Ultimate Guide for How to Use a Handsaw

A hand saw is a fundamental tool you can find in every workshop and toolbox, whether you’re a professional woodworker, expert carpenter or DIY home repair enthusiast. Because different hand saws perform various cuts on a multitude of materials, you want to search for the tool that matches your specific task. The combination of a saw’s shape, teeth count and teeth contour will determine the intentions of the product. Are you working with wood, metal or drywall? Does your project require precision trimming or more substantial cuts?

Our experts have provided detailed insights on what saws work for particular materials, and how you can implement the best sawing techniques.

Different Types of Hand Saws

Understanding the different types of hand saws and their uses is essential. You will want to consider the application and materials you have at hand, as well as the function of the saw. Teeth variations are also a concern — larger teeth are ideal for heavy-duty projects and faster cutting while small teeth are perfect for precision cutting.

A Brief Overview of the Different Types of Saws
  1. Hand saw: A basic hand saw is a staple tool in many workshops when you need to cut fiberglass, drywall or wood. Learning how to use a hand saw is simple because it is not a precision tool. Instead, it’s ideal for woodworking and cutting larger pieces of timber.
  2. Wallboard saw: Also known as a drywall saw, a wallboard saw specifically cuts drywall and sheetrock. You can use the tool to create holes for utility plugs, fixtures, piping and electrical outlets. It is a precision tool that will not pull large pieces from the drywall because of its sharp tip.
  3. Pull saw: A pull saw, or dovetail, cuts joining wood and kerfs when using plastic and laminate materials. With the handle placed in-line with the blade, a pull saw can form flush cuts and smooth incisions.
  4. Coping saw: When understanding how to use a coping saw, know that it is similar to a fret saw. It can cut tight curves for precision in molding installations, light wood and carpentry tasks. The hand-held tool can also create joining corners and edges. It has a U-shape frame with detachable blades to operate inside curved areas.
  5. Hacksaw: Are you wondering how to use a hacksaw? It is one of the most versatile tools with the ability to cut pipe, conduit, steel rods, strap, PVC, metal, cast-iron and bolts. The hacksaw is perfect for cutting material harder than wood and is a great solution for metal projects.
  6. Crosscut saw: The term “crosscut” is often used alongside the word “rip cut” — each describes a different technique of sawing. If you’re cutting across the wood grain, a crosscut saw is the best tool. Its teeth angle backward with a beveled edge while cutting on both the push and pull strokes for a clean and accurate notch. Crosscuts can cut logs perpendicular to the grain, or you can use it in tandem with a saw hook.
  7. Rip saw: A rip saw, or tooth saw, is an all-purpose tool for woodworking when you want to make rough cuts. The teeth alternate between left and right bends, working like a chisel for cutting parallel to the grain. A rip saw cuts only on the push stroke to craft a clean cut along the grain.
  8. Bow saw: A bow saw is like a pruning saw that delivers an efficient way to cut dense wood. It is a closed-loop tool for working on tree limbs, shrubs, thick vines and low branches. When learning how to use a bow saw, know that it is a type of crosscut saw ideal for precise trimming.
  9. Fret saw: If you’re looking for the right solution to deal with thick wood or paneling material, the thin blade and high back of a fret saw will give you what you need. It can help create angled cuts in thin pieces of wood.
  10. Backsaw: A backsaw has a stable and stiff blade because of its thick spine, but its rigid back also limits depth on a cut. You can use the saw with a miter box for special degree cutting and angles.
  11. Japanese saw: While traditional hand saws rely on a pull-push motion, a Japanese saw requires a push-strike movement with its small, sharp teeth. The product works best with smaller pieces of wood.
  12. Keyhole saw: Also known as jab or compass saw, a keyhole tool has a dagger-like point at the tip of the blade to poke through soft materials such as drywall and paneling. The saw can cut small shapes in traced-out drywall, plywood and wood. Then, it can form larger holes, giving a starting point for another tool to make a more precise cut. It is excellent for woodworking or carpentry for smooth finishes.
  13. Veneer saw: A veneer saw is ideal for small tedious work that delivers quick and smooth results.

When you recognize the specifications of different hand saws, you can determine which version will best accommodate your workshop’s requirements. When you work with us, we can help you narrow down our inventory to find a hand saw that supports your projects.

