How to Use a Hacksaw

Find out how to use a hacksaw for improved control on difficult cuts.

A popular tool among plumbers and electricians, a hacksaw is primarily designed for cutting through metal, like copper pipes or conduit. However, it can also be used on plastic, like PEX or PVC, making a hacksaw an invaluable tool for anyone that regularly works with these materials.

While there are other power tools, such as grinders or reciprocating saws, that can also be used when working with metal, plastics, and other hard materials, a hacksaw provides the user with better control. This increased control is essential when making precision cuts or working in tight spots. In fact, there are even miniature hacksaws designed specifically for accessing narrow gaps and spaces.

The following guide is an excellent resource for those looking to learn more about hacksaws, hacksaw safety, and hacksaw blades. Follow our detailed steps to learn how to use a hacksaw for your home DIY projects.

organized pegboard in garage with hanging tools
Laurie Black

Safety Considerations

When working with a new tool or starting a DIY project, it's important to pay attention to personal safety and the safety of those around you. Limit the number of people in your workspace to reduce the chance of accidental injury. Hacksaws often produce fine metal or plastic dust, so ventilation is another important consideration. Set up a fan and open a window or door to ensure that the area is properly ventilated while you work.

Most risks can be mitigated by taking proper precautions to prepare the area, secure the work material, and wear suitable personal protective equipment (PPE). When using a hacksaw, it's recommended to wear closed-toe footwear, long pants, a long-sleeve shirt, safety glasses, gloves, and a mask to avoid breathing any dust produced while sawing.

Choosing a Hacksaw Blade

Selecting a blade for your hacksaw is important to the success of your project. If you choose the wrong type of blade, you might struggle to cut through the target material. Similarly, if the blade is the wrong size, it won't fit on the hacksaw. The first thing you need to consider is the length of the hacksaw. These tools range from 6 inches to 12 inches in length. Choose a blade that's the same length as the saw.

The next consideration is the type of material with which you're working. Carbon steel blades are great for general-purpose use on hard plastic or soft metals, like copper or lead, but if you're working with hard metals, like stainless steel, it's best to opt for bimetal blades or high-speed steel (HSS) blades.

Another factor to keep in mind is the teeth per inch or TPI. The higher the TPI of the blade, the finer the cut. For fast, coarse cuts, go with an 18 TPI hacksaw blade; if you want a fine finish, a 32 TPI blade is best. Users that aren't quite sure which type would be best can settle for a mid-point position between the two with a 24 TPI blade.

hacksaw

Scott Morgan

How to Use a Hacksaw

Hacksaws are relatively straightforward tools consisting of two main parts: A metal frame and a removable blade. The frame ranges from about 6 to 12 inches in length, so users can select the right size hacksaw for the job. Hacksaw blades can have as little as three teeth per inch (TPI) or as many as 32 TPI. Typically, blades with a higher TPI are made for cutting finer materials. Follow the steps below to learn how to use a hacksaw.

What You Need

  • Material
  • Vise or clamp
  • Pencil or scriber
  • Hacksaw blade
  • Hacksaw
  • Machine oil
  • Deburring tool
  • Sandpaper

Step 1: Secure the Material

Unless you're working on a fixed material, like an existing water pipe, it's important to ensure that you secure the target material to prevent it from shifting while you saw. You can use a vise to grip the material, though if you don't have one, you can also use clamps to secure the material to a workbench. This will allow you to work with both hands for power and control without worrying about the material moving under the saw.

Step 2: Select a Hacksaw Blade

Choose a hacksaw blade based on the size of the saw, type of material, and the desired finish. The blade should match the length of the saw, so if you're using a 12-inch hacksaw, you'll want a 12-inch blade. Opt for carbon steel for hard plastic and soft metals, or go with a bimetal or high-speed steel blade for hard metals. For a rough cut, you can use a hacksaw blade with 18 teeth per inch or you can get a finer cut with a 24 TPI or 32 TPI blade.

Once you've selected the blade, slide it onto the hacksaw frame and secure the blade to stop it from shifting or twisting. Keep in mind that hacksaw blades only cut in one direction. If the blade is properly installed, the teeth of the blade should be facing away from the handle to cut on the push stroke instead of the pull stroke.

Step 3: Align Saw Blade and Start Cutting

With the material secured, measure and mark the precise spot where you want to cut, then line up the hacksaw blade with the mark. Before cutting, make sure to apply pressure as you push the blade and reduce the force as you pull the blade, as the saw only cuts on the push stroke. If you apply the same force on the pull stroke, you may damage the teeth on the hacksaw blade.

Start cutting by moving the hacksaw slowly in short strokes until a groove forms. Grip the handle of the hacksaw with your dominant hand and hold the front of the hacksaw frame with your other hand for improved control. If you're working with metal, consider applying a few drops of machine oil to the hacksaw blade. This will reduce friction and heat while you're cutting, allowing the blade to move more freely through the material.

Step 4: Finish the Cut and Remove Rough Edges

As the blade creates a groove in the material, you can begin to increase the length of the hacksaw strokes so that you're using the full length of the blade. Maintain a steady rhythm as you finish sawing through the material. If there are any burrs or rough edges, you can use a deburring tool and sandpaper to smooth these points on the material.

When finished, wipe down the hacksaw blade to remove any debris left from the material, then store the hacksaw in a safe location. It's a good idea to either remove the blade or put a blade cover on the hacksaw to protect it while not in use.

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