Living off grid has been a constant adjustment process as we continually learn new ways to do things we never thought about twice before in our previous lives. Not having an unlimited supply of electricity has a big impact on one important part of our homestead development plan- using power tools.
We can’t really have them. Or at least, not as much as we once could since we rely on solar power.
But let’s not forget that people had been constructing buildings for thousands of years without the benefit of power tools. And if they could do it, then so can we.
Some of the tools that have been great to have in our homestead tool kit has been hand saws. Watch our video, or keep reading if you prefer words!
Considering the wide variety that is produced, we have found hand saws that are useful for just about every project that we used to rely on power tools for. In fact, we built a decent-sized portion of our small cabin with hand saws!
However, the sheer amount of options available can be overwhelming. We are using this article to break down some important features on hand saws so that we can help you make the best-informed decisions about what saws you need for your own projects.
As always, we aren’t experts in saw varieties. However, we think our personal experience of trying what works for us can be beneficial for you too.
Traditional & Quality Hand Saws
Hand saws have been used and refined for centuries, meaning that they have been efficiently designed. Two traditional models of quality hand saws that we use on our property are ribbed saws and cross-cut saws.
We used both of these when construction our timber frame battery box!
- Ribbed Saw: A very common type of saw, ribbed saws have big teeth that lean forward and are slightly staggered to the left and right of the blade. They only cut with the push stroke and need to cut with the grain of the wood. Ribbed saws are useful because they give the cutter lots of control and are good for cutting the length of a board.
- Cross Cut Saw: Cross cut saws have the ability to cut across the gain of wood because they can cut with both the push and pull stroke. They have smaller teeth (more per inch) than ribbed saws and are good for cutting the end off boards. Though useful enough to keep in your rotation, they aren’t well suited for being the only saw you own.
Jesse’s all-time favorite saw is an antique cross cut saw that is over five feet long. It’s hard to believe, but this saw is supposed to be used by just one person and is almost as efficient as a chain saw.
That said, the guy we bought it from said it’s the best handsaw for cutting firewood… we watched him do it and he was pretty efficient!
Because these saws are made of durable steel, they can be used for generations. This saw has been around for decades, and we still use it around our property today!
You can often find high quality hand saws used at garage sales or on Craigslist. When looking to buy, make sure they have all their teeth, that no one tried to “sharpen” the saw teeth by grinding them down, and that the saw blade is straight.
Don’t let age scare you away; antique saws are tools that were built to last. Buying one will be money well spent.
Traditional Hand Saw Tools
When you buy a used traditional saw, odds are good you are going to need to do a bit of maintenance on it. Here are two essential tools for getting the most out of your hand saws.
- Saw File: These are used to sharpen teeth, are usually triangular, and come in different sizes for different sized saws.
- Saw Set: These helps maintain the staggering of the teeth for even cuts by re-cutting any teeth that have been damaged or worn down.
Utility Hand Saws
Utility saws are a modern take on traditional hand saws. You’re more likely to find these on Amazon than an estate sale, but a few different types are essential pieces of equipment for the serious homesteader.
- Folding Saw: The main advantage of a folding saw is the ability to hide the blade in the sheath. These saws are very easy to slip in your pocket and take with you anywhere. This is great for working in the garden, cutting pipe, having on a trail, etc.
Our favorite folding saw is a pull saw design, meaning that it incorporates a Japanese design element and cuts on the pull stroke. It takes less effort to cut on the pull stroke, making this saw easier to use than traditional designs.
- Irwin hand saw: The Irwin hand saw is uniquely designed with a carbide blade, giving it very hard teeth that keep their sharpness for a long time. The big negative is that theses teeth can never be sharpened.We use our Irwin as a “throwaway saw”- one that we can use on projects where it isn’t wise to risk the blade of higher quality saws. We don’t have to worry about this saw getting in the dirt or getting wrecked on difficult cuts because it is fairly inexpensive to begin with.
- Hack Saw – Best Hand Saw for Cutting Metal: Hack saws are designed for cutting metal. They are good around-the-house saws and are especially useful for cutting plumbing pipes.
- Back Saw: Back saws have a stiffened spine, making them useful for very precise cuts. Most back saws come with miters, which are guide boxes you can use to line up your cuts before you make them. They are useful when you can’t run a miter chop saw (like us!) or just need to make some really precise cuts.
- Dove-Tailed Back Saw: Like normal back saws, dove-tailed back saws have a rigid back. They are useful for detail work like cabinetry, picture frames, and other similar indoor work.
Best Hand Saws: There Is No One-Size-Fits-All
As we repeat again and again in our posts, there is no one-size-fits-all saw.
If you have the opportunity to buy many different kinds of saws – do it! After all, tools are an asset that you can have for years and even generations to come if you buy them quality.
We think that money spent on tools is never wasted – of course, there is a balance you will have to find when starting a homestead from scratch on a limited budget.
Our #1 Piece of Advice: Start Collecting Early
Our #1 piece of advice that we share over and over is to start collecting tools as soon as you know you want to homestead or build a home!
We didn’t start collecting until we moved to our land so to this day, we spend a lot of our time running all around our portion of the state picking up tools when they are available.
For quality tools, many you don’t need to buy new (some you might not even want to buy new as older tools can often be of higher quality, built to last) but you do need to know what you’re looking for and jump when you see a good deal.
Here are some tips on how we’ve been able to score some really great deals on both tools and materials.
Hopefully this guide can help you on your search to find the right hand saws for your living situation. And remember, try to live with the mentality that power tools don’t have to be the only option.
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