Handsaws for Different Jobs

There are different reasons for needing a hand saw. With each varying use, one saw may be a better fit compared to another. For example, there are hand saws for cutting wood, metal, drywall and plastic. You can even work with specialty projects like furniture making.

Handsaws for different Jobs
  • Wood: The best hand saw for cutting wood depends on your explicit task. A backsaw delivers precise cuts, a pull saw allows you to cut dovetails and a coping saw, like the IRWINTM 2014400 Protouch Coping Saw, can cut the inside of wood. Use the coping tool to drill a starter hole. Then remove the blade and insert it through the hole and reattach it again. A hack, crosscut, Japanese, rip, bow, fret, or keyhole saw also works well with wood. A hand saw, such as the MILWAUKEE® 48-22-0212 12" PVC/ABS saw, is also a good option.
  • Metal: When working with metal, a keyhole saw can puncture holes in pipes. A hacksaw, like the RIDGIDTM 20238 Pro Arc Aluminum Hack Saw, is also a versatile tool that can cut through various forms of metal.
  • Drywall: Several hand saws that work well with drywall include the keyhole saw and hacksaw. A keyhole saw can cut holes in walls, ceilings, floor fixtures and outlets. A wallboard saw, such as the STANLEYTM 15-206 Wallboard Drywall Saw-6", is also an excellent solution for cutting drywall.
  • Plastic: If you are cutting paneling material such as plastic, you can opt to use a fret, hack, keyhole or pull saw like the IRWINTM 213101 12" General Purpose Carpentry Pull Saw.
  • Furniture making: Making furniture requires detailed cuts. You can use a rip saw, or work with a crosscut, such as the STANLEYTM 15-334 15" Blade Length x 9 Points Per Inch Sharptooth Handsaw. The saw works well when designing pulls, moldings, pegs or drawer stops. Have a pull or dovetail saw handy when completing shelf and drawer dividers and a coping saw to cut curves or to cope moldings. A veneer hand saw is also vital for defined cutting.

Some products are ideal for making quick cuts, while others allow you to finesse specific shapes and reach tight spaces. We offer a diverse range of saws for a variety of purposes, including general cutting or particular applications.

Throughout your experience as a woodworker, craftsperson, carpenter or any other work that deals with cutting material, you find a method that works best for you. However, there are a few hand sawing techniques that will help get you started.

With safety being a primary concern, always wear safety glasses and keep away from others. Hand saws naturally want to cut straight, and it takes a bit of force to make them deviate. Two essential tips to keep in mind are to create a reasonable distance between you and the saw and align your body to the tool. You do not want to waste your time making dozens of practice cuts that waste wood. Instead, perfect your stance. You will want to relax and let the saw do its job. You will end up working less when you let the saw flow with each push and pull.

Learning to saw like an expert involves five main steps.

  1. Mark the cutline: Measure your material twice and decide where you want to cut. Mark where you want to begin with a pencil or chalk. The line will guide you to make a square notch.
  2. Make a starting cut: When making the first few cuts into your material, use your knuckle to guide the blade for accuracy. Produce several slow back cuts until you create a nice groove or kerf, which is an opening in the wood. Move the teeth next to the line on the waste side of the material to have a bit of leeway. Draw the blade back toward you several times to form a grooved starting point.
  3. Set the saw at an appropriate angle: Angle the saw according to what cut you need. For example, set the tool at a 45-degree angle for crosscuts and a 60-degree angle for rip cuts.
  4. Use long strokes: Once you set a kerf, conduct several more strokes to make a deep enough cut so that you can remove your holding hand. Then, push the saw back and forth with a smooth and natural motion, using long strokes. When you perform short strokes, it dulls several teeth faster than the rest. As you reach the end, adjust your speed and produce lighter strokes to avoid the material from breaking at the end.
  5. Correct any veering mistakes: Sometimes, even the most skilled worker can veer from a straight line. Instead of twisting the blade back on track, bring the blade back to where you began drifting and start sawing from that point. Otherwise, you will make an uneven cut.

Sawing with the right techniques will help you design level and detailed projects.

Handsaw Techniques How to Saw

What Makes a Good Saw Perfect for the Job?

Working with a saw that matches your job will make for an easy-going process. When you have what you need to make defined notches or larger cuts, it’s easier to perform each task. To determine which saw is best, consider these characteristics to find the perfect tool.

