What Is A Coping Saw And How To Use It
A coping saw is most often used for coping trim molding. Its design allows for a thin blade to be used which can cut shapes, angles, or curves within woodworking. It is a simple saw which performs a much needed task.
This saw has been in existence since the 16 th century and became a cornerstone within woodwork. Today it still is a valuable asset to any wood shop and among the best hand saws.
Know that I do not make a single penny from any recommendation which I make here. All that follows comes from my experience. Take what I give you here and test the information for your own application.
Choosing The Right Blade For The Coping Saw
Not all blades are equal. Pegas and also Olson have the better blades on the market. Selecting blades for coping saws can be a lot like selection for Band saws. Quality matters.
Note you will need several different blades. Some have more teeth, others less. Then of course there are the skip tooth blades. You will need a little of everything if you use a coping saw often.
The more teeth a blade has the smoother the cut will be. The problem which can arise is the cuts are slower and it can potentially become bogged down. Fewer teeth make for faster cutting yet the finish which is left is rough.
If a blade becomes bogged down in the cutting process it can cause the cut to drift away from its line. A lot of the problems people face with this has less to do with the teeth and more with technique.
So do not buy into myths blaming the teeth. Perfect the technique. Poor technique becomes more apparent with higher Tpi blades and denser wood.
Among the more common blades to find will be 10 Tpi, 15 Tpi, and 20 Tpi blades. Tpi stands for teeth per inch. This is a standard by which blades are measured for the coping saw.
10 Tpi is great for roughing in cuts or general shaping. 15 to 18 Tpi is great for finishing. 20 Tpi seems to be too fine for many woodworkers but some love it. You will need to experiment here on what you prefer.
Should A Coping Saw Blade Cut On Pull Or Push Stroke?
I have seen people use coping saws on both the pull and push stroke. Yet which is the proper way, or is it really preference?
Some claim the original design of the saw it is made to work with a pull stroke. These people say it is important because a push stroke can create slack in the blade. Yet it never was a problem historically.
Apparently these people never used older coping saws. This blade flex is actually possible to accomplish, but it really applies to inferior modern coping saws. The old ones are far better.
In modern coping saws, a pull stroke prevents compression within the saw keeping the blade tight. The real problem is that today manufacturing cares more about cheap mass production and less about quality.
So what should you do? Here is a tip for practical application in the real world putting all this bench theory aside.
If you are using a coping saw then you are attempting to follow a line to make a cut. Position the blade so that the cut goes into the line. Why?
It is easier to follow a drawn line without the teeth splintering and breaking up the line at its exit. This also allows for proactive adjustments as the blade enters the cut rather than after it is exiting.
Ultimately this means that most of us will be using a push cut, not a pull cut. That is real world woodworking advice from a practical application point of view, not armchair woodworking philosophy.
How Much Blade Tension Should Be Applied?
Generally the blade should not be able to be flexed easily with your finger. Some like the blade to be so tight that it “sings” if you tap it. That is if if you can get it to that point in the first place.
You will sometimes see woodworkers talk about a coping saw blade having too much tension. So allow me to give more real world shop advice.
Modern coping saw blades you find are really incapable of having too much tension. The fact is that the problem is just the opposite.
When you buy a new coping saw it will not take long for you to discover that it becomes difficult to keep enough tension on the blade. This is due to poor materials and design in the saw itself.
So what do you do? Aside from going out and buying an expensive vintage saw there must be a solution.
You could buy a Knew coping saw which will set you back at least 160 or so dollars. Or you can improve the design of a cheaper saw.
Olson makes a decent and cheap saw. The problem is again maintaining tension. Buy some 5/16 th in spring lock washers and add it to the blade locking mechanism.
This will allow the saw to have a death grip on the blade. The nice thing about the Olson deluxe coping saw is that it allows the blade to be pin locked at the front and back of the blade.
In these cheap saws it does not prevent twisting so be mindful to not become over aggressive with your cuts. Yet for a saw with this modification for under 20 dollars it is hard to beat.
For the record the older coping saws of history were far superior. Seriously you should at least try to find and use one someday to see the difference. There is no way to compare what they had then to what we have now.
