Hacksaw Vs Hand Saw: What’s the Difference?

whats the difference between hacksaws and handsaws


When I was reading through an article online that had to do with a DIY project I am planning to attempt, I noticed the word hacksaw throughout the piece. Since it sounded very similar to handsaw, which is a tool that I happen to own, I decided to do some research to find out what the difference is between the two.

What is the difference between a hacksaw and a hand saw? The most major difference between a hacksaw and a handsaw is what each tool is used for. In addition to the discrepancies in their shapes and structures, hacksaws are commonly used to cut into steel and plastic, while the handsaw is more ideal fro wood materials.

If you will be using a hacksaw, you can expect to experience a lot more versatility, from the readily available and interchangeable blades to the wide range of tooth densities on the blades themselves. Handsaws also have removable blades, but they are not as widely available as those of a hacksaw.

Both hacksaws and handsaws are very versatile cutting tools that can be used to manipulate a lot of different materials, from plastic to steel and even wood. While they sound like the exact same thing and can get confused in conversation, most people would be surprised to learn that they are actually very fundamentally different.

If you, like me, were not aware of the real differences between hacksaws and handsaws up until this point, keep reading to find out everything you need to know about comparing these two helpful tools.

The Difference Between Hacksaws and Handsaws

The fundamental difference between hacksaws and handsaws lies in their purpose.This difference influences many other contrasting characteristics of the two tools, such as their size, the materials used in their making, and their application.

Hacksaw:

  • Bow-shaped metal frame
  • Thinner blade
  • Used for cutting steel/plastic materials
  • Tooth density from 14-32 teeth/inch
  • Adjustable frame to different blade lengths
  • Blades: high carbon steel or high speed steel

Handsaw:

  • Used primarily to cut wood
  • Distinct handle shape (not bow-shaped)
  • Handle usually made of wood/plastic
  • Thicker blade
  • Removable blades
  • Not as readily available (blades)
  • Much less dense

Unlike the handsaw, the Hacksaw is a saw with a bow-shaped metal frame and a thin blade, used primarily for cutting steel objects and sometimes plastic material too. The hacksaw blade is serrated.

Depending on the size and nature of object being cut, the blades have a tooth-density ranging from 14,18,24 and 32 teeth per inch. A 14 teeth per inch density (TPI) blade is suitable for cutting large sizes, aluminum and other soft metals.

The 18 TPI blade is best for cutting for general workshop cutting. The 24 TPI can be used to cut steel plate of up to 5/6mm, while the 32 TPI is best used for cutting hollow sections and tubing.

A key characteristic of hacksaw’s is that their blades are readily available, unlike the handsaw. The hacksaw frame is adjustable allowing for a variety of blade length.

The blades themselves come in 250mm and 300mm and are available in two qualities; high carbon steel and high speed steel blades. The high speed steel blades are of a higher quality and take longer to wear out.

While the hacksaw is primarily used to cut metal, the handsaw is used to primarily cut wood. Unlike the hacksaw, the handsaw is not typically bow shaped. It has a distinct handle, most commonly made of wood, but sometime coated in plastic.

On the handsaw, a broad blade is attached to the handle in contrast to the hacksaw blade that is thin and is attached at the bottom of the bow shaped frame. Moreover, although removable,  unlike the hacksaw, handsaw blades are not as readily available.

Also unlike hacksaw blades, some high quality  hand saw blades may actually be sharpened when worn out. Hacksaws come in three major types: the bucksaw,  crosscut and rip saw, differentiated by the angle of the teeth on the blade.

Handsaw blades may be angled at 60 degrees for cutting hardwoods and 45 degrees for cutting softer woods. The TPI ratio is significantly less on the handsaw as opposed to hacksaw, about 5-8 TPI in general .Unlike hacksaws, hand-saws come in many other highly specialized forms, ranging from the Japanese Pull saw to the Coping saw.

In summary, the main differences between hacksaws and handsaws have to do with their purpose and structure. While hacksaws are used to primarily cut metal, handsaws are used to primarily cut wood. The hacksaw is bow shaped, and the handsaw is not.

