17 Different Types of Hand Saws – Ultimate Guide

Updated on March 2, 2022 by

There are so many different types of hand saws on the market that it can be quite intimidating when walking through your local hardware saw. There are a few very versatile options but most a highly specialized for certain types of material or woodworking tasks. No matter whether you are a lumberjack, a carpenter, or a woodworker, you will be able to find the type of hand saw that will suit your individual purposes in this guide.

Saw TPI Guide

A metric that we will cover frequently for hand saws is the number of teeth per inch. This is a guide of how coarse or fine the saw blade can cut. The general rule is the more teeth per inch the finer the blade will be.

Coarse toothed saws are better suited for low precision jobs such as pruning branches or cutting firewood. Fine toothed saws are designed for intricate finishes for thinner woods.

  • Coarse Toothed Saw – Less than 7 teeth per inch
  • Medium Toothed Saw – 7 to 11 teeth per inch
  • Fine Toothed Saw – 12 or more teeth per inch

1. Coping Saw

The first on my list is a coping saw. It is primarily used in carpentry and general woodworking for intricate shapes. The primary advantage is that the blade can be removed and poked through a drill hole to allow cutting in difficult to reach spots.

The blade is held between a square shaped frame which allows you to continue cutting a reasonable distance away from the top of the frame.

The teeth on a coping saw are directed towards the handle so it cuts when pulled towards you. They generally have between 15 and 17 TPI, making it a fine tooth design.

Best Suited For

A coping saw is best suited for cutting moldings and fretwork, especially in thin wood.

Also Known As

Fine finish saw

Pros

  • Easily removable blade can be fed through a drilled hole in a piece of wood
  • Can cut gentle curves due to the thin blade
  • The blade can be adjusted to a slight angle

Cons

  • The thin blade can be damaged if too much pressure is applied
coping saw
Coping Saw

2. Bow Saw

A bow saw is a popular option, also known as a bucksaw. Its primary advantage is the wide frame that allows the blade to saw through wood a long distance away from hitting the frame, generally up to 6 inches away. There are lots of different designs for a bow saw, including using a turnbuckle or twisted cord to provide enough tension to hold the blade in place.

Best Suited For

A bow saw is best suited for rough cutting of firewood or branches that are up to 6 inches in diameter.

Also Known As

Bucksaw, Swede saw, Finn saw

Pros

  • Able to cut large diameter wood
  • Blade is easily removed or replaced

Cons

  • Rough teeth that produce a rough finish
Bow Saw
Bow Saw

3. Fret Saw

Similar to a coping saw, a Fret Saw is used for intricate wood cutting with tighter curves. It has a much tighter radius on the length of the frame and a shorter, thinner blade. The blade is generally a lot finer than other saws with more teeth per inch at around 32 TPI.

The blade can be removed and poked through a drill hole to access difficult to reach locations.

Best Suited For

Ideally used for cutting tight curves into thin wood.

Also Known As

Scroll saw

Pros

  • The increased depth of the frame allows access further away from the wood’s edge
  • Easily removable blade with wingnuts

Cons

  • The blade is much more fragile than a coping saw
Fret Saw
Fret Saw

4. Keyhole Saw

A keyhole saw has a very long and narrow blade that can be inserted through a small hole to cut out difficult to reach areas. This is a very versatile option to get to those awkward places. They are also very popular when used with drywall because the sharp blade tip can be pushed directly through the material.

These are a smaller, thinner version of a compass saw.

Best Suited For

A keyhole saw is best suited for cutting through drywall without needing to drill a hole first.

Also Known As

Jab saw, drywall saw, plasterboard saw, alligator saw

Pros

  • Can access difficult to reach areas
  • The sharp tip can push through soft materials

Cons

  • Not suitable for tougher materials or hard woods
Drywall Saw
Drywall Saw

5. Crosscut Saw

A crosscut saw is a versatile saw used for coarse wood cutting. The feature is the tooth design that has an alternative pattern, making it good for cutting across the grain of the wood. Crosscut saws are good for cutting off thicker diameter branches or cutting lumber with a handle at one end.

Crosscut saws can also be very large with a handle at each hand, which earns them the name of the lumberjack saw.

