September 1, 2014

How to: Choose a Good Hand Saw

Diagram of the wood grain, long and across.

Cutting length-ways cuts along the grain. Cutting across, is ‘cross grain’.

Picking a good hand saw when you are starting out then can be confusing when there are so many options. Some differences in the blades are important and can make your life easier, and others are not and just waste your time and money.

Here is how to choose a good hand saw:

One: Match the purpose with the saw.

There are two common types of hand saws; tenon saws and panel saws.

Tenon saws usually have more teeth, about 11-13 teeth per inch, and provider a slower but finer cut. A tenon saw is preferred when cutting across the grain.

Wood Hand Saws.

Wood Hand Saws: Tenon Saw (top) and a Panel Saw (bottom).

Panel saws generally have less teeth, with some saws having 7 teeth per inch. This makes ripping through panels or timber easier, particularly when cutting along the grain. However, these saws are not well suited to cutting across the grain.

Two: Judge teeth quality.

Note here, the amount of teeth do not have any bearing on the quality of saw. As described above, the amount of teeth tell you more about the function of the blade rather than its quality.

Hand saw teeth are not all made equal. Look for hardened steel, where possible, evidenced by a dark line along the teeth. Also look for teeth that are ‘triple ground’ meaning they are sharpened on 3 different angles. A higher ground saw gives you finer and faster cutting quality.

Three: Choose lengths and handles for comfort.

There are two major lengths for hand saws, 20 inches and 22 inches. Again these lengths have no bearing on the quality. Pick a length that you find more practical and comfortable.

Handles also have no impact on the quality of the blade. Handles should, although, have a index finger rest as this makes cutting more accurate and more comfortable.

Key takeaways

  • Ignore the length as a sign of quality. Just pick what you are most comfortable with.
  • When starting out, choose a finer saw to give you the versatility of doing a range of projects.
  • Look for the signs of quality, the grounding and hardening of the steel.
  • Pick a handle that is comfortable for you with a finger rest.