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question-tm.jpgJon writes: “My wife and I are gradually learning to repair and build things.  (Actually, she seems well on the road to becoming a cabinetmaker; I’ve maintained my ‘advantage’ by carrying heavy things and reaching high shelves without mechanical aids.)  She recently build a hinged storage box, and we’ve been putting up shelves and a catwalk — for our cats.  We don’t have a saw — or much room in our NYC apartment for any floor-based equipment.  What say the Toolmongers?  What’s the best general-purpose handsaw for wood?”

I’ll have to admit first that I’ve never actually bought a hand saw.  I have a few that my father handed down to me — one of which even came from his father — so I’m a bit out of touch. 

What do you Toolmongers recommend?  Let us know in comments.


13 Responses to Reader Question: What handsaw would you recommend?

  1. sizod says:

    I just bought this saw ProTouch™ Dovetail/Jamb Saw I was adding some trim work to door casings, i really liked that you can flip the blade for left or right cuts.

  2. Perry Jones says:

    I’m a big fan of Japanese-style pullsaws myself. I think this is a good one, it’s technically a finecut saw but it’s great for general cutting too: http://www.sears.com/sr/javasr/product.do?BV_UseBVCookie=Yes&pid=00936582000&cat=Hand+Tools,+Carpentry&subcat=Hand+Saws+%26+Blades&vertical=TOOL&ihtoken=1

    (I picked up mine at Sears, but they’re available all over the place.)

  3. Tom says:

    Defiantly a japanese pull saw. I have one of the inexpensive ones from Lee Valley (25tpi) for nice work as well as a Shark pullsaw (8tpi) for rough work, it will cut a 2×4 pretty quick. They are both about $20-25.

  4. Roscoe says:

    I would definitely recommend a Sandvik Razor Saw. These saws are great for cutting wood trim, have a thin enough kerf to fit in a miter box (another good addition to a starter tool set), work for cutting PVC, and are short enough to store in a toolbox. Many of them also have the handles built in such a way that it works as a 45 degree miter gauge.

    Also important, they’re cheap (

  5. I third the motion for a Japanese-style pull saw, and if you’re only going to buy one, get a double-sided one like the Irwin double edge saw. 7 TPI (teeth per inch) on one side and 17 TPI on the other, handles ripping and cross-cutting, really thin kerf (I use mine with a cheap-ass plastic miter box for perpendicular cuts). (http://www.irwin.com/irwin/consumer/jhtml/detail.jhtml?prodId=IrwinProd100269) (I got mine at Home Depot, IIRC.) For really tearing through 2x4s, I use a Stanley sharptooth, really agressive saw that just eats wood. Mine is a 15″ 9 TPI, but they have a range of models. [link] (I think I got mine at Target.)

  6. Chris Gibbs says:

    I would echo the Japanese Saws. I picked up a cheap Ryoba ($20) at Lowe’s just before Christmas… I ended buying one for my father in law and my brother in law for Christmas.

    I haven’t used a circular saw since. I’ve installed custom shelving in three closets, and built sawhorses and a number of other projects with it.

    Highly recommended.

  7. Rob says:

    Not exactly a Japanese saw, the Stanley toolbox saw (at least that what mine’s called) is a really handy saw to have on hand. Small enough to fit in a tool box with Japanese style teeth that cut really fast. I pull this saw out whenever I don’t feel like using the circular saw and it’s fast. Add in that it’s not too expensive and you can mark 45 and 90 degrees with it, it’s a good tool to have. The only downside is that it doesn’t leave the nicest finish but if you get one of the 20 tpi versions, I’m sure you’ll be fine.

  8. Jon says:

    Thanks for this very helpful advice. I’m not sure which one(s) we’ll get yet – but many thanks to Toolmonger and Toolmonger community members. Thanks! Jon

  9. Stuart says:

    For novice apartment use I second Rob’s reccomendation of the Stanley saw – I got one because it fit a toolbox and never use my longer saws much anymore – it’s really fast and smooth enough for most uses. I find most amateurs can’t use the full stroke of a standard size saw anyway!

    It seems that hand saws are readily available at low cost and high quality these days unlike some other tools. I would also reccommend they get a small random orbital sander and some painters caulk if they are doing trim and built ins etc. (I hate sloppy trim with gaps everywhere)


  10. Phillip says:

    I have to agree that the Japanese style saws are hard to beat. I’ve got the whole set of Vaughan Bear saws.
    They also come with a rigid plastic sheath to protect the blades. They are available at Lowes.
    I also like the Irwin ProTouch saws, and the Stanley FatMax saws. These saws are extremely fast-cutting and comfortable to use.
    Additionally, I own a couple of Silky saws.
    These are also top drawer saws. They make a saw for about any sawable material.

    It’s hard to pick a favorite type/brand etc. But, around here in south Texas the easiest, quickest quality saws to be had are the Vaughans with a quick trip to Lowes; whether it is a replacement blade or a whole saw. They are the easiest to come by.

  11. Hank says:

    I quadruple advise on Jap saws. Not knowing what all you will do with it, then going the double edge is wiser due to the thicker/finer teeth combo. If you just want a one sided one, maybe that will fold in a small place, then here are some options: You may need to copy and paste.


  12. eschoendorff says:

    I have a handsaw made by Bahco (Sweden) that I got at my local hardware store. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE that saw. I even go out of my way to find things to cut with it.

  13. William says:

    I’ve always loved my $20 hacksaw. It’ll cut wood, plastic, and even light metal. And the blades are replaceable for when the get dull.
    I don’t have a Japanese saw and after all the good things everyone’s said I plan to get one next time I am working with some wood.

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