Familiarize yourself with these saws and their uses, and your next DIY project is sure to be a cut above the rest.
By Glenda Taylor and Bob Vila | Updated May 18, 2022 11:11 AM
We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.
Whether you want to build a rustic bench, install trim molding, or plumb a new sink, odds are that you’ll need to cut some material to size—and there’s a saw out there waiting to help you do just that. The following seven types of saws cover a spectrum of DIY scenarios, from wood to metal. Familiarize yourself with which specialties each possess, and you can tackle whatever project you have in mind.
It’s All About the Teeth
As you go about adding saws to your toolbox and workshop, you’ll find that many saw blades are rated by teeth per inch (TPI). These numbers range from 2 to 32. Blades with lower TPI numbers will cut quickly but produce rougher cuts. The higher TPI ratings will produce fine, smooth cuts in wood and similar materials.
TYPE OF SAW: Traditional Handsaw
No woodworker’s shop is complete without a traditional handsaw, with its large blade and sturdy handle. Though the handsaw is 100 percent muscle-powered, it steps in when a power saw just won’t do, such as when you need to cut through a post that is too thick for a circular saw blade. Choose the type of traditional handsaw you need based on the cut you intend to make and the TPI needed to make it.
- If you need to rip wood (or cut wood lengthwise with its grain), choose a rip saw with large, angled teeth and an average of 5 TPI.
- Cutting across the grain of the wood takes a crosscut handsaw, which has between 10 and 12 TPI and shorter teeth than a rip saw.
- Looking for a do-it-all compromise? The dual-cut (or “hybrid”) handsaw features an average of 6 to 8 TPI and can both rip wood and cut across the grain.
Best For: Cutting wood by hand.
Our Recommendation: For an all-around, affordable crosscut handsaw, you won’t go wrong with Stanley’s 26-Inch Short Cut Saw (19.99 on Amazon). With 12 TPI, it produces quick and smooth cross-grain cuts. When you’re ready to invest in a saw with ripping power that will last for years, though, consider Crown’s 190, 24-inch Rip Saw and its 4.1 TPI (82.85 on Amazon).
TYPE OF SAW: Hacksaw
With thin, interchangeable blades ranging from 14 to 32 TPI, the C-shaped hacksaw is most often used for cutting metal pipes. Its range of TPI options, though, makes it useful for cutting sheet metal, PVC, and conduit as well—simply swap out the 10- to 12-inch blades, which are held in place by screw nuts on each end. A hacksaw also comes with a tension nut that allows you to stretch the blade taut for easier sawing. Depending on the thickness of material (metal or otherwise) that you’re cutting, you may also change out the hacksaw’s tooth pattern:
- Small teeth on the raker set hacksaw blade are arranged in sets of three for easy cutting of standard metal pipes.
- A regular set hacksaw blade features teeth positioned next to one another without spaces, but every other tooth angles a different direction, either forward or backward. It’s intended for cutting soft metal and other materials, such as PVC.
- On a wavy set blade, the teeth are positioned next to one another, but the tooth pattern features a slight wave from one side to the other. Choose this type of blade when cutting thin metal, such as ducting.
Best For: Cutting metal.
Our Recommendation: For good cutting control, we like the rubber grips on both the handle and the front frame of TEKTON’s 2-in-1 High Tension Hacksaw, which allows the user to hold the saw with both hands (12.99 at Amazon). The TEKTON saw comes with one 12-inch, 18 TPI blade and can store six more blades in its handle.
TYPE OF SAW: Coping Saw
The U-shaped coping saw has only one purpose: coping or “back-beveled” cuts for trim installation around inside corners. While it resembles and functions like a hacksaw, the coping saw’s frame is lighter in weight and the blade is shorter—typically 6-¾”-long and anywhere from 10 to 32 TPI. The tiny blades make it possible to back-cut curves and create precise joints when installing crown molding and other types of trim.
Best For: Creating professional-looking inside corner joints when installing trim.
Our Recommendation: For sharp, accurate coping cuts, we like the Husky 6½-Inch Deep-Cut Coping Saw (7.88 at The Home Depot). It features a deep frame throat, giving you plenty of room to back-cut even wide pieces of trim, and its 32 TPI blade can be rotated a full 360-degrees to saw at virtually any angle.
TYPE OF SAW: Jigsaw
A versatile saw for DIYers, the jigsaw can cut straight lines like a circular saw (see below) but its real claim to fame is the ability to cut curves. Considered one of the safer power saws, the jigsaw features a large flat base called a “shoe,” which rests flat on the surface of the material you’re cutting and surrounds the blade and offers some protection. Many jigsaws come with an adjustable shoe that tilts, allowing you to cut on an angle when needed.
These types of saws can cut nearly any type of wood using blades with a TPI between 8 and 10. The teeth on a standard jigsaw blade point upward, so the saw cuts on the blade’s upstroke. Reverse blades, which cut on the downstroke, are available for cutting materials with a finished surface, such as a laminate countertop. While blades come in a variety of lengths, width depends on the curve: Choose one that is ¼-inch-wide to cut tight curves and ⅜-inch-wide blades to cut standard curves.
Best For: Cutting curves in wood.
Our Recommendation: If you’re looking for a dependable jigsaw for DIY projects, large or small, consider DeWALT’s corded 5.5 Amp Top Handle Jigsaw kit (99 on Amazon). It has a variable speed dial for adjusting cutting speed, and it comes with its own carrying bag.
TYPE OF SAW: Circular Saw
Designed to cut straight lines in dimensional lumber, plywood, rigid foam board, and even concrete, the circular saw is one of the most popular saws for framing and can substitute on the jobsite for a table saw. It features an encased circular blade and a wide base that fits flat against the material you’re cutting and, on most models, adjusted so you can vary the depth of the cut.
Circular saw blades are labeled for the type of material they’re designed to cut: Wood blades cut plywood or lumber, masonry blades cut joints in a concrete sidewalk, and so on. Circular saws come in a variety of sizes, determined by the diameter of the blade they use. While the most common blade diameter for circular saws is 7¼ inches (suitable for most construction tasks), you can find saws with blades as small as 4 inches for light woodworking projects or a large as 12 inches for cutting heavy timbers.
Best For: Cutting framing materials, including wall studs, joists, rafters, and sheathing.
Our Recommendation: If you enjoy building garden sheds, playhouses, and other structures, the RYOBI 7¼-inch 13-Amp Circular Saw is an affordable, yet dependable, circular saw (39.97 at The Home Depot). It comes with a spindle lock for easy blade changes, and its 13 Amp motor is suitable for cutting through plywood and standard dimensional lumber.
TYPE OF SAW: Miter Saw
The main purpose of a miter saw is to make precision crosscuts when framing, installing molding, or even cutting siding strips. Today’s miter saws make angled cuts based on the same principle as their manual “miter box” siblings, although they can perform even more complex cuts. A miter saw’s heavy steel base can be mounted on a workshop table for stability, and a steel guide along its back edge, called a “fence,” aligns the material to be cut. The actual saw blade is housed in a large disk on an adjustable arm that can be raised and lowered as well as swiveled from side to side to cut on virtually any angle.
