Which handsaw should you use for the job and how to use various hand saws?

To work properly, any saw must be sharp and the teeth must be set, or angled outward slightly, so that the cut they make is wider than the blade. Have the blades sharpened and set regularly; or buy a sharpening kit, with instructions for its use, and do it yourself. Don’t try to sharpen a hacksaw or coping-saw blade: replace it.

The teeth of a crosscut saw, meant for cutting across the grain of wood are like little knives sharpened in alternate directions. As with all saws, the higher the point count (teeth per inch), the smoother and slower the cut. For general use, choose an 8- or 10-point crosscut saw.

Hold a crosscut saw as you would a pistol, with your index finger pointing toward the end of the blade. Start a cut by pulling the blade toward you once or twice, using your thumb to guide it on the waste side of the cutting line (not on the line itself). When you have made a small groove, begin pushing the saw through the wood at an angle of about 45 degrees. Relax. Let the saw do the cutting. Use the entire blade and exert a downward push from your shoulder, not your elbow. Apply no force at all when pulling the saw back. As you approach the end of a cut, reach across with your free hand to steady the waste piece.

A ripsaw cuts along the grain of wood. It usually has a 5- to 7-point blade, and its teeth are sharpened straight across, like little chisels. The technique for using a ripsaw is similar to that for using a crosscut saw, except that the blade should be held at a steeper angle (60 degrees).

To support a board as you rip it, rest it on two sawhorses, letting one end project about 1 foot. Rip this length, then readjust the board so that the sawhorse supports the cut end. Continue sawing until you reach the other sawhorse. Then reposition it beneath the cut part of the wood and rip to the end. A third sawhorse may be needed to keep a long board from bowing in the middle. A batten clamped along the cutting line helps to guide the saw. If the blade binds, insert a small wedge in the cut.

A backsaw is a short, 12- to 16-point crosscut saw with a stiffener on the back edge. Designed for precision work, it is generally used with a miter box. To ensure a vertical cut when sawing freehand, use a square-edged block of wood as a guide: clamp it atop the piece to be cut, its edge aligned with the cutting line, and hold the saw against it.

A coping saw, made for cutting curves in wood, is a metal frame that holds a narrow, fine-tooth blade. Install the blade so that the teeth point toward the handle; saw only on the pull stroke. Use both hands and keep the blade under tension so that it won’t bow or break. If the frame gets in the way, rotate the blade carefully, making sure that it doesn’t twist.

Use a keyhole saw to make an interior cut, such as an opening for an electric outlet. Drill a hole at each corner; then saw from hole to hole along the inside of the cutting line.

A hacksaw cuts metal: it is also used for plastic pipe and similar material. The correct blade for any job allows at least two teeth to rest on the surface to be cut. Install the blade so that the teeth point forward. Use the saw as you would a crosscut saw, but with both hands. It often helps when starting a cut to score the cutting line with a file. To cut very thin stock, sandwich the material between two pieces of scrap wood. When cutting curves. use a  carbide-chip blade-actually an abrasive rod.