I have a miter saw but that thing is loud. Same with the circular saw. Moreover, while the miter saw can be used on the ground with not even a table, the circular saw is too dangerous without a full workbench.

A table saw, even mini one, is too big, expensive, and also too loud. It needs to be handheld. Obviously, chainsaw is not the answer either.

Of course, the quietest is a simple hand saw. Unfortunately, it's also too much work and takes too long. I want something electric.

This brought me to the reciprocating saw. It could be used easily with a couple portable sawhorses or even just clamped to the table.

Handheld jigsaw might be the same.

For safety, of course awareness, alertness, glasses, earmuffs, gloves, and common sense will all be used. Still, some tools are less safe than others without a full workshop. I'm also thinking of building a small portable workbench.

I don't want to disturb the neighbors or cause any alerts with the apartment complex. So, what is the best, quietest, safest, and easiest electric saw to use to cut 2x4 without a full workshop or full work bench?

  • don't want to disturb the neighbors = no reciprocating saw of any kind – Mazura Jan 19 '19 at 0:27
  • Lesser sounds like a drill will not cause a problem but extreme sounds like a circular saw are too loud. It's my understanding that a jigsaw or reciprocating saw is quieter than a circular saw? – diy user Jan 19 '19 at 14:57
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    Noise is also exponential with time. 4 hours of a light sawing noise is a greater annoyance and would attract more unwanted attention than 10 minutes of 5-second cuts here and there with a power tool in the middle of the day. Moreover, I think you underestimate the noise and vibration of a hand saw going on for hours and hours. – diy user Jan 19 '19 at 15:05
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    That's better than straining to hear wtf you're doing with a handsaw, and then it goes clunk every half hour. – Mazura Jan 19 '19 at 15:08
  • @Mazura I agree that is completely my point lol, a hand saw could get really annoying to neighbors, and you make a good point about the steady clunk after each cut lol – diy user Jan 19 '19 at 15:19

You might want to consider a scroll saw. Mine is a good bit quieter than my jigsaw and the base provides decent stability for good cuts.

  • scroll saw is interesting, hadn't thought of it. Similar price range to the rest, although closer to miter saw prices. Quieter, yes, bulkier though, and is that practical for cutting 2x4? I thought scroll saw was best for fine detail work. – diy user Jan 18 '19 at 19:16
  • It will cut them, but it is not designed for that purpose. I think it might be a practical option with the limitations you pose in the question. – UnhandledExcepSean Jan 18 '19 at 19:19
  • But would you say that a handheld jigsaw or reciprocating saw would be better suited than a scroll saw for sawing through 2x4? – diy user Jan 18 '19 at 19:22
  • Reciprocating saw would work quite well, but the cut would not be very clean probably and those are pretty loud. Jigsaw is louder than a scroll saw and vibration would cause extra annoyance with neighbors in my opinion. They do make mini-circular saws, but I've never used one, so I don't know how loud the are. If this were me, I would use a good hand saw. – UnhandledExcepSean Jan 18 '19 at 19:26
  • a handheld jigsaw? You sure you're talking about the same item? Maybe you're talking about a big table jigsaw. I'm talking about a small handheld one. – diy user Jan 19 '19 at 15:04


but really i think you underestimate how easy it is to cut through dimensional lumber with a sharp handsaw.

  • Easier than a hand saw? That's what matters here. I'm not building a house just smaller projects. – diy user Jan 18 '19 at 18:20
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    a jigsaw will definitely be slower. If you run a jigsaw to fast, the blade deflects and yields very unsquare cuts. A handsaw with miter box is fast. After some practice you won't even need the miter box. – aaron Jan 18 '19 at 20:56
  • it's a lot more effort to use a hand saw undeniably, and I am dubious about your claim that " a hand saw is faster than a jigsaw". Any evidence to back that up? – diy user Jan 18 '19 at 21:20
  • @user2966384 - You're pushing (down) too hard. Let the saw do the work, and submit yourself to the fact that you will bring the saw back and forth about a hundred times to cut a 2x4 - which should take you less than 20 seconds. – Mazura Jan 19 '19 at 0:22
  • 20 second is dubious, 100 repetitions is extremely repetitive, even 30 seconds is much slower than 5 to 10 seconds for a power tool and dramatically more effort even if you're barely pushing down. tens of thousands of sawing motions is a serious workout. – diy user Jan 19 '19 at 15:00

