Of the many tools that are available for working with metal, the hacksaw is one of the most recognizable. The hacksaw is a highly efficient cutting tool with its thin blade supported by a rectangular C-shaped handle and pistol-like grip. What follows is the overall purpose and uses that a hacksaw has to offer.
What Is a Hacksaw Used For?
The primary purpose of a hacksaw is to cut through metal and other dense materials. The thin blade allows for a relatively clean cut. Plus, the overall strength of the blade and its ability to be quickly changed out makes it a versatile, highly efficient cutting tool. It is also a tool that has many different uses in terms of the materials that can be cut.
1. Cut Steel & Galvanized Pipes
Perhaps more than any other single material, the cutting of steel and galvanized pipes are what the hacksaw was designed to do. This is because the handheld version makes cutting pipes more efficient compared to the setup times of powered versions. It requires little to no time to set up, and you can start cutting right away.
In other words, you can cut through several pipes by hand before the machine could catch up.
Of course, there are several types of power saws such as the reciprocating saw and chop saws with which you can effortlessly cut large quantities of metal pipes. But they are loud and may not be suitable if you are fixing things in an apartment or quiet neighborhood. Besides, power tools also cost more when compared to the inexpensive hacksaw.
2. Cutting Copper Pipes and Tubes
Although copper tubes are often cut using a pipe cutter, they can be cut through by a hacksaw as well.
A hacksaw is especially useful where the pipes are installed, and you don’t have enough space to use a pipe cutter. Copper is softer than steel and hence is easier to cut.
3. To Cut Plastic
Because plastic is also rather dense and lacks the natural fibers of wood, the hacksaw is ideal for cutting into that material as well.
You can cut all kinds of plastic rods, pipes, bottles, etc., very easily with a hacksaw and 18 TPI blade.
The hacksaw is an essential hand tool for a metalworking shop. You can use it to cut bar stock, angle irons, steel and aluminum channels, sheet metal, and more.
While it cannot match the power and efficiency of a horizontal bandsaw or a power hacksaw, this versatile hand tool is very useful when you need to cut something quick. It is also useful on lathe machines when parting off finished parts from the bar stock. This applies to both wood and metal lathes.
Cut Soft Metals
In addition to copper, you can also cut brass, bronze, and aluminum with your hacksaw. You may need to use a different TPI blade compared to one that is meant for steel.
Use a 14TPI blade to cut aluminum plates, bar stock, etc. Other soft metals such as brass, bronze, and copper can be cut with 18 TPI blades.
However, for thin sheets up to 1/8”, you need a 24 TPI or even a 32 TPI blade.
5. Electrician: To Cut Electrical Conduits
One of the jobs of the electrician is to run new wiring through a building or structure. This means cutting electrical conduit to size so it fits within the wall, ceiling, or other location. A hacksaw is a handy tool as it can cut through electrical conduits with relative ease. This is because the hacksaw is designed to cut tubing and pipes, so you can hold or clamp the material down and then do the cutting without having to bring expensive, heavy-powered saws.
If you decide to get a power saw for this job, I recommend you take a look at the portable bandsaw which can cut straight with clean edges.
Handymen and plumbers use the hacksaw all the time to cut PVC pipes and metal pipes. Hacksaws work quite well on PVC, given its hard nature.
Of course, the size of the PVC will play a role in whether the hacksaw is well-suited. Because the depth of cut with a hacksaw is limited by the depth of the hacksaw frame. But for most pipes associated with pluming, be they PVC or metal, a hacksaw is a useful tool.
When you want to flush cut the PVC pipes, a compact or mini hacksaw is very handy. It has the blade protruding out from the frame which is perfect for flush-cutting soft materials.
7. Cut Wrought Iron and Cast Iron
Both wrought and cast iron can be difficult for certain saws to cut, but the hacksaw allows for enough pressure and force to get through both materials quite well. You may need to change blades to something more suitable, but the hacksaw has the right design to make a good, clean cut.
8. Cutting Frozen Meat
There comes a time when you see a large section of frozen meat and wonder what tool you can use to cut it into smaller pieces. The hacksaw may not instantly come to mind, but it is far better suited compared to the typical knives you find in the kitchen. The hardness of the frozen meat makes the hacksaw the right choice.
When it comes to large-scale meat production, this is a job meant to be done on a bandsaw. However, for cutting smaller quantities of frozen meat, a hacksaw is an inexpensive option. It makes a clean cut, it is far easier to use compared to a standard knife or cleaver, and you can cut a lot of frozen meat relatively quickly.
The hacksaw is a very useful tool for general construction as it can cut a wide variety of materials. One such example is to cut the rebar.
Cutting Rebar with Hacksaw
Rebar can be quite tough, but it can be cut through with a hacksaw. In fact, a standard hacksaw offers an excellent option to cut rebar quickly and with less effort than you might think at first.
Plus, in certain situations, it may not be possible to cut rebar using machine saws, such as metal cutting chop saws. For instance, you might want to trim the rebar protruding out from the concrete. A sawzall or hackzall is perfect for this type of job, but they require power. When on the job site, the hacksaw may be the best option to cut rebar quickly.