The hacksaws frame is usually made out of steel, while the handsaw is often made of wood and other composite materials. The hacksaws blade is easily accessible and replaceable, while the handsaw’s is not easily available.

Once worn out, the hacksaw blade must be replaced. On the other some handsaw blades may be re-sharpened. Moreover, while the hacksaw comes in two major variants, the handsaw come in many different and highly specialized forms.

Furthermore, as opposed to the hacksaw blade, whose TPI is very dense, the handsaw blade’s TPI is significantly less dense. Finally, whereas  the hacksaw relies primarily on TPI density to cut metal, for woodcutting, the handsaw must rely on two important factors tooth angle and TPI.

Hacksaws and Handsaw: Similarities

Even though the hacksaw and handsaw have many differences, they are also quite similar-especially in their applications.

Similarities Between Hacksaws And Handsaws:

  • Saws
  • Hand Tools
  • Manually Powered Tools (Need arm strength to function)
  • Used for cutting different materials
  • Specialized for certain types of cuts
  • Both replaced by power tools in modern day
  • Similar safety procedures and precautions

For instance, both saws are hand tools. This means that they rely on the power generated by the users arm to function properly. In both the hacksaw and the handsaw, it is the forward movement of the tool, held against a the object, that accomplishes a cut.

Moreover, inasmuch as the blades in both the hacksaw and the handsaw are different, the tools are similar in the fact they require blades to accomplish their purpose. This is further illustrated by the fact that in both devices rely, at least partly, on TPI to accomplish different types of cuts.

Further still, the hacksaw and the handsaw are similar in the sense that their modern replacement is a powered tool. The powered hacksaw is an example of the powered variant for the metal cutting device, while the hand saw is an example of a power device used for cutting wood.

The safety requirements while using the hacksaw and the handsaw are quite similar. This is because in both devices the risk to injury comes in the form of a nasty cut.

All in all, handsaws and hacksaws are very similar in nature, due to the fact that they are both hand-held cutting tools that must be operated manually. As mentioned in the previous section, the only differences lie in the structure and the specific tasks that they are meant to carry out.

With all things considered, both of these tools look, sound, and work almost exactly the same as the other. When it comes to using both of these tools, there are similar procedures to follow as well.

Keep reading to the next section to find out how to properly use hacksaws and handsaws.

How to Properly Use Hacksaws and Handsaws

To begin this discussion, we will first go over the hacksaw. The correct usage of this device begins long before actually using it. In order to utilize the tool properly, one must be familiar with the different kinds of hacksaw blades, and their intended purpose.

How To Use Hacksaw:

  • Secure blade onto frame
  • Point teeth forward
  • Cut with long strokes for best results

As mentioned before, these blades come 14,18,24 and 32 TPI configuration. If you’re cutting aluminum or an equally soft metal, then proper usage for you would begin with choosing a 14 TPI blade.

On the other hand, if you are cutting hollow sections and tubing, then the 32 TPI blade would be the proper one to us. The point here is that to properly use the hacksaw one must first choose the appropriate blade for the task.

To properly use the hacksaw, the blade must be secured firmly on the frame. Not only is this a safety precaution, but also makes sure that the hacksaw cuts the piece of metal without any interruption.

In doing this, you must also make sure that the teeth on the blade are pointed forward as they secure it on the frame.The reason is because most hacksaws are configured to cut on the pushing stroke as opposed to the pulling stroke.

It is, however, noted that experts may reverse the blade to achieve a pulling stroke instead, as it is generally more precise.

While cutting, the hacksaw blade must be kept rigid. Movement of the blade will result in skewy cuts or a trip to the emergency room. One should cut using strong, stable strokes to achieve the best, uninterrupted results.

You should also cut using the entire length of the blade to ensure a more precise cut and even wearing. If the blade gets hot while cut, one may utilize some light machine oil to reduce the temperatures.

How To Use Handsaw:

  • Use cut-resistant gloves
  • Cut with short strokes with rhythm
  • Hold tool firm, slow, and steady

With the handsaw, just like its cousin the hacksaw, you must choose the right tool for the job. There are many types of hand saws as seen earlier in the article. Each is specialized to a specific task.

A cross cutting hand saw will cut different types of wood differently than a rip cutting hand saw or a hybrid configuration.

