Last Updated on June 2, 2021 by Jason K. Long
Hand saws, throughout the years, have diversified into different types and designs. Some hand saws are designed as general-purpose tools, while others are for specific applications. Yet, when it comes to selecting the appropriate hand saw for your cutting needs, you must consider factors like the shape of the saw, the teeth count (TPI), the contour of the teeth, and the material you will cut.
A friend asked me a question the other day about whether hand saw blades are replaceable. Well, you might also be asking this question, for many handsaw users, more often, dispose of their hand saws when their handsaw blades have been badly damaged. Of course, not all hand saws have replaceable blades, yet, some allow for blade replacement like the hacksaws, bow saws, and coping saws.
Table of Contents
- TPI Guide for Hand Saw
- Categories of Hand Saw’s TPI
- Types of Handsaws for Cutting Different Materials
- Hand Saw Types
TPI Guide for Hand Saw
When buying a hand saw blade, one specification you should consider is the Teeth Per Inch (TPI), which is an essential factor when selecting a hand saw for a specific task and material. The TPI is a crucial factor that differentiates hand saw from each other. So, before buying a hand saw or a replacement blade, you should check for the blade’s TPI count.
The general rule for TPI is—the greater the number of teeth per inch in a blade, the finer the blade will cut, and the cleaner cut it will produce. You will see some hand saws for detailed works with higher TPI counts. Moreover, when cutting thinner woods or metals, you should go for blades with higher TPI counts.
You will also see many hand saws for cutting branches, sheet timber panels, and planks. These hand saws’ blades come with lower TPI counts for low precision but faster-cutting jobs.
However, you may ask why hacksaw for cutting plastic and metal have high TPI blades; although cutting plastic and metal is a non-detailed work, but need the high TPI design to cut through the metal. The answer is simple, i.e., hacksaws for such jobs are an exception to the above rule.
Categories of Hand Saw’s TPI
Experts loosely categorize hand saws’ TPI. They approximately grouped hand saw’s TPI according to the types that may prove useful to those who engage in woodworking. Below are these arbitrary categories:
- Coarse-toothed saws have blades with 7 TPI or less.
- Medium-toothed saws feature blades with TPI somewhere between 7 to 11.
- Fine-toothed saws have blades with 12 TPI or more.
You can look at these approximate categories to figure out the type of blades of your hand saws and the type of hand saw you would use for a given task.
Types of Handsaws for Cutting Different Materials
There are myriads of hand saws in the market today. If you cannot identify each of them, you may end up buying a hand saw that is not appropriate for the tasks you would like to engage in. Experts categorize hand saws based on the materials they can cut. Here are the common materials cut by hand saws:
The effectiveness of a hand saw in cutting wood depends on which type of wood it will cut and the intended type of cut. Traditional woodworkers make use of three types of hand saws. These three types of hand saws include hand saws, back saws, and frame saws.
Hand saws are the most common type you would see in most woodworking tools. They have thin metal saw plate sans a rigid frame. They have larger teeth, and you can use them for rough cutting of boards. An example of this type of saw is the WilFiks 16″ Pro and the Stanley 20-045 15-Inch Hand Saws.
Back saws, on the other hand, have fine teeth along with thin saw plates. You can use this saw for precision cutting of wood. Equipped with steel backs or rigid brass backs, it does not bend, providing precise cuts. This type of hand saw is more often more expensive than the standard hand saws.
Frame saws, however, make use of tension for tightening a blade between its two saw arms. They come in various sizes too. The frame saw perfectly works when cutting along curves. Moreover, you can use it for cutting boards as well.
Builders generally make use of power saws and hand saws when working on metal materials. They use a saw based on the metal composition and the size of the metal they are going to work with. The blade of saws used for cutting thin or soft metal differs from those for cutting thick hard metal. The most common hand saw used for cutting metal is the hack saw. This saw is rigid, and its teeth vary in spacing and size. And the keyhole saw is very useful in cutting holes on the steel pipe.
Drywall, also known as plasterboard, is utilized for ceilings and interior walls. The drywall has unique characteristics making it difficult to cut using the ordinary hand saw. Hence, it will help if you would use a keyhole saw to cut a hole through it and a hacksaw to finish the cutting.
You can use hand saws to cut through plastic materials. Yet, since the ordinary hand saws produce rough edges, you can also use a hacksaw to finish the edges. You should also ensure that you properly clamp the plastic sheets to avoid the flexing problem.
Since furniture works necessitate precise and detailed cuts, you should use a hand saw for that job. The good thing about hand saws is that they do not use electricity. You can utilize it for all kinds of furniture works.
You can also use dovetail or pull saw when working on a drawer or shelf dividers. When working on curves or moldings, however, you should use a coping saw. However, you can use a veneer hand saw for well-defined cuts.
