A Simple Guide to the Different Types of Handsaw

Classified according to the number of teeth per inch, there are numerous types of handsaw each designed for fairly specific tasks. There are roughly 14 types of handsaw, and some types contain several models. They are used to cut through milled wood, logs and greenwood, drywall and metal. Beyond that, their differences lie in the cleanness, the direction and the intricacy of the cuts they are able to make. The different types of handsaw will be listed, but for simplicity's sake they will be broken down into larger categories. The 14 basic types of handsaw include:

  • Crosscut
  • Rip cut
  • Panel 
  • Backsaws
  • Japanese 
  • Fret 
  • Coping 
  • Keyhole 
  • Flooring 
  • Wallboard
  • Miter
  • Pruning 
  • Bow
  • Hacksaw

Wood Saws: Crosscut, Rip Cut and Panel

The majority of handsaws are meant for use with wood. Other than the wallboard or drywall saw and hacksaws, they are all used on wood in one form or another. To begin, crosscut, rip cut and panel saws are all closely related. The difference is in the direction of the cut. Crosscut saws are designed to cut against the grain of the wood while rip cut saws cut along the grain, ripping the wood. A panel saw is a shorter version of the crosscut saw. All three of these saws cut on the push stroke and are not meant to give you a finely cut edge. 


This type of wood saw also cuts on the push stroke. It derives its name from the stiff "back" or top edge of the saw. A backsaw is stronger than a typical crosscut saw and has more teeth per inch of cutting surface, so it gives a finer, more delicate finish to the cut. They are thus used for precision cuts. Backsaws include dovetail, gents, carcass and tenon saws. Miter saws are also considered backsaws, although they are used together with a miter box to make precise angled cuts in wood, especially trim and molding.

Other Push Stroke Saws

Other saws that cut on the push stroke include wallboard saws, keyhole and compass saws and flooring saws. Wallboard saws are designed to puncture drywall or plaster wallboard quickly and effectively, but they make rough cuts. They are fairly small and narrow like keyhole and compass saws. Keyhole and compass saws come with a pistol-style handle and a narrow blade. They excel at cutting holes from drilled holes in the middle of wood. 

Japanese Saws

Japanese saws include dozuki, ryoba and kataba saws. They cut on the pull stroke. This makes the teeth of the saws last a very long time if properly cared for and also makes a much more delicate cut. There is less dust with pull stroke saws. Japanese saws are faster, more precise and are suitable for hard and softwoods. 

Fret and Coping Saws

These are both saws that cut on the pull stroke as well. They are both meant to perform more intricate cutting, using thin, narrow blades. They are analogous to electric scroll saws in shape and use. 

Raw Wood Saws

Bow saws and pruning saws are meant to cut raw wood, whether logs, tree trunks or small twigs. They cut both on the push and pull stroke to make faster work. Pruning saws often have pistol grips for easier use, while bow saws are sometimes large enough for two people to use at once. 


Lastly, hacksaws are designed to cut through metal. They utilize disposable blades that are held under high tension to increase their ability to cut through denser material. They come in full, junior and mini sizes. 

For whatever cutting task you have before you, whether precise or rough, wood or metal, there is the perfect handsaw for the job.