the cut in the wood. This provides a level of precision that is superior compared to a push stroke.

In addition to wood, the coping saw can be used to cut metal with the right type of blade. It is often used to cut aluminum tubing, although the hacksaw is generally superior when it comes to cutting metal.

5. Fret Saw

At first glance, the fret saw seems quite similar to the coping saw. It has the same, basic construction of a thin blade that is supported by a metal frame with a wooden handle at one end. However, the blade itself is much shorter, usually around five inches and the metal frame is smaller and stretches out more compared to the C-shape of the coping saw.

Fret Saw

The blade attaches to the frame using a pair of wingnuts. The clearance of the frame allows for deep shapes to be cut, such as a V-shape groove for example. Because the wingnuts are easy to adjust, additional torque can be applied to the saw for deeper cutting or carving shapes into harder woods.

The fret saw is designed for more intricate cutting. It can cut shapes at a tighter radius compared to a coping saw. In some ways, the fret saw is the handheld version of the scroll saw. The downsides being that the blade is quite small and delicate. It is not made for general cutting but has the specialized job of creating tight shapes into the wood.

There are other saws that can be used to cut intricate and curved shapes, but the five mentioned here are the best suited for the job. The coping and fret saws are perfect for small, delicate work that the electric saws may not be best suited to perform. While the electric saws are well-suited for more general work that must be repeated over the course of the day.