Hacksaw vs. Handsaw. What’s the Difference?

The hacksaw and handsaws are hand tools you can use to cut wood, plastic, metal, etc. So, how are they different?

Let’s find out.

While a hacksaw will fall under the broad classification of hand saw, the term handsaw usually refers to woodworking saws.

For untrained eyes, the similarities between a hacksaw and a handsaw are quite apparent. Both are one-handed saws that can be used to cut a variety of materials.

But there are important differences in terms of design, shape, blade, and applications. Identifying these key differences will help you choose the right one for the task at hand and understand their advantages and limitations.

Difference Between Hacksaw and Handsaw

Hacksaw vs Handsaw

Shape & Design

Although similar in terms of size and general appearance, there are considerable differences in terms of the design between hacksaws and handsaws.

  • Hacksaw: A hacksaw uses a C-shaped frame to hold removable blades. This allows for switching between different blades that can cut through different materials, although metal is the most common type.
    The interchangeable nature of the blades means you can have several on hand when the teeth are dull or the blade breaks.
  • Handsaw: The handsaw is a single, long, narrow blade that generally has larger teeth compared to most blades used for a hacksaw.
    The design is straightforward, as the blade is directly attached to the handle. This allows for ease of use, but the blade itself is not interchangeable as with a hacksaw.

Hands holding a hacksaw and a handsaw.
It should be noted that handsaw blades can be removed even though they are attached to the handle. However, unlike the metal cutting hacksaw, you don’t need to replace the wood handsaw blade often since the blade won’t get dull easily.
Since obtaining handsaw blades is not easy, most people will either sharpen their dull teeth or purchase a new handsaw.

Type of Blade & Teeth

The blade type and the number of teeth vastly differ between the blades that are used for both hacksaws and the type of handsaws. In general, there are a few specific differences between both types of saws.

  • Hacksaw: The hacksaw blades tend to be thin and have small, fine teeth specifically designed to cut through metal. The commonly used hacksaw blades are 18 TPI (Teeth Per Inch), 24 TPI, and 32 TPI.
    You may find variations in the size of the teeth, but for the most part, the blades themselves are designed for use on metal.
  • A hacksaw blade fixed on frame

  • Handsaw: Hand saw blades are wider and primarily designed to cut through wood. The teeth are also coarser with larger teeth and deeper gullets.
    They also come in different shapes depending on the specific type of blade and saw, such as the rip saw vs. crosscut saw. This means that some blades are designed for cutting along the grain, while others are designed for cutting across the grain.

A hacksaw and three handsaws
Overall, handsaw blades are wider and generally make larger cuts compared to hacksaws. On the other hand, you can change out the blades on a hacksaw for cutting different materials.

Cutting Applications

The major difference in terms of cutting applications is the material that hacksaws and handsaws are most used to cut through.

  • Hacksaw Uses: Hacksaws are primarily used to cut through metal, hard plastics, and similar materials. Fine, sharp teeth are perfect for making cuts into hard or dense materials.
    See the numerous uses of a hacksaw to understand how handy it is.
  • Handsaw Uses: Handsaws are mostly used to cut wood. While some types of handsaws that have blades capable of cutting neatly through other materials, wood is the primary material that handsaws are designed to cut.

Of course, in an emergency, you could cut wood with a hacksaw and soft metals such as aluminum with a handsaw. But overall, that is not the best use of either type of saw.

Cutting Techniques

The techniques will rely in large part on the type of material, the intent of the cut, and the environment in which the sawing is performed. Obviously, the angle will change if you have limited space. But in general terms, each saw has its own method of being used.

  • Hacksaws: One of the biggest differences between hacksaws and handsaws is that hacksaws cut on the forward push only.
    Assuming that the workpiece is held on a vise, you would start by creating a small notch at the cut line. Position the hacksaw blade above the cutline approximately at 15 degrees with the front of the saw leaning down.
    I will repeat what my teacher used to say: “When using a hacksaw, forward stroke is cutting stroke, return stroke is idle stroke.”
  • Handsaws: The handsaw can cut forward and backward or push and pull stroke. This means that you cut the materials both when pulling and pushing the blade. This allows for faster cuts to be made.
    Start by aligning the blade in line with the cut line. Use the portion of the blade closer to the handle to create a small grove. Once the groove has sufficient depth to guide the blade, start cutting with the blade held at an angle.
    For softer woods and crosscuts, a 45-degree angle is generally the best. For harder woods, handsaws are held at a 60-degree angle which allows for more pressure to be applied to the blade.


  • Hacksaw for Stability: Since the blade is held under tension between the two ends of the frame of the hacksaw provides additional stability and control when pushing the blade forward. This allows for a more precision cut to be made into hard materials such as metal.
  • Handsaw cuts much faster; however, the open-ended design of the handsaw means that it does not have the precision found in hacksaws.
    Precision wood saws such as coping saw and Fret saws overcome this problem by incorporating a D-shaped frame.

Hacksaws and handsaws have many similarities as well. As manually powered hand tools, each is designed to saw through different materials and make its own type of cut. And while both have been replaced to a certain extent by power tools, the advantages (such as ease of use and portability) that hacksaws and handsaws bring are enough to be used today around the world in different types of jobs.