Hand Saws

Keep a hand saw, crosscut saw or back saw on hand as a backup to your power saw

Hand Saws - Hand Saws

Keeping a hand saw handy is always a good idea because they are easy to use, functional, and never power down.

This guide highlights the different types of hand saws available, along with common characteristics, usage and safety tips.

Hand Saw Types

Think there’s only one type of hand saw? Actually, there are more than 10 different types, from back saws to dovetail saws to pruning saws.

Choosing the right type of handsaw is crucial to get the proper cut. Consult the chart for more information.  

Hand Saw Uses Characteristics
Back - Hand Saws


  • Use with miter boxes for angle and special degree cutting
  • Ideal for making joints
  • Types include gents, carcass, tenon and miter
  • Stiff blades with reinforced steel back provide accurate cuts
  • Pistol or D-shaped handle
  • Rigid backing limits depth of cut it can make
  • Makes very accurate cuts
Bow - Hand Saws


  • Cutting trees and shrubs, and other outdoor applications
  • Large throat allows for easy cutting of branches
  • Available in different lengths
Keyhole - Hand Saws


  • Cutting out shapes traced in wood, plywood, drywall and more
  • Woodworking, carpentry and hobby applications
  • Look for tempered steel blades that provide a smoother finish 
  • Available in various lengths and tooth configurations
Coping - Hand Saws


  • Installation of moulding
  • Carpentry applications
  • Making precision cuts
  • Provides accurate and precise joining of edges and corners
  • Features a U-shaped frame with a blade that can be easily detached for working inside curves
  • Turn the handle to pull the blade taut
Crosscut - Hand Saws


  • All-purpose woodworking
  • Cuts wood perpendicular to the grain
  • Features various tooth configurations for rough and fine finishes
Dovetail - Hand Saws


  • Cutting kerfs, joining wood and making accurate flush cuts
  • Cutting plastic and laminate
  • Functionally a smaller version of the back saw
  • Handle is set in line with the blade
Hacksaw - Hand Saws


  • Pipe and metal cutting
  • Cutting conduit, PVC, copper piping, steel rod, strap, bolts, cast-iron pipe and more
  • Extremely versatile
  • Blades are easily changeable
  • Look for a hacksaw designed to
    accommodate blades of different sizes
Panel - Hand Saws


  • Small, general-purpose woodworking applications
  • Functions as a smaller version of a crosscut saw
  • Usually has more teeth per inch than a crosscut saw
Pruning - Hand Saws


  • Cutting shrubs and wood
  • Blade may fold down into handle for easy storage and portability
Rip - Hand Saws


  • All-purpose woodworking
  • Cuts wood with the grain
  • Designed for rougher, more aggressive cuts
  • Not proficient at making crosscuts
Wallboard - Hand Saws


  • Cutting drywall and sheetrock
  • Ideal for working around electrical outlets and fixtures, piping and general cutout

Hand Saw Teeth

The number of teeth on a hand saw is the most important feature that determines how it makes cuts.

  • Saws with larger teeth are designed for faster, heavy-duty tasks.
  • Smaller teeth work better for finer cuts on delicate surfaces.
  • Saws often cut with the side of the teeth, which allows the thickness of the cut to be wider than the blade itself.
  • Set is the manner in which the teeth are bent in alternating directions.
  • Kerf is the space left by the cut, which is determined by how thick the blade is and how wide the teeth are.

Safety and Care

Saw blades are extremely sharp, so take precautions when using them.

  • Always wear safety glasses to avoid shards that may fly during cuts.
  • Saws cut when you push forward, not when you pull back, so keep others out of range of your immediate vicinity when cutting.
  • Draw the blade back toward you a few times to create a groove before beginning the cut.
  • Some saws may require you to drill a hole to use as a starting point.
  • Cut a 45-degree angle from the surface for crosscuts and 60 degrees for rip cuts.
  • Rub beeswax or an oily cloth on the blade to help minimize binding.
  • Lubricate hack saw blades with light oil.