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.


10 of the Best Woodworking Tools for Beginners

Knowing what to buy when you’re a beginner can save you money and time. It also makes sure you start a large range of projects, instead of being held back by not having the right equipment.

Here are 10 of the best woodworking tools for beginners:

1. Crosscut saw

Crosscut saws are characterized by their finer teeth and better teeth-per-inch, this is a saw used to cut across the grain of timber.

2. Ripsaw

Ripsaws when compared to a crosscut saw have longer teeth and less teeth-per-inch, and are used to cut along the grain of timber, such as when cutting a large sheet in half. Read more about how to choose a good hand saw.

3. Chisel set

Chisels are great for crafting your project’s finer details and creating beautiful and complicated joints.

Tip: Make sure your chisels are sharpened before use.

4. Hand planer

Shaping timber can be difficult without one.  A hand planer can smooth down and shape edges using long strokes.

5. Sanding block

Sanding blocks are critical for shaping down corners, pieces and getting great finishes on your projects.

6. Square

Joints that are square are essential for making projects that are both strong and don’t look like they will fall over in a brief wind.

7. Steel Rule and Tape Measure

Tape measures will help you measure out over long distances while a metal rule will reliably measure smaller, detailed work to the millimetre.

8. Hammer and Wooden Mallet

Hammers are great for forcing in nails, however only a mallet will do for your chiselling work. Mallets can also be used for forcing in joints and wood without damaging the timber.

9. Nail punch

Nail punches help you push nails just under the surface of the timber so that you can create a flawless and safer surface finish.

10. Power drill

Apart from drilling flush holes and fastening screws, a good power drill has many interesting functions when combined with a range of different add-on accessories.

Don’t Forget to be Safe

Professionals and beginners alike should take safety seriously, since you don’t want any nasty surprises. Also make sure you have:

  1. Dust mask – protect your lungs.
  2. Safety glasses – avoid getting tools or rubbish in your eyes.
  3. Hearing protection – essential when using heavy machinery or avoiding the neighbours kids.