How to Use a Hacksaw

Woman using a hacksaw

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Need to cut metal? You can use a powered sabre saw, or jigsaw or a hand tool called a hacksaw. Whether you’re working with thin sheet metal or common home plumbing piping, a hacksaw is a good tool for the job. There are a variety of blades to choose from — the right one will make using a hacksaw easy.

Blade Types

Hacksaw blades are available with tooth counts ranging from 14 to 32 teeth per inch. Thin stock calls for finer teeth; thicker metal requires fewer teeth per inch.

The way teeth are positioned on a blade is called “set.” There are three typical tooth sets:

  • Regular:
    These work well on softer metals that don’t contain iron. The teeth are lined up touching each other and alternating to the left and right.
  • Raker:
    Perfect for cutting into thick metals. The teeth are placed in sets of three.
  • Wavy:
    The right choice for hard, thin metals. The teeth are set in a wave pattern from left to right for a smooth, fine cut.

Frame Types

Hacksaw frames can be either fixed or adjustable. A fixed frame accepts one blade length; while the adjustable typically handles 10- and 12-inch blades, some can accept blades ranging from 8 to 16 inches. There’s a slight price difference, but the versatility of an adjustable frame is well worth the additional cost.

A hacksaw blade has a hole at each end that fits onto posts on the frame, and these posts can be set in four positions: up, down, left and right.

Also, the blade can be mounted on the posts with the tooth side in either direction, giving you a total of eight blade positions to choose from.

Using a Hacksaw

Americans are accustomed to saws that cut on the push stroke, but reversing the blade to cut on the pull stroke — like a fine Japanese woodworking saw — might give you a better result.

Whatever the blade’s orientation, it’s essential that you cut slowly, no more than one stroke per second; metal on metal produces tremendous heat and can quickly ruin a blade. A drop of oil on the blade is a good idea to reduce friction and to keep the temperature down.

Hacksaw Safety Tips:

  • Choose the correct blade for the material being cut.
  • Secure the blade with the teeth pointing forward.
  • Keep the blade rigid and the frame properly aligned.
  • Cut using strong, steady strokes directed away from you.
  • Use the entire length of the blade in each cutting stroke.
  • Keep saw blades clean, and use light machine oil on the blade to keep it from overheating and breaking.
  • Cut harder materials more slowly than soft materials.
  • Clamp thin, flat pieces that require edge cutting.
  • If you’re cutting pipe, always secure it in a vise before cutting.