Handsaw Guide

Hand Saw Guide: Introduction

Traditional hand saws are available in all manner of shapes and sizes, and each one is designed to carry out a particular purpose.

Whether you need a saw for cutting wood, or a saw for cutting metal, a plethora of saws exist for every type of craft.

Choosing the right saws for your tool kit may be daunting, this ‘Hand Saw Guide’ demystifies the world of hand saws and explains the main considerations would-be hand saw buyers need to know, including:

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What Is A Hand Saw?

In contrast to electrically powered saws, hand saws are entirely driven by the motion of one’s arm during the cutting of materials. While operating a hand saw can be energy sapping when compared to using a power tool, hand saws satisfy traditionalists who may find satisfaction in the simplicity of a hand-powered saw which can deliver quality results in the hands of a skilled tradesman.

Hand saws have a long history dating back thousands of years. Historical evidence shows that ancient civilizations in Egypt and Japan used hand saws. It is understood that bronze saws were likely used before the invention of steel. Saws evolved as societies became less dependent on wood and began to use other materials, and modern saws have benefited from advancements in metallurgy.

A hand saw is simplistic in its operation. Powered by human movement, the teeth of the saw are made from a material that is harder than the material that it is being used to cut, which may be wood, metal, plastics, and much more.

What Types Of Hand Saws Are There?

While there exists an extensive catalog of saw types, two basic saw designs are used to cut wood in different ways:

Crosscut Saw

Crosscut saws are used when cutting across the grain of a piece of wood. Their beveled teeth are smaller than their ripsaw counterparts, and they are cleverly designed to cut wood during each push-pull stroke.


Ripsaws cut in a parallel direction to the grain of the wood. In contrast to the crosscut saw, the teeth of a rip saw are not beveled, and their teeth are configured to form an alternating pattern. This design makes the rip saw highly efficient on the push stroke while it does not cut on the pull stroke.

Other Saw Types

When the standard crosscut saw and ripsaw don’t suffice for a particular job, specialist saws are in abundance. Below are three other commonly used saws:

Hack Saw – Designed to cut metal using a fine-toothed blade under tension.

Key Hole Saw – Used for cutting circular and curved patterns into wood.

Coping Saw – Its fine blade mounted in a frame allows for the cutting of intricate patterns at more extreme angles.

How To Use A Hand Saw

All tools are potentially hazardous, including hand saws. Adherence to safety guidelines is essential. Follow the safety principles listed below to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience when working with hand-powered tools.

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  • Only use handsaws when there is sufficient lighting.
  • Keep your workspace free from debris to avoid tripping and falling accidents.
  • Take care to keep electrical appliances away from your cutting area. Cutting through electrical wires could be potentially fatal.
  • Ensure regular maintenance of the handsaw to achieve safe operational conditions.
  • Keep fingers out of the way of the handsaw’s blade during cutting.
  • Do not operate the saw on uneven ground or an unstable surface.
  • Those with long hair should tie it back before using the saw.
  • Always keep children and pets away from tools.
  • Do not use handsaws while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Always handsaws in a safe and secure place to prevent children from accessing them.
  • Take sufficient and regular breaks when using any tool, including hand-operated tools.

How To Make Square Cuts With A Hand Saw

With just a little know-how, hand saws make square cuts in materials such as baseboards or other types of timber. There are specialist tools that can make this process easier. However, the method described below involves a minimum of equipment.

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You will need:

  • Measuring tape
  • Marker/pencil/pen
  • Carpenters’ square
  • Clamp/vice (if available)
  • Wood to be cut
  • Hand saw
  1. Prepare your workspace. Give due care and attention to the lighting and ensure that the movement of a saw will not damage electrical equipment.
  2. Check the end of wood for an accurate 90-degree angle using a carpenters’ square.
  3. Mark the required dimensions of timber using the tape measure and a pencil/marker pen.
  4. Use the carpenter’s square to produce a cut marker on the top side of the wood.
  5. This marker should form a 90-degree angle across the wood.
  6. Repeat step 4 on the vertical edges of the wood. The cut markers you draw here should appear as a continuation of the line drawn in step 4.
  7. Secure the timber in a vice or a clamp.
  8. Hold the saw in your stronger hand. With the other hand, hold the wood while keeping your thumb out of the way of the blade’s path.
  9. Place the teeth of the blade against the cut marker lines you drew earlier.
  10. Push the saw back and forth while applying downwards pressure to cut the wood.
  11. Carefully set down the saw in a safe place.
  12. Remove your cut wood from the clamp and store it safely for later use.
  13. Clean the workspace thoroughly. Remove dust and debris from the workspace. You may keep scrap pieces of wood as these almost always come in handy but be sure to store them safely.
  14. Return all tools to a safe and secure storage area.

Hand saws can also be used to produce angled cuts, including those at 45 degrees, which enables the forming of miter joints. There is a range of accessories to support this process, including miter boxes and angle measuring tools.

Hand Saw Guide: Summary

Hand saws are a great alternative to power tools. They are cheaper and less demanding of space, and they require no power other than human movement.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that a technologically, less sophisticated tool can’t deliver the high-quality results that a power tool can – hand saws can produce impressive results in the hands of a skilled DIYer or tradesmen.

Hand saws can make all manner of cuts, including angled cuts. Miter boxes and other accessories make this process easier for some.

For those looking to buy hand saws, there are makes and models to suit every budget. Reputable hand saw brands include A F Shotwell, Adria, and many others.

It is recommended that you fully consider the level of usage your hand saw will receive before making a purchase. Bigger budgets can generally buy better quality tools with extended longevity. However, through careful storage and maintenance, almost any saw can last for years.

Hand saws are a wise investment for both DIYers and professional carpenters and other tradespeople. If you’re planning a home improvement project or if you’re constructing something as a hired professional, make sure that your toolkit includes at least a few trusty handsaws.