When we became carpenters the first thing we had to learn was to work harder than we had ever worked before. Talk about burning fat off quickly…..wow! Next, we had to learn about safety in a construction area. Talk about bumpy foreheads….wow! And before we finally could be considered as apprentices, we had to learn how to properly use the various tools of our trade. Not the least important of which were the many different types of hand saws.
You know, when three or four cuts are all that you have to make practically any saw will fit the bill. But, if you intend to do very much wood work you will discover that the right saw (properly sharpened) can help to make the task easier.
There are far more variations in handsaws than in other tools. Needless to say, every in-home workshop needs at least one good handsaw. The handsaw that we feel is most versatile is the crosscut saw which is used for cutting across the grain of the wood. The rip saw has larger teeth and is used for cutting along the grain. Our workshop also includes a compass saw, backsaw, coping saw and for metal work the hacksaw.
The cutting teeth of a crosscut saw are alternately bent (set) so that the tooth structure is greater in width than the blade itself. The set insures that only the saw’s teeth contact the wood during cutting. This substantially reduces the chance of the blade binding against the wood. The sharpness of a crosscut saw can be felt by gently rubbing your thumb and index finger along the sides of the teeth. Both the set and how sharp the teeth are can be felt. If the edges feel smooth the saw is dull. As an added measure carpenters rub the blade with bee’s wax to lubricate it and further reduce the chance of binding. The number of teeth per inch has a great deal to do with how a crosscut saw works. For example: 8 teeth per inch produce fast rough cuts and a crosscut saw with 12 teeth per inch will produce finer cuts — but they take longer to make. We have an 8 point, a 10 point and several 12 point crosscut saws in our workshop. Oh, and by the way, you can keep your handsaws sharper longer by cutting a piece of plastic tubing lengthwise and pressing it over the edge of the teeth.
Since we have an electric circular saw we have no need for a hand held rip saw. Although there was a time when we frequently ripped wood by hand we have found it to be hard work at best. But, if a power saw isn’t in your budget then a rip saw is a must. Attempting a rip with a crosscut saw can turn a project into a career.
The compass saw has a long, narrow, flexible blade that is used for cutting curves. Although, it is designed for use with wood it also works wonders with drywall. With wood a hole is first drilled giving the compass saw a starting point. With wallboard the pointed tip of the saw actually can be driven into the wallboard creating its own starting point.
A backsaw is a small version of a fine point crosscut saw except that it has a rigid back making it the best choice for super straight cuts like trim miters and bevels that must be cut straight and smooth.
A coping saw has the finest tooth pattern of all wood saws — 20 teeth per inch. It is used for cutting patterns and sharp corners. Carpenters cope-cut joints in crown molding and baseboard to prevent the occurrence of an open joint which frequently occurs when wood is joined with a miter.
A hacksaw is not designed to cut wood, but no woodworker can consider his saw collection complete without one. By the way, as long as wood is attached with metal nails or screws there will be a need for a hacksaw. As with other saw blades the more teeth per inch the finer (and slower) the cut. For most jobs 14 teeth per inch will do the trick, but for pipes and tubing 24 teeth per inch is best.
And remember, a handsaw can take a finger off in one swipe. Get a lesson from a local wood shop teacher before going out on your own. Home improving can be fun — and profitable — with the right tools and proper know-how.