best saw for cutting shapes out of wood

The Best Saw For Wood Crafts (All 5 Types Explained)

Different tools are used to create details in wood, but the saw is the most common. Now, with so many options, including CNC, you’ll likely feel overwhelmed if you’re looking for the best saw for cutting shapes out of wood.

Don’t worry; luckily, you’ve landed at the right place. So, without further ado, let’s explore what is the best saw for wood crafts.

The best saw for cutting shapes out of wood is the scroll saw. A scroll saw can cut intricate shapes, get inside small corners, and has a blade that can easily be taken off and threaded into tight areas to begin cutting. Jigsaws and band saws are also good for cutting out wooden shapes and patterns if what you are cutting is not as detailed.

Tools:Quick Overview:
Coping SawHand saw with narrow blade for fine external cuts
Fret SawHand saw that can handle tight curves and angles
JigsawHand saw with a narrow blade for fine external cuts
Band SawMotorized saw with continuous loop blade good for curves
Scroll SawMotorized saw similar to fret saw but more powerful
CNCPopular motorized saws good for curves and shapes

Now that you know about these types of saws and tools used for cutting shapes out of wood, let’s explore them in more detail below.

We will look at each saw individually and discuss how, why, and when it is used.

For those looking for a saw with power and one that can make quick work of shapes like the example picture below (without costing a lot), we recommend the WEN 16 inch variable speed listed here on Amazon. You can’t go wrong with this scroll saw, which we discuss in more detail in this article.

best saw for cutting shapes in wood

Best Manual Saws for Cutting Wood Shapes

There are five types of saws that work great for cutting shapes out of wood. These include the following:

Coping Saw

A coping saw is a type of hand saw with a narrow blade stretched across a U-shaped frame.

It is used mainly for small DIY projects that require fine external cuts on wood. Tradesmen such as carpenters often use coping saws for molding cuts.

This saw is suitable for those who prefer not to use motorized tools. The blade can be removed and threaded through a hole in the wood, which allows for intricate cuts in the center of the wood while trying to avoid cutting through the outer edges.

coping saw for cutting shapes

If you want an inexpensive coping saw that works well, check out the Irwin 6.50-inch pro. It is pretty affordable and will definitely get you started on your smaller projects.

By the way, if you like handsaws, then you might also want to check out this guide on the 7 best handsaws for plywood.

Fret Saw

A fret saw is another hand-held type that can handle tighter curves and better angles than a coping saw.

It is great for small, delicate projects that require tiny, intricate detailing. Because of its longer frame, it is better than the coping saw at cutting further away from the edge of the wood.

This saw can also be used to cut through plastic and metals. It has a cylindrical handle that can be turned freely in the hand, allowing you greater control over the cuts you make. Also, excellent for cutting dovetails.

When it comes to fretting saws, we like the Knew Concepts – a bit expensive but top-quality Fret Saw. Check it here on Amazon: Knew Concepts 5″ Woodworker’s Fret Saw.

Best Powered Saws For Cutting Wood Shapes

jigsaw for cutting shapes out of wood


A jigsaw is one of the most popular saws used for woodwork crafts. Its cost of entry is much more affordable than the other two saws I have listed below. The Jigsaw that I personally recommend is the Black & Decker Smart Select Jigsaw.

It can cut curves and patterns along a drawn-out line quickly and efficiently. The one downside, however, is that this saw’s blades can bend with pressure, often causing a cut to be angled instead of squared.

To avoid this, you must never force the blade through a cut but rather keep it very sharp and let the blade itself do the work!

Proper Jigsaw Usage Technique

I can tell you from experience and frustration that you need to let the powered hand tool do the work. Yes, you must apply force to guide the jigsaw; however, that’s where you should stop. It doesn’t take much to snap a blade or mess up the wood.

Another benefit of not pressing too hard when using a jigsaw is your wrist won’t get sore as easily. You will be able to cut shapes for hours when you let the saw do the work.

Beveled edges are easy with a jigsaw, but cutting angles and curves cleanly and concisely usually takes time and practice.

Practice, practice, and practice some more! As easy as it seems to use a jigsaw, you won’t be a pro right off the bat. So don’t expect that. Once you master this saw, you will have a ton of things you can do.

