What Is a Hand Saw Used For?

Although common DIY tools, many first-timers often struggle with putting hand saws to good use. When used for the right purposes, these simple tools can come in real handy in a variety of projects. So what exactly is a hand saw used for?  

A hand saw is used for cutting wood in different shapes to construct an item. The hand saw has a sharp blade to cut the wood and a handle to allow you to control the device. With the different types, hand saws enable you to cut various wood shapes. 

In this guide, I will first show you the correct way to use a handsaw safely. After that, I will explain the factors to consider when looking to buy a handsaw. Let’s get started. 

How To Properly Use a Handsaw

As I have mentioned, hand saws come in various types, each having its respective use and materials to cut. But to make the most of your handsaw and complete your DIY project (successfully), you’ll need to observe some crucial steps, as explained below. 

Wear Safety Equipment 

Before you cut anything with the hand saw, the first thing to do is to think about your safety. Using a hand saw is not the most complex activity, but incorrect usage can lead to injuries. Some of the possible injuries include: 

  • Sawdust entering into the eyes
  • Wood falling on your legs 
  • The sharp end of the saw touching your hands or legs 

Any of these injuries can occur while cutting wood with a hand saw. However, you can avoid them by doing the following: 

  • Wear thick jeans. If you can afford to buy forestry safety equipment, it is better. But if you can’t, the thick jeans will help protect your legs against possible injuries from a handsaw. 
  • Buy safety glasses. It is prevalent to neglect the importance of eye protection when shopping for safety equipment. However, when using a hand saw, it is crucial to protect your eyes from sawdust. The eye protection must be wide enough to cover other parts of your face but shouldn’t hinder your sight. 
  • Facemasks. Wood contains some chemicals that you release in the dust while cutting with a handsaw. Inhaling these chemicals can trigger allergies and cause medical conditions like dermatitis. Wearing medically tested face masks that cover your mouth and nose while using the handsaw can help prevent these risks. 
  • Safety boots. When using a handsaw, you will continuously cut a point of the wood. Once you have finished cutting the wood, it will likely drop to the floor or on the legs. If you have protective boots on, you will reduce the impact of the wood if it hits the legs. 
  • Check the saw. Whether the hand saw is old or new, check it to be sure it is firm. Check the connection between the handle and the saw blade to ensure it is sturdy enough to get the job done.  

Set Your Wood on Working Area Firmly

You can never get a perfect cut if your wood moves while cutting with a hand saw. The movement of the wood will increase the chances of errors as you work on your project. 

Likewise, wood moving while using a hand saw means you’ll be at a greater risk of sustaining avoidable injuries in the form of cuts, or wood falling on your feet. 

If you want perfection and safety with your wood cut, you need to have a clear work area for your wood. After clearing a working space, you need clamps to hold the wood to that surface. 

Your hands are usually the first tool to keep the wood firm, but it is not accurate or safe. Clamps ensure the wood is in one position, delivering good cuts and preventing injuries. 

Ideally, you should use quality clamps that can hold the wood firmly in your work area. I recommend the IRWIN QUICK-GRIP Woodworking Clamps (available on Amazon.com). This set of clamps comes with eight pieces that ensure your wood is firmly held. It is ideal for most DIY projects and features an easy release if you need to adjust your wood. 

Take Measurements and Mark

The whole idea of using a hand saw is to make accurate cuts that’ll suit your intended project. As such, it is crucial to ensure that you take accurate measurements to guide you throughout the wood-cutting process. 

Some of the instruments you’ll need to make an accurate cut include: 

  • A measuring tape
  • Pencils. Sometimes, you may take multiple cutting lines, so you can use different pencil colors to make marks. 
  • A combination or a carpenter’s square. By aligning your line to the square, this square will ensure better accuracy with what you are cutting. 

If you are using the hand saw for the first time, you should make an evident mark of your cutting line to reduce mistakes. Also, draw the line after you have clamped for better accuracy. 

