Helpful Handsaws
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Wood Magazine

Helpful Handsaws

When it comes to ripping and crosscutting, the power tablesaw reigns as the workshop workhorse. What';s more, most shops boast various other motorized saws. Even so, you'll still run into woodworking situations that call for a handsaw. Here are four we rely on in our shop.

Shorty toolbox saw
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Shorty toolbox saw

Some handsaws you can count on include a short, hard-tooth toolbox saw like the 14" and 20" ones here, (A); a flush-cutting saw such as the Japanese Kugihiki, (B); and the Japanese Dozuki (C) and Ryoba (D).


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You'll make short work of sawing when you wield an abbreviated traditional-style saw like the ones labeled A in the photo. Most manufacturers now offer one or two of these short saws, edged with aggressive, hardened teeth.

Generally about 14 20" long, the blade may have 8 14 teeth per inch. Though thick and coarse-toothed in comparison to the Japanese blades, these saws make surprisingly clean cuts. They cut fast (many cut on both push and pull strokes) and stay sharp through much use.

In the workshop, you'll like this saw for quickly cutting stock to rough size and other general work. And if you tackle home-repair or remodeling jobs, you'll appreciate this saw's handy size, versatility, and cutting ease.

Flush-cutting saw When you need to trim one piece flush with another, reach for another Japanese-style saw the Kugihiki, marked B in the photo.

Lay this saws thin, flexible blade right against a surface and saw away, as shown. You won't mar the surface because the blade's teeth are not set to the sides, as is common with most other saws.

This saw comes in handy for fine trimming sawing the ends of an inlaid molding flush with the ends of a drawer front, for instance. You'll find it useful in making wedged joints and through mortises, as well as for trimming box-joint fingers after assembly. And once you've tried it, you'll probably adopt this as your standard tool for trimming screw-hole plugs flush with a surface. The lack of set does make it impractical to use the saw for deep or long cuts.

Japanese saws Make a few cuts with the unusual-looking Japanese Dozuki and Ryoba (C and D in the photo), and they could easily become your favorite handsaws. Functionally, these Far Eastern saws differ significantly from traditional Western models: They cut on the pull stroke. This allows another departure from the handsaws you knew in shop class the Japanese saws have thinner blades. That's because they're in tension being pulled taut rather than compression while cutting. This minimizes the danger of the blade wobbling or buckling on the cutting stroke.

And the blades not only are thin, they carry sharp, aggressive teeth. The Dozuki may have as many as 26 teeth per inch, making it an excellent tool for precise joinery. The double-edged Ryoba carries 6 10 teeth per inch on one edge and may have as many as 22 per inch on the other. The coarser edge is generally considered a ripsaw; the finer one, a general-purpose crosscut saw.


 

Handsawing Tips and Tricks

Handsawing Tips and Tricks

Here are a few tips and techniques that will help you get the most from a handsaw.


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  • Keep it sharp. You can learn to file the teeth yourself or have a pro sharpen your saw. Hardened teeth probably will require grinding, a job for a sharpening shop.
  • Hold it straight. With a D-handle, extend your index finger along the side, as shown below. This helps keep your hand and wrist aligned on the handle. When you grasp the Japanese saw's straight handle, place your thumb along the top. Keep the handle aligned with your arm.
  • Cut with long, smooth strokes. Speed isn't critical; you'll do better to maintain an even cadence. Your elbow and the saw blade should move along a line in the same vertical plane.
  • Watch the reflection in the saw. You can make sure you're cutting squarely by keeping an eye on the reflection of the workpiece in the saw blade. When it appears to run straight through the saw as shown at right, you're square.

 

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