How To Saw Wood With A Handsaw

What You'll Need
Measuring square
C-clamps or vise (optional)
Work gloves

It is sometimes necessary or preferable to saw wood with a hand saw instead of a power saw. The safe use of a handsaw is a basic carpentry skill that can easily be acquired. The handsaw has been in use for centuries and is still an essential part of every carpenter’s tool set. This article will describe the various parts of a handsaw, the 2 primary saw types and their uses, and the proper use of a handsaw.

A handsaw consists of a thin steel blade with serrated teeth along the bottom edge bolted to a plastic or wooden handle. The tooth design on the sawblade will determine the use of the saw; ripsaw teeth are for cutting parallel with the grain and crosscut teeth are for cutting perpendicular to the grain. Crosscut saws have a greater number of teeth per inch than ripsaws, which allows for a cleaner cut but at a reduced speed. The teeth on both saw types are angled forward in a design that causes the saw to cut on the downward stroke as opposed to the return stroke. Follow the simple steps below to learn the safe and effective use of a handsaw.

Step 1 - Scribe the Cut Line onto the Board

Measure and make a mark the length of the cut on the board. Use a triangular measuring square to scribe the line at the proper angle and to make a straight cut.

Step 2 - Get in a Safe and Comfortable Position for Cutting

Position the material to be cut on 2 sawhorses so that the scrap piece overhangs on one end. You can also use a vise or C-clamps to hold the board securely in place. Grasp the handle firmly and cut so that the cutting motion is aligned with your forearm and shoulder.  

Step 3 - Start the Cut

Always make sure that your handsaw is kept sharpened and free from rust. To start a cut, create a groove by pulling the saw several times in a back stroke at the line. When the groove or kerf is deep enough, make a few, short forward strokes.

Step 4 - Making the Cut

Cut directly alongside the pencil line, keeping the thickness of the sawblade on the scrap side of the board. Do not cut on the line - leave it clearly visible on the board. Apply slight pressure on the forward stroke, but don’t force the saw. With your free hand, lightly apply downward pressure on the scrap piece if the saw blade begins to bind. Cut in long strokes using the full length of the saw in a smooth and steady rhythm. Hold the saw at a 45 degree angle for making crosscuts and at about 60 degrees for making ripcuts.

Step 5 – Finishing the Cut

Cut slowly near the end of the cut; do not allow the scrap piece to break off leaving a splintered or jagged edge. If the weight of the scrap piece causes the sawblade to bind, either with your free hand or with some help, hold the scrap piece up until the cut is completely finished.