  • Tip: You can use a jigsaw similar to a scroll saw if you have a fine enough blade. As with a scroll saw, you use a drill to make a hole in the wood where you want to cut your design using a jigsaw. You just might not be able to cut as intricate work as a scroll saw. On larger cuts, a jigsaw will do just fine.
wen 10 inch band saw

Band Saw

A band saw operates on a loop with a continuous blade that is powered by wheels and a motor. It can be used to cut different types of materials, including wood, plastic, and metal. Because the blade runs on a loop, it prevents ‘threading’, which is needed for internal cuts.

  • One thing to be aware of if you are purchasing a band saw is the distance between the blade and the body of the saw matters. The average homeowner hobbyist will purchase a 9” or 10” size band saw. This works great for smaller to medium-sized projects. Let me explain further.
  • When cutting shapes on a band saw, you are turning and maneuvering the wood while you cut. If the wood is quite large, it will hit up against the body of the saw, stopping you from cutting everywhere you want. If you have a larger saw (let’s say a 17”), then you probably won’t have this problem. Unfortunately, the price jumps quite a bit for these larger floor model band saws. I have a tip, however, especially if you are cutting plywood or a similar type of wood.
  • Tip: if you are cutting plywood and find the wood is too large for your saw, here’s what you should do. Use a template and draw it on both sides of the wood. This allows you to flip the wood over, and so far, I have had 100% success with this trick. I am able to make all of the cuts I want on a 7” tabletop band saw.

Band saws are good for cutting curves into the wood, especially when using a mounted thinner blade. However, most jobs that a band saw can do, a scroll saw can do even better!

wen scroll saw for cutting shapes

Scroll Saw

A scroll saw is similar to a fret saw except that it is motorized. This saw uses a narrow blade to cut intricate details, such as curves and patterns, into wood.

The blade can be removed and then changed through a pre-drilled hole, which is especially good for internal cuts. The Scroll Saw that I’m recommending is the WEN 3921 16-inch Two-Direction Scroll Saw.

This saw is one of the best on the market for doing fine cuts in wood. It can carve dovetail joints with ease, and when the fine blade is used, this saw is practically unbeatable!

Among the most reliable and affordable brands on the market include Dewalt listed here on Amazon, at a very modest price. Even if you have more money than this cost to spend on a saw, I would say start with one of these until you get the hang of using one.

  • Something to consider when purchasing: as with a band saw, the distance between the blade and the arm of the machine makes a difference in how large of a piece of wood you will be able to cut.
  • You will find most scroll saws come anywhere between a 16” to 20” throw or distance between the blade and the body. Buy the larger one if you can afford it.
  • To make your life even easier, consider a stand made for scroll saws. You could easily make one, and if you do, do yourself a favor and build it so that the saw tips towards you slightly. This will allow you to sit while you use the scroll saw. Believe me, once you get into this hobby, you will want to sit when you start with patterns that have hundreds of tiny cuts to make.


A CNC router or computer numerical machine is a highly precise tool that is computer-controlled and makes repeated movements that are extremely accurate. The X-Carve is a type of ‘Inventable’ that uses software to create 3D carvings and designs in wood.

There are different versions available for purchase online through, such as the Genmitsu CNC 3018-Pro Router. If you are new to the CNC game, you may want to start out with a smaller version to get your feet wet.

If you enjoy working with wood and the feeling of satisfaction you get from it, you should really think about this before purchasing a CNC router.

Yes, these machines are very cool and can do so much. You won’t be cutting it yourself, however. The machine does it instead. You program the design, set the wood in place, and run the machine. If that works for you, then great, this is the machine to buy!

If you feel you want to experience cutting the wood yourself, then consider that before buying. I am not trying to discourage you from getting a CNC, as I feel they are a great machine to own as long as you know what to expect when running one.

How Do You Cut Curves in Wood? [Which Saw?]

The best saw for cutting curves in wood is either a band saw, or a scroll saw. A jigsaw can be used as well, but if the curve is gradual, it will not cut as smoothly.

Although I wouldn’t recommend a beginner try this, a circular saw can also be used to cut curves in wood if necessary. It is a hand-held type that is sometimes referred to as a ‘skill-saw.’

To cut curves in wood, having a template or pattern to follow transcribed onto the wood is the best and the easiest way to get the job done. Good lighting and safety glasses are also important.

