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Part 1: Power Tools: The Right Saw for the Right Application
By Thomas A. Westerkamp
February 2010 -
Equipment Rental & Tools Article Use Policy
Saws are among the most versatile and popular power tools in the arsenal of front-line maintenance workers. From reciprocating and circular saws to miter and concrete saws, not to mention corded and cordless options, maintenance managers have a host of choices in specifying the most appropriate saw for the tasks facing technicians.
By understanding the materials technicians work with and the advances in the design of today's saws, managers can specify the tool that best meets their needs.
Traditional wood-cutting saws include handsaws, powered circular saws, table saws, band saws, jigsaws, scroll saws, reciprocating saws, miter saws, and radial saws. For technicians working with metal, masonry or plastic materials, the choices include abrasive cutoff, hack-, band-, chain-, and reciprocating saws, both table-mounted and portable.
Band saws, jigsaws, scroll saws and reciprocating saws are the choices for circular or irregularly curved cuts.
Technicians primarily use reciprocating saws for making rough cuts and performing demolition work. They can make straight or curved cuts in ferrous and non-ferrous metal, plastics, wallboard, and wood.
Scroll saws can deliver smoother, more intricate cuts than jigsaws and are ideal for use on wood, plastic, and even softer metals. Standard jigsaws move only in one stroke direction, with a return spring in the other direction, causing some blade distortion, rough cuts, and even broken blades.
Scroll saws have parallel bars that hold onto the blade and move up and down with it, keeping it straight and in tension. A slight reciprocating motion of the scroll-saw blade produces a smooth cut that usually does not require sanding.
Circular saws and reciprocating saws can make plunge cuts for electrical-box openings in drywall and paneling, as well as floor and wall openings for pipes or conduit.
In addition to making straight cuts like radial, table and portable circular saws, a compound miter saw can adjust quickly for single- or compound-bevel cuts, as well as miter angle cuts in one set-up. It is faster and more accurate than either a handsaw or a miter box.
Concrete saws feature a diamond-tipped circular blade or chain and can incorporate electric, pneumatic, gas, or hydraulic power.
Fast-cutting, abrasive cutoff saws enable high-efficiency cutting of ferrous, non-ferrous and plastic tubes, pipes, bars, rebar, flats, conduit, and wire. They are either table-mounted in the shop or portable in the field and use a high-speed, abrasive cutoff wheel that resembles a thin, abrasive grinding wheel. Special bonding of the abrasive material enables workers to cut hard materials quickly without fracturing the blade.
Power Tools: Finding the Right Saw
Part 2: Technology Talk: Jigsaws, Miter Saws, Circular Saws