What Is A Hand Saw? What Is A Hand Saw Used For?

what is a hand saw
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hand saw

A Hand Saw is a traditional saw used for cutting timber. A Hand Saw has a blade which is usually between 16" - 28" in length that has a series of sharp teeth on the full length of the bottom edge. The blade is fitted with a handle which traditionally was a wooden handle. Hand Saws of today are seen by most as a saw with a plastic handle.

The Hand Saw is further broken down into three different traditional types of hand saws:

The lower cost, often throw-away saws usually with a plastic handle often have what is labelled as 'Universal Teeth' / 'Universal Tooth'; a tooth setup which is designed to be a hybrid of a 'Rip Saw' and 'Crosscut Saw' to allow the saw to cut in any direction. It is basically a happy-medium of the 'Rip Saw' and the 'Crosscut Saw' but arguably not quite as effective as ripping as a Rip Saw and not quite as effective at cross-cutting as a Crosscut Saw.

hand saw

A Hand Saw can have a 'Straight Back' or a 'Skew Back'. The 'Back' refers to the top length of the blade. A 'Straight Back' has a back which runs in a straight line from the tip ('Toe') to the handle ('Heel'). A 'Skew Back' has a back which has an appearance of having a dip in the back. A 'Skew Back' is thought to be easier to use with a little less resistance.

Some saws have a tapered blade. A tapered blade is thicker at the cutting edge and gradually gets thinner towards the top edge ('Back'). A blade which is tapered should make cutting easier with less resistance. Sometimes the blade is marked 'Taper Ground' to indicate this.

Some old hand saws have what is called a 'Nibbed' blade, this is where the top edge of the blade towards the toe has a raised notch or nib. It appears this was used by manufacturers as a decorative feature, there are also theories it served a functional part of the saw for clearing sawdust.

The blade should be straight and perfectly flat to ensure a good, clean sawing action. Any bend in the blade and any imperfections / bumps in the blade is likely to cause the blade to jam which in effect pretty much makes the saw impossible to use.

hand saw

The teeth should be kept sharp to allow speed of cut and to minimise the effort required to make a cut.

Saws have been used for thousands of years with ancient civilisations such as the ancient Egyptians using saws to cut wood.

The traditional hand saw to what this article refers to is the hand saw used since the 1600's and which is still used today. During this time the humble handsaw hasn't changed hugely other than improvements in steel making and refinements to the style of handle and the fitting of the handle.

One of the most prolific saw makers that has graced woodworkers and whose saws are still recognised today for their great quality over 100 years on was Henry Disston with the Disston Saws range.

Traditional Hand Saws are still made today including by manufacturers: Bade Axe (USA), Spear & Jackson (England), Thomas Flinn & Co (Sheffield, England)

Hand Saw Manufacturers:

There have been a number of hand saw makers in the past, with a few present makers. Below are a list of a few well known hand saw manufacturers:

New Hand Saw Makers:


(i) This review/article may give warning(s) / advisory notes / cautions / guidelines given in good faith, any such information should not be solely relied upon and seen as the exhaustive list of warnings / advisory notes / cautions / guidelines. Refer to good safety practices for the safety of you and others. Refer to good practices for the good health of your tool and property.
(ii) The details here are given in good faith, the details are constantly growing and evolving, there is scope for error and shouldn't be fully relied upon, please confirm any details for yourself by performing additional research from reliable sources.

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