HANDSAWS for wood

Although you can make do with a limited range in your toolbox, it’s useful to know what the different types of handsaw can do.

These are eight of the most common.

All saws have certain things in common. Firstly the teeth are angled outwards alternately (called the set’) and you can see this by looking directly down on any saw with the points of the teeth uppermost. The angled formation does two things- it makes the cut a little wider than the blade of the saw so the blade doesn’t get stuck, and it allows saw dust to fall away without the teeth becoming clogged. Saws are graded according to the number of teeth they have to the inch – measured in ‘points’ to the inch. The main thing to remember is that the greater the number of teeth, the finer and slower the cut will be. But the number of teeth a saw has isn’t the only important charac-teristic. The of teeth it has also makes a difference – for instance, a saw specifically designed to cut the grain of wood has teeth filed to form a chisel edge, while those of a saw designed to cut the grain are filed to form a sharper point.

Blades themselves vary in thickness from about 1 mm for a large panel saw, to about 0.5mm for a small tenon saw, and even less for a coping saw. And to help the blade clear the cut as you saw, the blade’s width is itself tapered so it’s thinner on top than at the cutting edge.

Rip Saw Specifically designed for cutting large pieces of wood the grain (for example, cutting down a length of timber to reduce its width). The tip of each tooth is filed to a flat chisel edge and cuts with a planing action. With only 4-6 points per inch, the teeth are large and slice through thick wood easily. (Limited use).

Cross-cut Saw Designed to cut the grain, (that is, cutting a piece of wood to the correct length), the teeth are bevelled to a knife point, as well as being set, so the sharp points of alternate teeth point outwards. As you saw, the teeth cut two parallel grooves, and the wood in between crumbles away as sawdust. With 7-8 points per inch, the saw can also be used for cutting the grain, but it’s slower than with a rip saw.

Coping Saw Designed for cutting curves in wood less than 12.5 mm (Jin) thick, the thin blade of a coping saw is held in tension in a metal frame and makes a fine cut. The distance between the blade and the frame determines how far from the edge of a piece of wood the saw can be used. The angle of the blade can be adjusted so you can saw in different directions.

Keyhole or Pad Saw This saw is used to cut holes or shapes in the centre of a piece of wood where a coping saw cannot fit in – it’s not restricted by a frame, so it can be used at any distance from the edge of the workpiece. The blade is fairly thick to keep it rigid, and means that the saw makes a coarse cut. It’s used for cutting out keyholes (hence the name) and letter-boxes in doors. It’s easiest to drill a hole at each corner of the shape to be cut, so allowing the blade of the saw to change direc-tion.

Fret Saw Similar to the coping saw, but has a much deeper frame or ‘throat’. It allows more freedom in cutting shapes and patterns in wood.

Panel Saw This is basically a smaller version of the cross-cut saw, with smaller teeth and more of them (10 points per inch). Makes a finer cut and is adequate for cutting large joints and mitres. Again, it will cut both across and along the grain, so it’s probably the most versatile of the large hand-saws. Also available with ‘har-dened’ teeth designed to resist the blunting effect of sawing man-made boards like plywood and chipboard. Many also now come with a teflon-coated finish which is designed to reduce friction when sawing and to prevent rust.

Tenon Saw This has a rectangular blade and a spine of brass or steel. Designed for cutting tenons and other joints accurately, the spine stiffens the blade to ensure the teeth stay on course. With 13-15 points per inch, the saw is also useful for fine cutting of thin wood or plywood, both with and across the grain. Teeth are filed to points like those of a cross-cut saw. But with a reduced bevel.

A Dovetail Saw is simply a smaller version of the tenon saw, designed for rather finer work and – as the name implies – for cutting dovetail joints. It has a thinner blade with 20 points to the inch, so it’s particu-larly useful for cutting timber less than 12.5mm (Jin) thick.

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