Safety comes first when using a handsaw. Like all cutting instruments one risks a trip to the emergency room if proper precautionary steps are not taken. To avoid unnecessary injuries, one should always use cut-resistant gloves before beginning any process requiring a handsaw.

When the time to cut the piece of wood comes, a pencil and a rule come in handy. The saying in the carpentry world goes; measure once, cut twice. Unlike metal which can be welded back in place, if one makes a wrong cut on wood, it’s a done deal.

As one begins to cut the piece of wood, they should first make a few short stokes known as draw strokes to get a rhythm going. Always start stroking, close to the handle. When using a ripsaw start with the finer teeth at the end of the blade and work yourself to the harder ones up the blade.

Slow and steady is the way to go when using a handsaw. You must let the tool guide you rather than forcing it. The strokes should take advantage of the blades full range of movement to avoid hiccups.

The saw must be held firm, but should not be twisted. If the piece of wood being cut is particularly lanky, it should be tightly secured. Not only will this make your work easier, allowing you to concentrate on the cutting, but also it will enhance your safety.

Splintering is common when sawing, but can be avoided. To avoid this disfiguring occurrence, use masking tape on the intended cutting line. You may also want to use a marking knife to prevent splintering.

One must not forget standing pose while cutting  wood. To avoid twisting the blade, and ensure a straight smooth cut, one should hold their elbows close to the body to correct the natural tendency to slant the blade.

It is inevitable that sometimes, one may veer from the intended cutting angle. When that happens, resist the urge to simply arch the blade. If you do, so, you will end up with an uneven and rough cut. Instead, stop cutting, place back the saw to its original cutting angle, then continue cutting.

Hacksaws and Handsaws:Maintenance and Care

As with all tools the first step in providing proper maintenance and care to both hacksaws and hand saws is to use the tool in the correct way, in the first place.

Ensuring that you follow all the steps listed above, will be the first firewall against immature wearing out and may save you money. That being said, one must go over and above simply using the tool correctly in order to ensure that it lasts long.

Listed below is a number of steps you can take to provide proper maintenance and care to your hacksaw or handsaw.

How To Care For Hacksaw:

  • Clean and oil after use
  • Inspect frequently

The first step in maintaining a hacksaw is cleaning it after use. Even though it is a metal tool, it is essential for one to clean it. After cleaning, the hacksaw should be dried thoroughly as it may be prone to dust. As a further precaution, light oil should be sprayed on the blade to keep it in top shape.

The next step is choosing a proper method of storage. Hacksaws should be stored in a dry place and should preferably be hung. This avoids unnecessary contact with damp surfaces. Avoid clattering your storage shed. Not only is a neat storage shed good for maintenance, it also increases work productivity and reduces risk of injury.

The last step in maintaining a hacksaw is vigilance. One must inspect the hacksaw on a regular basis to make sure all the bolts and nuts and the blade are in proper order. Damaged hacksaws should be labelled and flagged off for repairing. The should be stored separately from functioning ones.

The steps needed to maintain and provide care for the handsaw are similar to the hacksaw.

How To Care For Handsaw:

  • Clean blade with water
  • Oil blade
  • Clean and sand wooden handle separately
  • Store appropriately

Like hacksaws, handsaws should be cleaned. The process is slightly different however, since the handle of most handsaws is wooden.

The blade may be cleaned with water, dried off and oiled. The handle on the other hand should be sanded regularly with oil to keep it clean and water resistant. If this is done, you are well on your way to having you handsaw for a very long time.

Like hacksaws, the handsaw should be store appropriately. Handsaws should be hung preferably according to type. They should be stored separate from other type of saws to avoid confusion.

Again, vigilance is key during this process. Good handsaws tend to last generations and can even become heirlooms. For that to happen though, one must constantly inspect the tool to spot problems long before the device becomes irreparable.

In conclusion, the main difference between a hacksaw and a handsaw is in their purpose.

Although the devices are quite different, they share similarities as both tools are hand held and rely on pushing and pulling to perform their purpose. It is important to use each tool correctly to avoid injury and loss. Lastly, proper maintenance and care will ensure that the tool serves you for a very long time.

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