Hand Saw vs. Hacksaw: Which to Use?

Hand Saw vs. Hacksaw: Which to Use?

Handyman's World is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Hand saws and hacksaws are both commonly used tools for woodworking and construction projects. With that being said, they do have some distinct differences that make them useful for different purposes.

What we want to do today is figure out what exactly they are, what makes them similar, and what makes them different. Our main goal for today is to compare the two different types of saws – the hand saw and the hacksaw – to figure out which one is best for specific purposes.

Hand Saws and Hacksaws: The Basics

Before we get into talking about the similarities and differences between hand saws and hacksaws, let’s first dive into the specifics of each.

What Is a Hand Saw?

Hand Saw A hand saw is, simply enough, a handheld saw. Yes, that is a very basic definition, but that is exactly what it is, a manually powered saw. You hold the saw in your hands, and use those muscles to move it back and forth. In general, this specific type of saw is typically only used in woodworking and carpentry.

This saw has the ability to cut various types of wood including plywood, hardwood, softwood, and more. This type of saw usually always has a permanently fixed blade that is fairly wide. They also have between 7 to 10 teeth per inch, coming in various sizes. These saws can be found as all-purpose hand saws, as well as specialty hand saws for specific types of wood.

Hand saw blades may also have teeth that are made for different types of cutting, such as rip cutting or cross-cutting. However, most modern hand saws have universal teeth that can make both types of cuts with ease. Hand saws also have relatively small closed handles that allow the user to saw fairly quickly. These handles also provide the user with an additional safety element.

What Is a Hacksaw?

Hacksaw Next, we have the hacksaw, which is actually a special type of hand saw. A hacksaw, just like a hand saw, is  a handheld manual saw, relying on the user’s movements to function. The hacksaw typically has a bow-shaped frame with a fine-toothed blade in between that bow. The frame, or in other words the bow, also acts as the handle.

The main difference with the hacksaw is that it is generally used to cut metal, or any other material that is stronger than wood.  These materials may include PVC, plastic, pipes, and various types of metal.

In terms of the blade, there are many different sizes available, all of which have different amounts of teeth. You can find hacksaws that have as few as three teeth per inch, and others that have as many as 32 teeth per inch.

One convenient aspect of a hacksaw is that the blade is attached to the frame using nuts, which can be replaced quite easily. Something else worth noting is that there are four sub-categories of hacksaws, including the full-size hacksaw, the junior hacksaw, the mini hacksaw, and the power hacksaw.

Similarities of Hand Saws and Hacksaw

Now that we know what both hand saws and hacksaws are, let’s take a look at what makes them similar.

1. They’re Both Manual Tools

One of the most basic similarities here is that both are, of course, manual tools. They aren’t electric, and are powered only by the movements of the user. This makes  both  extremely basic cutting tools.

2. They Cut on the Push Stroke

Another similarity that both of these saws share is that they both typically  cut on the push stroke. While there are special models of both hand saws and hacksaws that may cut on the pull stroke, these tools are usually designed to cut on the push stroke

3. They’re Cost-Effective

Another commonality shared by both hand saws and hacksaws is that they are very cost-effective. They don’t have any moving parts, they aren’t electric, and they aren’t expensive at all, meaning you can find both for well under $50 with ease.

Using a Hand Saw

Differences Between Hand Saw and Hacksaw

Now that we know what makes hand saws and hacksaws similar, let’s figure out what makes them different.

1. Handle and Frame

One major difference between these two saws is their shape. The hand saw has a rectangular handle that is closed in nature, with the users hand fitting inside of. Hand saws also don’t have a frame such as that of a  hacksaw .

A hacksaw, however, has a frame that is typically bowed or  rectangular in shape . The end of this frame serves as the handle, and it is usually not closed. In general, hand saws and hacksaws have very different designs.

2. Blade Size and Density

Another major difference between these two tools is that hand saws have much larger and wider blades. These larger blades make them ideal for cutting through different types of wood.

Hacksaws on the other hand have fairly small and thin blades, although they are typically much denser and more durable. This blade design makes them able to cut through very hard materials that ordinary hand saws couldn’t. Hacksaw blades also tend to weigh much less than hand saw blades.

3. Replacing Blades

What also stands out about the hacksaw is that you can easily replace a blade by unscrewing it from the bow, while hand saw blades typically aren’t easy to replace. Although there are some hand saws that may allow you to replace the blade, the blade is often permanently fixed to the handles. This means that on a hand saw, if the blade breaks, you need to buy a new hand saw.

Another interesting thing to note is that there are also specific hacksaws out there that actually allow you to adjust the length of the frame to fit different blades.

4. Materials They Cut

As mentioned previously, one of the primary differences between hand saws and hacksaws is that they were simply made to cut different materials.

As we have covered, a hand saw is a tool used in carpentry and woodworking. The one and only purpose of a hand saw is to cut through various pieces of wood, whether that be plywood, hardwood, softwood, or anything in between.

On the other hand, hacksaws are specifically designed to cut through very tough and hard materials such as metal, plastic, PVC, and other similar materials.

5. Tooth Density

Due to the fact that they are designed to cut wood, a hand saw usually has anywhere from 7 to 10 teeth per inch. The hacksaw, on the other hand, may have anywhere between 3 and 32 teeth per inch. The exact number of teeth per inch can vary for both types of saw, depending on their more specific uses.. 6. Variations of Both

Another thing to keep in mind is that there are different variations of both hand saws and hacksaws. You can find hand saws designed for various types of wood and specific cuts.

As covered above, there are also four different types of hacksaws, and many of them are designed for different jobs. Now, do keep in mind that there is one specific type of hacksaw, the power hacksaw, that is electric and utilizes a motor.

Using a Hacksaw

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

As you can probably tell by now, there is one major deciding factor  that will determine which of these two saws you should use. This, of course, is what material you are trying to cut.

If you are cutting any type of wood, it is absolutely the hand saw that you need. However, if you are cutting plastic, PVC, or metal, then a hacksaw will most likely be better suited for the job.


Hopefully now that you know the major differences between hand saws and hacksaws, you can make an informed purchase that will help you complete whatever task you desire.

How Do Hacksaws Compare with Other Tools?

See how hacksaws compare with: coping saws | reciprocating saws