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Can a Hand Saw Cut Plywood?

When I’m building something “quick,” it never fails – I need to cut some plywood after I’ve put the power tools away. The first few times, I sighed before lugging the circular saw or table saw back out. But then I thought of something far more portable – and still out with my tools. Can I cut plywood with a hand saw?

Hand saws can be used to cut plywood safely and effectively in most projects. Hand saws like the Japanese saw, Coping saw, crosscut saw, rip saw, and keyhole saw all have different purposes in cutting plywood in any of the most common DIY projects.

Ready to talk about cutting plywood the easier, more effective, and safer way? Let’s save you the learning curve I had to handle. Let’s do this.

image of an old hand saw next to measuring tapes on top of woods
Image of my hack saw, drywall saw, plywood, and pressboard siding in my backyard. Don’t use a drywall saw on plywood – trust me.

Handsaws Can Cut Plywood

A hand saw is one of the integral tools without which the woodworking toolbox is incomplete. It is an effective tool to cut different woods, including various types of Plywood. However, cutting woods can refer to a wide variety of jobs, including sawing through plywood or cutting a clean hole in a wood sheet, so it is essential to choose the right type of hand saw for the right job.

Along with choosing the right tool, it is important to choose the precise characteristics of the tools well. For instance, the hand saw’s teeth contour, shape teeth-per-inch (TPI)should be selected considering the specific task to be carried out. These considerations are not absolutely necessary since any hand saw can cut a piece of wood, but these measures will ensure optimal performance with minimal effort.

What Saw is Best for Cutting Plywood?

There is no one best saw for cutting plywood. As mentioned above, it is possible that a particular saw works perfectly for one explicit task but fails to deliver the same output for another.

This is why, the two criteria of saw type and its characteristics, should be considered while choosing the tool. Table 1 below provides a brief summary of different types of hand saws and what they’re best used for.

Hand Saw TypesBest Used For
Japanese Saw1. Cutting planks, making patterns and curves in the plywood.
2. Woodwork involving moderate-level heavy-duty ripping and crosscutting.
Coping Saw1. Operations on plywood with up to one-fourth of an inch thickness.
2. Making precise and intricate cuts as well as cutting joints.
Tenon Saw1. Making mortise and tenon joints.
2. Cutting angled portion of a miter and dovetail joint.
Crosscut Saw1. Best for woodwork that involves cutting the wood grain across the plywood instead of cutting along it.
Rip Saw1. Making less intricate and rough cuts
2. Woodwork which involves cutting the wood grain along the plywood.
Keyhole Saw1. Poking holes and cutting small traced-out shapes in
plywood.
2. Tasks without a lot of space.
Table 1: Types of Hand saw and their uses

The most important characteristic to consider, when deciding on a saw, is Teeth-per-inch (TPI).

If you’re working on a project which requires fine and detailed cuts then you should consider saws with a higher TPI count, such as a Coping saw. On the other hand, if you’re using saws to prune branches or to perform other less precise tasks then a saw with less TPI should be preferred. Normally, blades with four to seven TPI should give out clean cuts.

However, the key point to note here is that there is a tradeoff between precision and speed. With high TPI, you will get more precise cuts but the finer blade will get the job done in a gradual manner. Similarly, a low TPI blade has wide gaps between the teeth which helps in tearing out more wood with a single stroke, but the end result will not be clean.

How Do You Cut Plywood by Hand?

Following are the main steps that will help you cut plywood with ease and without any tear-outs or splinters.

Step 1: Mark the Cut

Make a mark on the plywood where you want to make the cut. This will serve as a reference when you start sawing.

Step 2: Clamp the plywood

Next, clamp your plywood on a flat surface structure so that it does not waver while cutting. Wobbling plywood may cause splinters and uneven edges.

Step 3: Carve a notch

Use your thumb as a reference and make a notch on the marked line. This will create an indentation to help you start the cutting process.

