How to Use a Hand Saw

How to Use a Hand Saw

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When it comes to working with wood, a very common type of saw is the hand saw. Of course, as the name implies, it is a handheld manual tool, one that uses your arms as the motor. In spite of that, many professionals still prefer to use these in certain situations.

With that being said, even though the tool looks simple on the surface, there is actually a whole lot to know about using it. This article will talk about that, starting with choosing the right one and ending with your project being done.

How to Use a Hand Saw

Let’s jump right in.

Step 1: Choose the Best Type for Your Task

The first thing that you need to know about hand saws is that there are actually many different types of them, and they each have their specific applications. In fact, there are well over 30 different types of hand saws, so choosing the right one for the task at hand is quite important.

Just some of the types of hand saws out there include hack saws, coping saws, cross-cut saws, bow cut saws, fret saws, keyhole saws, rip cut saws, and many more.

Therefore, before you start with this process, it may be wise to do some more research into the various types of hand saws out there. Once you have chosen the right saw for your application, you can then move to the next step. (For the purposes of this guide, we will choose to use a simple cross-cut hand saw to make a cross-cut.)

CRAFTSMAN Hand Saw, 15-Inch (CMHT20880)

Step 2: Mark Your Wood

The next step in this process is to mark the wood. As mentioned above, our guide today is going to be a simple one explaining how to make a cross-cut.

So, take your board and mark a straight line across the width of the board, in the location where you want to make the cut. Use a pencil or something similar to make a clear mark so you know where to cut.

Step 3: Prepare Your Area

Now that you have the right saw, it is time to make the adequate preparations. Before you start cutting, be sure that you have the piece of wood resting firmly on a surface, with either a workbench or a sawhorse being best.

The side that is going to be your main piece should be resting securely on that surface. Here, you can choose to use some vises to clamp the wood down. Alternatively, you can use your weight and muscle (using your hand opposite from your dominant hand) to hold the wood in place.

Either way, the wood needs to be held firmly in place.

Step 4: Make a Notch

Before you can get started with sawing, you will need to use your cross-cut hand saw to make a little notch in the wood. You want to make it on the front side of the wood, right on the top corner that is furthest away from you.

Hold your saw at a 45-degree angle with the tip facing down and away from you, with the surface of the blade touching the top corner of the wood that is facing away from you. Using your thumb as a guide, gently pull the hand saw up towards you a few times to make this notch.

This is so your saw blade has somewhere to grip, so you can start making the cut.

Step 5: Make the Cut

Now, all that is left to do is to actually make the cut. Insert the blade of your hand saw into that notch that you made in the previous step. With the saw pointed down and away from you at a roughly 45-degree angle, start moving the saw back and forth while applying a good deal of pressure.

Remember, to make a good cut with a hand saw, you want to use a combination of pressure and speed. If you move in a fast and fluid motion, you should not have to apply too much pressure.

Step 6: Sand and Finish

Now that the cut has been made, the final thing left for you to do is to sand off the edge you just cut. If you made a nice cut, which really all comes down to the right blade and the right technique, you should only have to do minimal sanding.

The Basics of Hand Saw Safety

Before you pick up your hand saw to make any sort of cut, there are a few crucial safety tips that you need to adhere to at all times. It might not be a power saw, but it can still be a dangerous tool. So, here they are:

  • Seeing as you will have to hold the wood with one hand for stability (and quite close to the saw blade for that matter), it is a good idea to wear thick work gloves that are cut- and tear-resistant.
  • Unless you are superman, you probably won’t be able to get the hand saw up to the same speed as a power saw, but nonetheless, you do still want to protect your eyes, so wearing some basic safety goggles is recommended.
  • Remember that you absolutely need to secure the wood to a worktable or sawhorse when doing this. You need to use either a vise or your opposite hand to hold it in place. You need to apply more pressure to the side that you are holding down than to the side being cut.
  • Never start sawing quickly before you have made a significant notch in the wood, or else the blade may slip and cut your hands or damage the workpiece.
  • Moreover, beware that using the wrong type of hand saw for the application at hand can also be dangerous. Specific hand saws have specific uses, and this needs to be adhered to.

Mistakes to Avoid, Tips & Tricks

To help make your life easier when using a hand saw, let’s go over some useful tips and tricks for you to follow:

  • Check the wood being cut for knots. If possible, you do want to avoid cutting through knots, as this is definitely not easy.
  • Never do fast and short strokes. The best way to use a hand saw is to make very long and steady strokes, ideally utilizing at least 90% of the length of the blade.
  • Do not apply too much pressure to the blade, as this can result in the blade twisting. That, in turn, can result in a crooked cut or a snapped saw blade.
  • If the saw gets stuck in the wood, don’t wrench on it too hard, or else you may break the blade. Remember, hand saws are quite fragile, so you do need to take care when using them.
  • For the most part, with most types of hand saws, you want to start the cut with the teeth closest to the handle, as this will allow you to apply a significant amount of pressure to get the cut started.


There you have it, folks, mostly everything you need to know about using a hand saw. As you can see, the technique behind it is very simple.

It mostly comes down to choosing the right type of hand saw for the application in question. Then it’s making the right type of strokes while keeping in mind the safety precautions that I talked about in the article.