The Back Saw
By: The Working Man
The backsaw is a hand saw that is commonly used in
woodworking. This saw has a stiffened rib opposite the
cutting edge of the blade. This allows for more control and
precision while you cut, unlike some other saws. Backsaws
are used when you need more control over cuts such as when
you are making cabinets. They are, however, limited in the
depth of cut they can make. The blade's teeth are set close
together, usually with little or no set.
The origin of the backsaw is unknown but has been dated back
to the Greco/Roman time. The Dozuki from Japan is a type of
backsaw and probably has different origins than the backsaw
commonly found in the United States.
Here is a list of types of saws that are classified as backsaws:
- Dovetail Saw
- Gents or Gentleman's Saw
- Miter Saw
- Razor Saw
- Sash Saw
- Tenon Saw
The dovetail saw is used to cut dovetails such as for
cabinet drawers. It is set most often with crosscut teeth,
although some believe that ripsaw-set teeth on the blade are
more efficient. They have about fifteen teeth per inch that
are very sharp for cutting through wood. The kerf made with
this blade is narrow and the saw itself is small.
Cabinetmakers and carpenters have used the Japanese Dozuki
for centuries in Japan. The Dozuki saw is like any backsaw
except that it cuts on the pull rather than on the push.
The Gentleman's Saw or Gent's Saw is very rare. It is a
small saw like the dovetail saw. It has a handle that has a
straight length and then turns, unlike the other back saws
that have a handle that is open at one end. The origin of
the Gent's Saw is a bit murky and has some reference back to
a nineteenth century dilettante.
The Gent's Saw is used for very small work like making
instruments, doll furniture and model making. It cuts the
very small joints that are necessary for the pieces listed
The Miter saw is more often than
not called a large backsaw
and measures twenty to thirty inches (fifty-one to seventy-
six centimeters) long. It is used in a metal frame or wood
miter box. This allows it to cut specific angles in miters.
There are other types of saws that are also called miter
saws, and the hand-help miter saw has now been mostly
replace by the electric miter saw or chop saw.
The Razor saw is a small backsaw that has crosscut teeth
that are very fine. It usually has no set. People who make
model boats, trains and airplanes use this saw. The blades
are replaceable since it would be impractical to try to
sharpen such small teeth.
The Tenon saw is a medium sized backsaw that is used in the
cutting of tenons. It can also be used in a miter box like a
miter saw. The saw was given its name because it is often
used to cut tenons for mortise and tenon joinery. Tenon saws
commonly have rip saw teeth or cross cut teeth on the blades
for cutting across the wood grain. The teeth of the blade
are normally set thirteen teeth per inch and are relatively
The Sash saw was used in the eighteenth and nineteenth
century as a smaller tenon saw, especially in the
fabrication of window sashes. It is a thin and flexible saw
that can also be used to free sashes that have been painted
Backsaws can be purchased at most lumberyards or hardware
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