I still remember 7th grade wood shop where my shop teacher explained to us how to use a hand saw. I know most kids (myself included I’m ashamed to admit) thought it was a waste of time when there where power tools (insert grunt like Tim Allen) that could be used. Now that I am a lot older and at least a little wiser I see the reason we were introduced to cutting wood with a hand saw. Hand sawing gives you a feel for the wood, you get feedback through a hand tool that is hard to get from a power tool. You learn how some woods are harder than others and that grain makes a huge difference when cutting wood.
The problem for new woodworkers is good quality hand saws are hard to find now and are expensive. A beginner is also unable to sharpen a saw, which is required for it to work well. If you ever find an old style wood worker that has some hand saws he uses, ask to just cut some boards with them. This will improve your understanding of wood. Since this blog is focused on what you can actually do, affordably with easy to find items, lets talk about what you should buy to cut wood.
Circular or Skill Saw
This is where I think you should start your purchasing and learning on how to cut wood. Plan on spending $75-$100 for a saw another $20-$30 for a fine tooth blade. If you are doing rough construction then the carbide tipped blade that comes with the saw will work, however if you are doing any kind of cuts that people will see you need a blade with a lot more teeth. With different blades a circular saw can cut some metals, cement board and other things. It may be slow going on these other materials, but if you only have a few cuts then it will be the easiest/cheapest way to go. I also like the laser that is available on many models now, this will help you in making free hand cuts.
Jig or Saber Saw
For cutting any kind of curves you will need a jig saw. You have to think about what kind of projects you plan on doing to decide if you need a jig saw rather than a circular saw. If you plan it smaller items with decorative, curved edges than a jig saw might be right for your first saw purchase.
An inexpensive hand saw will be useful as well and these can be had for under $20. A circular saw cannot cut an inside corner so you need another type of saw to finish it. I have a Japanese style pull saw like this. This has both a rip and crosscut set of teeth and I frequently use it where the circular saw will not reach even though I have a jig saw that would make the cut.
You need something to put your wood on to cut it. A couple of saw horses is a good way to start. I have a pair of Black & Decker WM125 Workmate 125 350-Pound Capacity Portable Work Bench that I use but will be reviewing other options in the future.