Cutting metal uses the same principle as cutting wood. However, the differences are in the type of blades that are used. Metal is denser, stronger, and often harder than wood, so it will need a special type of blade and saw for cutting purposes.
If you take a look at the list of power saws, you can find that many of them are capable of cutting metal as well. But how about hand saws? Can you use a handsaw for metal cutting?
Yes. You can!
What follows are the most common types of hand saws used for cutting metal.
Metal Cutting Hacksaw
The hacksaw is the primary hand saw for cutting metal. In addition to steel, hacksaws are used to cut a wide variety of metals such as aluminum, copper, brass, and more. The hacksaw itself is instantly recognizable because of its unique design.
The blade of a hacksaw is flat, narrow, and straight with holes at both ends. It is anchored at the base of the front part of the handle which is shaped like a pistol grip. At the top of the handle is a C-frame bracket that extends for about a foot or so before curving downward to anchor the front part of the blade. In some models, the hacksaw frame is adjustable to allow for different lengths of blades to be used.
A hacksaw can be used for cutting metal, wood, plastic, etc. You just need to choose the right blade according to the material to be cut.
For metal cutting, I recommend getting an HSS blade with a minimum 14 TPI (Teeth Per Inch) or above. Use a hacksaw blade with a smaller TPI for soft metals such as aluminum and brass. For mild steel go with 18TPI and to cut tough tool steels, use a 32 TPI blade.
You should adjust the wing nut at the front to get sufficient blade tension. Because of its design, the hacksaw is perfect for cutting most types of metal. The blades can be changed out quickly, and the clearance provided by the bracket allows for deeper cutting when needed. The hacksaw is also lightweight and easy to use.
As the name suggests, this is a smaller version of the standard hacksaw. However, there are important design differences that separate the mini version from the standard hacksaw.
First, the mini hacksaw (also known as compact hack saw) normally has a straight handle such as you may find on a knife. This is starkly different than the pistol grip of the standard hacksaw.
Second, the bracket on top only extends partway as it curves down to the midway point of the blade where it is anchored. That means that the mini hacksaw is secured at the halfway to two-thirds point of the blade and not at the end.
This unique design with an extended blade allows you to use it for flush cutting.
This is a saw designed to be used with one hand, although you could grip the top of the bracket for smaller jobs. The result is that the mini hacksaw is designed for jobs that are smaller compared to what the hacksaw can do.
The midpoint anchor allows for more force to be delivered when sawing small workpiece, but it also limits the depths to which the blade can be driven.
Razor Saw for Metal Cutting
The razor saw has a straight handle and a long, rectangular blade that stretches out from 6″ to 10″ with most models. If you have never seen a razor saw, you may not recognize it as a saw at all. This cutting tool looks like a bigger version of the straight-edge shaver that barbers often use. But the saw itself is more akin to a backsaw thanks to the thick spine that supports the blade.
The razor saw is meant for wood and plastic but can also be used to cut softer metals such as copper and brass. You’ll often find this saw used for balsa wood because it leaves behind a smooth edge. However, it is not well-suited for harder or thicker metals because of its design.
You’ll find the razor saw used by woodworkers and hobbyists who need a smaller saw to cut soft metals. Get a metal cutting razor saw blade with fine pitch. Its main advantage is the smooth edge it leaves which means less sanding or grinding.
Japanese Folding Saw
Folding saws are a popular tool among backpackers and bus crafters because of its excellent ability to cut tree branches and wood easily. But do you know that you can get this saw with metal cutting blades?
This unique saw does fold into its handle, much like a camping knife. This not only makes it easy to store but also to carry onto the job site.
This type of saw has a long, slightly curved handle that holds the long, slightly curved blade which adds to its inherent strength. A screw at the center is the pivot point for the blade which can be locked into place either while folded or fully extended.
This type of saw is more associated with wood compared to metal. But it can be used on softer metals when you need to create a quick cut. However, because of its teeth, the cut will not be smooth, so you will have to grind the edges. The Japanese folding saw is pretty handy for demolition efforts where the smoothness of the cut does not matter. It is easy to use, carry, and store which makes it a great saw to have for quick and dirty cutting jobs.
At first glance, the coping saw may look like the standard hacksaw. The overall design is roughly the same with three important exceptions.
- Straight Handle instead of a Pistol Grip
- Very Thin Blade
- C-Shaped Bracket
Although not as popular compared to the hacksaw, the coping saw is arguably the most versatile of all saws that cut metal. The thin metal blade is quite flexible, but also very strong, thanks to the tension exerted by the frame. By using a metal cutting blade the coping saw can cut through steel just like it can wood, bamboo, plywood, and many other materials. You can cut through nails, bolts, and other metal objects with relative ease thanks to the strength of the blade.
In addition, the deep C-bracket allows you to cut far deeper compared to the hacksaw. The downside is that the blade of the coping saw is not all that long, often 4″ to 6″, but you can use it to cut through pipes, brackets, and many other objects.
It works best for workpieces with thin cross sections.
The jeweler’s saw looks like a cross between a hacksaw and a coping saw. The straight handle and thin blade are akin to the coping saw. While the adjustable frame and rectangular shape is more like the hacksaw. You can easily adjust the length of the bracket to fit different size blades. In fact, many jeweler’s saws come with different blade lengths.
As the name suggests, this is the type of saw that jewelers will use to cut metal and some types of gems. However, it is also quite handy to use when cutting other materials such as wood, plastic, and more. Because it can change size easily to fit different types of blades, this is one of the more versatile saws around.
As good as the jeweler’s saw is, its cut capacity is not quite at the level you might want when compared to either the coping saw or hacksaw. But if you need a saw that can cut relatively smaller pieces of metal, then the jeweler’s saw may be the perfect choice especially if you are working with different materials.
Handy Saw (Keyhole Saw)
The handy saw or the keyhole saw is one of the simplest of all hand saws.
The handy saw is really just that, designed for one-hand use. This means for small materials such as thin pipes or pieces of metal it is the perfect saw to use.
It has a pistol grip and a single blade that is normally 6″ to 7″ long. In fact, the blade can be compared to the barrel which completes the pistol imagery that this saw creates. It is designed to cut through most metal and wood, although because of the force application it is not as efficient compared to the hacksaw or coping saw. When you want to cut wood or if the blade is dull you can replace the blade easily.
Its narrow tip allows you to insert the blade into a hole to cut out internal shapes easily. The blades are easy to change, and it is a great, portable saw for small jobs.
While this type of jab saw is generally for making holes in drywall, with the right blade it can cut through metal as well. It looks like a knife with the blades being interchangeable.
The biggest advantage of this saw is that is designed to work with reciprocating saw blades. These blades are made of bi-metal or HSS and are readily available in different sizes. The bi-metal blades with flexible body and hard cutting teeth are designed to go through metal such as thick pipes, nails, and metal plates easily.
What makes this saw so versatile is the different types of blades available. You can choose blades that are designed for metal or drywall. The round, rubber grip on the handle makes this type of saw quite ergonomic and allows you to cut in tight spaces as well.
While not as strong as a hacksaw, the 3-in-1 saw is quite good at cutting through most pieces of metal. Plus, it is small and easy to carry to your next job.
This is a combination of hacksaw, crosscut saw, and pruning saw.
You are able to attach the frame and replace the blades on to the handle to suit your needs. I don’t find this particularly useful since it is not steady and strong as a dedicated hand saw. It would make sense for a home user who are occasionally cutting metal and wood for some home improvement work.
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