How to Sharpen a Hand Saw with 4 Easy Steps?

How to Sharpen a Hand Saw

I know the pain of struggling between an important project and suddenly when there’s a need of hand saw, it shows up dull. I’m quite guilty of sidestepping those dull looks and just carrying on with those bizarre blades. And guess what, that always lead to disappointment later.

It’s quite obvious that most of us have the very same story regarding an unsharpened hand saw blade. But what we can do to ignore such circumstances is surprisingly very simple. It only takes you a few minutes to learn how to sharpen a hand saw. This will hold back your future mishaps from ever happening.

How to Sharpen a Hand Saw: Terms to Know, Necessary Tools, Inspection, Sharpening & More…

Yes, we’ll get into the overall guide. But first, promise me you are wearing the right type of safety gear. This is something that I can’t help but always point out whenever there’s a discussion about the blades.

In the process of sharpening, you are totally exposed to blades that might counterattack. I mean it’s not too unusual of happenings where a certain person new to such sharpening chores cut themselves. So, I believe it’s always good, no wait, BEST to play it safe.

Once you are ready with protective wears, let’s make your misery of dull saw fade away.

Exercising Your Brain with Some Terms First

There are quite a few terms that you are going to meet in the process below or any other sharpening guides. I’m guessing you have quite less idea about hand saw parts and so, let me start from the basics.

Here are a few terms you ought to know before jumping into the process.

  • TPI or teeth per inch is a widely used measuring term. It usually refers to the tooth count of your hand saw.
  • PPI or points per inch is another measurement term similar to TPI. But this is not as popular as the first one.
  • Pitch is a blade deciding term for metric measurements. It is basically the gap between adjacent tooth tips.
  • Gullet carries the shaving. This is usually the valley between your hand saw’s teeth.
  • Set is a term that refers to the degree of flare. This flare is usually between alternate teeth however there are cases when it is not.
  • The kerf of a hand saw refers to resultant cut width.
  • Crosscut is a term that defines a saw tooth pattern. This is usually optimized to cut across the grain.
  • Rip is another term quite similar to crosscut. However, this usually indicates a tooth pattern for down cutting the grain.
  • The combination is a term that is utilized to refer to both the world of crisscross and rip. This is usually a pattern that can cut both down and across the grain.
  • Hardened tooth refers to a tooth that is pretty much impossible to re-sharp manually with hands. You need to do some chopping off and re-cutting new teeth on the underneath of hard section.
  • Hardness is usually calculated with Rockwell C or Rc. This is the hardness of saw blade.
  • Fleam Angles helpful for filing crosscut teeth. This is usually skew or shear.

Go Get Some Stuff

You will need following things to continue with the process. Some of these are already in your shop probably. And you would grab a few from the home improvement store or online. Let’ start with the list.

A Proper Vise

It has to be the vise if I have to choose one item of my possession that is scarce. This is a valued item that lasts super long and you probably can make a will for these. Also, you can try DIY for making these if buying seems not appropriate. Some cheek boards for gripping blade and just have them in an ideal carpentry vise. And that should do enough.

A Quality File

The most basic sort of list for sharpening can’t miss a quality file. These are a special triangular shaped file that comes with 3 corners. Now, most of the time these three corners are 60 degrees in angle. Corners of these are also quite rounded.

This shape basically helps to give a better-rounded bottom to the tooth gullet. So that there’s no tendency of cracks by the saw. You should always go for a file that matches the scale of teeth. The full face of tooth needs working well with filing a stroke. You can also think about a conventional wooden handle for these files.

Saw Set

Finally, you need to get a saw set for the whole process to work well. These are necessary for putting predictable sideways flare that is on teeth.

Have a Look Over the Saw?

  • Start by cleaning the rust from the saw blade. You can simply use a minimal sandpaper or wire brush for this step.
  • Now you need to focus on teeth a bit closer. Is the height all the same? If the answer is no, then you need to perform as a special task. This is known as jointing.
  • You start with clamping the saw into vise. Also, use some woodblocks as a backboard. This will help to keep the spine of saw strongly in place.
  • Now use a file to even out the teeth. Do so until all of them reach a uniform height. You can simply use a double-cut and smooth metal file for this job. You need to clamp them with a piece of scrap. This will help to maintain the square to saw blade.

Teeth Setting Comes Next

How to Sharpen a Hand Saw

A proper width kerf is necessary to move ahead. And so, you need to do some teeth settings. You will find that there are some teeth that are yet far to reach the proper alignment among themselves.

No matter what sharpness, they won’t be able to make even cuts. And so, you need a saw set to make this job a bit less complicated. Also, the teeth will set in a uniform way much simpler.

Usually, a saw set comes with a pair of pliers. There should be a pair of huge handles on one end. The other end holds another small pair of jaws. Finally, a pivot should be in between. You can also see there’s a spinning disk at the jaw end. By turning, it adjusts the tool traveling.

This denotes that the plunger and anvil over jaws are close to each other or vice versa. This mechanism will help to set the tooth by bending them to a precise angle that fits right as the size of saw.

You may want to set the saw without any special tool. But it’s not going to be easy. There should be bending done from the midpoint. Also, teeth should be even by the end. Bending cannot be more than half the depth of tooth. Also, both side steps should look similar.

You see, not using a proper tool will eventually miss out any of these important points. And so, it is best to go with a special tool.

To Set the Tooth with Saw Set

  • Start by adjusting the saw set. You need to do so by confirming the TPI of your saw. This could range from 4 to 16. However, with a higher number of TPI, you want to take it to a professional since they are quite complicating to handle.
  • You should start from one end of the saw. Find tooth that comes first and bents away from the tool handle. Squeeze the handles and the tooth should be set.
  • Now simply skip the next tooth. Keep on repeating the process. You should gradually follow down the saw’s length. Be sure to set over every tooth.
  • Make sure you are applying the same pressure on grip. This will later result in a more uniform look. Now simply turn the saw around. You need to do the same thing with opposite side set teeth.

Teeth Filing

For fine or coarse teeth, you will need to use the smallest files. While the larger toothed saws need a bigger size taper file. You can use the double cut file for this step.

Start by clamping the saw. Now you need to bring the blade up. Make sure they are in middle of two straight pieces from hardwood. Use them over a wood vise or sharpening holdings.

The clamping position should be holding sawblade closer to cutting edge with proper grip. This will ensure the blade is placed in a rigid position. Now simply file the teeth and even them out.

Some Maintenance to Finish it Off

After you are done with the sharpening and filing step, don’t forget some regular maintenance before storing it.

For this you should simply place tooth covers over the blade. Now simply use a lightly oiled rag to wipe the blade. It’s ready for storage. If you are using, make sure to clean and wipe again before storing it.


That was my go-to process on how to sharpen a hand saw. You need pretty minimal tools or skills for this.

It’s simple, timesaving, money-saving and also convenient. Because you don’t know when the need to sharpen your blades comes out. And on those moments, you surely don’t want to be upset over not knowing the right skills and methods.

Make sure you don’t try something too risky. If your saw has a high number of TPI, the process is going to be quite tricky. So, if you are not completely sure of doing it, contact a professional. But for the most part, you can tackle it yourself. Good Luck!

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