I don't know if this is a legitimate answer, but I'd reconsider a hand saw. Depending on what works well for you, and what you need to do with the saw. I'd try a pull saw, very easy to use and makes a nice clean cut, almost anyone can get good results with this type of saw. They don't bind and they are very easy to get started. The way the blade is made, there is not much set to the teeth, so it takes less energy to cut. Lubricate the surface of the metal by spraying it with some WD40 or whatever, as long as you're not concerned about a little oil on the end grain.

shark pull saw

Some people try to use a hand saw just like they use a circular saw and get poor results. The sawhorse setup usually used with a circular saw is not ideal with a hand saw. Sawhorses or a pickup truck tailgate are higher than you'd want for use with a hand saw.

A traditional saw bench is about knee high, that's a good height so you can get your knee on the board. If the word "ergonomic" had been invented back when saw benches were commonly used, they would have been called ergonomic. You'll want to look for or set up something approximately that height. No clamps needed, your body weight on your knee is the clamp.

Christopher Schwarz - saw bench

Usually you can improvise and find something that's a good height, for example the bench seat of a picnic table is usually just right.

  • No I have a good handsaw already but I don't like the time and effort it takes over electric. – diy user Jan 18 '19 at 18:21
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    Some people can't use hand tools. Millennials. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jan 18 '19 at 18:45
  • I can use hand tools. Not a millennial. It is still far more effort and time than power tools. Not practical. You're right though [many/most] millennials can't do much :P – diy user Jan 18 '19 at 19:17
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    Yes this kind of saw is a great example, much quieter than any motorized tool when you let the tool do the work. – aaron Jan 20 '19 at 12:54
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    @user2966384 - I promise you a good hand saw used properly is quite fast, and you don't have to be Hercules. It will probably cut faster than a jigsaw now that I think about it. By the time you clamp a 2x4 so you can cut it with a reciprocating saw, I'll be half way through with a hand saw. I am even going to edit my answer. – batsplatsterson Jan 20 '19 at 13:08

A reciprocating saw or jig saw isn't going to give you a very good quality cut. How much cutting do you expect to do? Maybe plan on doing it in the middle of the day when noise is less objectionable. Or talk to the neighbors and see what times are reasonable for them ... in case somebody works nights or such.

You might also look into a local makerspace or other shared workspace. More space, better tools, mentors, etc. I've done woodworking in an apartment ... it's not great.

  • Well true but I can sand down the edges. There are times when a miter or circular saw can be used, but I am referring to the other times rather than putting projects on hold until an "optimal" time or not even doing volumes of project due to noise worries. – diy user Jan 18 '19 at 18:19
  • As for the shared workspace, I don't do enough or frequently enough to warrant buying some membership for a few hundred dollars a month. Even $50 per month would be a waste of money if it existed that low and it doesn't. $2 per month would be worth it in value, not possible. Shared workspaces are basically office space prices at like $500+ per month, zero point in that. Plus, then I'd still have to transport what I made back home, completely pointless. – diy user Jan 18 '19 at 19:11
  • No idea what the market looks like in general, but the Pikes Peak Makerspace is about $600/year IIRC. Not really oriented toward woodworking though, with the exception of the big CNC router. – CoAstroGeek Jan 18 '19 at 19:34
  • $600/yr ($50 per month) is kind of pointless for infrequent work and then still have to transport the large items back to the apartment, not to mention it only exists in Colorado although there may be others. It would only be practical at $2 per month, $5 at the most, which isn't going to happen. – diy user Jan 19 '19 at 15:02
  1. Buy the right blade for your circular saw first. Technology has come a long way, always keep it sharp!!
  2. A soft start takes the bang out of start up...huge difference.
  3. An electric brake helps heaps. You don't get that wind down end noise which is useless noise time really.
  4. Buy a blade stiffener..well worth the money.

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