10. Trim Bolts and Screws
One of the most annoying construction tasks is cutting down bolts and screws that stick up from the material. The hacksaw offers a simple, effective answer that is also quite quick. You can use the hacksaw in many situations where a bolt or screw that is sticking out can be cut flush to the surface.
If you have been doing any kind of metalworking, you know that we often have to cut the bolt and screws to the correct length. An angle grinder often my go-to tool in such situations, but it produces a lot of sparks.
Use a hacksaw to cut the screws and bolts to size without worrying about the sparks.
11. Cut Plexiglass to Size
While plexiglass can be fragile, it also can be easily cut with a hacksaw. This is because the blade of the hacksaw is thin and tends to leave a clean edge. You will need to support well on both sides of the plexiglass that you cut so it does not crack or break, but it can be done with a little care.
Use a fine 32 TPI blade and cut slowly to cut plexiglass or acrylic sheets without cracking them.
Admittedly, the hacksaw is not the first saw you may think of when cutting wood. A bow saw is a right tool for cutting wood.
However, I wouldn’t recommend a bowsaw or hacksaw for fine woodworking because of the smaller width of the blade. There are several different types of handsaws with wide blades that cut wood straight more efficiently.
Nonetheless, if all you have is a hacksaw, you can still use it to slice wood, plywood, MDF, particle boards, etc., thanks to blades that are designed to cut into the wood. You will need to use a 5 TPI or 10 TPI blade that is designed for wood and not metal, but they are available if you know where to shop.
How to Use a Hacksaw to Cut Metal & Plastic?
A hacksaw is rather intuitive to use, but it helps to have some instruction so that you can make clean cuts using this tool.
Step-1: Choose the Right Blade
Before you start cutting, is the blade you are using right for the metal that is to be cut? Double check to ensure that it is. Most standard HSS hacksaw blades will cut through metal and plastic. But be sure you have the blade with the right TPI (Teeth Per Inch).
- An 18 TPI hacksaw blade is good for general purposes.
- Use a 24 TPI blade to cut tough steel, screws, etc.
- Get a 32 TPI hacksaw blade for cutting thin sections and sheet goods.
Step-2: Install the Hacksaw Blade
To install the hacksaw blade on the frame, use the two holes on either end of the blade. The frame has pins onto which you can hook the blade.
The direction of the hacksaw blade should be in the direction of cutting. Generally, the hacksaw is designed for push cuts. Hence, the blade direction should be such that the cutting teeth is pointing forward (away from you). Most manufacturers have this information marked on the blade itself.
In the case where you want to utilize pull cuts, reverse the blade to point towards the handle.
Step-3: Blade Tension
You can set the tension of the blade with the handle. Once the blade is in place, rotate the wing nut at the front end with your hand to give it maximum tension. This will provide enough tension to make the blade strong and true, so it makes a clean cut.
Do not use hand tools such as a plier or wrench to tighten the blade as you may end up breaking the blade.
Insufficient tension is the most probable cause of blade breakage during cutting. Here the blade can flex, causing it to move during cutting and will result in getting stuck between the cut walls or breakage.
Step-4: Clamp the Workpiece
Be sure the metal you are cutting is clamped to the surface. Use a bench vise or clamps to secure the workpiece for best results. Provide adequate room for the blade and to move your arms so that it is a long, clean cut.
In the case where a clamping device is not available, you could keep the workpiece on a sturdy surface and use your knee to push it down.
Step-5: Cutting Stroke
The hacksaw cuts on the forward stroke, the return stroke is known as the idle stroke. You’ll want to keep both the forward and backward motions smooth but apply force towards down when pushing forward.
Use the Full Length
A mistake that novice users often make is, using only a few inches in the center of the blade. If you do this, you are underutilizing the hacksaw’s cutting ability and need to push a lot more strokes than required.
You should push the blade to the full-length stroke at a steady speed to get a clean cut and no faster. It will take a little time to find your rhythm, but when you do, the results will be smooth with less time needed to clean up the edges afterward.
Once the blade starts to get dull, you can feel it starts slipping. When that happens, you know that it is time to replace the blade. Hacksaw blades are rather inexpensive, and it makes sense to buy them in bulk.
The final step is to deburr the cut edges. You could use a benchtop belt sander, angle grinder, or simply use a metal file to clean the edges to remove the burr and smoothen the surface.
- What Is a Hacksaw Used For?
- 1. Cut Steel & Galvanized Pipes
- 2. Cutting Copper Pipes and Tubes
- 3. To Cut Plastic
- 4. Metalworking
- 5. Electrician: To Cut Electrical Conduits
- 6. Plumbers
- 7. Cut Wrought Iron and Cast Iron
- 8. Cutting Frozen Meat
- 9. Construction
- 10. Trim Bolts and Screws
- 11. Cut Plexiglass to Size
- 12. Woodworking
- How to Use a Hacksaw to Cut Metal & Plastic?