How many hours have we all spent when we were children, watching our fathers or grandfathers using the hand saw and cutting in clean straight lines anything from wood to plastic? Few years flash forward and now its time for your first time to use it as well. You go buy a brand new hand saw, you hold it like your father used to, position yourself and you start sawing only to find out that what used to look like cutting butter using a steak knife, now feels like cutting through rocks using a plastic knife, with the hand saw getting stuck on your every couple of thrusts. In reality though, as long as you have a sharp hand saw and the proper techniques, hand-cutting turns out to be very easy not just to watch.
Find a solid platform, anything from sawhorses, workbench or concrete blocks but not you thighs. In some situations, if what you are cutting is very long or wobbly, you might need to kneel on them as well so using a platform which is a little low can sometimes be helpful, especially if you don’t have anyone else to hold the object for you. When lowering the platform, take special attention in leaving enough workspace beneath your support to make a full cutting stroke.
Take Accurate Measurements
Take a measure of how much you need to saw off and make a mark. Align the saw a little to the waste of the mark as a safety precaution if you are not so confident in your measuring and cutting abilities.
Right Placement of Your Hand Saw
Using the upper part of your thumb keep the blade in place and give a couple of soft strokes just to make a small edge to hold the blade in place. Make sure that the saw blade is rubbing against your thumb nail and not your skin. Also, to be more effective, it’s better to hold the saw at an angle (around 45 degrees) so that only a small part is touching rather than flat with all the teeth touching at one go.
Use Steady, Strong Strokes
Once the blade is lodged in the edge, you can remove your thumb and make longer strokes using the full length of the blade and a little more force to cut deeper. Keep your eyes on the line you marked earlier and your hand should follow as well. Depending on the teeth of the blade, you could have a push or a pull cutting blade, depending which one you have, you will put the force in one direction but not on the other as little cutting would occur anyway when moving the saw in the opposite direction of the teeth.
Adjust Your Speed According
When you reach the end, slow down and finish with lighter strokes to avoid what ever you are cutting from breaking off in the end and ruin a perfect straight cut. Support the waste side with your free hand will also help avoid any breaking and splintering.
With some practice, cutting with a good hand saw will become second nature for you. At first, start practicing on scrap wood to get the hand of it rather than starting immediately on the material you really need to cut. If your saw gets stuck on you, it will probably mean that you are not keeping your hand steady and you are bending the blade. When the blade is old, it is suggested you change it or cutting will result in a rougher finishing and it will also take longer. If the object you are cutting is very hard, you could also wax the blade before starting to help making moving of the blade through the material a little easier. Avoid using water as this will rust your blade.