Check out this guide if you’re new to woodworking. It will guide you with all the essential know-how to get started.

How Do You Cut Curves With a Jigsaw?

If a jigsaw is the only tool you have, you can still use it to cut curves in wood. To begin, simply follow these steps:

  • Begin with a piece of wood that is up to ¾ inches thick for hardwood or one and ½ inches thick for softwood.
  • Press the saw shoe firmly onto the wood with the blade far enough away from the edge.
  • Turn on the saw and guide it along the outside of the cutting line (your transcribed pattern).
  • Move the saw at a pace that allows the blade to do the work with you, basically guiding it. You do not want the motor to labor.
  • To make a ‘plunge’ cut, start in the center of the wood and tip the jigsaw so that the blade is parallel to the piece and the weight of the saw is resting on the front of the shoe. Start the motor at high speed, tilt the shoe, and lower the blade into the wood. Alternatively, you could drill a hole and place the blade in the hole to start cutting.
  • To prevent the saw from binding on tight curves, use relief cuts to get rid of waste.
  • Remember to use proper safety equipment when working with power tools. Earplugs, safety glasses, a dust mask, and possibly steel-toes shoes are recommended. Gloves, however, should not be worn as they cause a sensory loss in your fingertips and may affect your gripping ability.

Jigsaws are good for cutting curves and complex shapes into the wood with practice. They can also make crosscuts on board as well as finish inside corner cuts that were originally started with a circular saw.

They are not good, however, for fast cuts or for long, straight cuts. For this, a circular saw should be used instead.

How Do You Make a Plywood Reindeer (or other characters) Using a Jigsaw?

Cutting shapes out of wood is easy to do with a jigsaw. With the holiday season fast approaching, why not try your luck at making a plywood reindeer?

These basic instructions should be enough to get you started on a simple project. Once you do this and see just how easy it is, you will be hooked and will be making all kinds of things with your jigsaw.

The necessary supplies and steps for this project include the following:


  • Jigsaw
  • Drill
  • ½” exterior screws
  • Marker 
  • Printer
  • Utility knife
  • Plywood (4×8’)
  • Paint
  • Printer paper

Step #1 – Create a Template

Go online and find an outdoor wooden reindeer template and print it off. Cut out the individual pieces using a utility knife or scissors.

Step #2 – Trace Out the Parts

Use a spray adhesive or painter’s tape, attach the paper templates to the plywood, and trace out the parts with a marker.

Step #3 – Cut Out the Parts

Put the plywood across two sawhorses and cut out the parts using a jigsaw. Clamp the pieces to the workbench and cut out the notches.

Step #4 – Sand the Parts

Sand the cut-out pieces to smooth any rough edges.

Step #5 – Paint the Parts

Using exterior spray paint, color the pieces and allow them to dry completely.

Step #6 – Assemble the Parts

Put the reindeer together using a drill and exterior screws. Place it outside in the front or back yard. And there you have it!

One thing to note is that working on woodworking projects like this can be challenging, especially when you’re limited by space, like in an apartment setting. If you’re dealing with such limitations, don’t worry, though! There are ways to adapt and still enjoy your crafting. For some handy tips related to that, check out this guide on woodworking when you live in an apartment.

How Do You Cut Kerfs in Wood?

Kerfs refer to the width of a cut made by a saw blade when it cuts through a piece of wood. It is the ability to make several cuts along with a piece of wood that is the width of the saw blade. Hand-held saws often work best for kerf cuts, but you can also use a circular to do the job.

By the way, if you’re not interested in using special tools to cut the wood, you can explore some other options as well. Here’s a guide that goes over in detail where to get wood cut to size.

Can You Use a Router to Cut Shapes in Wood?

While you can use a router to cut shapes in wood, it is not used in the same manner as a saw; take a jigsaw, for example. The router needs to be used in conjunction with a jig or pattern, except in the case of edgework, where it will use a trim bit as a guide bearing. A jigsaw, however, is often used freehand.


In a nutshell, there are different types of tools used to cut designs and shapes into wood. The most popular is the saw, and various styles, from hand-held to electrical, are utilized. The choice of which one to use is dependent upon the type of wood involved, the intricacy of the design, and your skill level or comfort zone.

Good luck, fellow hobbyists, and happy woodworking!


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