While all miter saws make angled cuts, a compound miter saw has the ability to tilt on its axis to make slanted cuts in addition to angled cuts. On a sliding miter saw, the arm can be pulled forward when the saw is operating, making it possible to cut wider boards or strips of siding. Some high-end miter saws feature laser guides for extra-precise cuts. Miter saws are available in 10-inch and 12-inch sizes and range in price from around 100 to over 600, depending on quality. The larger 12-inch size is usually reserved for commercial use.
Best For: Framing and finish carpentry when you need to make simple or complex angle cuts.
Our Recommendation: The Hitachi 15-Amp, 10-inch Compound Miter Saw features a 24 TPI blade for angled cuts and simple bevel cuts—making it a solid choice for most DIY building and trimming projects (109 on Amazon).
TYPE OF SAW: Chainsaw
The chainsaw is designed to cut tree limbs or fell entire trees with its dozens of sharp teeth that rotate around the guide bar. Guide bars range from 14 inches long (for light cutting and pruning) up to 36 inches long (for use by lumberjacks) and can be interchangeable on some models of chainsaws. For most DIYers, a chainsaw with an 18- to 20-inch guide bar is sufficient. Keep in mind that a 16-inch chainsaw bar will fell a tree that’s 32-inch in diameter by sawing systematically around the entire trunk of the tree. While some smaller, corded chainsaws work for trimming and pruning nearby the house, most are fuel-operated and can be taken into remote areas for harvesting firewood. start under 100 for lightweight electric models and run into the thousands for commercial-grade chainsaws.
Safety Note: Chainsaws are among the most powerful saws around, but they’re also quite dangerous because the tip of the guide bar can kick back during operation. Before operating any chainsaw, read the owner’s manual carefully and familiarize yourself with the saw’s safety features and safe operating techniques.
Best For: Cutting firewood and trimming trees.
Our Recommendation: The Husqvarna 44E 16-inch 2-Stroke, X-Torq Gas-powered Chain Saw makes quick work of pruning branches and harvesting firewood (299.95 on Amazon). It comes with a 16-inch guide bar, and it can be fitted with a longer 18-inch bar if desired. Though not the cheapest model on the market, this 10 lb. chainsaw is powerful and relatively lightweight, so you can cut without suffering too much arm and back strain.
Best Saw for Small Wood Crafts in (May) 2023
Creating a beautiful DIY craft is such a boredom buster.
And I always prefer handmade gifts as they show care dedication. Everyone loves something thoughtful personalized, right?
And the coolest part? These are Budget-friendly.
If you’re into woodworking (like me) have some scrap wood pieces left over at the garage, making thrifty DIY projects will be an adventure.
This is something that never goes out of style. But first……….you need a rock-solid cutting tool like a craft saw.
Wondering what kind of saw I’m talking about? What saw cuts curves in wood? Here are the 5 best saw for small wood crafts to turn a plank of ordinary scrap wood into a piece of art.
But First…… What kind of saw do I need for wood crafts?
In a word- the answer is the circular saw.
No matter whether it’s long, short or customized, the circular saw can easily tackle any cut. These cutting tools are called DIYer’s best weapons for a reason.
Literally all shapes of wood!
Usually weighing between nine and twelve pounds, circular saws are portable and convenient. But that’s not the main reason to pick these precision wood cutting tools for crafts.
This is because The vertical angle of the cut can be adjusted from 90 degrees to 45 degrees(and any angle in between). Apart from this, the depth can be adjusted, too.
Apart from these, there are some other saws which may be a good fit for small woodcraft:
Best Saw for Small wood Crafts (aka DIYer’s Arsenal) to Take Crafting into Next Level
Here are three best saw for cutting wood crafts for a crafty person(like me) who is looking for a reliable cutting shape out of wood.
Genesis circular saw GCS445SE – best saw for crafts
Save time and energy by using a cutting beast GCS445SE.
Lightweight handy, this GCS445SE has recently captured the woodworking world- and even the craftsman’s world- by storm.
Design, Style speed
The GCS445SE is a circular saw, weighs only 4.7 Ibs. it’s more than a saw- you will find everything you need for your next DIY projects.
Why am I saying this? Just look at the included components!
- Compact Circular Saw
- Blade Wrench
- Parallel Guide
- 24T Blade
- Vacuum Adapter
The speed is 3500 RPM, decent for any home diy project.
Voltage power source
Like most circular saws, this piece is also run by corded electric. I want to mention that this cutting tool is designed for the usage of USA customers, so the voltage is 120v.
How do you cut small shapes in wood?
No battery needed- that’s really good news. There is a 4 amp motor which makes it way more than enough for small craft or DIY projects.
The blade is the most vital fact when it comes to cutting machines.
The premium carbide blade can easily handle all 2x material just in a blink. The blade length is 2 inches; don’t think you need anything more for your small woodcraft.
Now come to handle. The slim barrel grip makes it smooth; anyone can operate it in one hand.
Surprising performance- that’s all I can say about this saw.
Not only small crafts projects, the Triple gear reduction system makes it the perfect cutting tool for any woodworking workshop.
For whom is it designed for? Both inside outside armature.
A big Aha moment while testing this saw
This cutting beast is not so loud. Honestly speaking, I didn’t expect it.
- A little hook that exceeds my expectation
- ETL tested certified, so entirely safe
- Lightweight one-handed operation
CRAFTSMAN 7-1/4-Inch Circular Saw – best saw for DIY projects
How can Forgot the name Craftsman. They pretty much awe us with some amazing saw which is so damn cool.
Design, Style speed
No wonder another circular saw.
With the 55-degree bevel capacity, this machine ensures accurate angled cuts every time. Though it’s a review for DIY projects, this saw is more than that—designed to withstand harsh Jobsite conditions.
It’s time to talk about speed. The motor is impressive at 5,500 RPM’s. If you are targeted for any aggressive fast cut, look no further.
Voltage power source
The best thing about this hobby Craft Saws – it runs in both Ac/dc.
That means 0 volt! Don’t forget the fact that it’s 15-Amp; you will get the fast cutting accuracy without sweating the blood.
The craftsman is obviously very thoughtful about the grip.
….coz they know for long time operation it’s crucial.
The Contoured over-molded handle makes sure that you have the utmost comfort while using it.
Something that boils my blood is the 71/4inches Carbide tipped blade; the blade is also pretty sharp to cut in one shot. Besides these, this cutting machine has a Spindle Lock mechanism that allows quick blade changes.
The compact ( featherweight) style helps reduce fatigue. Not just a saw, it’s a whole package.
Here is what you can expect from this package:
I don’t think you need much more than these for an impressive performance for home or DIY projects.
A big Aha moment while testing this saw
But if you ask for something more particular, then I will say it’s convenient. The Metal rafter hook makes this saw more convenient to keep move literally anywhere you want(both inside outside).
Bosch JS260 120-Volt Top-Handle Jigsaw- best mini saw for crafts
I know what you’re thinking. It’s not a circular saw.
Well, true. But……. I can’t help falling in love with this little cutting devil JS260. And it’s not like that only a circular saw is good for a woodcraft project man. You can try other tools too, but circular give you some extra advantage for small woodworking projects.
Design, Style speed
As the name indicates, it’s a jigsaw.
I fall for the color blue, actually (maybe that’s because it’s my favorite color). Comes with four orbital-action settings, it ensures varied blade strokes for a flawless cut.
