Before you start woodworking, getting tools may seem like a fairly simple task. You go to your local hardware store and get all the tools that you need. Simple, right? Well, it is simple if you plan on fixing a couple of things around your home. But, if you are serious about woodworking, you need to be careful and resourceful when picking tools. So, we will use this article to give you a comprehensive idea of how to pick the perfect hand saw for woodworking.
Understanding Hand Saws
We are often surprised at how little people know about hand saws besides those that deal with woodworking. Besides basic ones you can get in a hardware store, there is a plethora of choices. So, before you pick one, it is useful to first educate yourself on what is out there.
While there are multiple ways to categorize hand saws, the following three groups cover them pretty well. Back saws, frame saws, and panel saws. There are various other types, like Japanese pull saws, veneer saws, and wire saws. But the three listed should give you a basic understanding of what hand saws are out there:
- Back saws – These are hand saws primarily used for precision wood cuts. They have thin metal saw plates with fine teeth and use rigid brass or steel backs to prevent bending. This is what enables back saws to have the necessary precision for more delicate woodworking. It should be fairly obvious that the smaller the saw teeth, the finer the cut.
- Frame saws – They rely on tension to hold the blade firmly between two arms. If the blade is narrow, you should use the saw to cut curves. You can get frame saws in various sizes, from those meant for fine work to those with large teeth for rough-cutting.
- Panel saws – Panels saws are the most common category of hand saws (so much so that people often use the two terms interchangeably). This is your basic saw with a handle and a flexible blade. Unlike back saws, there is no rigid back to firm it up. Just like frame saws, you can get them in a variety of teeth and saw sizes.
Hand blades tend to have two different tooth configurations. You can either sharpen them to be either “rip” or “cross-cut.” Rip teeth cut along the length of the board with the grain, therefore “ripping” the wood. Cross-cut teeth, as the name suggests, cut across the grain. The smaller the teeth are, the less of an impact the tooth shape will have.
With proper sharpening tools, you can change between the two. But it is usually best to get the one that suits your needs. If you can only afford one saw, you can get the hybrid configuration called “sash.” But having one “rip” and one “cross-cut” is usually far better.
Each saw has its own tooth count. We express that toot count through either PPI (points per inch) or with TPI (teeth per inch). The more teeth a saw has, the smaller they are. Larger teeth make it easier to cut faster but have a rough finish. Finer teeth make cutting slower but are more precise. This is why woodworkers have different handsaws that they will use throughout the process.
Pick The Perfect Hand Saw For Woodworking
Now that you know the basics of hand saws, how are you supposed to pick the perfect hand saw for woodworking? Well, this depends on a couple of factors. First, you need to consider your budget and where you will store your saws. Second, you need to consider what you’ll do once your saws get dull. And finally, you need to consider what your woodworking will entail. Let’s go through these.
Consider Your Budget
A hand saw can cost you anywhere from $10 to $150. The better the quality, the longer your handsaw will last, and the better it will perform. But, seeing as you likely need to get multiple, what are you supposed to do? Well, we would advise you to value quality over quantity.
Consider what you will use your saws for, and get the minimum number required. A good rule of thumb is not to overwhelm oneself with too many choices. Getting 10+ saws right off the bat usually isn’t a good idea for an aspiring woodworker. If you have many tools, you should try to find storage space in your garage so that you have more space to work in. So, don’t start big. Instead, get 2 or 3 decent ones and slowly build your collection.
Modern saws vs. old saws
Depending on how you maintain your tools, you may want to favor old saws. Modern saws usually have impulse-hardened teeth. These are not possible to resharpen, which means that you will have to get rid of them they become dull.
But, in the old days, saws weren’t seen as disposable tools. So, if you wish to invest in quality saws, you might want to consider looking at ones made before WWII. While these may seem antique, they are surprisingly resilient and maintainable. Although, if you are serious about investing in hand saws, you might want to do a bit more research into which saws give the best value for money.
Which Saws to Start With
Finally, you need to consider what kind of woodworking you plan on doing. The handsaws needed for building furniture can be quite different from those used for wooden figurines. So, the smart way to go about picking the perfect hand saw is to see what other people recommend.
It is quite likely that you don’t even know what tools you’ll need. Therefore, trying to pick the perfect hand saw for woodworking without prior project research may be counterproductive. Instead, see what people recommend and take their advice. You may even need to get one that seems weird at first but will turn out to be the one you rely on the most.