Whether you’re shortening a hockey stick or building a garage, you can’t be without a saw or two. But which ones should you have?
Handsaw: Even if you have a mess of power saws, you should have this basic, time-honored tool. At times it can even save you time and do a better, safer job. If you’re cutting a single 2×4, setting up a circular saw may not be worth it. And if you’re cutting in awkward places, a power saw may be downright dangerous. A crosscut with 10 points per inch (PPI) is a good general purpose saw; it cuts reasonably quickly, gives you fairly fine cuts, and allows you to rip (parallel to the grain) occasionally. Standard saw blades measure somewhere around 26″, but some come with shorter blades you can actually fit in a toolbox.
Face the wood, position it knee-high or lower, and guide the blade to your line with your thumb. Holding the saw in a firm grip at roughly 45 degrees (more perpendicular for ripping), draw it back toward you slowly to start the cut. After a couple slow, light starting strokes, move your thumb and gradually increase your speed, pressure and the length of your strokes. Lift slightly on the upstroke, and apply the most pressure in the middle of the downstroke. Keep your saw sharp, and avoid binding by supporting the end of the piece you’re cutting off.
Backsaw: Used with a miter box, the rigid blade is good for fine trimwork. Choose at least 12 ppi for fine cuts, and keep the blade fairly level to bring more teeth in contact with the wood.