Coping Saw vs. Hacksaw: Which to Use?

Coping Saw vs. Hacksaw: Which to Use?

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There are many different tools out there that a craftsman might want to become familiar with, specifically a variety of saws. Today, we want to compare two very popular and commonly used types of saws, the coping saw, and the hacksaw.

Let’s figure out what both of these tools are, what makes them similar and different, and which one is best used for specific situations.

Coping Saws and Hacksaws: The Basics

Before we talk about similarities and differences, let’s first determine what both of these saws are.

What Is a Coping Saw?

Coping Saw The coping saw is a special type of bow saw. It features a long and wide rectangular frame that forms the shape of a large C or U.

This square C-shaped frame is made out of fairly flexible and springy iron, to which a handle is then attached. There is then a relatively long, thin, and fine-toothed blade stretched in between this frame. This is a completely manual saw.

The point of a saw with this shape is to be able to make interior cutouts in woodworking and carpentry, as well as to cut fairly intricate external shapes.

Due to the frame of the bow saw, and because the blade can be removed and reattached, interior cuts are possible without cutting through the perimeter of a piece of wood. Coping saws can also cut relatively tight bends and curves.

What Is a Hacksaw?

Hacksaw A hacksaw is another type of manually powered handsaw. It looks somewhat similar to a coping saw in terms of the shape, as it has a U-shaped frame, although it is much longer and not nearly as deep.

There is a long and thin fine-toothed blade stretched in between this frame, and of course, there is a handle attached to it. What is neat about the hacksaw is that it usually features a frame that is adjustable for length, so you can fit blades of various sizes.

Moreover, blades on the hacksaw can be installed to cut either on the pull stroke or the push stroke. Generally speaking, hacksaws are used for cutting a variety of metal rods, brackets, and pipes, although they can also be used to cut through plastic.

Similarities of Coping Saws and Hacksaws

Now that we know what both coping saws and hacksaws are, let’s take a look at the main similarities shared between them.

1. They’re Handheld

A basic similarity that both of these tools share is that they are both specific types of handsaws. These saws do not feature any bases, tables, or supports.

2. They’re Manually Powered

Both the coping saw and the hacksaw are manually powered. The only thing powering them is your arm.

3. They’re Light and Portable

Another big similarity shared by these two saws is that they’re both very lightweight and portable. You can easily transport these saws from one job site to another, and they can also easily be used one-handed.

4. They Have Removable Blades

Another fairly basic yet also useful similarity that both the coping saw and the hacksaw share is that the blades can be removed and replaced when needed.

Coping Saw in Use

Differences Between Coping Saws and Hacksaws

Now that we know what makes these tools similar, let’s figure out what makes them different.

1. Frame Shape

One basic difference between these two saws is that the coping saw has much more of a square-shaped frame where all three sides of the frame are relatively even in length. However, the hacksaw has a longer frame that isn’t quite as deep, or in other words, is more rectangular in shape.

2. Frame and Blade Length Adjustability

Another major difference here is that with the coping saw, the frame is a fixed length, so the blade for a specific coping saw is always going to be the same length too. However, with most hacksaws, you can actually adjust the length of the frame and affix blades of varying lengths to them.

3. Cutting Stroke

With coping saws, the blade almost always cuts on the pull stroke, whereas with a hacksaw, blades can be installed to cut in both directions.

4. Blade Angle Adjustments

On a hacksaw, the blade faces downwards at a perfect 90-degree angle, which is usually also the case for a coping saw. Although, with a coping saw, you can typically adjust the angle of the blade, something you can’t do with the hacksaw.

5. Shape of the Blade and Teeth

A coping saw blade is much smaller in terms of height, but is a bit thicker, and also has slightly rougher or coarser teeth. A hacksaw blade, on the other hand, is extremely thin, yet also somewhat tall, and has extremely fine teeth.

6. Handle Shape

The handle on a hacksaw is rectangular, whereas the handle on a coping saw is straight.

7. Main Purposes

A coping saw is used in woodworking for making interior cutouts and for making fairly intricate exterior cuts. A hacksaw, on the other hand, is generally used for cutting metal, specifically pipes and rods, as well as plastic in some cases.

Hacksaw in Use

Coping Saw vs. Hacksaw: Which of the Two Should You Use?

If you are cutting interior cutouts into wood, or intricate exteriors, then it is a coping saw that you need. If you need a metal cutting saw designed for pipes, as well as a saw that can cut plastic, then a hacksaw might be exactly what you’re looking for.


You should now know what all of the main differences between these two types of saws are, which should help to make an informed decision between them.

How Do Coping Saws and Hacksaws Compare with Other Tools?

See how coping saws compare with: fret saws | jigsaws | scroll saws

See how hacksaws compare with: hand saws | reciprocating saws