Crosscut saw teeth vs. rip saw teeth
Traditionally, when saws were mainly used for woodworking applications, there were only two types of teeth found on them: crosscut teeth and rip teeth.
Both crosscut and rip teeth are ‘set’ (bent away from the blade) but crosscut teeth are angled on their inside edge, whereas rip teeth aren’t. This sharp angled edge means that crosscut teeth can slice through material like a series of little knives.
Crosscut teeth are designed for cutting across the grain of wood. This is generally considered a more difficult task, so crosscut teeth are ideal for it.
Rip teeth do not have an angled edge, which means they work more like little chisels, scraping the wood away rather than slicing through it.
Rip teeth are designed for cutting along or with the grain. This is generally considered an easier task, so rip teeth are ideal.
Traditional meets modern
Traditionally, all saws for wood had either rip or crosscut teeth. In the last few years however, manufacturers have been able to produce teeth that can cut in any direction both across and along the grain. These teeth are now pretty much standard on most hand saws, however you will find that the design varies between brands, and each manufacturer refers to them using different terminology.
As a result, rather than seeing a saw with “crosscut” or “rip” teeth you are more likely to come across “universal”, “general purpose” or even “hybrid” teeth, depending on how that particular company has branded them (but, in fact - they all do the same thing!)
Saws for cutting materials other than wood (e.g. masonry etc.) are often referred to as speciality saws.
These have neither crosscut nor rip teeth in the traditional sense, though they may have some similar characteristics.
These types of teeth will be specially designed for cutting into their own respective materials, and will have various features which make them ideal for that particular task.