Best Suited For

A crosscut saw is best suited for coarse wood cutting such as logging or bucking, but can also be used for carpentry.

Also Known As

Lumberjack saw

Pros

  • Large teeth make quick progress through rough woods

Cons

  • Large and difficult to manoeuvre for any delicate or neat cutting work
Crosscut Saw
Crosscut Saw

6. Hack Saw

One of the most common saws you will find in any workshop is the hack saw. This thin blade with fine teeth is designed for cutting through thin materials – such as plastic or metal. The blade is held under tension across a frame, held in place with wingnuts. This allows the blade to access difficult to reach locations or cut through large diameter pipes.

The teeth per inch is typically between 18 and 32, making it extremely fine.

Best Suited For

A hack saw is best suited for cutting through metal or PVC pipes.

Also Known As

Nil

Pros

  • Multi-purpose saw that should be included any everyone’s workshop

Cons

  • The blade can snap when too much force is applied perpendicular to the blade
Hack Saw
Hack Saw

7. Back Saw

A back saw is a type of handsaw that is used for cutting dovetails, the joints used to join the sides of drawer together. It is also occasionally used for cutting other joints or materials, such as chopping out mortises. Back saws are usually made of steel, with brass or plastic handles. They often have a stiff piece of metal, called stiffening rib, opposite to the cutting edge for reinforced stability.

The teeth are usually set in a pattern with 14 tpi (teeth per inch); however, 12 tpi patterns are also common.

Best Suited For

Back saws are best suited for make precision cuts such as making dovetail joints in carpentry.

Also Known As

Tenon saw, dovetail saw, carcass saw, sash saw

Pros

  • The fine teeth and narrow blades make it suitable for accurate, exact cuts

Cons

  • The stiffening rib limits the depths that the saw can cut
back saw
Back Saw

8. Pruning Saw

Pruning saws are specially designed for gardeners or lumber workers for easy removal of branches from trees or logs. They have a curved, medium length blade.

They typically have a medium coarseness of 7-8 TPI and do not provide a neat finish but are great are effectively removing garden foliage or sap-heavy green wood.

Best Suited For

A pruning saw is best suited for gardeners to remove overgrown branches from trees.

Also Known As

Garden saw, log saw, branch cutter

Pros

  • Can easily remove twigs and foliage from garden trees
  • Often available in a folding design as well

Cons

  • Does not have a neat finish
Pruning Saw
Pruning Saw

9. Folding Saw

Folding saws can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Their primary feature is the fact that there is a pivot point between the blade and the handle allowing the saw to fold in half, with the blade fitting inside the handle. This makes this saw extremely portable and easy to store or transport.

Folding saws typically feature a pruning saw blade.

Best Suited For

A folding saw is best suited for cutting thin branches or logs when camping.

Also Known As

Camping saw

Pros

  • Easy to store and transport – doesn’t take up much space

Cons

  • Generally comes with coarse teeth that doesn’t leave a neat finish for woodworking
Folding Saw
Folding Saw

10. Bone Saw

A bone saw is a surgical instrument used to cut bones. It has a handle with a blade, which may be straight and serrated or curved and toothed. The blade is rotated by hand, producing a reciprocating action to cut through the bone. There are two main types of bone saw: manual and electric. Manual bone saws are commonly used in orthopedic surgery to resect (cut out) bone that is tumor-ridden or infected, while electric saws are more common in plastic surgery.

They are often made from stainless steel to prevent corrosion.

Best Suited For

A bone saw is best suited for cutting through bones in a surgical situation or by a butcher or hunter.

Also Known As

Nil

Pros

  • Perfectly suited for cutting through bone quickly and easily

Cons

  • Very specialist device for a specific purpose

11. Compass Saw

A compass saw is used for making curved cuts, especially in difficult to reach locations. The blade is very long and thin with a sharp point, allowing it to access confined spaces. The handle normally has a pistol grip and is designed for cutting through soft woods or drywall.

A compass saw looks very similar to a keyhole saw but has a longer blade and can cut through harder material. You can get retractable or removable blades on a compass saw.

Typcially found with 8-10 TPI but can go up to 20 TPI.

Best Suited For

A compass saw is best suited for making curved cuts in soft woods and difficult to access spaces.