Hand Saw Types
Hand saws, as useful everyday tools, come in various types and forms. Some hand saws come with well-engineered designs for maximum performance. Some, however, are perfect for multi-purpose tasks. Below are the types of hand saws that you can use for various woodworking tasks:
Makers of hacksaw initially conceived of it for cutting metal. As a fine-toothed saw, it assumes a C-shaped frame that holds a disposable blade under tension. It also has a pistol-grip handle and comes with pins for holding a disposable blade. Moreover, its frame is adjustable for accommodating different sizes of blades. Furthermore, the blade is replaceable.
You can use it for cutting tubing and pipes. As a versatile and lightweight saw, you can utilize it for cutting wood and plastic. Its TPI range between 18 to 32. It will be best if you mount the blade with its teeth facing away or toward the handle. This type of mounting results in either pull or push strokes.
2) Tenon Saw
Manufacturers of saws conceived of the tenon saw as a tool for cutting wood tenons. Tenons are a kind of interlocking joint or hinge. The tenon saw features a metallic edge that comes with crosscut or rip-filled teeth. It comes in different styles and sizes. This tool is a staple tool among furniture makers and wood crafters.
The stiff spine of the tenon saw keeps its blade from bending or bowing while you use it in cutting. It also enables you to limit the depth and dimension of the cut that you are making. Thus, it is perfect for cutting tenon joints and mortise. It is also ideal for creating a cut across the grain of the wood.
3) Back Saw
Characterized by stiffening ribs on its opposite edge, the backsaw allows you to gain better control and create more precise cuts. You can generally use the backsaw for woodworking that requires precision work. Moreover, you can use it for cutting miters, dovetails, and tenons in joinery and cabinetry.
With its stiffening rib, it can only cut limitedly. It has closely spaced teeth and comes with no or little set. You can call the backsaw as tenon saw or miter saw depending on your region or your intended use for it.
4) Veneer Saw
The veneer saw is a specialized saw that comes with a double-edged blade that is short enough. It has a TPI of 13. If you are working on veneer, you can use this saw for precision veneer cuts.
Other than that, veneer saw is very useful in cutting thin wood materials.
5) Fret Saw
This type of handsaw closely resembles the coping saw. A long thin blade characterizes it for engaging in intricate cuts. It features a larger and longer frame that lets you cut away from the outer edges. Its blade, however, is non-rotatable. Hence, you will find the use of this saw more tedious, and you get to assume challenging cutting positions when you perform complicated scrollworks.
6) Pruning Saw
The pruning saw is designed for easy and quick cutting of overgrown branches, twigs, logs, and thick garden wood. It features a straight-bladed smaller saw that is perfect for cutting small and sappy branches. It has higher TPI counts that range between 7 to 8 teeth per inch. Pruning saws may be curved-bladed with wider tooth spacing. This type of pruning saw is best for cutting hard and old branches. With a pruning saw, you can quickly get rid of tree limbs and bush with a maximum diameter of 2.5 inches.
7) Coping Saw
The coping saw—characterized by a U-shape frame with detachable blades for easy operation inside the curved areas—is somewhat like the fret saw. It can make tight curved cuts. It can also engage in precision cutting for molding installations, carpentry, and lightwood tasks. You can also use it for edges and jointing corners.
8) Plasterboard or Wallboard Saws
The plasterboard saw, also referred to as drywall saw or jab saw, is specifically made for cutting voids and holes in the ceiling panels or wall panels. You can easily identify it because of its medium length and narrow blades that taper sharply at the end. It has a curved handle connected to the wider end of its blade. Moreover, it is quite similar in design to the compass saw, and both have almost the same properties, saved for the fact that the plasterboard saw is a bit shorter.
9) Keyhole Saw
The keyhole saw, also referred to as compass saw or jab saw, is characterized by a dagger-like point at the blade’s tip for poking through soft materials like paneling and drywall. It can make small shaped cuts on wood, plywood, and drywall. It can also make larger holes as a starting point for another handsaw to start cutting. It is a perfect tool for carpentry and woodworking that require smooth finishes.
10) Crosscut Saw
The crosscut saw, designed for perpendicularly cutting wood across the wood grain, comes in a wide variety, ranging from small sizes to large sizes. It comes with small teeth for engaging in fine work or large teeth for engaging in coarse work. Its teeth are each angled alternately for slicing through the grain of the wood. Each tooth is like a miniature chisel that tears across the wood grain. Furthermore, it can cut using pull and push strokes. You can complement the use of this saw with the use of a saw hook.
Despite the widespread availability of power tools, many woodworkers still prefer the use of the traditional hand saws and can’t seem to dispose of them. Besides, you will always find different types of hand saws in the tool arsenals of most woodworkers. Of course, hand saws are very versatile, and in the absence of an electric source, you can rely heavily on these traditional hand tools. Nevertheless, when working with different types of materials, you should know precisely the right hand saw to use if you want to come up with the best cutting results.
Jason is a 40-year-old woodworker and carpenter who have been involved in the woodworking and woodcraft industry with 17 years of experience. He is expertise in technical aspects, woodcraft and furniture building projects.