Photo: Michael Heiko
In this era of power tools, hand-sawing might seem to be a waste of time. But a well-chosen handsaw is great for small jobs like cutting moldings or trimming wood while you're perched atop a ladder. Quiet, portable, and accurate (with a little practice), a handsaw is an indispensable tool.

Traditionally, saw teeth have been designed to cut either with the grain (ripping) or across it (crosscutting). Western-style saws — i.e., American or European — cut on the push stroke and have different-shaped teeth from Japanese-style saws, which cut on the pull stroke with a thinner blade. These days, however, manufacturers have created hybrid saws that can both rip and crosscut. Some cut on the push stroke and some on the pull. That's not to say there isn't still a place for saws with traditional rip and crosscut teeth, which excel at certain tasks. It's worth laying out $20 to $25 for a multipurpose saw, $25 to $30 for a good Japanese saw, or even digging through Dad's workshop for a classic Western-style model.

All these saws do best used with a smooth and steady stroke, which allows the weight of the tool to do most of the work. To minimize splintering, push a Western saw into a board's good face, but pull a Japanese saw through a board with the good side facing down. Turn the page for more on these toolbox stalwarts.

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