  1. Sharp teeth: A saw without sharp teeth makes for a pointless product. Lightly run your fingers over the teeth before purchase. If your skin lightly snags on the edges, it means they are properly sharpened.
  2. Straight blade: Set your sight alongside the edge to check for any bows or bends. Anything out of line can cause binding. You also want to check the handle to ensure it’s not crooked or warped.
  3. Balance: The balance of a saw should feel comfortable and effortless in your hand without being top-heavy.
  4. Flex: Every saw’s blade should flex when you bend it. Once you let go, it should also straighten right away.
  5. Even teeth: Inspect the saw for straight teeth. Align your sight from the back of the saw toward the front. If several teeth protrude beyond the others, they can form rough cuts. The blade can also twist if the teeth on one side are set farther.
  6. Tension: Examine the built-in tension of the saw. You can see a slight bow when you bend the tool with a straight edge, but it will want to spring back to a straight line. A saw with the correct tension should have a uniform curve without appearing lopsided. When working with metal, high tension is critical to make a straight cut in the harder material.
  7. Taper: Check the taper of the blade where the top is thinner than the teeth. Taper helps with blade clearance. It lessens binding and makes clean cuts.
  8. Crown: Check the blade crown by holding the saw up to the length of your arm. Look at the teeth for an outward curve at the center. A saw’s crown increases the cutting pressure by placing a few teeth on the material at once. A higher crown will deliver better results.
  9. Thickness: Thicker blades create more stability but cut away more material. If you need more flexibility and thinner cuts like when building furniture, thinner blades may be the best option. You need the correct balance between thickness and flexibility for each project.
  10. Tooth geometry: Think about the tooth geometry of the saw — rip and crosscut teeth correspond to different needs. For general woodcutting, a blade with four teeth per inch (TPI) is best. If you’re working with thinner material, 18 to 32 TPI is ideal, and thicker materials may require as few as two to three TPI.

Take your time finding the right product as opposed to making a quick decision on a saw that does not have the right features for your project.

Sawing Tips and Tricks

You can always perfect your sawing skills by implementing a few extra tricks. Whether you’re working with wood, drywall or metal, here are seven more tips that can make a huge difference in your performance.

  1. Have a good grip on the handle: Extend your forefinger along the handle of the saw for more stability. By doing so, you’re pointing the blade along the cut line. Having an excellent grip is vital for controlling a saw and forming precise cuts. Pick a tool handle that matches your hand size — too big of a handle can reduce force and accuracy.
  2. Use a miter box: If you’re cutting 45- or 90-degree angles, a miter box can help make exact cuts.
  3. Keep elbows close to your body: Your body has a natural tendency to stray the saw away from perpendicular movements. Keeping your elbows and arms close to the sides of your body will help avoid any tilting or twisting of the blade.
  4. Use a 2x4 as a guide: If you cannot make a straight cut using a marked line, you can clamp a 2x4 next to the starting point to act as a guide for a square cut.
  5. Do not put excess pressure on the saw: You don’t want to put your weight into the saw or bear down at an odd angle because it will cause you to do more work and alter the accuracy of the blade.
  6. Secure your work: Before sawing, clamp the material to a sturdy workbench or sawhorse to avoid accidents.
  7. Clean and sharpen blades: Tools cut well when they are clean. Keep your saws away from wet glue, dirt and water to avoid rust and corrosion. You also want to sharpen the teeth as necessary for a clean cut.

Sometimes, you may want to apply beeswax or oil across the saw’s blade to lessen binding. You can also use a saw hook to increase the accuracy of your cuts. The tool allows you to keep a hold of the piece you are working on while cutting. It also helps keep the saw at a straight and square angle, making it ideal for small parts. Any place where a saw’s teeth may scratch another area while cutting, place sandpaper under the blade with the abrasive side folded in, to prevent the teeth from marking the wood.

Find the Right Hand Saw

Construction Fasteners and Tools sells hand and power cutting tools, safety equipment and fasteners for professionals and DIY enthusiasts alike. We offer a 30-day return policy and free shipping when you spend more than $99. Our specialists provide top-qualities services and work with you to determine the best hand saw to match your needs.

Find the Right Hand Saw

Browse our inventory of hand tools online — if we do not list a product you require, let us know! Construction Fasteners and Tools will take you through a step-by-step process to find your ideal hand saw solution. Contact our team with any questions or for help finding the right tool for your next project!