12 Different Types of Hand Saws – What Are They & Their Application
A hand saw is a practical cutting tool that any woodworking professional worth his salt will vouch for.
While power tools like the circular saw or the jigsaw are the go-to cutting tool these days, they lack the precision of a specialist hand saw, especially when working on very small projects.
However, there are about a dozen types of hand saws you can buy right now. Which one to choose? Here is our guide that will clear up some misconceptions and help you choose the best hand saw for the job.
1. Carpenter Saw
The carpenter saw is the most popular type of hand saw in the world and is used for general purpose lumber cutting work. It is the biggest hand saw you can get and not the most accurate type out there. This saw is used for both rip cuts and cross cuts due to the alignment of the blade teeth.
For crosscuts, it is recommended to slant the saw at a 45-degree angle and for rip cuts at a 60-degree angle for optimal cutting efficiency. For crosscutting work, a model with 10 to 20 TPI is enough while precision cuts will demand at least a TPI of 30. For general purpose cutting, 2 - 8 TPI is the standard in a carpenter saw.
Indeed, the carpenter saw is a true general-purpose blade that can cut through large material quite fast - especially if you use it with a low TPI blade. For precision work, it isn’t the best hand saw out there though.
The backsaw is a specialized hand saw that is designed for a precision cut. It has a reinforced steel top edge to minimize flexing, guaranteeing you maximum accuracy during a sensitive cut.
The top edge also adds a small weight to the blade which is helpful when cutting soft materials as you can saw through it much slower.
Furthermore, the teeth on a backsaw are thinner and very fine for better maneuverability. As most hand saws, the blade of the back saw can be removed, replaced or resharpened. It is quite difficult to get a replacement blade for the back saw but sharpening it back to shape is fairly easy.
You also do not have to apply a lot of force on this hand saw to perform a clean cut. It is ideal for precision work like making joinery work like creating dovetail and jigs, making tenons or cutting angles in a miter box. It doesn’t work that well when cutting larger surfaces like a wood plank so use it only on smaller cut areas.
The hacksaw is usually used for cutting thin sheets of metal, or where a precision cut is required in wood. The teeth count of the blade usually varies from 18 TPI to 32 TPI depending on the type of job you have. The finer the teeth in the blade, the finer the cut will be.
Further, the thin blade can quickly and easily be replaced as they are retained by front and back tensioners that can be tightened or loosened on demand.
Common applications for a hacksaw is cutting PVP pipes, cable cutting, and others. Since this hand saw cuts through the material when it is pushed and not pulled, it gives the user great control. Since this device is a push-stroke hand saw, it can be time-consuming cutting through materials bigger than PVC pipes or metal rods.
4. Coping Saw
The coping saw has a very distinct U-shape look. This saw is used for very fine and intricate cuts that also require a high level of maneuverability. The blade can be tensioned with the blade tensioners depending on the material you want to cut, and the handle is long and ergonomic - usually made out of wood.
A big distinction of the coping saw is that you can hold it with one or both hands for greater maneuverability and comfort in cutting. In case you want to use two hands, one hand normally stays on the handle while the other can rest anywhere on the frame.
One of the main advantages of this saw is the blade can easily be removed and readjusted on demand. This makes it ideal for cutting very complex patterns in the material.
Rightfully so, coping saws are meant for artistic woodcutting jobs like pattern making as they are both very easy to use as well as deliver great accuracy.
5. Japanese Saw
The Japanese saw is a pull-stroke hand saw with a double blade edge. One side of the blade usually has a crosscut blade configuration and the other side sports a rip cut blade for versatility.
Since the teeth are tiny, this saw produces a very accurate and clean cut. Indeed, it produces far less sawdust than any other type of hand saws.
Additionally, the blade is also long and flexible offering more maneuverability, especially when cutting small and hard to reach materials. By using a combination of crosscut and rip cut blade, it can be used to cut both hardwood and softwood quite easily. The blade is generally not removable but the teeth can be sharpened with a regular blade sharpening tool.
