Any one of various tools used for dividing and trimming wood.

Handsaws can be divided by function into two main types.

  • Crosscut , used for cutting across the grain.
  • Rip , used for cutting along the grain.

Various types of saws exist for each woodworking task.

  • Tenon saws - these consist of a rectangular blade with a stiff spine running on the top edge , keeping the thin blade rigid. They are used to cut the tenons in mortise and tenon joints. Both crosscut and rip varieties exist. Typical blade length is 12 to 16 inches , with a width of 4 to 6 inches.
  • Dovetail saws - these are a smaller version of the tenon saw with finer teeth , used for cutting precise dovetail joints. Typical blade length is 8 to 12 inches , with a width of 3 inches.
  • Keyhole saws - with extremely narrow blades and fine teeth , these are used to make internal cutouts after inserting them into a drilled hole. The narrow blade tapers from about 3/4 inch near the handle to about 1/4 inch at the tip.
  • Pruning saws - these have a crescent shaped blade with wicked teeth on the concave side. They are used for pruning tree branches and work best on green wood. They come in a range of sizes from penknife sized ones for trimming bushes to 20 inch monsters with which one can literally fell trees.
  • Bow saws - these have a bow frame which holds the narrow blade in tension. They are used to prune larger branches of trees.
  • Ryoba - Japanese saw with inverse tapered blade. It is trapezoid shaped with an oval handle fixed at narrow end. It has crosscut teeth on one side and rip teeth on the other.
  • Dozuki - Exteremely fine toothed Japanese dovetail saw.
  • Ikedame - Japanese crosscut tenon saw without a spine.
  • Swedish cabinetmakers saw - Short stiff crosscut saw with a rounded front with the teeth running aroud the tip along the top for a few inches. This allows it to be used for plunging cuts. Some models have finer teeth towards the front and coarser at the back.

Some technical terms used to describe saw features:

  • 'Set' refers to the slight outward bend of each tooth alternately to the left and right. This allows the teeth to create a cut slightly thicker than the blade, reducing friction and preventing jamming. However, larger set results in a rougher cut and more wastage.
  • Point size refers to the number of teeth points per inch.
  • TPI or teeth per inch is another term describing the fineness of the saw. However, this differs subtly from point size in that it refers to the number of teeth and not the number of tooth tips. So, a nine point saw for example, has only eight TPI as the last tip is not counted.
  • Taper grind refers to a blade which is thicker towards the teeth and tapers towards the top. This allows the saw to have minimum set and makes it lighter without reducing rigidity. Some saws are also tapered along their length, thinner towards the front. But the thickness of the saw is uniform along the teeth.

The design of todays handsaw blades and handles derive from two traditions of woodworking. Each has contrasting features, reflecting upon the general style of woodwoorking in that culture.
The most common type derives from a European design which has forward facing teeth, and has a tapering blade and D shaped handle.
The Japanese design has smaller blades made of thin laminated steel with fine narrow backward facing teeth with exteremely sharp needle like tips.The handles are usually straight or gently curved.

For the sheer pleasure of craftsmanship, and the quality and efficiency of cutting, a Japanese saw cannot be beat.
The western design is much more resistant to abuse and is better for larger tiring jobs.Also they can be resharpened easily, which is not the case with Japanese saws.

Tips for using handsaws :

Hand"saw` (#) n.

A saw used with one hand.


© Webster 1913.

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