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How to Choose Handsaws

Ask This Old House general contractor Tom Silva walks through the various types of handsaws and gives tips on how to use them.


  1. For cutting through metal, use either a hacksaw, which can accept a 10” or 12” blade, or a mini-hacksaw, designed for cutting in tight areas. Tom shows off a hacksaw to cut through all kinds of metal.
  2. To change the blade on a hacksaw, loosen the wing nut at the base and extend the bow to your desired length. Insert the new blade and tighten the wing nut. Be sure to put the teeth facing away from the handle.
  3. When cutting through drywall, use a jab saw. Place the piercing tip on the drywall and then hit the handle with the palm of your hand to drive it into the drywall. Once the saw is in the material, you can use it to cut.
  4. A flush-cut saw can cut screws or dowels flush to the material; the handles are often reversible.
  5. A double-edge pull saw has a flexible blade that can sit flat on material and can be used to cut trim or casing when patching flooring. Use the flooring as a height gauge. Cut the trim to allow the flooring to slide underneath.
  6. A miter saw and miter box can be used for straight cuts and to cut angles.
  7. A traditional handsaw can be used for rip cuts and cross cuts. The more teeth on a blade, the finer the cut will be. Finer blades are used for cross-cutting, coarser blades are used for ripping wood.
  8. For the most control, it’s important to hold your body in front of the blade when cutting and line up your shoulder and hand.