In fact, for small cutting projects, the Japanese saw delivers performance above and beyond compared to other hand saws.
6. Bow Saw
As the name goes, the bow saw is a saw that is shaped like a bow. The frame is normally made out of thin and robust steel alloy for lightweight portability.
The blade is by default a crosscut blade making this hand saw ideal for cutting fairly large pieces of materials of up to 6 inches in diameter. Material like raw lumber, logs, 2x4 planks and so on are very easy to cut with a bow saw.
The only caveat is this hand saw is not a very accurate, nor very clean cutting tool. We recommend it only in places where cutting finesse is not required, like firewood.
You can even use the bow saw to fell a medium-size tree as long as the blade is properly lubricated. All in all, this is a versatile hand saw especially for those who live in the open.
7. Pruning Saw
This hand saw is a specialized saw for cutting tall leaves, small branches and dead twigs. The blade is most of the time slightly curved but pruning saws with a straight blade are also not rare.
The blade teeth are normally small, as this type of hand saw is meant to cut exclusively small branches and leaves. The handle is also curved for a more comfortable grip, and some models even make provisions for attaching it to a telescoping handle.
In short, the pruning saw is used mostly as a gardening/tree pruning saw and not a woodworking.
Do not expect a great deal of accuracy with this hand saw. However, despite its small and somewhat strange looks, it cuts through material small than 3-inches in diameter with great ease.
8. Flooring Saw
Used extensively in the laminate flooring industry, the flooring saw is a special type of hand saw that contains 12 to 15 teeth per blade. The teeth are located on both sides of the blade. It is used to effectively cut through soft materials like laminated floor tiles with great accuracy.
Usage of this hand saw in areas other than flooring is quite limited. Many models even come with an inbuilt fence system for measurement and accuracy in cutting on the spot.
The blade does no damage to laminated materials and cutting almost any flooring material is quite easy with this tool.
9. Small Panel Saw
With a size rarely going over 46 centimeters, the small panel saw is a hand saw known for its portability and ease of use. It usually contains a small number of teeth on the blade, from 8 TPI to 12 TPI making it not a very accurate saw, but one that munches through material fast.
For general purpose woodcutting where speed is more important than accuracy, the small panel saw is a great companion to other saws like the bow saw.
10. Wallboard Saw
Also known as a plasterboard saw, keyhole saw, or drywall saw, this type of hand saw is built in a way to puncture through a plaster wall and cut right through it.
The blade on the wallboard saw has tiny teeth that will cut through the wall in a clean and neat way. All you have to do is make a borehole with a drilling machine and then start cutting. This hand saw is a push-stroke device so it is ideal to use it when cutting from top to bottom and not the other way round.
Additional uses for the wallboard saw, other than cutting through wall plaster is quite limited.
11. Rip Cut Saw
The rip cut saw looks a lot like a carpenter saw but the handle and blade are smaller. It is normally no bigger than 60 centimeters in length. The teeth are also in the range of 5 TPI to 7 TPI on the blade, making this hand saw extremely aggressive when it comes to cutting material.
It offers little to no accuracy, but in terms of cutting speed, it has no competition. It is ideally used for cutting 2x4 planks to size. Due to the fairly long blade, this hand saw can also be used for cutting firewood logs and other crude jobs.
12. Flush Cut Saw
The original purpose of the flush cut is to cut dowels or other protruding extensions. At first glance, it can easily be mistaken for a Japanese saw. After all, this is a very small push-stroke hand saw that can easily be operated with one hand.
The blade is very flexible and it works best when cutting small and soft surfaces. The big problem with the flush cut saw is that it needs a surface to rely on before making the cut. Holding the saw in mid-air will not give an accurate and clean cut.
Each of the 12 hand saws listed in this article has been designed for a specific cutting task. Remember that the teeth per inch (TPI) and the type of hand saw both play a role in the cutting result you want to get. In any case, whether you are working on a project that is big or small, large or thick, there is a hand saw out there for you.