I'm just beginning DIY projects, and do not own a power saw. The projects I plan to begin with will be simple, and I mostly plan to cut wood < 2" thick, PVC, and maybe some thin metal. I've read a few blogs, and it seems that experts recommend buying a circular saw before moving on to the jig saw (I only want to buy 1 saw for now, < $50). This seems odd, because you can cut tighter curves with the jig saw, even though the circular cuts faster in a straight line. Am I missing any big reason for getting the circular saw first?

Awesome feedback. Because my "simple" DIY tool needs are incredibly simple (e.g. cutting boards to make unfinished shelves, making 2-3 inch holes/arcs in materials, and nothing intricate or high-volume), here's what I've concluded from your advice:

My first power saw should be a circular saw. I should expect to pay more than $50 for one worth its value. Somewhere between $70 and $100 will get me started.

To satisfy my one-off needs to cutting tight curves, I'll buy a hand corning saw.

As my expertise expands , and consequently my comfortable budget, I will consider either a reciprocating or jig saw for my second power saw. This will depend on the coarseness and accuracy of my average required cut.

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    What, if anything, do you have for hand saws? For many one-off projects, a crosscut saw and a coping saw will get you done, cost less, and store smaller - it's also harder to cut body parts off with them, and you can listen to the radio while you use them. With a tablesaw, a radial arm-saw, a worm-drive circular saw, a regular circular saw and a bunch of handsaws to pick from, the handsaws get quite a bit of use. For many jobs the reason I reach for the handsaws is that they will get the job done faster, factoring in set up time. And if I'm too tired, etc. mistakes are Band-Aid® sized.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Oct 16, 2014 at 23:50
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    Please go into more detail about the projects you envision. What's "simple" to one person is "complex" to another. Doing DIY cabinetry has different demands than DIY carpentry, which is different than DIY furniture making, etc. Commented Oct 17, 2014 at 2:00
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    @whatsisname hits the nail on the head. The answer depends on the projects - I'd take a circular saw over any other hand saw for framing, but I wouldn't cut PVC pipe with it (I enjoy my fingers too much). Same thing for detail work - a jig saw would be useful in a lot of places where a circular saw would be worthless.
    – Comintern
    Commented Oct 17, 2014 at 4:03
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    @comintern is right; please, cut PVC pipe with a (manual) pipe cutter. I am not a big fan of single-use tools but if you're going to be cutting a lot of tubing, a cutter specifically designed to solve that problem safely is a good idea. Commented Oct 17, 2014 at 17:10
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    I would buy whichever you need first. They are different tools for different jobs. There isn't a saw that can do it all. Don't discount hand saws either.
    – Web
    Commented Oct 17, 2014 at 17:18

6 Answers 6


Jig saws are for delicate work; they cut slow and the blades like to bend and break.

Reciprocating saws are for not delicate work and cut fast, the blades bend if you let the tip of the blade bounce on your work.

Circular saws are for relatively straight cuts, their blades do not break or bend, readily.

Table saws are just better circular saws.

Miter saws are for nice, straight cut-offs.

If I had to pick one to keep, it'd be my real (Milwaukee) Sawzall®. In a $50 price range you can get a crappy jig or reciprocating saw. For chores around the house (random home improvements) get a reciprocating saw. For small wood working projects, you may want a jig. I 'work with my hands' and to me a jig is a specialty tool, seldom necessary and a pain to keep changing blades and they take forever to cut.

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    This is probably the best answer. I'd just add that jigsaws are better suited for cutting curves or smaller shapes in thinner material, like sheet goods (plywood). Honestly, I would not buy a circular saw for less than $99. For Jigsaws it looks like there is more of a selection of the budget level saws in half-decent brand names around $50. But still the most used saw for almost anything but fine woodworking would be the circular saw. Commented Oct 17, 2014 at 5:29
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    You forgot bandsaws, which are primarily used for cutting off your fingers.
    – Emily
    Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 18:02
  • @Emily That's only if you're wearing gloves ;) Seriously though, my most feared type is a table saw. It's the only one that you push your work into, and at a shop I worked at that had ready access to all of the above, there were two separate incidents which lead to the table saw now requiring a padlock on it. You push your work into band saws too, but by the time you even consider owning one (after you get all the others), you really ought to know what you're doing and when to use a push stick
    – Mazura
    Commented Dec 9, 2016 at 4:28

Circular saw vs jig saw is pretty apples to oranges. A jig saw is for cutting curves, a circular saw is not. If you're getting into diy I would probably recommend saving up and getting a tool combo set like this Rigid set. Granted this is a bit more expensive than your budget but there are cheaper sets, and also there are different arrangements of tools to suit most needs. The benefit of diving in with a set like this is that it will cover more uses and therefore you will have the right tool for the job more often. And that means less frustration and safer operation. If you absolutely need to get the most versatility out of a single tool for under a $100 I would look at one of the Fein Saw knock offs. There are several on the market and they can make lots of different kinds of cuts on many, many kinds of materials.