Step 4: Make the cut

Place your blade on the indentation and start cutting with a smooth and periodic sawing motion. Gradually apply gentle pressure with each stroke to cut through and make sure your saw remains at an acute angle with the plywood to avoid breaking the back of it. Once you are at the end of your mark, hold the cutting portion so that it does not break off as you complete the cut.

How Do You Cut Plywood Straight with a Hand Saw?

The aforementioned four steps will help you make any kind of cut but the principal thing to consider while making a straight cut is that, you should hold your body correctly in relationship to the hand saw. Your shoulder should be aligned with your hand because if it is at angle then your saw will not point in the straight direction which will result in an angled cut.

After correcting your posture, start the saw with a pull and let the weight of the saw cut through the plywood. With your aligned body, follow along the plywood and you will end up with a nice and clean straight cut.

What Can I Use to Cut Plywood?

Woodworking tasks that involve plywood usually require it to be cut down to the right shape and size. Along with hand saw, there are many tools which can be used to cut plywood, including circular saw and jig saw.

Circular saw, as the name implies, uses a circular blade to do the sawing. However, the problem with circular saw is that, its bulky shape may block the field of vision and for beginners this might cause them to make errors while cutting a straight line. Moreover, circular saw rotates at 120 mph and if they are not used carefully then serious damage can be done.

A Jig saw is another useful tool which can be used to cut plywood. If the woodworking task is to cut the plywood into intricate designs then there is no better option than jig saw. The important thing to note with jig saw is that before you start sawing, you should check if the length of the jig saw cord is at least equal to the length of the cut you are making because a shorter cord will mean that you will not be able to complete the required cut.

Final Thoughts on Cutting Plywood with a Hand Saw

Now, having the right hand saw for the job really makes a huge difference in how easily you can get the job done. Was I able to get the job done with a hacksaw and a drywall saw, like shown in the earlier picture? Well, not very well. But once I got out the right hand saw for the cut, it went a whole lot faster – and easier.

It’s still not quite as easy as using a circular saw, but it’s sure a lot nicer than lugging out an extra tool when it’s a quick cut.

Related Questions

Can you sharpen an axe with a knife sharpener? In general, it’s not advised to use a knife sharpener for axes, as it can impact the axe geometry. Axe geometry is vital to how it cuts, so it’s best to use a sharpener that will maintain and enhance the right shape to the axe’s edge. Read more about sharpening axes – and when it’s ok to use a knife sharpener on axes here.

Can a garden hose handle hot water? Generally, garden hoses can handle water temperatures up to 140-190 degrees Fahrenheit, though those temperatures can scald human skin or plants. For more information on the kinds of water and weather temperatures that hoses can handle, make sure you read my article on hoses here.

Can a circular saw cut tile? Circular saws can generally and safely be used to cut tile, when you use the right kinds of circular saws and blades. Make sure you get the right stuff – and start by reading my research on circular saws for cutting tile here.

Cite this article as: “Can a Hand Saw Cut Plywood?” Backyard Homestead HQ, 14 April 2021, backyardhomesteadhq.com/can-a-hand-saw-cut-plywood/.

Resources

It’s important to learn from your own experience, but it’s also smart to learn from others. These are the sources used in this article and in our personal research to be more informed as homesteaders. 🙂

  • Uk.rs-online.com. 2021.A Guide to the Different Types of Hand Saws | RS Components. [Online] Available at https://uk.rs-online.com/web/generalDisplay.html?id=ideas-and-advice/hand-saws-guide.
  • Mr. Handyman. 2021.How to Cut Plywood | Mr. Handyman. [Online] Available at https://www.mrhandyman.com/tips-ideas/what-is-plywood/how-to-cut-plywood/.
  • Luoma, B., 2021.7 Best Handsaws For Plywood [Find What Works For You]. [Online] Gizmo Plans. Available at: https://www.gizmoplans.com/best-handsaws-for-plywood/.
  • Wikihow.com. 2021.3 Ways to Saw Straight -wikiHow. [Online] Available at https://www.wikihow.com/Saw-Straight.

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