- JS260 Jig Saw
- Jig Saw Blade
- Anti-Splinter Insert
- Bevel Wrench
- Carrying Bag
Voltage power source
The machine is corded electric type. With the deadly combination of low-vibration design Precision-machined plunging mechanism– this machine is a pure masterpiece for smooth operation.
The motor looks quite hefty, 6.0 AMP produces up to 3,100 strokes per minute, with a 3/4 In. Stroke length. It needs 120 Volts.
The unique feature of this saw is probably the blade.
The multidirectional blade clamp will ensure that you got a very good grip. Apart from these, The T-shank blade-change system is totally toolless, dude Blade insertion and removal are a breeze now.
Handy for both indoor outdoor use, the variable-speed dial controls gives the power to monitor the speed. That’s not all-the accelerator trigger controls the operating speed. As mentioned earlier, engineered with a low-vibration plunging design, the performance in the precious cut is really jaw-dropping.
A big Aha moment while testing this saw
The saw comes with a huge heavy-gauge steel footplate. I mean, literally huge. You won’t have to worry about sturdiness.
- Ambidextrous lock-on button
- Two-finger trigger
- Pretty affordable worth the price
5 questions to ask before opening the wallet for the tool for cutting small pieces of wood
Here are the questions I want you to think twice.
#1. Figure out where and how it will be used- Indoor or outdoor?
The fact is cutting small pieces is not as easy as it sounds. That’s because most of the saws are made targeting the pro woodworker.
For slicing a small chunk of timber, you need something with tiny teeth a blade. So first foremost, you should decide what you’re gonna do with it then you can choose the right tool for it.
#2. Hand Tools or Power Tools?
Again I have to say- It depends on what your target is.
We all know the legendary craftsmen are using their signature hand tool. But these tools need a lot of effort ( of course, skills).
….coz a hand saw is literally what it sounds like, operated by hand power.
On the other hand, power tools are run by other power sources- it could be an air compressor, electricity, or battery. So obviously, these tools will take minimum effort time.
All you have to do is find out which is the right fit for you.
#3. Wait…….What Saw Features Are Important To You?
You knew this was coming, right?
Though this may vary from person to person, there are some must-have features you should look for in a saw in a small crafty project. Here are some of the features where I am always so picky.
- Bevel capacity angle
- Depth adjustment
#4. What about safety?
And as you’re a novice or hobbyist, it’s the main feature you should look for at the very first.
When you’re operating a saw which works like a beast spinning at 3k or 4k RPM, and your fingers are literally only inches away from it, if anything goes wrong, the accident may occur in seconds.
Think about it again before opening the wallet.
#5. Is the blade running at full speed? (If you pick the power tool)
As you can see, this is just for those who are taking the powered one.
And yeah, the blade is hell important.
That’s because the blade is directly related to cutting ability- And of course, accuracy. The most common problem of running a saw is wobbling at full speed. So check this out carefully.
What are the other small electric saw for crafts I Tested ( Found quite Handy)
BLACKDECKER Electric Hand Saw- Best hand saw for small wood crafts
Call me old-fashioned, but I’m in love with this one!
You’ll be just shocked once you take your first shot. No matter whether its tree limbs, branches, or plain wood, this craft saw for wood gonna tackle the most difficult straight cut easily.
An ergonomically designed handsaw is made for a tension-free, sure-handed operation. Powers up to 4600 SPM, this machine is surely a blast of performance.
Things I Liked About BLACKDECKER Electric Hand Saw
- Super Quick blade change option: You can easily change the saw blade effortlessly without any additional tool. (Disclaimer: The manufacturer also provides an attached PDF that answers some of the Troubleshooting).
- Comes with a cute storage bag: The included storage bag will make your life a lot easier to carry around the machine, blades, and cord.
- Safety button: It is mainly designed for DIY use but still ensures a safety button keeps the machine idle until you pull the trigger.
Things That BLACKDECKER Electric Saw Should Improve
GALAX PRO Circular Saw – best saw for small projects
Makes woodworking almost fun.
….coz cutting small woods is a piece of cake for this circular saw.
Frankly speaking……. This saw is actually a high ticket purchase for most of the hobbyists homeowners, and that’s why I didn’t mention this cutting beast in my review on the top 3 shortlisted saw.
Here are the included components….
- Circular Saw
- 2 Circular Saws Blade
- Hex Key
- Scale Ruler
- User Manual
10 A motor produces 5800RPM to cut wood and through plastics, laminate flooring, and any type of pipe at ease.
Things I Liked About BLACKDECKER Electric Hand Saw
- Multiple bevels and miter angles: Not only zero-degree cuts, but the craft saw can also provide multiple bevels and miter angles so that you can go for any joint-forming cuts (0-45°).
- Dust blower: The amazing dust blower sucks the dust away so that you get a cut line free clean. This is so effective for better visibility.
- Depth adjustment lever: Comes with a depth adjustment lever; you will have a full grip on the saw’s base plate. This additional feature makes it suitable for both wood cutting plumbing applications.
Things That BLACKDECKER Electric Saw Should Improve
TECCPO Mini Circular Saw
A hot sizing Christmas gift for your hubby or boyfriend.
With a laser-cut guide, this machine is more than a crafty saw. The multi-task tool is good for Soft Metal, PVC tubes, Plastics even tiles.
Though TECCPO is relatively new in this power tool field, the brand has already managed to take a responsible position in the industry.
Weight only 6.5 pounds; this super convenient circular saw is good for woodworking and DIY lovers. The 710W / 5.8Amp powerful motor generates 3500 RPM for the flawless cut with unbelievable accuracy.
Things I Liked About BLACKDECKER Electric Hand Saw
- Double Protection Switch: The coolest feature of this cutting machine, I guess. To start the machine, all you have to do is press the power on/off trigger. That’s not all; there is a safety switch that may save the user from the accidental start-up.
- A compact package: You will get everything you need to finish the little DIY project. The included components are the circular saw(obviously!!), three different blades, a Parallel Guide, one Allen Key a Vacuum Adapter.
- Vacuum Adapter: My favorite feature of this saw. The Dust adapter is designed to connect in such a way so you can easily connect the dust port to the vacuum cleaner. Cleaning maintenance is such a smooth process with this saw.
Things That BLACKDECKER Electric Saw Should Improve
Verdict Decision time
I’m just about to wrap cover up all the tineee-tiny details you need to know for your next DIY projects. Now you know how you cut craft pieces for wood the process to sort out the right tool for you.
Before signing out, I just want to give one last piece of advice….Research, research research!
Does it fulfill your need, preference ( most importantly, budget)?
The question you need to ask yourself again before taking the final decision. Budget is an issue; admit it.
This guide is all about helping you to encourage to put the money where it is really worth meet your need expectation.
This is me Sonnet. I manage a full-time workshop for my clients’ woodworking projects. From a very young age, I’ve been always passionate about DIY projects. And that’s the reason I’m amicable with the woodworking tools. I’m regularly handling a couple of projects like cabinets, furniture, boats, and many more using wood, veneers, and laminates.
Handsaws for Woodworking
When a woodworking hand saw works as it should, it almost feels as if it’s an extension of your body, working naturally as it glides back and forth. Thankfully, at Garrett Wade, we have budget-friendly carpentry hand saws that will fit the bill.
