These days it seems that every cutting tool—reciprocating saw, circular saw, compound miter saw, jigsaw—has a motor of some kind. They make hand saws seem like relics from the past, like something only your grandfather would have used.
Though it might seem like there’s a power saw for every cutting need, the fact is a hand saw is still a vital tool in most workshops. Sometimes, only the best hand saw can get the job done.
If you want the best hand saw for your workshop, read on to learn which features you should look for in a hand saw and why these select saws make the cut for recommendations.
- BEST OVERALL: WilFiks 16” Pro Hand Saw
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: CRAFTSMAN Hand Saw, 15-Inch (CMHT20880)
- BEST FOR METAL: LENOX Tools High-Tension Hacksaw, 12-inch (12132HT50)
- BEST FOR DRYWALL: DEWALT Jab Saw (DWHT20540)
- BEST FOR PLASTIC: AIRAJ 12 Inch Adjustable-Tension Hacksaw Frame
- BEST FOR FURNITURE MAKING: SUIZAN Japanese Ryoba Pull Saw
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Hand Saw
When selecting your first hand saw or its replacement, keep these considerations in mind when you shop.
Hand saws come in a variety of styles, each designed for different purposes.
- The classic handsaw is called a panel saw. It features a slightly angled handle with a wide blade that could be up to 26 inches long. People tend to use panel saws to cut through large sheets of wood or 2x4s.
- Hacksaws feature a 10- to 12-inch blade supported by a c-shaped frame which creates tension on the blade. Hacksaws have fine tooth blades designed to cut smoothly through metal and plastic.
- A jab saw is a long, skinny saw with large teeth used to cut holes in building materials such as drywall. The blade features a pointy end which can be pushed through the material without the need for drilling a hole. Some models may look more like a turkey carving knife than a traditional saw.
- Woodworking saws, such as pull saws, feature blades with fine teeth that make narrow, precise cuts.
A hand saw’s teeth determine how quickly it cuts through wood and how clean a cut it makes. Tooth count is commonly referred to in teeth per inch (TPI). The fewer teeth per inch, the larger the teeth will be and the larger the spaces (or gullets) between them.
Coarse-tooth blades have one to seven teeth per inch. These blades can cut through large pieces of material quickly, but not smoothly; the large teeth tear some of the wood’s fibers leaving a rough finish.
Blades with 10 or more teeth per inch have smaller teeth with fewer gullets in between them. With more teeth per inch, the blade makes a smoother cut. But, since you’re pulling more teeth through the wood, you’ll use a lot more power to slice through it.
The best TPI for you depends on how you plan to use your hand saw. For example, rip-style blades, designed to cut quickly with the wood’s grain, have around 5 TPI. On the other hand, crosscut blades, designed to make smooth cuts, have 10 to 12 TPI.
Teeth also determine how a saw cuts. Saw blades with teeth that are sharp on both sides cut on both the push and pull strokes. However, blades with teeth that are sharp on just one side cut either during the push stroke or the pull stroke, but not both.
Hand saw blades are made out of a hardened steel alloy that prevents the teeth from dulling too quickly. While they use the same material, the shapes of blades can vary significantly depending on the type of saw and its purpose.
- A general-purpose panel saw features a long, broad blade with large teeth designed to make quick, rough cuts through wood.
- Hacksaws have thin blades with many teeth and no gullets allowing them to cut through metal or plastic easily.
- Woodworking saws feature thin blades making precise cuts possible. The blade can cut in a curve and won’t get stuck in the wood mid-stroke. Some carpentry saws also cut on the pull stroke, which improves accuracy.
- A jab saw has a long, narrow blade with large teeth designed to cut quickly through drywall material.
Most hand saws have inherent flex, meaning the blade will bend.
A saw’s flex can make straight cuts difficult. Saws with a thicker blade will be more rigid, but require more effort to cut through the material. Thinner blades, on the other hand, will go through the material more quickly, but have more flex.
Some saws are designed to overcome this flex dilemma through designs that add support to the blade. Hacksaws, for example, feature a frame that holds the blade on both sides. An adjusting screw on the frame creates tension on the blade to prevent it from flexing while cutting harder materials, such as metal.
Woodworking saws cut only on the pull part of the stroke. The tension created by pulling, as opposed to pushing, causes the blade to naturally straighten during the cutting stroke.
Proper blade tension is crucial to making a straight and even cut. When you press the saw blade against a solid object, it should bend slightly. A well-made saw blade will have a consistent curve when bent, meaning it shouldn’t bend at a sharper angle in any one spot. When you release the blade, it should immediately snap back to straight.
Some hand saws are designed to create tension on the blade. For example, hacksaw blades feature a c-shaped frame that connects to both ends of the thin saw blade. A tension adjustment allows you to increase the tension of the blade, making it more rigid. Some saws can create blade tension up to 50,000 pounds per square inch (PSI), creating the rigidity needed to cut harder materials like metal.
Given that you operate a hand saw manually, the handle is almost as important as the blade. A saw with a poorly designed handle will be difficult to control and uncomfortable to use. Many saws are designed with ergonomic molded handles with rubberized grips to maximize control and comfort. But, that isn’t the case with all hand saws. Some manufacturers design their saws with the classic, and aesthetically pleasing, stained wood handles. While this design may sacrifice comfort, displaying a handsaw with this time-honored look certainly adds character to your workshop.
Length refers to the cutting blade and does not include the handle. A longer saw will cut through more material on a single stroke, meaning fewer strokes are needed to complete a cut. Longer saws also tend to provide a more even and consistent cutting line. That said, saw length mainly comes down to personal preference. A larger person with a longer reach may feel more comfortable with a 26-inch saw, while someone with a shorter reach may prefer a 15-inch handsaw.
