How to Use a Hand Saw

Get a straight and smooth cut every time with our tips for using a hand saw.

Basic sawing is a good skill for every homeowner to have under their belt, and no saw is easier to use than a hand saw. This versatile tool relies on manpower for clean, precise cuts.

Hand saws can be found for less than $20 at nearly any home improvement center. They require minimal maintenance, but like any sharp tool, there are certain safety precautions all users should take before and during use. We'll show you how to achieve the perfect cut with a hand saw and how to stay safe while doing it.

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Step 1: Clamp Material

clamping wood plank to table

Using any saw—whether manual or power-operated—requires careful setup to ensure your cut is clean and that you'll avoid injury. Always secure your material to the work surface with clamps before attempting to saw. This keeps your material in place and helps keep your cut straight. It's also a good idea to don a pair of safety glasses while cutting wood to protect eyes from sawdust.

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Step 2: Mark Cut

measuring and marking 2x4

Use a carpenters square, ruler, or measuring tape and pencil to measure and mark a straight line where your cut will go. This step is crucial for ensuring a straight, even cut.

Step 3: Start Cut

cutting through 2x4 with hand saw

Gently pull the saw across the drawn line to create a notch. Hold the material you're sawing with a steady pressure as you gently guide the saw's teeth into the wood to create a groove. This is where you'll start your cut.

Step 4: Cut Deeper

How to Use a Hand Saw

Holding the saw at an angle, push down with light force to start sawing. Look down the length of your saw to guarantee your blade and mark are both straight and to prevent binding. Binding, which is when the opening of the wood closes in on the saw, occurs when you saw too forcefully or fast, have a dull or curved blade, or saw into damp wood. A straight, sharp blade, and sometimes additional lubrication, will help you prevent binding. Do not hold the cut-off piece (the part of the board you are attempting to cut from the longer length) while using the saw. Always let the cut-off piece fall.

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Step 5: Saw Through

sawing through 2x4 with hand saw

Once you have cut a shallow groove, begin to saw through the wood using long, deliberate strokes. Make sure the blade is square to your line. If the cut isn't straight, angle the saw to correct it.

Step 6: Finish Cut

cut 2x4 with sawdust detail

Repeat until wood piece is cut through. Ease pressure on the final pass to avoid splintering. Sand edges with a finer grit for a smooth finish on your material, if desired.

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