Hand saws may look like very simple tools, but their usefulness and versatility when it comes to DIY work are virtually unmatched. Whether you’re cutting up logs or making furniture, a hand saw will almost certainly help you out. They require no electricity and very little maintenance, making them an extremely affordable addition to your tool shed!
What are Hand Saws Used For?
Hand saws are versatile tools that can be used for many tasks, including cutting hardwood, softwood, plywood and MDF. Whether you’re chopping wood for the fire or making your own coffee table, a good hand saw will make the task a lot easier. While they do require some physical exertion to use, selecting the correct hand saw for the task will make the process a lot more comfortable.
Types of Hand Saws
There are a few different types of hand saw on the market.
Coping saws are used for cutting through hard and soft wood, plastic, ceramic and some metals. These are very versatile so if you’re not sure what you’re going to be using your hand saw for the most, a coping saw is a good option. The blades are replaceable, so you should find these saws are good value for money and last a long time.
Bow saws produce a rougher finish as they are designed for faster cutting. These are used mainly for tree branches and logs for fires, where a smooth finish isn’t necessary.
Tenon saws are used for both hard and soft wood where precision is needed. They produce a neat finish and offer the user full control as the blade doesn’t flex. These are suitable for making deep and accurate cuts in joinery.
Hacksaws are very versatile, able to cut pipe, steel rods, PVC and bolts. These are suitable for cutting hard materials so are mainly used by professionals.
Crosscut or rip cut saws utilise a different technique. If you are cutting across the wood grain, this tool is best. The teeth are angled backwards, so the cut is both on the push and pull strokes.
Pruning saws are used around the garden to neaten up tree branches and shrubs.
The construction quality is going to be key when it comes to the longevity of any hand saw, and a good quality saw may also be easier to use.
The first thing to look at is the blade quality. Ideally, the blade should be made from hardened steel.
The blade should flex slightly when you bend it, straightening immediately when you let it go. Longer blades may flex more at the ends than shorter blades, so you’ll have slightly less control. Thicker blades create more stability but will cut away more material at any time. Thinner blades don’t cut away as much material, but they can be harder to control.
The length of the saw is also very important. Hand saws can vary in length from around 6” to 24”. The length of the blade itself is worth looking at.
Saws with a long blade are designed for long strokes. These are more efficient when cutting larger pieces of wood, but they require more movement from the user.
Saws with a shorter blade are better for smaller pieces of wood or plastic. These require less overall movement from the user but can be less efficient.
For very precise work, a shorter saw is preferable. You’ll have more control over the end of the blade which can lead to a neater finish. If you’re sawing logs for the fire and there’s no need for precision, a longer saw will be more efficient.
It’s also worth considering your frame when deciding on the best length of saw. Someone who is 6’2” will prefer a different saw to someone who is 5’5”. The taller person will naturally have a longer saw stroke, and the saw you choose will need to be a couple of inches longer than this length.
Number of Teeth
The number of teeth in your hand saw is also important. However, it’s important to note that simply referring to the number of teeth doesn’t tell us much, as hand saws can vary so enormously in length.
Instead, we need to look at ‘teeth per inch’ or TPI. This number typically varies from 7 to 14 TPI. The more teeth per inch, the cleaner and more precise cut you will achieve. A saw with less teeth will be more efficient, but you’ll sacrifice accuracy and a neat finish.
For general wood cutting, a lower number of teeth is better.
Push or Pull Stroke Cutting
The process of sawing requires both a forward and backward stroke, a push and a pull.
Push stroke saws are generally used for cutting through tougher materials such as hardwood.
Pull stroke saws have thinner blades and are designed for more delicate cuts. You should have more control pulling the saw towards you, allowing you to make more precise cuts with a neat finish. The blade is likely to be thinner and more delicate, however, so more care will be needed.
Some saws cut on both the push and the pull stroke. If the teeth are neither angled backwards nor forwards, the saw likely cuts on both the push and the pull. Saws that cut on both push and pull are used for fast and aggressive sawing, where speed is more important than the finish.
Comfort and balance between the handle and the blade is important. The saw shouldn’t feel top-heavy, and you should be able to get a good grip on the handle. Some handles have rubber grips to prevent slipping.
While handle comfort is important, a lot of what makes sawing easy is the technique. Ensure you have a good grip on the handle and don’t put excess pressure on the blade.
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