Last Updated on November 27, 2021 by Barry Gray
Hand saws go back to the origin of cutting lumber and turning the wood into houses, furniture, ornaments, and many of the tools that made life easier. Before the era of power tools, the range of hand saws included the two-person crosscut saw used by lumberjacks to fell giant Redwood trees to the figure saw used by carpenters.
There are nine types of hand saws, all designed for specific purposes. We will look at each type and recommend a good brand and model for each type. We will look at the universal hand saw, tenon saw, Japanese saw, jab saw, coping saw, flush-cut saw, bow saw, pruning saw, and frame saw.
These nine saw types are those most commonly found for use in the garden of orchards and the woodwork shop. Let’s look at each type of saw and some of the best products available in the market of each type.
In the hands of an expert woodworker, no job cannot be done better by hand. The power tool era has made working wood faster, but hand-crafted items still represent the pinnacle of woodwork. The satisfaction of using hand tools to make a fine piece of furniture cannot be rivaled.
The hand saw comes in nine distinct types, each unique design to achieve a specific objective.
1. The Universal Saw
The universal or general-purpose saw is the most familiar type of hand saw. The length and teeth type may vary according to the type of cutting that will be done. Fine teeth with little or no offset will result in a smooth, clean-cut. Large, offset teeth are ideal for rough cuts through big pieces of lumber.
It is good to buy two universal saws for your workshop, one with fine teeth for precise cuts and one with large teeth for fast cuts. The Stanley 20-045 Fat Max Hand Saw 15-inch is a crosscut saw with eight teeth-per-inch and is designed to do straight cuts across the grain of the wood. The handgrip is designed to be comfortable and has a rubber lining to prevent your hand from slipping. Available at under $30 online, this is a staple hand saw for every workshop.
The IRWIN Tools MARATHON 2011200 15-inch ProTouch Fine Cut Saw is also worthy of mention as a great universal saw. This saw is designed for fine cuts and maintains the sharp edges on the blade for longer.
2. The Tenon Saw
Tenon saws are used in conjunction with a miter-box to make angled cuts to a high level of precision. The teeth are very fine, allowing for sharp, clean cuts when joining cornices for trim pieces on the interior of a house.
The Irwin Hardpoint Tenon Saw represents the best on offer backed by a 133-year brand heritage. The blade has 12 teeth per inch and maintains a sharp edge after extended use. The Irwin Hardpoint Tenon Saw is a significant investment, and the Irwin brand does offer some lower-priced options in their range.
Mortice and Tenon joints are only found on high-quality handmade furniture, and top cabinet makers pride themselves on the fit and finish of their joints. The ridged steel guide on top of the tenon saw will keep the blade stable during a cut.
Mass-produced furniture is designed with machine-cut joints that are completely hidden to the knowledgeable observer, but the mark of a handmade masterpiece is the quality of the joints.
3. The Japanese Saw
Japanese carpenters are world-renowned for their fine craftsmanship. The popularity of videos depicting the high levels of skill and ingenuity of design has led to a growth in the popularity of the Japanese pull saw. These saws are flexible and feature fine teeth designed to cut on the pull stroke.
The Japanese Saw is ideal for making accurate cuts. The flexibility of the saw blade allows the craftsman to manipulate the blade into hard-to-reach places. The SUIZAN Japanese Pull Saw sells online and represents the gold standard of this type of saw.
All SUZAN Japanese saws are made of high-quality Japanese steel. The 9.5-inch long blade has 25 teeth per inch. Both edges of the blade have teeth. One side has crosscut teeth, and the other rip cut teeth on a blade that is only 0.02-inches thick (0.508mm). Replacement blades cost under $25 online and are easy to fit the easy-grip traditional handle.
4. The Jab Saw
The long thick pointed blade of a Jab Saw is ideal for cutting keyholes. The sharp rigid blade will enable you to work in tight spaces where the jab saw can make straight or curved cuts in thin flat panels. The cut pattern is traced onto the wood panel, and a hole drilled close to the starting point of the pattern.
The Jab Saw can then be used to cut along the traced line of the pattern. These types of saws are widely used in cutting drywall. As this is not a saw used very often in a woodwork shop, I will recommend a good value product like the STANLEY Jab Saw, Wood Handle, 6-Inch (15-206).
The 6-inch Stanley blade is fitted with a classic wooden handgrip. The blade has a lifetime warranty and is epoxy bonded into the handle. The Stanley brand has a proud heritage in woodworking circles, and this Jab Saw will give you a lifetime of service.
5. The Coping saw
A U-shaped frame provides the tension to a thin sharp blade and is fitted to a handle for one-handed use. Coping saws are designed to make the most intricate cuts. The depth of the U-shape determines how far from the edge of a piece of wood the cut can be made.
