Parts of a Hand Saw

Handsaws have been around for thousands of years.


There is evidence of handsaw use in ancient Egypt, as heiroglyphics of handsaws have been found. Now, many centuries later, we are still using handsaws with the same basic design as the Egyptians did so many years ago.

The handle is traditionally made of wood, but can be made of plastic, composite or metal as well. The blade slides into a slot in the handle and is fastened in place with screws, typically four but less expensive models may use as few as two. The screws are called saw nuts.

Most saw handles come in the standard D-shape which have a hole in the middle to insert your fingers while getting a strong grip on the handle. Other styles include the pistol grip and the straight grip, which is usually a cylindrical piece of wood protruding from the back of the saw. These last two handle types typically are only found on the smaller back saws and not the larger rip or crosscut saws.


The other part of the saw, the metal part that contains the saw teeth, is referred to as the blade. Blades are made of steel, although some of the finer specialty saws made today are made of a metal-titanium mixture.


The back of the saw is simply the top of the blade. Back saws typically have an additional piece of reinforcing wrapped over the back of the saw. This reinforcing helps prevent the saw blade from bending during use. Rip and crosscut saws have no reinforcement as they are designed to cut through large pieces of lumber and reinforcing metal wouldn't fit through the saw kerf.


Located along the bottom edge of the blade, the saw teeth do the actual cutting. The teeth of the saw are also called the front of the saw. Saws are rated according to teeth-per-inch (TPI) and their use is determined by their TPI. Saws with a low TPI, in 6-10 range would be considered rip saws, with saws in the 10-14 range considered multi-purpose saws and anything above 14 would be considered a crosscut saw.

Originally, teeth were offset from one another with one tooth bent slightly to the right and the next slightly to the left and so on and the teeth were able to be sharpened with a file. This offset is known as pitch. Today's hand saws tend to come with cryogenically hardened or fire tempered teeth which allow them to stay sharper than previous hand saws for a much longer time frame. The only drawback is that they cannot be sharpened by hand.


Gullets are the spaces in between the teeth. The speed at which a saw can cut wood is directly related to the size of the gullet. Saws with smaller gullets remove smaller pieces of cut wood and therefore take longer to cut. Larger gullets are able to remove larger pieces of cut wood and allow the saw to cut deeper on each stroke, reducing the amount of time needed to cut through a piece of wood.


The toe of the saw is the front section of the saw blade and the bottom section of the blade is referred to as the heel.

Decorative Elements

Better made saws feature an etching of the company logo on the left side of the blade, known as the etch. The medallion is also a feature on better made saws. It is simply an enlarged saw nut with the company name or logo stamped on it. Some older saws had a bump on the saw back near the toe of the saw called a nib. It had no real purpose other than decoration and has disappeared from modern handsaws.

About the Author

Vance Holloman is a residential contractor and freelance writer living in Atlanta. Much of his writing centers on the expertise he has gained from two decades in the construction industry. His work has appeared in newspapers, magazines and numerous online sites, including and "Auburn Plainsman." Holloman has a Master's degree in business from the University of Maryland.