If you hear people discuss blade tension citing that, “too tight is a bad thing”, and their saw came from the hardware store…. then they have been reading too many forums. Just keep things within the world of what is realistically beneficial.
Should The Blade Face Towards The Coping Saw Or Away?
The argument of whether or not a blade should face towards the saw frame or away from it in my mind is ridiculous. Nevertheless I bring it up here for I have seen some woodworkers debate this issue.
These woodworkers cited “history” in how older and more traditional saws were used. Too much seems to be made about the geometry of this saw. The point is that it is capable of fulfilling a lot of needs.
Lets get back to real practical application. My saw blade will always be positioned in a way which will allow for me to do two things. I want the face of my cut to be clean and for the line to be followed.
What does this mean? The face of the cut will be what people will see on a completed project. I do not want the saw teeth creating “blowout”, if I can use a table saw term here.
The face needs to be clean thus it makes sense to also follow my line from this same side. My cut should enter the face following the line which also will allow me to make proactive adjustments.
Within wood art the finish of the appearance is everything. If your work does not require this much attention to detail then it does not matter.
The greater point here is that I do not care about woodworking philosophy. My tool will perform the task in order to produce for me what is needed according to my needs. So should yours.
Adjust the coping saw according to the need by design of the cut, then just cut the wood. It really is that simple.
How To Keep A Coping Saw From Binding
There are a few factors to watch for when cutting with a coping saw. One of the things which people find so difficult about them is how they can bind up with a cut.
As I have dealt with blade tension let’s look at these other factors.
The speed of the cut will be impacted by the pressure of cut. In short, allow the coping saw to do the work for you. Do not try to force it.
It is likely you need to reduce the amount of pressure you are applying if your blade is sharp. This leads us to the depth of the cutting stroke.
When cutting with a coping saw you need to be using the full stroke of the blade. If you find yourself stopping short of this full stroke due to binding then you are using too much pressure, or the wrong blade.
Other factors which can impact this can be related to the Tpi of the blade, the wood density, and the thickness of the wood you are cutting.
Twisting Issues Come From Inferior Coping Saw Design
There are two major flaws with the common coping saw you can find today. Earlier I dealt with tension of the blade. Now lets look at twisting.
If you use many of the saws from the local hardware store it is inevitable that you will discover blade twist. What causes this?
While the terms toe and heel are more common with ripsaws I will use this terminology for ease of reference. The heel would be the portion of the blade closest to our hand. The toe would be the front.
As the coping saw is being used, pressure is applied with the sawing motion. As you begin to cut a curve, the heel maintains its position and does not move.
The toe faces the same pressure but is only supported by a locking pin and nut. This pressure begins to turn this feature thus twisting the blade.
The earlier fix I mentioned with split ring washers on the Olsen coping saw will help this, though not prevent it. Here is where designs from Knew coping saws help solve these problems.
Best coping saw 2023
Unfortunately, aside from getting a better saw there is little one can do to remedy this in cheaper saws. This is one example of how older is just better.
Easiest Way To Cut Curves Or Shapes With A Coping Saw
If you have matched the right blade to the wood then cutting a curve or shape should go rather smoothly. The trick is to keep the blade moving with the right speed and pressure allowing the saw to work.
You may consider a marking knife as a worthwhile investment to aid in creating a line for the intended path of cut.
A turn should only be made while the saw is in motion on the cutting stroke. This allows you to more easily remain on the desired line of the cut minimizing stress to the blade.
If you are short stroking the coping saw then cutting a curve is near impossible to do accurately. Improper application also lends to stressing the blade and it breaking over time.
Wood Density Impact On Using The Coping Saw
Wood density is something that not many how to videos or blog explanations will dive into. Yet it is a factor for consideration.
Density has one added caveat. Thickness of the wood being cut holds a direct relationship with density. This will determine how well the blade will move through the wood.
Here is where coping saw design matters. Dense wood requires more work by the blade to remove material. As thickness of a board increases so does the need for a skip tooth blade.
This scenario will inevitably give you headaches with the average coping saw. You will more readily see twisted blades, drifting lines, tension issues, and binding.
Older saws would face few issues with whatever you asked of them to perform. Today there is only one brand I am aware of which can perform at the same or similar level.
The Knew coping saw is the best that you can acquire in modern tools. I just have not found or seen any other that can rid you of the problems which we can so often run into.