The pattern to be cut is traced onto the wood, and a hole large enough for the saw blade to be passed through is drilled. The saw blade is pushed through the hole, fitted to the U-shaped saw, and tensioned to the correct stiffness. The Coping Saw is then used to cut along the most intricate pattern.
Once the cut is complete, the saw blade can be removed from the U-shape bow and taken out of the workpiece. The Irwin Tools Coping Saw is highly rated as the best saw of this type. The ergonomically designed handle grip provides excellent grip and control of the saw.
The blade has 17-teeth per inch and can quickly be removed or changed out if required. At this price and with the backing of the 133-year old Irwin brand, you cannot go wrong with this purchase.
6. The Flush Cut Saw
Flush Cut Saws are designed to make accurate flush cuts close to a finished surface of the wood, without leaving any teeth marks on the surface. When trimming off dowels protruding from the wood surface, a flush-cut saw is an ideal choice.
The best type of flush-cut saw happens to be the Suizan Japanese Pull Saw. All Suzan Japanese saws are made of high-quality Japanese steel. The 9.5-inch long blade has 25 teeth per inch. Both edges of the blade have teeth. One side has crosscut teeth, and the other rip cut teeth on a blade that is only 0.02-inches thick (0.508mm).
Replacement blades are easy to fit the easy-grip traditional handle. An investment in the Suizan Japanese Pull Saw will cover two types of hand saws with one product. These saws are rated as the best flush-cut saws to use.
The Gyokucho Razorsaw Flush Cutting Double Edge Saw 125mm with Wood Handle is a good budget alternative to the more expensive Suzan. One edge of the blade has 32 crosscut teeth per inch and is ideal for cutting hardwoods. The other edge has 21 crosscut teeth per inch, making it ideal for cutting softwoods.
The Gyokucho Razorsaw Flush Cutting Double Edge Saw has a very thin blade (0.012-inches or 0.3 mm), making it as delicate as a surgeon’s scalpel.
7. The Bow Saw
The Bow Saw is more at home outside the woodwork shop and primarily used in the garden to prune large branches off trees or cut the logs down to length before splitting them for firewood.
The Bow Saw features a long blade with large sharp teeth, strung between a large steel frame with a secure grip. These types of saws are used mainly by woodcutters and gardeners.
Truper 30257 Steel Handle Bow Saw, 24-Inch Blade is ideal for cutting large branches or small trees. A cam-lever tension system keeps the blade at the perfect tension allowing for fast cuts. A sturdy plastic knuckle guard will protect the hand from injury on the down-stroke.
The cam-lever tensioning system allows for fast blade changes. After use, the blade needs to be cleaned and oiled to protect the cutting teeth from rust.
8. The Pruning Saw
Pruning season would be a lot longer, not for a good quality Pruning Saw. Handheld pruning saws come in a variety of lengths. Pole pruning saws allow you to get to the higher branches without the need for a ladder.
The handheld pruning saw is ideal for small trees and plants and is easier to control than pole pruning saws. Some handheld models have thin straight blades for thinner, delicate cuts. Curved blades are better at cutting thick branches.
The Corona Razor Tooth Saw pruning saw comes with blades of various sizes, including 7, 8, and 10 inches in length. The saw has a molded pistol grip handle designed to fit the hand comfortably. The blade has six teeth per inch, and each tooth is shaped like a 3-sided razor tooth that makes for fast cuts.
The 10-inch version is available online. The blade is curved and tapered and can fold away when not in use. The teeth are made of impulse-hardened steel, ensuring a long useful blade life. Replacement blades can be purchased separately.
9. The Frame Saw
Frame Saws are from a bygone era before the steel-framed bow saws or the U-shaped coping saw. These old-fashioned saws effectively provided a frame in which the saw blade could be stretched taught. The frame saw consists of a solid center beam around which the saw is constructed.
With the blade on one side of the frame, hooked into the parallel cross members of the saw, there is a mechanism for pulling the blade tight on the other side of the cross members. Shaped like an H, the blade between the bottom legs of the H and the cords used to tighten the blade are on the top side of the H.
Twisting the cords together will pull the uprights at the top of the H-frame towards each other, resulting in the bottom of the H-frame flaring outwards and thus tensioning the cutting blade.
Vintage frame saws are available for sale online, but you can make one in your workshop as a project for practice. The frame saw will most likely only be decorative, and you will undoubtedly have more modern saws that can do the same job.
The humble saw has developed into many specialized types of saws since cutting down the first tree. From the nine woodworking saw types, it is unlikely that you will need one of each type. Of the Universal Saw, you may have a rip blade version and a crosscut version.
The satisfaction derived from using hand tools in your woodwork projects is enormous. A cabinet with Mortice and Tenon and Dove-Tail joints is a clear sign of a hand-crafted quality piece of furniture that will provide the woodworker with a great deal of pride and a higher valued piece.
Start with an essential selection of hand saws and grow your range of saws as your projects dictate. Try to buy one brand of hand saws and maintain them after use to give you many years of service.