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Shop Talk - Choosing the Right Hand Saw

In today's modern age, power tools have largely supplanted the use of
hand tools. Not long ago, one of the primary tools of a carpenter was
a hand-powered cross cut saw. But the advent of the circular saw put
a big dent in hand saw sales.

However, the average pinewood derby car builder doesn't have a shop
equipped with power tools, and it doesn't make financial sense to
invest in expensive tools for the once a year car building event. So
a hand-powered saw is the tool that makes the most sense for most car

The question then is: "What type of saw should I purchase for working
on a pinewood derby car?" Hopefully, this article will give you the
information to make a wise purchase.


Source - www.traditionalwoodworker.com

Using a Cross Cut Saw is the traditional way to saw a board into
shorter pieces. Similar in appearance, but less popular is the Rip
Saw. It has coarser teeth, which makes it easier to saw a board along
the grain of the wood.

If you are building a wedge-shaped pinewood derby car, or a car that
is essentially a flat board, then a Cross Cut Saw or a Rip Saw will
certainly work. But both saws will leave significant teeth marks in
the wood (especially the Rip Saw), so quite a bit of sanding will be


Source - www.traditionalwoodworker.com

A Back Saw is the generic name for a hand saw with a reinforced top
edge to minimize flexing, small closely spaced teeth, and a narrow
width. It comes in several varieties including the Miter Saw and Tenon

Because of the stiffness and finely spaced teeth, a Back Saw will cut
very straight and will leave minimal teeth marks. However, the
stiffened edge limits the depth of the cut. So if, for example, you
were making a flat car, the back saw would not be able to make the
full seven inch cut.


Source - www.acehardware.com

A Hacksaw is designed for cutting through metal. The saw frame
supports replaceable blades with very fine teeth, is adjustable for
different blade lengths, and allows the blade to be rotated either
parallel (normal), or perpendicular to the frame.

The fine-toothed blade will readily cut through pine and leaves
minimal teeth marks in the wood. The limitation of the cut depth can
be avoided by rotating the blade to be perpendicular to the frame.
Another feature of the hacksaw is that many of them will support the
mounting of two blades. The dual blade width is just about right for
making new axle slots.

Many hobby shops offer a small version of a Hacksaw, often called a
"Hobby Saw".

Source: www.towerhobbies.com

It is not as versatile as the full-sized Hacksaw, but it nice for
making tiny cuts when making a more detailed car.

So, if you are looking for a saw that can make straight cuts and can
be used after pinewood derby season, the hacksaw would be a good


Source - www.traditionalwoodworker.com

The Coping saw sports a very narrow, fine-toothed, replaceable blade,
which allows making curved cuts. The large bow allows a fairly deep
cut, but like the Hacksaw, the blade of the Coping Saw can be rotated
to eliminate any restrictions.

Overall, the Coping Saw is the most versatile hand saw, and likely the
most popular saw for pinewood derby use. With it you can make
straight or curved cuts, leaving minimal teeth marks in the wood.
Another use of the Coping Saw is to make inner cuts. Let's say that
you want to make a car similar to the Speeder.

Standard Wheelbase Speeder

To hollow out the inside, you would first drill a hole through the car
(alternately, drill four holes, one at each corner of the area to be
cut out). Next, disassemble the saw blade, insert it through the hole,
and reattach it to the Coping Saw frame. Then cut out the center
area, and remove the blade.


The world of hand saws goes well beyond the saws described in this
article. Other saws include the Jeweler's Saw, Keyhole Saw, and
Dovetail Saw. All of these could be used on pinewood derby cars, but
are less common and certainly less versatile than the Coping saw.

Read More at: Pinewood Derby Times Volume 10, Issue 9

A feature article is a regular part of the Pinewood Derby Times Newsletter. To subscribe to this free e-newsletter, please visit:

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