Coping With A Coping Saw – The Best Coping Saw
A coping saw consists of a thin, detachable, blade stretched across a deep U-shaped frame. It is one of the most versatile types of saws for fine and intricate woodworking.
They are generally cheaper and more robust than a fret saw.
Best Coping Saw
Although a lot of people would not describe a coping saw as a precision tool it can still be used to cut some very intricate and detailed shapes. They are less maneuverable than a fret saw and cannot turn as quickly due to the wider blade.
However a coping saw is a very effective tool in the right hands. They are cheap and easy to use and replacement blades are generally both cheap and easy to come by.
Some of the best coping saws will allow you to switch the blades 360 degree so that you can swap the actually cutting to either the push or pull stroke of the saw. This can give you more control especially on supper detailed and delicate work.
Robert Larson 540-2000 Coping Saw
The German made Robert Larson coping saw has an easy to adjust tensioning system. you just turn the handle.
It has a great ergonomic wooden handle and a nice stiff frame.
- 6 inch blade length
- Cutting depth roughly 5 inches
- Accepts saw blades with pins
- Tension adjustment is by turning the handle.
Olson Saw SF63510 Coping Saw
The SF63510 Coping Saw from Olson is a great all round workhorse of a coping saw. It is designed very much so in the traditional sense and is exactly what you would look for in the best coping saw for your next project.
- Hard wood handle
- 6.5 inch blades
- Blade can be switched to either cut on push or pull
- Standard pin end blade
- Can be tension-ed on either end
BAHCO 301 6 1/2 Inch Coping Saw
The Bahco 301 is a standard 6.5 inch coping saw that comes with a very high quality beech handle that is lacquered in orange. The blades are made from tempered and hardened carbon steel.
The frame is made from nickel plated steel and the whole saw has a very high quality feel.
- Nickel plated steel frame
- 6.5 inch blades
- High quality frame
- Lacquered beech handle
Why is it called a coping saw?
This saw got its name from the type of joint it is typically used for, which is called a coped joint. A coped joint consists of two pieces of molding where one is cut to fit over the other. A typical application is for one piece to be cut flat to fit up against the corner of a wall and the second piece is shaped to fit over the first.
So what is a coping saw used for?
Well, as above, it was named after a coped joint. The thinness of the blade allows for the cutting of intricate shapes and tight curves in thin materials. This means that a coping saw is also very useful for decorative cuts.
Another ideal use for this type of saw is cutting shapes out from the middle of a work piece. The blade is detachable so that you can fit it through a hole in your material and then reattach the blade. You can then cut out the required shape and detach the blade to remove the saw.
There is one drawback to a coping saw, you can only use it for cutting thin stock (but not extremely thin). The size of the blade and teeth is far too small for large workpieces. You’ll need to limit your workpiece to about 1″ thick.
If you find that you can’t cut a tight enough curve with a coping saw then you’ll probably want to try a fret saw. The much deeper frame of the fret saw also allows for cutting further away from the edge of the workpiece.Both coping saws and fret saws are pretty cheap tools, so you’re not going to break the bank if you buy both.
Another use for a coping saw is to add the finishing cuts when removing the wood from a dovetail joint or any other awkward or detailed cut(see below). Once the main cuts are made with a back saw the coping saw is placed into one of the vertical cuts and then cut into the surplus material working towards the opposite vertical cut. Once the waste is removed the coping saw can then be used to remove the rest from the bottom edge of the dovetail. A rasp of file will then give a smooth finish to the inside surfaces of the dovetail.
Coping saw used in dovetail
How to Use a Coping Saw
Learning how to use a coping saw correctly and safely will mean you will get much better results from the blades but it will also mean that you are less likely to break the blades.
And how to cope a joint
- Cut the first piece of molding so that it fits flush with the wall where you want to mount it.
- Place the first piece on top of the second piece, edge on, and trace around it carefully.
- Use your coping saw to cut out the required shape, remember to stay inside the line!
- Test the fit.
- Make any adjustments needed. You might be better of with a piece of sanding paper here rather than the saw again depending on how much needs to be removed.
- Fit both pieces to the wall and bask in the glory of your perfectly fitted joint.