Our Top Picks
Below you’ll find some of the best hand saws for your workshop. From cutting wood to sawing through metal, these recommendations are ready to handle nearly any type of job.
When it comes to handsaws, most DIYers want something that can handle a variety of tasks. With its 9 TPI and deep gullets, this saw can quickly make cross cuts through wood, rip boards, and make the occasional cut through a tree limb. It has enough flex to be forgiving but can still manage rapid cutting.
The saw’s 16-inch blade allows for long strokes that cut in both directions, which speeds up the cutting process. It’s also comfortable to use thanks to its lightweight design—it weighs less than a pound—and an ergonomic slip-resistant grip that provides both control and comfort. With its versatile design and comfortable handle, this is an excellent handsaw for everyday use.
One advantage of handsaws is that they are much less expensive than their power saw successors, as you can see by the price tag of this Craftsman 15-inch handsaw. It features a tooth configuration that makes deeper cuts on the downstroke and milder cuts on the backstroke for fast, smooth cuts. With its induction hardened teeth, this saw will stay sharp for a long time.
For added control, this saw boasts a beefy handle, giving you something substantial to hold, as well as a rubberized grip, for greater comfort when sawing thicker boards. The handle also features built-in 90- and 45-degree angles, so you can draw precise cut lines with the dull side of the blade.
When it comes to effectively cutting metal, a high-tension blade is crucial to ensuring a straight cut. But how much tension is enough? This hacksaw from Lenox creates blade tension up to 50,000 pounds per square inch (PSI), ensuring you can make a straight cut through even the toughest materials.
The comfortable rubber grip gives you control of the saw as you cut through metal. This saw also offers plenty of hidden features, including a convenient storage cavity for up to five blades and a bracket for a second blade that turns this tool into a jab saw.
When it comes to handheld tools, comfort is paramount—especially in dirty jobs like hacking through drywall. Without a motor to assist you, your arm is doing all the work. With its molded rubberized grip, you’ll have a firm hold on this DEWALT jab saw.
Using its aggressive tooth geometry, this saw can make quick work out of drywall cutting jobs, which will both speed your project along and save your arm some effort. This tool can cut through other building materials, too, including plastic. And, with its induction-hardened teeth, the blade should stay sharp through many projects.
This hacksaw from AIRAJ is surprisingly versatile. With its high-grade steel saw blades and ergonomic handle, it cuts through plastic pipes, wood, and metal with ease. It also features a handy adjuster for fine-tuning the blade’s tension on the fly, allowing you to optimize its cutting performance.
The saw includes two sets of brackets that allow you to cut at the standard 90 degrees or 45 degrees. A rubberized grip provides control and comfort. A second grip on the opposite end enables you to use the saw two-handed for those tricky cuts. The AIRAJ 12 comes well equipped with 10 steel blades.
Most Western-style saws cut on the push part of a stroke. This Japanese handsaw flips the script with a blade that cuts on the pull part of the stroke. What’s the advantage? Pull saws allow for more accurate cuts. This saw also features a thin blade, allowing it to cut effortlessly through wood.
This Japanese pull saw offers two saws in one: a fine-tooth side that makes smooth crosscuts and a flip side that includes larger, more aggressive teeth for rip cuts. These features make this saw a great option for fine woodworking. Made of Japanese steel, both blades are extremely sharp and durable. A rubberized handle provides plenty of grip for excellent control.
Tips for Using a Hand Saw
There are a few guidelines to consider when using a hand saw.
- First, determine what type of saw you need for the job. If you’re cutting wood, use a standard wood handsaw. For metal, you’ll need a hacksaw. For fine woodworking, which requires precision cuts, use a Japanese pull saw.
- Make sure your material is properly secured. It’s challenging to safely and effectively saw a loose piece of material. Use a vice or clamps to hold the material in place firmly before you begin sawing.
- Scribe the material if you can. Use a knife to mark the material where you want to make the cut. The indentation will naturally draw the blade into it, making it easier to cut along the line.
- Practice on scrap wood. If you’re not experienced with hand saws, make a few cuts on scrap lumber before taking the saw to your project piece. It will allow you to learn how to use the saw without ruining your material.
- Don’t bear down on the saw. Instead, allow gravity to do the work for you. Don’t place the majority of your weight on the sawing hand. Instead, put most of your weight on the hand steadying the piece you’re cutting and allow the weight of the saw to do the cutting—this will prevent the saw from biting into more material than it can chew off in one stroke, and save your arm from wearing out too quickly.
FAQs About Hand Saws
If you still have questions about your new hand saw, check out these common questions.
Q. How do you start a saw cut?
Use your thumb to help line up the saw blade with the cut line. Start with the teeth nearest to the handle. Make sure to start the cut next to the line, on the waste side. Make a few back cuts until you create a defined opening in the wood. Position the saw at a 45-degree angle with the material. With your elbow close to your body, start with a few short forward strokes to deepen the cut. Then, begin making longer strokes.
Q. How do you sharpen a hand saw?
Clamp the saw’s blade in a vice between two scrap wood pieces with the blade side facing up. Make sure the clamp grips the blade close to the cutting edge. Use a double-cut metal file to file the teeth until they are uniform height.
Q. How do you lubricate a hand saw?
To prevent rust, lubricate your saw after every use. You can use a variety of lubricants, including WD-40, gun oil, or paste wax. In addition to preventing the metal from oxidizing, the lubricant will also help the blade slide through the wood.