Garrett Wade has partnered with some of the premier blade makers in both Japan and the United States. This allows us the opportunity to provide our customers with some of the finest hand saws and rasps available on the market. Whatever you’re tinkering with in your workshop, our selection of high-quality hand saws is certain to help you to complete your job quickly and easily.
Exceptional Woodworking Hand Saws
Japanese Hand Saws: The carpentry hand saw can be one of the most versatile tools in your workshop. It’s easy to use and can save you a lot of time whentrimming tails and fitting joints. We have personally tested each of these saws by putting them through their paces to ensure the highest quality and precision for our customers.
Dovetail Backsaws: Another Japanese construction, these woodworking hand saws allow for precision applications, such as cutting joints and dovetails.
Log Saws: Longer-length blades are perfect for cutting both dry and wet wood. Log saws that are smaller in size are more ideal for single-person operation compared with their larger counterparts.
At Garrett Wade, time-tested design and quality construction make for tools that you can expect to pass on for generations. Our tools save time and effort on tasks (e.g., expect less bending over and easier cuts).
We travel all over the world to find the best tools for any woodworking job. From the Japanese Dovetail Dozuki Saw to the USA-made Two Fantastic Woodworking Saws, we have everything you might need for precision cutting in your next woodworking project.
View our entire collection when you sign up to receive a copy of our free catalog mailed to your home. And if you have any questions about our tools, give us a call at 800-221-2942. Shop now!
What are the best woodworking hand saws to choose if you are a woodworking newbie?If you’re new to the woodworking field, consider purchasing a Japanese dovetail dozuki saw. This sharp saw features a stiffer, smaller blade than traditional dozuki hand saws do, so they are perfect for cutting very delicate dovetails and small joints. Plus, you can easily replace the blade.
What is the most versatile carpentry hand saw? For versatility, you can’t go wrong with Japanese Ryoba woodworking hand saws. With teeth on both of the blade’s edges, you can use one side to perform rip cuts and the other for crosscutting.
In what situations should you use a tenon saw? Use a tenon saw to easily cut through wood grain and make various furniture shapes (including squares or circles). This saw is also handy for cutting mortise and tenon joints.
How to Make Handsaws
About: Australian Wood Review is Australia’s premier woodworking and woodcraft magazine. It is a high quality magazine for woodworkers that focuses on fine furniture making, woodturning, carving, timbers, tools and m… About Wood Review »
Words and photos: Ian Wilkie
A surprising number of decent old saws still circulate on the secondhand market, and usually a little bit of attention will bring them back to life. There are now also boutique sawmakers that offer a range of models to choose from, so why would anyone contemplate making their own?
For some of us, the challenge and satisfaction of making your own tools is enough, but a more practical reason perhaps, is that a saw you make yourself can be any size or shape you desire, and have the pitch and tooth profile suited to your particular requirements. And of course, making your own tools is a great way to learn about their basics and what it takes to get the best from them.
The total cost for materials for the three saws shown above site was about 50—a trifle compared with what you’d pay for equivalent custom-made examples. However, there are quite a few hours of work involved in each saw, and I won’t pretend I built a perfect one on my first attempt either. Making a very useable saw is not nearly as difficult as you may think, and requires no special equipment.
The top saw is my version of a saw the Disston company made from about 1850 to 1920, and known as the D8 ‘half-back’. I made it originally because I thought it looked interesting, and because a saw of that size would be useful to me. Now I have it I don’t know how I ever coped without it! The size and tooth pattern (10 tpi crosscut) make it ideal for general sawing tasks, and the handle position and angle suits use at bench-top level.
The middle saw is a 10tpi rip saw. This saw came about because I found the first saw such a handy size and weight that I was using it for all sorts of tasks, including light ripping, for which the crosscut teeth are not particularly suited. The half spine was sometimes a bit of a nuisance when ripping, so I decided a small ripsaw would be handy. The grip is more vertical with respect to the tooth line, and placed lower on the saw. This puts the effort of the cutting stroke (called the ‘thrust line’ by some) closer in line with the teeth, making it a little more efficient.
The smallest saw has a 225mm long blade and is designed spe- cifically for cutting dovetails and small tenon cheeks. The blade is very thin plate (0.4mm), the brass spine is relatively light at 5mm thick x 19mm wide, and the handle is pared down. It is almost a delicate saw but cuts like a hot knife through butter because of the thin blade, the light set and the rake angle of the teeth, which at 15.5 tpi are on the coarse side for a small saw.
For more information and tips visit our YouTube Channel or go to our website www.woodreview.com.au.
Step 1: Obtaining the Materials
The easiest solution is to buy a basic kit of the hardware, and there are a few good ones available at reasonable prices. Starting with a kit is a good way to gain confidence, and end up with a very good saw. At least one supplier will sell you the necessary bits at various levels of completion, so you can avoid the processes that might worry you most, such as toothing, setting, and sharpening. You can still specify the tooth profile and tpi, and you do get to make your own handle, so it would still be a personalised tool.
Step 2: The Blade
There are many sources of steel suitable for use as saw plate. One source is the throw-away hard-point saws. After those glass-hard teeth become dull, they are usually con- signed to landfill, but you can easily cut off the impulse- hardened section a couple of millimetres above the tooth gullets, and the rest of the plate is workable spring steel. Another source is the builders’ floor scraper blades sold by large hardware chains. These are 0.8mm thick, a good thickness for larger backsaws or small saws without spines.
The hardness of these blades is around Rockwell 52, which is at the harder end of the desirable range for saws, and still quite workable. Yet another source is 1095 spring-steel shim stock, which can be bought in small sheets from various US suppliers. The steel itself isn’t expensive, but postage is.
Step 3: Cutting the Blade
Cutting thin plate is not difficult. Clamp the ‘good’ side of your saw blank between two pieces of steel at least 3mm thick, and use a 1mm metal-cutting wheel in an angle grinder. The thicker steel acts as a heat-sink to protect the saw plate, as well as a guide to keep the cutting wheel straight. In fact these wheels cut so quickly that there is very little danger of overheating and tempering the steel.
Cutting the straight lines for backed saws presents no problems, but what if you want to make curved shapes for small saws without spines? You can cut a broad curve freehand if you are careful, but it’s too easy to slip and damage the plate, so I prefer to cut as close as I can with a series of straight cuts, then fair the curves on a grinder. Use a light touch and smooth passes on a clean wheel and you won’t cause any damage by over-heating. Fine-tuning of shapes is best done with files, and final clean-up and polishing with sandpaper. You can polish to as high a shine as you like, but 1200 grit puts more than enough shine on for me.
Step 4: Cutting the Teeth
This step may have you very concerned, but it is actually much easier than you expect. You can duck the issue, as I did for my first saw, and take it to a saw sharpening place to have teeth cut, set and sharpened, but it’s not necessar- ily the best solution. For one thing, they may not be able to cut a high number of tpi (the place I went to can cut 15tpi max). Worse, they often know very little about hand saws, particularly the difference between crosscut and rip tooth profiles, so the rake you’ll get on your teeth is anyone’s guess. Besides, much of the value in a project like this is learning about saw teeth and how to maintain them, so forming a set of teeth is well worth the effort.