Here’s a great video on YouTube demonstrating this method:
Coping Saw Blades
You’ll need a different coping saw blade depending on the material you’re going to be cutting.
The majority of coping saws should come with at least one starter blade. You may need to experiment with some different bladed to see which one suits your specific needs.
Another major factor in how well your oping saw will perform is how well you tension it. Depending on the particular saw model that you choose you will need to experiment with just how tightly you tighten the saw blade.
There are two types of blade for cutting wood, coarse and fine. This refers to the number of teeth per inch.
Coarse blades (less than 15 teeth per inch) will cut quickly which makes it easier to follow the line you are cutting (doesn’t really make sense, you would think it would be easier if you’re cutting slowly but that actually makes the blade more likely to wander).
Fine blades can cut tighter curves but will be slower. Most of the time you’ll want to use a coarse blade and then sand the resulting cut. You’ll only want a fine blade if you want to cut a very small radius curve.
The blade will be made of the same material as hacksaw blades, high-carbon steel.
You’ll want a tungsten, carbide-encrusted wire.
This blade will have helical teeth and will cut in all directions; which lets it make sharp turns by simply changing the direction of pressure.
Power Coping Saw
Looking for a power coping saw? Well a power coping saw or an electric coping saw is what some people refer to as a scroll saw. Many hobbyist use the term power coping saw. I rarely however hear a carpenter or professional woodworker use the term.
So there you have it, the basics of using a coping saw.
Wait, Drop That Saw! Can You Use A Coping Saw To Cut Plywood?
If you are looking for a saw that can easily cut through plywood, you may be wondering if a coping saw is the right tool for the job. In this blog post, we will discuss the pros and cons of using a coping saw to cut plywood. We will also give you some tips on how to make the most of this saw when cutting plywood.
Can You Use A Coping Saw To Cut Plywood?
A coping saw can be used to make very intricate cuts in plywood, but it’s not the best tool for the job. If you’re looking for a clean, straight cut, you’re better off using a jigsaw or circular saw. However, if you need to make curved or complex cuts, a coping saw will give you the best results.
Just like with any other type of wood, there are a few things you need to keep in mind when cutting plywood with a coping saw.
First, make sure that the blade is sharp and has plenty of teeth. If your blade is dull, you may have trouble getting clean cuts, resulting in damage to your plywood.
Second, take your time and make sure that you’re following the pattern correctly. It’s easy to get lost when making complex cuts, so it’s important to stay focused.
Finally, be careful not to over-cut the wood. This can cause the plywood to split or crack, and it will make your project look unfinished.
What Is A Coping Saw And What Are Its Uses
A coping saw is a handheld saw that consists of a thin, sharp blade stretched between two metal or plastic frames. The blade is held in place by a pin at the top and bottom of the frame. The coping saw is used to cut intricate shapes in wood, metal, or plastic.
The most common use for a coping saw is to cut molding or trim. The thin blade and small size of the saw allow it to make tight turns and cut intricate patterns. Coping saws can also be used to cut dowels, pipes, and other small cylindrical objects.
While a coping saw can be used to cut plywood, it is not the best tool for the job. The thin blade of the coping saw can easily get caught in the plywood and break. A better tool for cutting plywood is a jigsaw.
How To Use A Coping Saw To Cut Plywood
I will always have a special place in my heart for woodworking. I have such fond memories working on projects with my parents on the weekends in the garage growing up. We built tables, shelves, a backyard shed, 10′ base for a water slide into the pool, 2 story fort playhouse with a fire pole, and so much more. This woodworking blog allows me to write helpful articles so others can enjoy woodworking as much as we have.
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What Materials Can A Coping Saw Cut?
A coping saw is a woodworking hand tool used for cutting intricate shapes into wood. These tools will allow you to cut a variety of materials, including wood, plastic, and even metals.
In order to understand the coping saw, you first have to know exactly what it is. A coping saw is a type of handsaw that’s used to cut out complex curves. Coping saws are especially useful in making curved cuts in moldings, such as those found on the frames of doors. However, when it comes to making straight cuts and square corners, other types of saws are better suited.
