Hand saws are one of the simplest and most versatile tools in any do-it-yourselfer's arsenal. Used all over the world for centuries, the hand saw has evolved from a basic blade and handle to specialized blades made for cutting different types of materials. Some saws only cut in one direction, while others have teeth designed to cut on both the push and pull strokes.
Hand saws designed for cross cutting use teeth with alternating angles to cut against the grain of the wood. The action of the teeth on each push stroke makes a cut that is wider than the saw blade, so the wood does not catch on the blade as it passes through. Cross cut hand saws are available with blades between 8 and 12 teeth per inch (TPI).
Rip cut hand saws cut along with the wood's grain. If used against the grain, this type of hand saw will leave a jagged and splintered edge. The teeth on a rip cut saw are set at a right angle to the blade and come in sizes between 5 1/2 and 7 TPI.
Hacksaws have thin blades with fine teeth that are used to cut metal. The blades are disposable and usually contain between 18 and 32 TPI. Blades with 18 TPI are used to cut heavy material like steel or iron pipe, while the 32 TPI blades are best for thin material where precise, controlled cutting is important.
A miter saw uses a steel box to keep the blade anchored on each stroke. The saw itself looks similar to a large hacksaw, but is used to cut wood instead of metal. The blade has fine, small teeth that cut on the push stroke and are usually spread out at 15 TPI.
Back saws are made from a stiff steel or brass body and have a reinforced edge to keep the blade going straight through the entire stroke. These saws are used to cut wood trim and molding with precise control. Back saws are available in lengths from 8 to 16 inches (20 to 40 cm) to handle a variety of woodworking tasks. The blade's teeth are smaller than a regular cross cut saw to provide a clean cut.
Keyhole saws are used to cut curves or holes in a piece of wood. The pointed, narrow blade can also begin a cut from the center of a wood panel or expand a drilled hole. The cutting is done on the push stroke by crosscut blades with 10 or 12 TPI.
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