May 23, 2021

Coping Saw vs Fret Saw Comparison | Which One For Which Job

Wondering what to choose: a Coping Saw vs Fret Saw? A coping saw is a type of small hand saw used to cut crown moulding or other architectural shapes in wood. It is also used to cut a curve in wood by following an existing curve. The blade is a thin, fine-toothed, flexible saw blade, typically 9–12 inches long. The saw’s frame is typically made of wood, rosewood, or plastic, and the handle is usually bent so that the saw can be worked with one hand.

In contrast, a fret saw is a type of small hand saw used for fine, detailed work such as cutting hard-to-reach places or for cutting intricate designs. We will compare them in great detail throughout this post.

Uses of a Fret Saw

The fret saw is used for complicated cuts such as tight curves. It makes long cuts that are perpendicular to the edge of the material. It is ideal for light materials such as MFD and plywood. The fret saw comes with a wide range of blades that are for detailed cuts. 

Materials thicker than 10mm are hard to cut through using a fret saw. The thicker the material, the slower the fret saw machine runs. You do not use a saw on heavy-duty applications because the blade is fragile. It is perfect for maneuvering around smaller radiuses. Special fret saws cut metal.

Uses of a Coping Saw

A coping saw is for complex shapes and interior cut-outs in both woodworking and carpentry. It is for moldings that create coped joints. It creates fretwork and the fret saw is for more complicated cuts. 

Coping_Saw

The coping saw is for intersections and making different shapes on wooden structures. It makes oval, circular, and rectangular shapes.  The tiny blade makes it accurate. A coping saw is a replacement to the hole saw since it cuts a drilling hole on a workpiece. The coping saw is easy to detach ends. 

Features of a Coping Saw

Blade

The blade is of hardened steel that stretches from one end of the square to the other. It is c-shaped, and the handle attaches to the iron frame. The blade is easy to remove. You remove it when you want the saw blade to pass through a drilled hole in the middle of the wood piece. Attach the frame back to the saw blade so that the cuts start from the middle of the workpiece.

 The blade is removed by unscrewing the handle partially. You stop the saw blade from rotating by using a steady bar where the blade is attached.  A perfect alignment of the steady bars keeps the saw blade straight. The handle is used to control the blade tension and locks it at a certain angle of your choice. 

Frame

The frame is shallow, and that is the reason why long cuts are limited. 

Features of a Fret Saw

Frame

The frame ranges from 10 to 20 inches in depth.  It makes the saw look odd. It works with a thin and short blade. The saw frame takes much of the saw than the rest of the tools.  

Blade

The 5inch blade makes the fret saw look funny since the frame is longer. The saw blades that come with the fret saws are shallow as compared to the coping saw blade. That is what makes it ideal for tighter curves. The saw blades have sharp corners. However, the saw blades are more fragile than the ones that come with the coping saw. The saw blade has a fixed orientation that relates to the saw blade. 

Handle

The handle is straight and cylindrical. That makes it ideal for delicate cuts. You turn the handle in your hand without difficulties, and that gives you control over the saw cuts you are making. The saw handle prevents harsh and rough cutting because it is even harder to apply force to the saw machine. The torque that comes with the saw handle makes the saw complex t beginners. 

Key Differences

  • Fret saws are not perfect since they need some tuning, whereas coping saws do not need more tuning.
  • Fret saws are slower than coping saws. They need more strokes so that you get to the waste. Coping saws need a few strokes to get to the waste. 
  • Coping saws have a deeper throat than fret saws. That allows you to handle some drawers without turning the table. 
  • Fret saws come with more fragile blades than the coping saw. 
  • A coping saw blade has holding pins that the fret saw does not have.
  • The fret saw has a deeper frame than a coping saw. 
  • A fret saw has a shallower blade than the fret saw. 
  • The coping saw blade takes time before it gets loose. That is the opposite of the fret saw. 
  • You remove the waste in two passes using the coping saw’s blade, whereas you make one pass with a fret saw.
  • Fretsaws are for tighter curves than the coping saw.
  • Fret saws are for more delicate work than coping saws.

Similarities

  • They are both for tight curves.
  • They have thin blades.
  • They both cut wood.
  • They are both attached to bows.
  • The booth comes with removable blades.

When to use a fret saw instead of a coping saw 

A fret saw is for tighter curves and complicated cuts. Due to the increased depth of the frame, the fret saw has access further from the board edge. You use it on hand-cut dovetails.

When to use a coping saw instead of a fret saw

Coping saws are for narrower cuts, intricate external shapes, and interior cut-outs in woodworking. It is for coped joints.

Which saw is better for cutting thicker wood

The coping saw is better for cutting thicker material because the blade is not fragile. The metal frame that makes up the saw blade makes cutting thicker materials easy. 

How to use a coping saw

When installing the blade, be attentive. Install the blade by setting the frame’s front edge on a bench. Hold the handle, making sure that it is pointing at you. Attach one end of the blade far from the handle.

 Press down the handle as you compress the frame. That gives allowance to the blade so that it gets attached on the other hand of the frame. Release tension and adjust the spigot. Hold the material with clamps so that you make sure you are safe. That prevents the wood from slipping when cutting. 

You open the clamp, place the material inside and tighten the clamp. Trace the line you wish to cut onto the wood. The central teeth of the saw blade have to be on the line. Push the saw in a short stroke. Keep sawing and maintain the perpendicular to the wood. 

As you continue cutting, turn the handle and frame following the cut line. Several passes are needed if you are molding. If the blade breaks during operation, loosen it, replace and tighten.  Keep your hands and accessories off the sharp teeth, you will hurt yourself.

How to use a fret saw

Fret saws are dangerous to use. That is why I recommend the use of a blade guard to prevent kickbacks and hurting your fingers. It does not mean that you will get your finger in the blade’s way, but if a blade breaks and you do not have a guard, you will be hurt. 

Familiarise yourself with the switch buttons. Feed the material slowly into the blade. Hold down the material on the table to avoid vibration. Attach the saw blade making sure the teeth are pointing downwards. Each fret saw has a specific function that separates it from the rest. 

I recommend you hold the fret saw with the frame under your arm. That makes you stable and gives you control over the saw movement. For easy operation, you are allowed to use a V-board. That is a small plank made of wood or metal. It is clamped to the bench so that it supports the workpiece. It enhances the shaping process. 

Pull its blade back and forth along your workpiece cutting on the pull stroke. Clamp the blade in place using the wing grip and the wing nut. The blade teeth have to point down. The frame has to fit the other table through pinching. Tighten the wing nuts using pliers. Place the blade into a socket if the saw has one.

Cost Comparison

Both saws have the same price range depending on the exact model you want to buy. They have entry models and high-end models. However, the fret saw is more affordable than the coping saw since it is compact-sized. 

Verdict

Choosing between the fret and coping saw requires you to know the type of cuts you’re focusing on. For more complex cuts, I encourage the use of a coping saw. It is ideal for beginners who have no idea what they want since it produces many shapes on materials. It is easy to move on tricky areas that are enclosed. The fret saw is fast on thin materials. Yet, the blade is fragile. That is why I do not recommend users to use it for heavy-duty operations. 

David D. Hughes
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