The easiest way of all is to use an existing set of teeth of the spacing (pitch) you require as a template. Clamp the blank and template so the top of your blank just shows behind the template. Now, take a fine three-cornered file, place it lightly against the back of each tooth (or front, doesn’t matter which, but be consistent) and make a small notch in the blank (photo 1). If you are careful to apply pressure only on the blank, you should not damage the template. You can also get paper templates from the internet, or make your own with a ruler and pencil. If you decide on a paper template, use glue that is not water-based (rust!), something like shellac does the job.
Once the blank is notched, the teeth are formed by filing each ‘valley’ (‘gullet’ is the proper term) to depth.
We need to discuss saw geometry at this point. The leading edge of each tooth of a hand saw actually leans away from the direction of the cut a little (which is called ‘negative rake’). The closer the edge is to perpendicular, the more aggressively the saw cuts. You may think that’s desirable, but it also gives the saw a rougher action, especially in hardwood, so a little negative rake is required on most saws. Western saws also come in two main flavours; one is meant for rip cuts (along the grain) and the other for cross cuts (across the grain). All you need to know at this point is that the rake varies for each type, and the amount adopted is usually in the range of 5–10° for a ripsaw, and 8–15° for a crosscut.
So how do you file a set of teeth and keep the rake consistent? It’s quite easy—just drill a small hole in a short piece of wood and draw a line at the angle you need beside it. Jam the file into the hole, with one side lined up against your line.
By keeping the stick horizontal as you work, the file will always be at the correct angle (photo 2). Make each stroke firm, but not heavy, and don’t try to cut too much at once, just make a couple of strokes at each notch.
It takes fewer strokes than you may expect to form a tooth. Watch the ‘flats’ between the gullets and judge if you need to apply a little more pressure on any shallow gullets. It helps to check the teeth from the side as well. As soon as all the flats have turned into points, you are done. Photo 3 shows the toothed blade ready to drill and mount in its handle. It took six firm file strokes to form each tooth, and less than 20 minutes for the entire job.
Step 5: The Spine
The metal spine stiffens the blade and gives it balance. Folded steel or brass backs are the most common type on old saws, but folding metal around 3mm thick isn’t easy to do accurately unless you have access to a folder, and even then obtaining soft brass that will fold without breaking is very difficult. The easiest and most accurate way for the backyard sawmaker to obtain a spine is to slot a piece of brass bar.
Brass bar is readily obtainable in suitable sizes, and since it is easily worked, and adds a bit of bling to your saw, it’s a good choice. Most people find 10″ x 3″ bar to be sufficiently rigid and weighty for blades up to around 300mm long.
Slotting the bar requires some special gear. My simple slotting jig (photo 1) is made from scrap hardwood, an arbor and a slotting sawblade. The base attaches to the drill-press and the cover for the blade acts as an adjustable fence controlling the depth of cut. You will need a chuck large enough to accept the 5/8″ diameter arbor shaft.
Photo 2 shows the jig ready to go. Take time and care to set your jig up very accurately, and cut the full slot gradually in a series of light cuts. By advancing a millimetre or two at a time, with a firm and steady feed rate, you can obtain a very neat and accurate result. Making a push-stick for the brass is a sensible idea, because even though the saw is revolving at a slow speed, it could give a very nasty cut.
The push-stick needs to hold the brass bar very firmly against the base and the guide, or it will chatter and give you a rough slot. If your saw doesn’t quite match the sawplate and the slot is a little loose for the blade, this is easily fixed by lightly clamping the spine in a vice until it is a firm fit. You don’t want an overly-tight or uneven fit, as this may warp the blade. You can also use metal glue like Loctite, but I prefer a ‘pinch-fit’ because it is easier to deal with if problems arise and the spine needs refitting or adjusting.
Step 6: Making Screw Holes in the Sawplate
The tungsten-carbide tipped builders’ drills that can handle wood and metal will cope with the steel, and are available in suitable sizes. (Note: these bits don’t require cutting fluid when drilling steel—which I discovered by wrecking a brand-new bit. ) Even with a hard backing to drill against, the exit side of the hole may distort a bit, but that can be easily rubbed off with a sharpening stone or emery paper.
Step 7: Saw Bolts
Classic old-style bolts with split nuts and a square shoulder under the head to prevent rotation when tightening or un- doing are available from a few suppliers. Making your own costs less for material, and allows you to make sizes suited to different sized saws, but it does take time to make nuts and bolts one at a time.
A moderately experienced turner can turn brass on a wood lathe fairly easily by using a slow speed and tools sharpened appropriately, so I started out making bolts by turning a head from brass bar on the wood lathe and attaching that to threaded brass rod, silver-soldered into a few turns of thread in the heads. I ended up with bolts that were acceptable (left in photo above), and certainly did the job, but being threaded along the full shaft is a nuisance because the threads can catch on the saw plate. A neater solution is to use 3/16″ brass rod, and thread only part of the shaft, leaving the centre unthreaded (centre of the photo). My recent acquisition of a small metal lathe means I can now simply turn the whole bolt from a length of solid bar, which is a lot easier (right in the same photo). The square part of the shank is made by leaving a small collar, and filing it square using a warding file, or an ordinary file with its edges ground ‘safe’.
Step 8: Handles
The handle is the part that really personalises your saw in two important ways, one aesthetic, and the other practical. Get the practical aspects right first, and you can then add all the decorative flourishes you wish.
Just about any hardwood will suffice for the job, but I would select one which is fine-grained and tough enough to withstand the occasional accident. A fine-grained wood (Apple was a popular species on old saws) that finishes smoothly and remains splinter-free is a good choice.
A truly good handle not only fits your hand like a glove, it sets the tooth line of the saw in the best position for sawing. Most handles are designed for the classic three-finger hold, in which you point your index finger along the side of the handle and wrap the other three fingers around the pistol- grip shaped part. Holding a saw like this is widely accepted as the best way, because the set of signals sent to your brain helps it to figure out where the saw is in space. This im- proves your ability to make accurate and repeatable cuts.
Hand sizes vary, so commercial handles are a compromise, but the basic design fits a range of hand sizes with reason- able comfort. However, if your palm is wider or narrower than average, you can extend or shrink the grip a little so it really snuggles into your hand. I’ve found by trial and error that too tight a fit is just as bad as too loose, as it will become quite uncomfortable during a long sawing session.
In particular, don’t make the curve at the bottom that fits under your little finger too tight, and don’t curve the ‘horn’ between thumb and index finger down too much, or it may dig into your hand when sawing at odd angles. For your first handle or two, make a mock-up from scrap to be on the safe side. Once you are satisfied with the critical dimensions, any decorative flourishes will have no bearing on function (within reason) and you can let your imagination run wild if you choose.
Be aware that a few millimetres of difference in the thickness or width of a grip can make a big difference to comfort. If you find a grip you like, follow the dimensions and shape as faithfully as you can. Most old handles are made from 22–25mm thick stock. If your stock is a millimetre or two thinner than the ‘ideal’ handle you are working from, adding roughly the same amount (evenly) to the width of the grip may produce a grip that feels comfortable.
When tracing the handle template onto your wood, pay attention to grain orientation, to get as much ‘long grain’ as possible extending through the weak points (photo 1). The tongue of wood that connects grip to cheeks on a closed handle ends up with short grain. You can compensate for this to some extent by keeping it thick, but shaping the edges to make it appear thinner and more elegant. Some curves can be defined by drilling out the waste, which keeps them neat and square. After cutting out your basic handle shape, it’s a good idea to cut the spine and blade slots and drill bolt holes, because if you mess it up, you haven’t wasted too much time. Take particular care with the blade slot, it needs to be straight and clean, or the blade may warp when the bolts are tightened.
