Compass saws have a narrow, tapered blade usually ending in a sharp point, typically with eight to ten teeth per inch, but up to twenty teeth per inch for harder materials and as few as five teeth per inch for softer materials. They have a curved, light "pistol grip" handle, designed for work in confined spaces and overhead.
Compass saws are suitable for cutting softer woods, plastic, drywall, and non-ferrous metals. The pointed tip of the blade can be used to penetrate softer materials without the need for a pilot hole.
Comparison with other types of saws
Compared with other saws designed for cutting curves, such as coping or fretsaws, compass saws have a larger blade and fewer teeth per inch. This allows them to cut more quickly, and to cut through thicker materials, but leaves a rougher finish.
Compared with drywall saws, compass saws typically have a longer blade – at 150 to 300 millimetres (5.9 to 12 in) – and more teeth per inch.
Keyhole saws, also called padsaws or jab saws, feature shorter, finer blades and (often) straight handles, and are suitable for cutting extremely tight curves.