Position Yourself and the Saw 

Your positioning and handling of the saw are the most crucial parts of using a hand saw. Apart from keeping you safe, it also increases the chances of getting your cuts right. 

Follow these procedures to have the proper position and saw grip while using the hand saw: 

  • Stay at a perpendicular position. Your wood should lie horizontally on the working table while you stand perpendicularly to it. This position will give you the correct view of your cutting point. 
  • Set opposite hand and leg positions. You should not attempt to cut with a hand saw while standing straight. One of your legs needs to go forward, and it should be opposite to your favorite hand. That means if you use the left hand better, set your right foot forward and vice versa. 
  • Ensure optimal working height. You should not bend or stretch the whole while cutting with a hand saw. The wood needs to be in a position that is easy for you to hold and cut. 
  • Hold your handsaw. The best way to hold the handsaw is to use four fingers – the thumb and your first three fingers. These four fingers will give an excellent grip, but remember to hold it firmly and ensure it is not too tight or loose. 
  • Align parts of your body. Parts of your body, like the wrist, elbow, and shoulder, should be on the same line as the hand saw blade. Your elbow is crucial to ensure the blade stays in a straight line. 
  • Set saw at an angle. You can’t start cutting with a handsaw straight. You need to start at a point at the most convenient angle. 

Mark Cutting Point With Saw

Can you remember the sketch you made with a pencil? That’s where you start the cutting process!

Trace the line you have drawn on the edge with your saw at a specific angle. No need to use excessive force this time; you only want to make a starting point. 

It is always better to have your hand saw at angle 45 for this small cut. Also, use the blade closer to the handle to ensure the tiny cut is as accurate as possible. This blade point will give accurate cuts because it is close to where you are handling it. 

Apply Firm and Consistent Pressure

After making that first tiny cut, you now have a blueprint to follow. Remove your saw from the tiny cut and follow this procedure to start cutting: 

  1. Place your saw into the cut point and apply slight pressure. Remember, you are cutting towards yourself.
  2. Start with short strokes: Ideally, you should start with slow strokes as you gradually expand your starting cut point.
  3. Increase the length of the strokes and force. As you keep cutting, the starting point will expand, allowing your saw strokes to increase. 
  4. Cut with the saw, not your strength. I know how sawing looks like work with power, but in reality, it is more about the sharpness of the saw teeth. If you force the saw with too much pressure, you may cause binding, which significantly compromises the accuracy of your cuts. 
  5. Stop and realign. While cutting, stop and blow off the dust to check if you are still in synchronization with the line you should follow. When you go off the line, remove the saw and start cutting from where you made a mistake. 
  6. Hold the wood with one hand, even with the clamps. Sometimes, the vibrations may be the cause of inaccuracies. 
  7. Reduce effort towards the end. The easier you move your saw on the wood, the closer you are to the end. In the end, it’s more about consistent efforts than the force to cut it. So reduce the strokes and pressure from the handsaw and cut until the wood drops. 

Factors To Consider Before Buying Hand Saws 

Several saws exist for different purposes, so much so that you may be confused about which one to settle for. If you’re in this situation, you can check out my article, ‘Which Saw Should I Buy First?’ In the article, I’ve explained the most appropriate saws for different skill levels and factors to consider before getting one. 

Some of these factors include:

  • The material you are cutting
  • The cutting design 
  • Your budget 
  • Your cutting frequency


If you’re just getting started with hand saws, it’s best to prioritize safety and accuracy over the speed of completing your wood cutting project. 

The steps discussed above will guide you on the best way to use the hand saw, regardless of the type and shape. Remember, it’s not about the force you use but mostly your positioning, accuracy and consistency. 

As a good rule, you should always work with sharp hand saws as a blunt one not only increases the chances of poor cuts but also the risk of sustaining avoidable injuries.

Damien Madeira

Damien has been doing woodworking for the last 5 years. He began as a hobbyist with hand tools and slowly worked his way up to own larger machines and mill rough wood into beautiful creations. While still considering himself a hobbyist, he has a passion for woodworking and enjoys working with epoxy as well.

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