The bolt holes usually have a countersink for both head and nut, and drilling these accurately requires care. I clamp the handle blank in a home-made vice on the drill-press, drill the counter-sink with a Forstner bit, then switch to the bolt- size drill without moving the setup (photo 2). Flip the handle and realign the bolt hole with the drill bit, change back to the countersink bit, and complete the process. If you leave the countersinks a bit shallow, you can adjust them for perfect depth later.
When shaping the handle, guide lines will help maintain the proportions. I ‘finger-gauge’ a series of lines (using my mid- dle finger as if it were the stock of a marking gauge), mark- ing the first set at centre, and then a set at half the distance between edge and centre (photo 3).
The final step is to sand and scrape to your desired level of finish (scraps from the offcuts of your blades make excel- lent small scrapers). I think the nicest lines combine crisp chamfers on the cheeks blended into smooth curves on the parts that will contact your hands, but everyone has their own ideas of what looks best (photo 4).
How you finish the wood is a matter of choice. I like to use Shellawax buffed with a cloth wheel but any finish that doesn’t leave a build-up does the job. Some woods are quite acid and will promote corrosion of the plate inside the handle in moist climates, so I cover the metal with paste wax before inserting it in the handle.
Setting and sharpening of the blade is the last but not least step, and though it takes a bit of practice to do well, is an art well worth acquiring if you are serious about using hand saws. There are books and websites with excellent informa- tion on how to go about it. Your aim is to end up with a saw that cuts quickly and accurately, and follows a line leaving a straight kerf without ragged edges.
With thanks to Ray Gardiner, who not only got me started in sawmaking, but provided much inspiration (as well as material) during my early learning curve. His saw blog (www.backsaw.net) is a great resource for would-be sawmakers or those simply interested in knowing more about saws. Another useful site is: norsewoodsmith.com. Both sites include links to other sites with useful information. A very thorough treatment of saw-sharpening can be found at www.vintagesaws.com My slotting saw and arbor were purchased from McJing’s: www.vintagesaws.com au. There are brass suppliers in all capital cities who can supply brass bar in a wide range of sizes. Kits are available from Wenzloff and sons (www. wenzloffandsons.com) in the USA.
Recently retired as veterinary pathologist and academic, Ian Wilkie is a Brisbane woodworker who makes and repairs furniture and started sawmaking about six years ago. His interest in wood and tools goes back to growing up on a farm where it was just part of life to fix and make things. Part 1 of his story on wood threading appears in issue 92 with the final instalment to run in the December 2017 issue of Wood Review.
The 4 Best Handsaws
Is your DIY project list growing long? Cut it down to size with the best handsaws available today. Our experts bought and tested the best 9 models available to the test, so you don’t have to. “Buy it right or buy it twice” has never been more applicable than when purchasing tools, as the number of options and the range in quality continues to increase. Our carpentry experts created a methodical test plan to evaluate each model we bought. The key areas of performance are the ones you care about most, such as speed and efficiency, cut quality, accuracy, and blade durability. We got our hands on many different handsaws, so you only have to purchase one.
Looking for a broader selection of tools? If so, go no further than our list of the best tools on the market. We’ve also put folding-style saws to the test. If you’re in need of something a bit more burly than a handsaw, check out our evaluation of the best chainsaws and top-ranked battery chainsaws.
Best Overall Handsaw
IRWIN Coarse Cut ProTouch
Blade Length: 15″ | Teeth Per Inch: 12 up front, 9 on the rest of the blade
The IRWIN Coarse Cut ProTouch is a compact, well-balanced, all-around saw built for speed. If you’re only looking for one handsaw in your toolkit, this is it. The Easy Start front teeth on this model put a cut above everything else and earned it our favor overall. It’s insanely simple to build an initial groove, and once started, you can fluidly transition to full strokes. The combination of wood and ergonomically molded rubber in the handle provides the weight and sturdiness you want while still being comfortable to hold over several cuts. The tri-ground teeth slice through wood with ease, and the deep gullets in the blade allow sawdust to escape, so it is less likely to bind mid-cut.
The one drawback of Irwin ProTouch is the placement of the handle. It extends slightly past the saw teeth requiring you to stop short of a full push stroke to avoid denting your workpiece. For a saw built for speed, it’s easy to get into a nice rhythm and end up bashing the handle into a corner. That said, the ProTouch is versatile enough to handle almost any project you throw its way, and we think its advantages greatly outweigh this minor drawback. Trimming planks, roughing in drywall, or reaching tight cuts that power tools can’t are all options with this blade. It’s one handsaw that you’re really going to like using for almost any project.
Best Bang for Your Buck
The Craftsman 15-Inch is an inexpensive, no-frills handsaw. If you’ll only use a saw infrequently and want to save a few bucks, this is the saw for you. On average, it was the fastest saw we tested, shredding through whatever we put in front of it. The cuts aren’t the cleanest, but once you get into a speedy groove, you can easily chew through a 2×4. The angle of the handle positions your arm naturally for a good cutting angle. The handle itself forms nicely to your hand. It’s not the most ergonomic of the saw in our review, but it’s comfortable enough. And at this price point, you don’t have to fret if you tend to be rough on your tools.
Our first impression is that this saw is lightweight — and not in a positive way. It just doesn’t have the same heft as a higher-quality saw. In our experience, this can cause the blade to jump around quite a bit, especially on initial stokes, meaning there’s a heightened chance you’ll miss your mark. This blade is also unforgiving—if bent left or right by more than two degrees, the blade will bend, bow, and bind, breaking any rhythm you managed to build. This can be frustrating if you have a lot of sawing to do but is also easy to overlook for the price. If you need a saw for regular or detailed work, there are much better, yet pricier, options. However, if you just need a handsaw for occasional use, this Craftsman model fills the need at a friendly price.
Best Saw for Fine Woodworking
Gyokucho 7″ Razor Ryoba Saw
The Gyokucho 7″ Razor Ryoba Saw is a woodworker’s handsaw designed to handle detail work and intricate cuts like dovetails. Perfectly balanced with a 0.5-mm blade, the Gyokucho is super maneuverable, making it easier to hit cuts at nearly any angle. It feels like a natural extension of your arm, switching between crosscuts and rip cuts with a quick flick of the wrist. The rubberized handle is a nice touch and ensures a no-slip grip while cutting. Compared to other Japanese handsaws that can be rather large, the Gyokucho’s small size takes up minimal room on your workbench where space may already be in rare supply. Like most Japanese pull saws, it is double-edged, with the teeth for crosscutting (across the grain) on one edge and teeth for rip cuts (along the grain) on the other edge.
The biggest drawback of the Gyokucho—and all pull saws—is that they’ll always have a higher stroke count due to the blade’s nature. Pull saws only cut on your pull-stroke, so theoretically, it will take around twice as many strokes as a traditional western saw to make the same cut. But what you lose in speed, you make up for in accuracy and cut quality. The Gyokucho isn’t going to be the only saw in your workshop, but if you plan on doing any fine woodworking, this model is a must-have.
