Getting started with cutting tools: expert tips

August 26, 2015

A successful DIY building project depends on accurate cuts to your building materials. So, keeping your cutting tools clean and sharp is incredibly important. Here are a few expert tips to keep in mind.

Getting started with cutting tools: expert tips

Using a utility knife

  • When using a utility knife, place a cutting board or a piece of scrap hardboard (or high-density fibreboard (HDF)) underneath whatever you're cutting.
  • For a straight cut, set a straightedge along the line of your cut.
  • Hold your knife securely and draw it along the straightedge in one continuous movement.
  • Make two or three passes rather than trying to cut the material in one go; the harder you have to press, the more risk there is that your knife's blade will slip off the line.
  • Always cut against the side of the straightedge that runs along the waste side of your board.

Using a handsaw

  • When you're working with a handsaw, whatever you're cutting must be held securely.
  • To cut a piece of wood to length, hold it securely against a bench hook or stops, or clamp it onto your workbench.
  • Place the thumb of your free hand next to the cutting line to guide the saw blade so it will cut just on the waste side of your line, and draw it towards you at about 45 degrees to start the cut.
  • Once the saw teeth begin to bite, move your free hand away and start to cut with light but firm forward strokes.
  • Start to flatten out the angle of your handsaw as your cut progresses.
  • Complete your cut with gentle strokes, holding your handsaw almost level with the timber surface, to avoid splitting the underside of the wood.

Extra tips on how to hold a handsaw

  • Instead of gripping your handsaw's handle with all four fingers around it, extend your index finger and place it against the handle as though you were pointing along the saw blade.
  • This way, you'll have better control and cut a straighter, truer line.

Using a hacksaw

  • Fit the hacksaw blade with the points of the teeth facing away from the handle, so it will cut on the forward stroke.
  • Secure the workpiece in the jaws of your workbench, especially when cutting sections of thin metal.
  • Start the cut on the waste side of your marked line, using masking tape as a cutting guide.
  • Draw the blade towards you two or three times to start, slowly, so that the blade doesn't jump out of the cut.
  • Complete the cut with a few gentle forward strokes.

Keeping your hacksaw teeth clean

  • If you're cutting soft metals with a hacksaw, the saw's teeth will quickly get clogged.
  • Use a blade with bigger teeth, slow down your strokes (so the metal doesn't melt) and push down more gently on the saw to avoid clogged teeth.

The right blade

  • Two kinds of circular saw blades will see you through just about any job.
  • The first should be a general-purpose combination blade with 20 to 24 teeth.
  • The other should be a fine cutting blade with about 40 teeth (making it ideal for crosscutting).
  • Both blades should be carbide-tipped.

How dull?

  • Here's how to tell if your saw is dull before you use it: check the teeth closely to see if the points are rounded and the cutting edges show wear.
  • Use a magnifying glass to inspect fine-tooth saws.
  • If your saw appears dull, take it to an expert for resharpening.

Keep these expert tips in mind and you'll be better able to keep your cutting tools clean and sharp. That way, your cuts will be cleaner and more accurate.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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