Know Your Tools: Hand Saws

Know Your Tools: Hand Saws

Johnny Williams
Feb 22, 2010

Say the word "saw" and most people are reminded of the gruesome horror films. But despite their name, hand saws aren't meant to saw off hands — most are designed to cut lumber. Whether rough milling a board or dovetailing a drawer, there's sure to be a saw cut out for the job.

Before making any sawdust, it's smart to sharpen up your tool terminology. After all, a saw blade is more than just a jagged metal prongy thing — it's a perfectly flat steel surface lined with a single edge of abrasive teeth. The more pointed teeth the saw has per inch, the more precise the resulting cut. With fine joinery, for instance, woodworkers utilize a saw with about 15 PPI (points per inch).

The width of a saw's cut is called a kerf. This kerf is typically wider than the steel blade itself, allowing the saw to move smoothly back and forth. When a blade catches in the wood, or binds, there's usually a reasonable explanation. To begin with, remember to saw using the full length of the blade. If it continues to bind, try lubricating the saw with a little wax. If you're still stuck, the teeth may be dull or the blade may be bent. Sadly, it may be time to replace Grandpa's rusty old saw. Fret not, there's always more saws in the sea.

CROSS CUT SAW — This age-old saw is used to cut across the grain of a board or "cross cut". The blade's wide-set teeth make it well-suited for rough cutting.

BOW SAW — This saw is typically used to cut logs to length. The small blade and wide, open frame prevents binding.

DOVETAIL SAW — This small saw is used to cut precision joinery. The blade is reinforced on its top edge to keep the kerf straight.

COPING SAW — This delicate saw is designed with a thin, replaceable blade for precision cuts. The wide frame allows for increased maneuverability.

KEYHOLE SAW — This small saw has a pistol-style handle and pointed blade used to cut holes and tight curves. You may have used one before to carve a Jack O' Lantern.

Images: 1 European Hand Tools , 2 Unity College , 3 Traditional Craftsman , 4 Hartville Tool , 5 Wikimedia

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