Best Arbor Saw
Silky Zubat Arborist 330
When it comes to cutting limbs and branches like an arborist, Silky Saws have a great reputation. After weeks of testing, our testers are especially fond of the Silky Zubat Arborist 330, not only for its sawing capabilities but also its portability for trails and backcountry use. Beyond just being an impressive blade, this saw comes with a lightweight sheath for easy transportation. The sheath includes a detachable belt look that you can conveniently unclip and reattach as needed. It also sports an innovative locking mechanism to keep the blade from falling out when scaling trees or swashbuckling shrubs. The scabbard is a nice compliment, but the blade of the Zubat deserves the spotlight. It’s perfectly balanced, razor-sharp, makes clean cuts with surgical precision, and has an undeniable tenacity to it. The speed and quality of the cuts often competed with those of the Japanese pull saws in our tests. It’s a simple setup that doesn’t feel like it lacks anything. Just holding it, we feel confident in its capability.
Although the angle of the blade makes it harder to saw milled lumber, the Zubat held up remarkably well — outside of occasionally binding in softwoods. We noticed the cuts are far chewier than what you want out of a workshop saw, but we attribute this to the difference between live wood and lumber. The main shortcoming here is the high price. This isn’t the blade you want for your workshop, but if you’re an arborist, trail builder, or searching for a prime outdoor saw, this model is our top recommendation.
Another Excellent Pull Saw
SUIZAN Japanese Pull Saw
The Suizan Japanese Pull Saw is a high-quality pull saw that excels at any fine woodworking task you put in front of it. Its double-edged blade handle gives you the ability to do both rip cuts and crosscuts with the right TPI for each. The natural pulling motion of the Suizan ensures your first stroke is always on its mark.
Like the Gyokucho, the Suizan takes more strokes on through-cuts than other saws, but it doesn’t feel like more effort. It just takes longer to do them. And while its long handle provides plenty of room to get a comfortable grip, it can also be cumbersome. At 24″ in length, this handsaw is a two-thirds handle. In the end, the convenient size of the Gyokucho and its no-slip handle were some of the thoughtful features that gave it an edge over the Suizan. This isn’t the saw you’d choose to take out studs or trim planks for a deck, but it’s a strong option for detailed work where precision matters.
A Very Accurate Blade with an Inconvenient Handle
Shark Corp Super FineCut
The Shark Corp Super FineCut is a well-crafted blade that cuts better than anything else we tested. Not only did it offer the effortlessly smooth cuts of a pull saw, but the extra fine kerf (width of material removed after cutting) is the thinnest we’ve seen. It cut near perfect edges on both crosscuts and rip cuts with virtually no blowout.
While the extra-fine kerf of the blade offers extremely accurate cuts, the blade bound in a groove during our test period, which kinked the blade. You can purchase extra blades, but we would prefer our saws not to need replacing so quickly. Overall, we weren’t impressed with the handle of the saw, either. It’s the most tactile part of a handsaw, but the plastic feels light, cheap, and it isn’t molded ergonomically. And for woodworkers that move around to get the right angle on a cut, the pistol grip forces your hand more than we would like. You can’t stand above your workpiece as easily as you can with the straight handle found on traditional Japanese pull saws. If you’re looking for a blade built for delicate, slow, methodical cutting, you’ll find it here, though we find it unfortunate that the handle doesn’t live up to the blade.
A Long-Bladed Classic
The GreatNeck N2610 is classic in both design and function. It’s very effective at tearing through boards once you get in the groove of cutting, and it truly shines when cutting large pieces of wood. Put a 2×4 in front of it, and the GreatNeck can rip. Due to its size, this saw can cut through big pieces of lumber that smaller models just can’t. It’s a bit bulky, but there’s a good weight to the handle allowing it to balance the long blade quite well.
This saw is meant for large lumber and is too large to be considered very practical for general use. Even being well balanced, it’s too large to use for smaller tasks. It almost feels like you should call a buddy over to grab the other side like lumberjacks of yore. It’s a little sticky when trying to start a cut, and don’t expect clean edges. This saw chews through the wood, leaving significant blowout. It may be a classic design, but it’s a design that’s been improved upon. If you’re going for the nostalgic, old-world carpenter thing, this could be the saw for you. Most folks should go with something more modern unless you need a big saw for rough cuts in big pieces of wood.
A Budget-Friendly Arbor Saw
Corona Razor Tooth Pruning Saw
The Corona Razor Tooth Pruning Saw is a competitively-priced arbor saw that gets the job done. There’s nothing particularly outstanding about the blade; it’s aggressive, tears through wood, and is comfortable enough in your hand to use for an extended period. And that’s all it really needs to do. The blade’s curve lends itself to cutting organic woods over milled lumber, and it excels in this more narrow function. It made quick work of the tree limbs we tested it on.
The Corona’s arborist instincts are also its biggest drawback. It’s a great saw for cutting firewood, trimming branches, and yard work you might throw its way. Like all arbor saws, don’t expect to be cutting dovetails or trimming 2x4s with it because there are much better blades for those kinds of jobs. We also quickly noticed that this blade and handle don’t feel as balanced as other models, making it less convenient to use for long. The features, feel, sharpness, and overall quality of the Silky Zubat are superior to this model. Still, if you won’t be using it very often, you can probably be just as happy with the Corona and the money you’ll save.
A Multi-Functional Pull Saw
Roamwild Multi Pull Saw Pro
The Roamwild Multi Pull Saw Pro takes the swiss army knife approach to pull saws. Not only is it a saw, but it is every other tool in your workshop, too — a ruler, a hammer, a tack puller, and an angle guide too. It’s rarely a good sign when tools try to provide an abundance of features and uses in our experience. About the only thing this saw gets right is the actual sawing, and it barely accomplishes that. The most we can say is that during our testing, the Roamwild produced some fairly clean edges.
What is unique about this product is also its biggest flaw. Our testers began and ended the testing period feeling uneasy with the pistol grip, claiming that it feels very awkward to use. Awkward isn’t a great word for a cutting tool. The grip significantly reduces the utility of the secondary blade, to the point that our lead tester preferred not to use it at all. Despite claiming an “ergonomic design,” this model felt pretty uncomfortable. If you can get past all that and start sawing, you’re in for quite a ride. The blade bowed almost every other stroke and would bind in the wood and jump out of the grove. We spent half our time with this saw resetting and restarting. Do yourself a favor and skip this one. At the price point, there are so many better options.
Why You Should Trust Us
Our lead tester Cody Barz has had carpentry tools in his hands for over twenty years, doing everything from roofing projects to bathroom remodels. A general contractor’s son, Cody spent his formative years actively working on job sites for the family business. In the last eight years, he’s moved away from power tools to FOCUS on designing and building furniture with hand tools. He just finished a mid-century credenza using walnut with solid brass accents. Currently, he is working on built-in craftsman style shelving.
After researching and analyzing over twenty different handsaws, we selected the most compelling models to review. We purchased and shipped them to our lead test to execute a systematic series of tests to evaluate performance based on hands-on use. We compared and assessed each for durability, quality of construction, ergonomics, strength, and utility. Each metric was individually assessed, all products were compared to each other, and every metric was noted during actual use. We timed how long it took to saw through hardwood, softwood, and pressure-treated 2×4’s. We looked at the cut depth of each saw by doing three single stroke cuts and finding the average. We looked at the differences on the edges of our cuts on all types of wood with both crosscuts and rip cuts. We also cut dovetails with each saw to gauge accuracy and how the saws performed with angle cuts. Scores were then compiled, and we combined subjective and objective assessments to yield our conclusions. We kept our primary objective in mind during all of these tests: to identify the best handsaw to suit your needs.