On a sub-$50 budget, nigh onto don't bother. My actual recommendation for a "first power saw" is none of the above - a bandsaw is the most versatile power saw and thus the first I'd suggest buying, without foreknowledge of what you intend to do and whether another saw-type would suit your needs better; but for $50 all you'll get in power saws is junk, unless you hit the deal of the century on craigslist, and there are far more junk saws than deals of the century on craigslist, especially if you wouldn't know junk from a deal when looking at them.

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    I strongly disagree that a bandsaw is the "most versatile power saw." How are you going to cut sheet goods on it? At least you can limp by with a jig saw or a circular saw, and those are much closer to within a $50 (agreed on the unrealistically low) budget.
    – Doresoom
    Commented Dec 19, 2014 at 21:13
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    Cutting sheet goods is a very specific, narrow task. Versatility is not "happens to suit one very narrow task" - it's "can be used for many different tasks." As it happens, any cut up to the throat depth of the bandsaw can be made in sheet goods. Since no task was clearly defined, not meeting the narrow goal of "cutting a 4x8 sheet in half" does not detract from the versatility of a bandsaw (unless you get a really big one, and then that task can be done as well.) If you happen to be old enough to know who Tage Frid is, I'm agreeing with his published opinion, BTW.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Dec 19, 2014 at 22:11

Go with the jig saw.

If you are just learning how to use and the proper safety techniques with power tools, a jig saw is a much better teacher. Safer, less intimidating, not as aggressive and A LOT more flexible.

  1. They provide flexibility in what materials it can cut: wood, PVC, metal etc.
  2. They can cut material that is smooth, round, bumpy, thin or thick.
  3. They can cut straight lines, circular lines, and even squiggly lines.
  4. Less noisy and less of a mess afterward.
  5. Great way to also learn maintenance of a power tool. ie. You don't want to make a mistake change a circular saw blade.

Less than $50 doesn't leave you too many choices. Both saws overlap in the type of cutting they will do, but are really meant to be used in different cutting situations. For example, I just cut 12 stair stringers using both my circular saw and my jig saw. I rough cut the steps out with the circular saw because it is quicker and easier to cut in a straight line. But, on inside cuts it leaves an angled cut that needed finished. This is where the jig saw comes in. A hand saw works well in place of a jig saw and is cheaper.

With either saw, $50 is going to get you a low quality, low powered saw that will lead to more frustration and work. $70 will get you into several Home Improvement store brands that will give you reasonable performance. I would recommend the circular saw and a good hand saw to finish things like inside cuts. A good circular saw will be the most versatile for you starting out. Forget the laser, I never use mine on my hand circular saw and would not recommend paying an up charge for it. Get a good 40 tooth, thin kerf, carbide blade. This will be the most versatile. Freud makes an excellent one for around $10-12. Irwin makes some very good thin kerf blades that can be had for around $20 for three. Just used one to build a 500sqft deck. Cut through 6x6 treated like butter.

Jig saws are not very good for long cuts and unless you have a lot of circles or curves to cut, you will find that you will have more uses for a circular saw. You can change the quality of your cut and the materials you can cut just by changing the blade. Do not skimp on blade quality. You can buy any number of excellent quality blades for $7-25 bucks, depending on what you want to do. You can get several clamp on guides or use a thick aluminum ruler with a couple of $2 c-clamps for ripping.

So get the circular saw, a good 40 tooth thin kerf blade, a few saw guides and a hand saw.

  • I use the laser feature of my circular saw on about half of all cuts perhaps because I don't rip boards very often. I use it on maybe 95% of cuts to sheet materials (plywood).
    – wallyk
    Commented Oct 18, 2014 at 21:27

I think by a Jig Saw the questioner means a handheld barrel type saw, Not one with a table holding the work. This would work well for every kind of small cut you describe. For straight cuts on a bigger piece of wood you would clamp a fence down to each end to guide the saw. Even a circular saw would need this.

Yes, at $50 you are getting junk but unless it is the means by which you make your living on a daily basis it will get all the work done you need every weekend for years to come. I bought a cheap B&D corded drill 30 years ago. I still use it now that my 10 year old Makita batteries no longer work.

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