How to Make Square Cuts with a Hand Saw

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If you are a woodworker, making square cuts is a skill that is vital to learn. However, if you are just learning how to perfect your woodworking skills, do not worry as we have got you covered. In this article, we will take you through the several steps you need to take to make proper square cuts using a hand saw.

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​Learning how to make square cuts is a crucial skill, especially in building construction as well as when making furniture joints. Moreover, learning how to use a hand saw to make square cuts is vital even if you are not an expert and only do woodworking tasks for your DIY projects at home. Consequently, you will be able to produce cuts along the length of wood that are relatively accurate.

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Additionally, we will take you through how to use a hand saw to cut square cuts by only using your eyes. Nevertheless, you need to have a good eye so that the results do not vary so much, but this is something that you get to perfect the more you practice this.

Steps to follow when making square cuts with a hand saw

1. Mark dimensions on the wood

Make use of a sharpened pencil to mark a thin line on the timber. Subsequently, mark the needed dimensions by holding the tape near one of the wood’s edges. If you have bought your wood from a store, first check it to confirm whether its end is 90 degrees. If the end does not have a 90-degree cut, follow steps two to four marking and cutting out the guidelines below to remove the wood’s tiny end section. When doing this, maintain approximately 1/2 an inch from the wood’s edge. After doing this, measure, mark, and then cut the length you want.

2. Make use of the Carpenter Square to Mark the timber’s topside

Get a carpenter square as this will enable you to produce right-angled markings on the wood. However, if you do not own one, an engineer’s triangle or square is also a good alternative. Place the square’s handle firmly against the timber as you place the markings, and as you do this, position your pencil’s tip on the mark you put while you were initially measuring. Consequently, mark along the square by sliding the square to make it butt against the tips.

3. Mark two vertical lines

Keep on putting these vertical lines on the timber on three sides of the wood. These lines will help you focus on producing a straight cut.

4. Firmly hold the wood and then cut using your hand saw

​Always make sure to use a well-maintained and sharp blade. You must hold the wood securely when sawing, and to do this, you can use a vice. You can also improvise and make use of your knee along with a low table, stool, Black and Decker Workmate, or anything else at your disposal.

Carefully follow the vertical lines on the wood surface you put using your pencil to ensure the saw blade is always straight.

How to make use of a hand saw when making square cuts

1. Make the starting cut

Use either your thumb or your thumb’s knuckle to draw up the first cut on the hand you are using to hold the wood as a guide. Doing this will guarantee that you cut along the cutline. Additionally, you must never start cutting right on the line where you put the mark using your pencil, but next to it towards the waste side. The waste side usually is the side of the timber, which you will not use in the final product, hence why it is recommended to have timber that is longer rather than shorter.

2. Position your elbows near your body

You should have your elbows near your body while sawing to offset the normal trend of angling the blade farther away from the perpendicular. Moreover, doing this helps you avoid tilting and twisting the hand saw, thereby ensuring the subsequent cuts are clean and nice.

3. Correct veering

It is not uncommon even for the best carpenter to sway away from the cut line. If you find yourself doing this, you need to avoid the hand saw’s natural tendency to bend and twist, thereby ensuring it stays on track. If you do not, the outcome will be a rough and uneven cut. Thus, if you notice you have veered off from the cut line, stop sawing and bring back your hand saw to the initial position where you began veering from the cut line.

4. Start slowly and let the hand saw do the rest

You must never rush or put too much pressure on the piece of wood. Instead, put light pressure, and after completing several forward strokes, the cut on the timber will depend, consequently allowing you to take off your hand from the blade. Keep on pushing the hand saw with a gentle, free-running motion.

Furthermore, make use of long strokes as this ensures every tooth does its fair share of the job instead of short strokes, which only utilizes a handful of teeth.

Resist any temptation to put pressure on the hand saw as this only makes you more tired. Therefore, allow the saw to do its work. However, in case you notice the saw is not cutting as expected, then it might have an issue.

5. How to properly hold the saw

How you hold your hand saw determines whether or not you will be able to make square cuts properly. Thus, to achieve proper square cuts, you need to grip the saw’s handle such that your forefingers spread along the handle’s side. Doing this helps “point” the hand saw along the line, thereby ensuring the cuts are accurate. Likewise, you should always have a firm grip on the hand saw, but yet again not very forcefully.

6. A clean hand saw functions much better

Like any other tool, a clean and dry hand saw also works much better. You need to keep your hand saw far away from dirt as these eventually lead to rust and bind. Furthermore, you should not use the saw if you notice some uncured glue on the piece of wood you are planning to cut as this wears out the sawblades. Lastly, you should store your hand saw in an area with climate control to prevent it from starting to develop rust.

7. Fasten the work before you start sawing

You should always confirm that your piece of wood is secured firmly before you start sawing. Double-check whether there is anything behind the workpiece to avoid sawing either the sawhorse or something else of value. Moreover, remove staples or nails which might be positioned along your cut line.

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8. Mark the cut line

First, measure and mark the area where you are planning to cut. This marked line will act as a guide to assist you in achieving a straight cut.

9. Well-set and sharp teeth produce the best performance

Like all cutting tools, the hand saw also needs to be sharp to deliver the best results. The saw blades should be straight and confirm the teeth setting is even. Additionally, replace or sharpen the bent or dull blades, and if the setting is uneven, make necessary adjustments.

10. Protect the hand saw blades when not using it

To safeguard the saw blades and yourself, make use of a cover when storing your hand saw. You can also opt for a saw till which ensures the blade remains sharp and secure. To make blade covers, you can purchase some slide bars from the local office supply store.

11. Create straight lines using a 2×4 guide

For some woodworkers, simply using a pencil to draw the line to guide them often fails to work. Therefore, to produce precise cuts, you should make use of 2×3 along the pencil line while fastening it to the board you are cutting. This makes the board act as a guide to ensure your hand saw does not veer from the line.

12. Avoid binding with the nail

When using a hand saw, you most likely will experience a problem while you cut along the grain. This usually happens because the kerf is not far off from the saw, and to prevent this, place a nail in it to keep it open. You can later take away the nail and continue sawing.


Knowing how to make square cuts using a hand saw is extremely crucial for every woodworker, irrespective of whether you are doing this as a hobby or a profession. If you understand this, you will be able to produce accurate cuts as well as safeguard yourself when using the hand saw. Additionally, thanks to this guide, you will save plenty of time and money you would have otherwise spent learning how to create square cuts using a hand saw properly by yourself. Therefore, following this guide on how to build square cuts and the tips to follow when using a hand saw will help you become an extremely proficient woodworker.

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