How to buy a hand saw
A hand saw buying guide
Even with all our progress in technology and the popularity of power tools, hand saws still enjoy a special place in many toolboxes. Ask anyone who loves to do home improvement projects and needs to make cuts of varying depths and angles, and you'll understand why he or she still prefers hand saws among their home improvement tools. There are different types of hand saws for different tasks, and you'll need to consider a few basic factors as you learn how to buy a hand saw. The best hand saws will be the ones that meet the maximum number of your criteria.
>> Consider the types of hand saws
The first step in choosing the right type(s) of hand saw is to match it to the particular job you're planning. For instance, crosscut and rip hand saws are the most common types of hand saw used for woodcutting across or parallel to the wood grain respectively. However, while the rip types of hand saw cut aggressively and leave a rough edge, crosscut hand saws cut less aggressively and create a much smoother finish.
While the rip and crosscut types of hand saw remain two of the most versatile cutting tools, certain types of jobs need the more specialized saws. The following table summarizes some of the most common specialty hand saws.
|Backsaw ||Stiffening metal rib on the edge opposite to the cutting edge || |
- Offers better control for precise cuts are needed in woodwork
- Sub-varieties include miter saws (for cutting angles in wood) and dovetail saws (for cutting dovetails in order to join together the pieces of wood)
|Coping Saw ||Has thin metal blades || |
- Cutting curves and other intricate shapes
- Can even be used to cut inside the wood
|Keyhole saw ||Has narrow, tapered blades || |
- Cutting holes, even through tough materials such as drywall
|Panel ||Smaller, more portable compared to the other crosscut saws || |
- Cutting the wood across the wood grain
|Bow ||Has a bow- or U-shaped steel frame and a high-tension steel blade || |
- Used for cutting wood in all the directions
- Cutting trees and shrubs
|Hacksaw ||Can be used with blades of varying sizes || |
|Pruning ||Blades can be folded down making it very portable || |
|Compass ||Blades resemble that blades of keyhole saw but are longer and coarser || |
- Cutting curves and circles in wood
|Drywall ||Blades are like the compass saw but have coarser teeth || |
- Cutting wallboard, gypsum and backing board
|Japanese saw ||Lighter and more flexible blades; cuts as you pull blade towards you instead of as you push blade away || |
- Mostly finer cuts, but some designs allow for coarse cuts
>> Consider basic features
Before you make up your mind on the best hand saws to buy, remember to check all their features. This is an important aspect to consider while you're still researching how to buy a hand saw, because the features can have a direct bearing on the functions of a hand saw and on your satisfaction using it.
One of the most important features that determines the versatility of a hand saw's uses is its teeth. Always make it a point to check their sharpness by lightly running your fingers against them. In addition, look at the teeth per inch (TPI). This is a measurement of the saw teeth density. The kind and density of teeth you would want on a particular saw will largely be guided by the kind of work you have in mind. Do you want to work on delicate surfaces and make finer cuts? If so, buy hand saws with smaller teeth and higher TPI. On the other hand, if you have to work on rougher surfaces and want to make aggressive cuts, buy hand saws with larger teeth and a lower TPI.
While you're examining a hand saw's teeth, check their arrangement to make sure they're evenly set on the horizontal plane. If one of the teeth projects more than the others, the saw will drag and leave behind an ugly mark. Similarly, if the teeth on one side are farther from one another when compared to the teeth on the other side, this will make the blade twist during a cut.
After you inspect the teeth, look at the blade as a whole and the handle. If there's even a small bend or bow in the blade, it will cause binding. It's important to check for a well-designed handle solidly attached to the blade to ensure accurate cuts, comfort during long cutting sessions and long tool life. For instance, a welded handle offers more strength over its screwed-on counterpart, which tends to loosen over time, making the saw wobble.
The best hand saws have a tapering design. This means they become thinner as you go from the teeth to the top. This help make cleaner cuts.
Always check for proper flexing. This means your saw should bend easily in the horizontal plane under slight pressure but straighten as soon as the pressure is gone.
Finally, while adding a hand saw to your hand tool set, make sure that you feel comfortable with it. Avoid hand saws that feel too heavy or unmanageable. If necessary, make a few sawing movements in the air just to get a feel for the tool.
>> Consider special features
As you learn how to buy a hand saw, think about the features that will make your projects easier. For instance, consider investing in hybrid blades that allow you to make both crosscuts and rip cuts. Also, consider buying saws with angle marks on the handles to help you cut 45- and 90 degree angles more easily.
>> Think about portable powered saws
As good as traditional hand saws are, there might be a place in your workshop for powered portable saws. Jig saws, reciprocating saws and circular saws perform specialized cutting well and save your sawing arm some effort.