Analysis and Test Results
There are many options for handsaws, but like all tools, you get the best performance by picking the right one for the right job. What you gain in speed with one blade, you lose in cut quality. It’s all about finding the perfect balance for your needs. Fine woodworkers will want something that can cleanly crosscut and rip cut, while general contractors may just be looking for something that can take out a stud as fast as possible. A good saw should be comfortable enough that you can use it for a full day but also durable enough that you won’t be replacing it too often. We targeted our tests around each unique performance area, accumulated results, and used these to determine our recommendations.
Effectiveness and Speed
The most important feature of any saw is that it cuts. A great saw will make it easy from start to finish. You want the saw to be doing the majority of the work, not your arm. To be thorough, we tested each saw on hardwood, softwood, and then pressure-treated 2x4s, counting the number of strokes to get through each. We also measured the depth of a single blade stroke through a 2×4 stud.
In a single stroke, the blade length of the Great Neck largely contributed to its performance here. The Great Neck proved that its first cut was the deepest in our test, but its speed actually slowed with smaller lumber. The Great Neck was built for large wood, where its cuts are most effective. On average, the Craftsman 15-inch was actually the fastest saw across all types of wood by stroke count. Not without drawbacks, though, it was also slow to start and would often bind in the groove making its overall time slower than others. The IRWIN ProTouch came in second overall in effectiveness and speed. Cutting also proved to be a much more pleasurable experience with the Irwin. The deep gullets in the blade allowed plenty of sawdust to escape, so it rarely got caught.
The Shark Corp was the fastest of our pull saws. And because pull saws only cut on the pull stroke, its average of 22 strokes (compared to the 14.1 of the Craftsman 15-inch) is effectively only 11. A pulling motion feels a lot more natural during use, so even though your stroke count is technically higher, it feels like a lot less work.
This is where the teeth-per-inch of your handsaw really stands out. Generally, the less teeth-per-inch (TPI) you have, the faster you can rip through boards, but you’ll get more blowout (i.e., rough ends) you’ll get on your edges. A higher TPI count gives you a much cleaner cut at the expense of speed, and because the gaps between teeth are smaller, trapped sawdust can cause your blade to bind more often. For this test, we performed crosscuts and rip cuts on both hardwood and softwood, then assessed the amount of blowout and each cut’s cleanliness.
No surprise here, the two highest earnings in this metric are pull saws — the Shark Corp and the Gyokucho Double-Edge Ryoba Saw. These two saws had the highest TPI among every model we tested, 19 and 17 respectively, and as you can see, the Shark Saw left immaculate edges.
There’s a reason this old-world technology is still so popular today. It surpasses everything else in its class, and the Gyokucho exemplifies it in every way. It left almost perfect edges, especially compared to the blowout we see from one of our traditional western handsaws. After the pull saws, the Irwin ProTouch proved to be the next best at creating a clean-cut, although it was a significant step behind all the pull saws we tested. Surprisingly, the Silky Zubat left some very clean edges for an arborist saw, although its blade shape doesn’t come recommended for detailed carpentry.
Cutting along the dotted line — easy enough, right? Not exactly. Depending on the type of saw and its TPI, the difference in performance across this metric can change drastically. Western saws cut on both push and push strokes, meaning teeth are met with resistance on each motion. Resistance causes your blade to jump around. So, what you gain in speed and fewer strokes, you can lose in accuracy. We tested the accuracy of each saw by cutting dovetails. Not only are they a premier joint with a notoriously difficult reputation, but they require you to cut on an angle and with a high amount of precision.
The overhand grip on the Gyokucho Double-Edge Ryoba Saw gives you plenty of control as you pull the saw along your marked line, especially at an angle. The thin blade makes it easy to take away precisely the amount of wood you want to, and when cutting something as intricate as dovetails, you don’t want any gaps between your tails and pins.
Carving the initial groove is one of the most troublesome parts for accuracy. If your blade jumps and your kerf starts to the left or right of your mark, you’re out of luck. But the Easy Start Teeth on the Irwin ProTouch is an innovative touch that continued to shine across all our tests and made it the most accurate of our traditional western handsaws.
Whether you’re cutting a single board or dovetails for kitchen drawers, maneuverability and comfort are key. A comfortable handle on your handsaw makes all the difference. As we finished our testing, we went back to look at how each saw made us feel—was it ergonomically designed? What was the handle made from? Was it easy to go from one cut to the next?
Irwin took the fine details into account when designing the ProTouch Coarse Cut. The wood handle gives you the weight and sturdiness you want when holding it, so you have a solid feeling in pushing and pulling motions. The addition of a rubber grip on the back of the handle contoured ergonomically to our dominant hand for a comfortable and secure grip.
Most Japanese pull saws look and feel the same for the most part, but the Gyokucho Razor Ryoba put in a few modern flourishes to positively distinguish it from the rest. Gyokucho forgoes the traditional rattan-wrapped handle for one that includes subtle contouring and a rubber grip, so your hand is less likely to slip. The most significant benefit of Japanese pull saws is that they require a lot less energy to operate. Even though it takes a few more strokes to get through a board, physically, it feels less tiresome because you’re not met with resistance as you jam the blade forward on each stroke. Instead, it gently glides back to its starting position, where your natural pulling motion brings the saw through the material again.
Durability is always important when purchasing tools. Throughout a project, they are subject to plenty of wear and tear. Eventually, even the best of tools need to be replaced, but we want a solid lifetime before we get to that point. And while durability is a bit tricky to assess in our short testing period, we’ll be sure to do everything we can to try. We did everything from dropping our handsaws from ladders to leaving them out in the rain overnight, looking for damage and broken or worn teeth.
As far as blades go, the Silky Zubat felt like it could get hit by a semi and come out the other side ready to keep going (not currently one of our tests). The full tang 1.5-mm Japanese steel blade of the Zubat felt incredibly sturdy. It has a rounded tip to help protect the first few teeth of the blade from chipping off should it take a particularly hard fall. You can purchase this saw with or without the added protection of a locking sheath that helps prevent premature wear on the scabbard.
No matter how solid the craftsmanship, wear and tear is unavoidable. Although the Gyokucho is our clear favorite, every Japanese pull saw we reviewed has replaceable blades. This is a feature any handsaw user can appreciate as there is no need to purchase a brand-new saw every time you chip a tooth. Due to the thin blade and teeth, tooth chipping is bound to happen, especially with this saw style. Luckily, replacing the blade on each pull saw is a quick and painless process. While we didn’t experience teeth chip during testing, the Shark Corp managed to get a significant kink in the blade after popping out of the kerf. The ability to install a replacement blade vastly extends the tool’s longevity and value.
Whether you’re a DIY weekend warrior or a professional-grade carpenter, handsaws are an essential tool in your workshop. Having a quality one makes your work cleaner, more accurate, and more enjoyable. With so many options available, we hope that our in-depth comparisons assist you in finding the best saw for your next project.