Hand Saws for Woodworking: A Must-Read Guide to Buying Handsaws


Hand saws for woodworking are simple tools that appear easy to handle, even for beginners. But the problem arises when choosing the right handsaw for your project. 

See, each handsaw is designed for different needs, and hitting the market to purchase a random handsaw is a mistake you want to avoid. 

This guide will help you find and choose the right handsaw for your project. 

Table of Contents

Woodworking Hand Saw Characteristics

There are four main hands saw characteristics worth knowing before you hit the market to shop for one. These include:

1. Hand Saw Types

Panel Saws

This saw is commonly called the “handsaw.” A typical saw panel has a handle and thin, flexible metal metallic blade without a rigid frame or back. It has the following characteristics:

  • More prominent teeth than a standard saw.
  • Commonly used for rough-cutting boards to desired length and width 
  • Manufactured in large quantities hence readily available 
  • Cuts aggressively leaving a slightly rough edge 
  • Inexpensive 
All types of hand saws

(All types of hand saws)

Back Saws

The back saw derives its name from the heavy brass or steel back that adds weight to the saw when using it. Historically, this saw was popular among cabinet makers and joiners. It has the following characteristics:

  • Thin metal plates and fine teeth 
  • The saw makes precision wood cuts 
  • Rigid steel or brass bars that prevent the saw blade from bending 
  • Smaller saw teeth make finer cuts 
back saw

(back saw) 

Frame Saws

A frame saw, a sash or turning saw, comprises a relatively flexible, narrow blade held under tension in a rectangular frame. This blade is at a perpendicular angle to the plane’s frame. A narrow blade frame saw works perfectly when cutting curves. Its features include:

  • A tightened blade under tension between two saw arms 
  • The blade is placed perpendicularly to the frame plane
  • It makes curves and can cut through logs and boards for larger blades 
  • It works similarly to a power band saw
  • It’s available in different sizes ranging from finer teeth to large teeth 
Hand Saws for Woodworking:  Frame Saws

(Frame Saws)

Hand Saw Tooth Shape

Handsaw teeth feature two different configurations  (rip and cross-cut) depending on how you sharpen them. You can alter your saw’s tooth shape to achieve any configurations using saw sharpening tools. Let’s delve into the specifics:

Rip Saw Teeth

  • This saw is mainly for cutting wood lengthwise along the grain (ripping)
  • The saw cuts aggressively, leaving a relatively rough edge 
  • A typical rip measures 24 to 26 inches long
  • The saw contains approximately 4 to 7 teeth per inch. 
Hand Saws for Woodworking:  Image of the rip saw teeth

(Image of the rip saw teeth)

Cross-Cut Saw Teeth

  • Crosscut mainly used to cut wood across the wood grain 
  • The saw measures about 24 to 26 inches long 
  • It comprises 8 to 11 teeth per inch 
  • The saw does not cut aggressively as the rip saw does, primarily due to its smoother edge. 

Hand Saws for Woodworking: Hand Saw Tooth Count

The number of teeth per inch (TPI) is another essential factor when choosing a handsaw. For instance, large hand saw teeth quickly cut through wood but leave a rougher surface than smaller teeth.

And while saws with small teeth cut more precisely, they’re not ideal for cutting through long lengths or large wood stocks. 

Normal or frame hand saws have larger rip teeth than cross-cut teeth. The size of rip and crosscut teeth varies in back saws. 

The teeth per inch (TPI) or points per inch (PPI) are the number of teeth a saw contains per inch of length. Always check the saw plate for the TPI stamp.

TPI is established through the saw’s full size, whereas PPI entails counting from one point to another. But most people use the PPI approach to count saw teeth. 

Hand Saws for Woodworking:  Cut wood with a hand saw

(Cut wood with a hand saw)

What Hand Saw Do You Need?

The different saws available in the market sometimes challenge choosing the right one. How many or what type of saw do you need to complete your tasks?

This depends on your individual needs or the purpose of the saw. Here’s a brief look at six common saw types.  

Hand Saws for Woodworking: Full-Length Rip Saw

 A typical full-length saw is 24 inches. Always match the length of the saw with your height for efficiency and comfort. A 5 PPI saw can break the wood aggressively and leave jagged edges. File four degrees of rake. 

Hand Saws for Woodworking: Full-Length Crosscut Saw

Most people go for a 24-inch saw length, but it’s important to size it to your height.

A 10 PPI full-length crosscut saw is aggressive enough to cut through stock while leaving fine dimensions. File the saw with 15 degrees of rake and 25 degrees of fleam.

Tenon Saw, 16″

The Tenon Saw, 16″, is the ideal rip-filed joinery saw. You may not use it frequently, but it helps when cutting tenons. It has 11 PPI and needs four degrees of filing. 

Sash Saw, 14″

Sash saw shares a similar style with Tenon Saw. File it at 15 degrees of rake and 25 degrees of fleam. This saw is ideal for precision crosscuts, cheek cuts, and tenon shoulders. 

Dovetail Saw

This saw is about nine inches long and is dedicated mainly to cutting dovetails. It contains 17 PPI and files with a rip at zero degrees of rake. 

Turning Saw

This saw is the top choice for curved works. Turning Saw is 12 inches long and contains 10 PPI. You’ll love this saw, thanks to its lightweight nature makes it one of the best coping saws. 

How to Sharpen Hand Saws for Woodworking?

Follow these simple steps when sharpening your saw:

  • Clean off dust and debris from the saw surface
  • Clamp the saw using a saw vise 
  • Straighten any crooked teeth to ensure the file moves evenly 
  • Use a jointer for different-length teeth to flatten any taller teeth
  • Select a file that matches your saw’s TPI 
  • Attach a handle to the file to keep it steady as you work
  • Hold the file straight at a perpendicular angle to the blade and start filing using short and even strokes


The type of hand saw you choose on your specific woodwork needs. Different hand saws in your workshop are always advisable to meet your diverse needs. 

The requirement means you must dig deeper into your pocket to purchase as many hand saws as possible, but it’s worth it. 

This guide covered most aspects of hand saws for woodworking to enable you to select one. 

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