Also Known As

Nil, although can be confused with a keyhole saw

Pros

  • Able to access difficult locations
  • Can punch through drywall
  • Can make curved cuts

Cons

  • Not suitable for hard woods or other materials
Compass Saw
Compass Saw

12. Rip Saw

Rip saws have a rip tooth pattern with the edges sharpened at right angles, giving it more of a chisel like function rather than like a knife. This allows it to more easily cut along the grain of hard wood. This design also helps to remove wood chips making the subsequent stroke more efficient.

Rip saws are typically very coarse with 4-10 TPI and cut on the push stroke.

Best Suited For

A rip saw is best suited for making a cut parallel to the wood grain.

Also Known As

Panel saw, wood saw, general-purpose hand saw, rip-cut saw

Pros

  • Able to cut through large hard wood

Cons

  • Coarse finish is not suitable for intricate woodworking

13. Pit Saw

Pit saws were originally used in saw pits – they have a long, stiff blade that can be up to 14 feet long (Source). The saw is controlled holding the handle and standing above the log by the top-man – a second lumber worker, the pit-man, will often guide the blade from below.

The teeth are designed to cut on the push stroke.

Best Suited For

A pit saw is best suited for sawing large lumber by a two person team in a saw pit.

Also Known As

Whipsaw

Pros

  • Can make short work of reducing large logs to beams and planks

Cons

  • Not commonly used in modern lumber operations
  • Unless you already have a saw pit and a two person team, then I don’t think this would be very useful in your workshop
Pit Saw
Pit Saw

14. Turning Saw

Turning saws are specially designed to cut curves. They have a long, narrow blade with fine teeth. They are built with a wide frame, allowing the blade to cut much deeper. Turning saws are specialist woodworking equipment.

Best Suited For

Turning saws are best suited for cutting curves in woodworking such as chair backs or scrollwork.

Also Known As

Nil, although they can be confused with a bow saw.

Pros

  • Able to cut intricate and delicate curves for complex woodworking

Cons

  • Very specialist tool with limited versatility

15. Japanese Saw

A Japanese saw or nokogiri is a traditional Japanese hand saw used in carpentry. Because of its thin blade, it is the Japanese equivalent of a Western saw. It differs from the Western saw in many ways, such as having no set, teeth on both sides and the teeth being slightly bent to be able to cut in any direction. The nokogiri was originally made for cutting a variety of soft woods including cypress, pine, and bamboo.

Today, it is used for general carpentry work as well as for cutting intricate patterns out of wood.

Best Suited For

Japanese saws are best suited for delicate and intricate carpentry when working with soft woods.

Also Known As

Nokogiri

Pros

  • Gives a very controlled and narrow cut

Cons

  • You can’t apply much pressure on a pull stroke compared to a push stroke, so it isn’t as suited for cutting hard woods
Japanese Saw
Japanese Saw

16. Two Man Forest Saw

Two man forest saws were used extensively for felling and logging operations before the invention of a chainsaw. They can be from 4 to 12 feet long with a handle on each end. The teeth are designed to cut in both directions, allowing both sawyers to contribute effort. They are used in combination with felling wedges to continually remove wood chips.

Best Suited For

Two man forest saws are best suited for felling large trees.

Also Known As

Clearing saw, misery whip

Pros

  • Able to fell extremely large trees

Cons

  • Requires a two person felling team
  • Fell out of favor with the invention of the chainsaw
Two person forest saw
Two Person Forest Saw

17. Manual Chain Saw

A manual chain saw takes a chain and attaches are handle on each end. This replaces the engine of a chainsaw with your own elbow grease. It also becomes much more versatile and portable. This can be much faster for trimming trees or cutting firewood than a manual hand saw, but is much slower than a powered chain saw.

Best Suited For

Manual chain saws are best suited for cutting firewood or trimming trees.

Also Known As

Pocket chain saw

Pros

  • Can be much faster than a manual hand saw
  • Easily transportable by folding up

Cons

  • Much slower than a powered chain saw
Manual Chain Saw
Manual Chain Saw

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Michael Culligan

I am a lumber worker who performs logging services for the forestry industry. I have spent years honing my skills and experience to become a well-rounded axeman. I'm exited to share my knowledge of axes and lumber tools with everyone to help.