Materials a coping saw can cut
The following is a list of materials that can be cut by a coping saw. The list is in no way exhaustive.it does not list every possible material and it does not include every possible way of using a coping saw to cut each material. It will serve, however, to suggest ways in which a coping saw can be used:
Wood is easily one of the most common materials used by woodworkers and DIYers alike. Coping saw blades can slice through wood very easily. Materials like wood are easier to cut because they don’t require as much effort as harder materials. If your project requires any type of wood – from softwoods such as pine or balsa to hardwoods like oak or maple – then the coping saw is a good tool to use.
Trying to cut plywood with a coping saw may not be a good idea. A coping saw won’t make the kind of straight cuts necessary for good plywood work, and the blade will cause splintering.
Despite these drawbacks, a coping saw can still come in handy when you have delicate or intricate cuts to make. If you need to make straight cuts in thick material, though – such as those needed for framing – consider using a circular saw instead.
MDF is Medium Density Fiberboard, a popular type of engineered wood product made from wood fibers and resins. A coping saw can be used to cut this material. However, a circular saw or table saw would be better for straight cuts.
Toxic dust is another concern that you should take into consideration when cutting MDF. Fine particles of dust can become airborne and end up in your lungs if you fail to wear a protective mask or use a respirator. Always have adequate ventilation available when working with MDF and never cut indoors without an exhaust fan running in the background for proper airflow.
Some other engineered materials with similar safety concerns are Chipboard (LDF), Masonite (HDF), MR MDF, and Plywood.
When cutting paper, you should use a fine-tooth blade. The finer the blade, the cleaner your cut will be. Also, if possible, clamp down your paper before cutting it so that it doesn’t move around. If you are cutting a large piece of paper then be sure to clamp both ends in place as well as use something like painter’s tape on the underside of your paper to keep it from shifting around.
Cardboard is a common material used to make signs, boxes, and packaging. It’s very easy to cut with a coping saw, but you have to be careful. The blade can easily get caught in the cardboard and bend or break.
Also, wear gloves while using this tool to protect your hands from any splinters or loose pieces of cardboard that might fly up while you cut. You should also wear goggles or another form of eye protection so that any fragments won’t get into your eyes.
I haven’t been able to find a coping saw blade made specifically for leather and it doesn’t seem as if the tool is well suited to cut this material. A utility knife, craft knife, or leather shears might be a better choice.
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I’ll include related materials such as PVC, Acrylic, Polystyrene, Styrofoam, Foam Board, and so on in this section.
Make sure that your blade stays cool while you’re using it to cut plastic. If your blade gets hot, stop and let it cool down before continuing.
If the plastic is thin, you need to make sure that many teeth contact the material when making the cut. If this is not the case, the saw will be prone to “jump” as you make the cut. This means that you will want a blade with a high TPI (teeth per inch) specification for cutting thin plastic.
It’s important to use a coping saw blade that matches the material you’ll be cutting. I found a great coping saw blade on Amazon. This blade is made to cut through wood, plastic, and metal and has a TPI of 24.
A coping saw can indeed cut metal (This covers Tin, Aluminum, Sheet Metal, Copper, as well as other materials). It may not be the best tool for this task; however, it gets the job done. Tin snips are better suited for cutting thin materials like sheet metal, but a coping saw will also work.
When cutting metal with a coping saw, you have to be extremely careful to avoid cutting through the bottom of your work and into your hand, because that makes the splinters even more dangerous. If you’re not careful when wielding the coping saw, you risk making a mistake and putting yourself in danger. Use thick gloves to protect your hands from sharp edges and wear long sleeves to keep yourself from getting injured by flying debris. Also, be sure to wear safety goggles so you don’t risk an eye injury from flying pieces of metal.
If you want to cut metal with your coping saw, make sure that you have a blade with a high TPI (teeth per inch) specification. I found a very good coping saw blade on Amazon. It has a TPI of 24 and is made to cut through wood, plastic, and metal.
Another option is to use a hacksaw with a fine-tooth blade. As far as power tools, you can use a jigsaw with a metal cutting blade.
Scroll Saw vs Coping Saw vs Fret Saw
Conclusion: What materials can a coping saw cut?
The coping saw is a very versatile tool and can be used to cut through wood, plastic, and even metal given the right blade. Different materials require a different TPI to get the right cut, so it’s important to know what you’re cutting and which blade is best.
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