Port Townsend School of Woodworking
Preserving the Tradition

Hand Saw Essentials

Learn the fundamentals of using a hand saw:  Instruction on selection, technique, sharpening, and the restoration of old saws.  Weekend class in hand tool woodworking designed by Jim Tolpin.


Hand Saw Essentials

Weekend Hand Tool Woodworking Series



Using a hand saw is the most basic skill of hand tool woodworking--which is why we offer Hand Saw Essentials as the first class in our Basics of Woodworking Series. Without being able to use a saw you cannot cut wood to approximate size and start the dimensioning process, nor can you cut the joinery. So you need to start by learning how to choose and use a hand saw in the most efficient way.

The humble hand saw has gained a bad reputation - most hand saws do not work well, and they are perceived as difficult to sharpen. New premium grade hand saws are expensive and justifiably so.

In this class we'll teach you how to recognize a good used western style saw - whether you find it in a garage sale or inherited it from your grandfather. There are many good saws out there.

Hand saws scale from a Gent's Saw for delicate jewelry box joinery, through dovetail, tenon and carcass saws for furniture joinery to the rip saw and cross cut saws used to cut stock out of rough boards. This course will focus on those saws you'll need in your first years as a hand tool woodworker.

Japanese saws cut well but are difficult to master. We find that a well tuned and sharpened western style saw cuts just as well and is easier to keep to the line (especially for novices). We'll touch briefly on Japanese saws but this course focuses on western style handsaws.

Saw sharpening requires an understanding of saw tooth geometry  - we'll take the mystery out of set, rake and fleam.

Who knows, having mastered the hand saw, you may even consider abandoning the table saw and chop saw for your projects. (Though maybe not your band saw!)

Class Description

This class focuses on the care, sharpening and effective use of handsaws through a sequence of demonstrations followed by hands-on practice.

Topics covered:

Saw theory

  • Saw tooth geometry - rake, fleam and set

  • Right teeth for the job - rip vs crosscut

  • Western vs Japanese

Saw Taxonomy

  • Choosing appropriate saws for fit and function

  • Saw types

  • Just how many saws do you need?

Caring for saws

  • Recognizing a good saw

  • Restoring and maintaining the blade

  • Repairing / replacing the handle

Sharpening and Tuning

  • Saw Vices

  • Files

  • Saw sets

  • Students can tune and sharpen their own backsaw

Sawing Fixtures:

  • Bench hooks

  • Mitre Boxes

  • Saw Benches

Sawing techniques

  • Coarse ripping and crosscutting at the saw bench

  • Precision sawing at the workbench

Cutting curves

  • Cutting shallow curves with hand saws

  • Cutting tighter curves with bow, coping and fret saws.

Saw Restoration

Plans for building a sawbench


Feel free to bring along other handsaws that you may have inherited or gathered along the way. Each tool will provoke an interesting discussion and there's a good chance you may leave with a working saw (or at least know how complete tuning it).

More about this class

More classes in the Weekend Hand tool Series

  1. Hand Saw Essentials

  2. Hand Plane Essentials

  3. Hand Cut Dovetails

  4. Hand Cut Mortise and Tenon

There are no prerequisites for the class - you'll benefit as a complete beginner or as an experienced woodworker who wants to experience the liberation of using a well tuned hand saw.

Class Information and Registration

Class starts at 9:00am on the first day in Building 315 at Fort Worden.
Please read our What to Expect page for general information about the school.
Please also read our Registration Policy.
If we do not see the minimum enrollment six weeks from the class start date we will warn you at that time.

Class size: 10    
Cost: $295
Materials Charge: $30
Minimum enrollment : 5

When you click on the Register link you will be able to register for the class or, if the class is full, sign up for the wait list.