Doing DIY woodwork can be a great way to save money, make new items, or pass the time. However, a major issue many woodworkers run into is cutting a straight line when using a handsaw. Handsaws are far less expensive than other electrical options but do come with a few more hassles.
In order to hand saw a straight line, you will want to:
- Keep a proper grip, using the index finger for stability
- Make three careful upward strokes to start the cut
- Stand with good posture and make sure not to twist the saw
- Make long, even strokes, shortening them as you near the end of the cut
Once you get the hang of using a handsaw correctly, mastering a straight line will become easier. You do want to ensure you are using the proper technique and sharpening your saw often. Proper upkeep of your tools is a major part of achieving the look you are hoping for.
Using Your Hand Saw Properly
There are a few key steps that you will want to follow when it comes to using your handsaw.
Some key things to keep in mind before you start sawing:
- Use a solid workbench or table. You want your work area to be secure and have no wobble. If your workbench is wobbling, there is practically no way you will get the straight line you are hoping for.
- Always secure your piece of wood to the table. You can use clamps to hold the wood you are cutting to the workbench properly. Having clamps in place will stop the wood from wiggling too much while you are cutting it.
- Always draw a line where you are planning to cut. You can use various straight items to ensure you are getting a straight lie, such as a yardstick, triangle, or even the flat side of the saw. This will help guide you while you cut.
- You can also create a quick jig by clamping a straight piece of wood or metal to the workpiece. You can use a piece of lumber or plywood. Just make sure it has a straight edge. This is fairly self-explanatory—clamp the jig along where you’d like to cut, then keep the edge of the saw blade against the jig as you cut.
Begin Cutting Your Straight Line
Once your wood is locked into place, and you have your line successfully drawn, you can begin the cutting process. You will want to put the saw blade on the line you have drawn at a 45-degree angle. Some ways to ensure your cuts are straight are:
- Make Sure You Have the Proper Hold – Grip the saw handle correctly and with a firm but relaxed grip. You can also extend your index finger along the flat edge of the saw to give yourself more control. It would help if you always kept your wrist, elbow, and shoulder aligned with the saw blade.
- Start by Cutting Upward – Begin your sawing by taking a few upward strokes. Beginning the cut with two or three upward strokes will help the saw begin cutting the wood correctly without damage or tear-out.
- Use Long, Even Strokes – Once your cut has started, continue moving the saw back and forth in full, even strokes. Cut along the line you have created. Make sure you go slow but steady, looking for any signs of splitting or cracking.
- Finish with Short Strokes – After you have cut most of the way through, you will begin to shorten your strokes. You will want to shorten the strokes about halfway to avoid damage to the wood as you finish the cut.
Use a Miter Box for a Straighter Cut
If you are struggling to get a solid, straight cut even with the right technique, you may want to use a miter box. This is a commonly used device amongst woodworkers and is an easier way to get the cuts you need. These are usually made from metal or wood and come with slots on both sides to help create proper angled and straight cuts.
Amazon has a bunch of great examples for Miter boxes like this Craftsman box: CRAFTSMAN Mitre Saw, 12-Inch Saw & Clamping Box (CMHT20600)
If power tools are not an option, this is an extremely affordable way to make your projects easier. The miter box is easy to use and completely safe. It just works as a guide. You will want to shop around and find the miter box that fits your needs, as they will have different angles provided.
Using Your Miter Box
If you purchase a miter box, it can be challenging to use the device properly in the beginning. However, once you get the hang of using the device, it can be straightforward to utilize when cutting. Some easy instructions for using your miter box are:
- Step 1 – Clamp the miter box to a stable surface with a bar or using a clamp with a quick-release. You can also secure the box using a nut and bolt, whichever is easier.
- Step 2 – You will then measure the cut length that you need to make. Use a carpenter’s triangle to mark where you are cutting on your wood.
- Step 3 – Place your wood in the miter box and use clamps to secure the wood piece in place. You will want to angle your box in the wood’s correct orientation to get the cut you are hoping for. These boxes work with both a bevel and a miter cut.
- Step 4 – Use lighter cuts at first to make a score in your cut line just outside of the mark you previously made. After you score this line, begin cutting more effectively until you cut your straight line.
Extra Tips and Tricks
If you have tried the techniques listed above and are still not getting the results you are hoping for, here are a few extra tips and tricks that may make your cuts a little bit straighter:
- Check Your Pose – You want to ensure you are using the right pose when you begin cutting your wood with your hand saw. You will want to hold your elbows close to your body, which can help you avoid angling the blade incorrectly. You may also want to twist the blade or tilt it naturally, and this stance can help you avoid this.
- Use a Sharp Saw for Best Performance – You will want your saw to be as sharp as possible to achieve the best cut. Your saw blade will need to be straight, and the teeth need to be even, which helps create a straight line. You should always sharpen or replace the blades if they become dull or uneven.
- Always Protect Your Saw Blades – If you are storing your saw away, you should always protect your saw blades using a cover. This not only helps keep your saw sharp but can be an extra safety precaution. You can pick up a saw blade cover at many supply stores or make your own.
- Keep Your Saw Clean – If you have dirt on your blades, it only makes sense that the saw will not cut as smoothly. You must keep the saw clean and wipe it down before cutting if there is dirt present. Also, do your best to avoid getting rust on your saw and replace rusty blades.
- Long Strokes are Key – You want to use long, even strokes when cutting the wood. You want to keep the blade straight and never twist it. The straighter and smoother cuts you make, the better chance you have at cutting a straight line.
Creating Straighter Lines with Hand Saws
If you are hoping to cut a straighter line with your hand, saw, follow the basic instructions listed above. Picking up a miter box is a great way to assist you in this process, and they are a relatively inexpensive addition. You can also ensure you are using a proper stance, grip, straight strokes, and a clean, sharp saw.