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What is a Hacksaw?

M.C. Huguelet
Updated May 17, 2024
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A hacksaw is a handheld tool used to cut through materials like plastic tubing and metal pipes. Its cutting mechanism is provided by removable blades which feature sharp teeth along their outer edge. Before using a hacksaw, it is important to understand how the tool works, as failure to do so can lead to broken blades, wasted materials, and even injury.

In most cases, a hacksaw consists of a metal frame that resembles a downward-facing U. A handle of plastic, wood, or metal is typically affixed to one end of the frame. The frame’s ends feature adjustable pegs that can be tightened to secure a blade in place, and loosened to remove it.

Hacksaw blades are long, thin strips of hardened steel that feature a row of teeth along their cutting edge. Each end of the blade is punched with a small hole that fits onto the saw frame’s pegs. Most blades range in length from ten to 12 inches (25.4 to 30.48 cm), although six-inch (15.24 cm) blades can be purchased to fit smaller hacksaw models.

The number of teeth on a blade can also vary. This figure is expressed as teeth per inch (TPI). Most hacksaw blades have a tooth distribution that ranges from 14 to 32 TPI. Tool experts recommend that, while cutting, at least two teeth should be in contact with the material being cut at all times. Thus blades with a higher TPI are best suited to small, thin materials, while those with a low TPI are useful for materials that are large or thick.

When cutting with a hacksaw, the user should first select an appropriate blade and, using the blade pegs, fasten it onto the saw’s frame. The object to be cut should be secured in place, ideally with a vise or similar device. To begin sawing, the user should center the tool’s teeth on the cutting target. He should then make long back and forth strokes with the saw, using slight pressure if necessary, until the desired cut has been achieved.

To avoid broken tools, wasted material, and injury, hacksaw users should follow a few basic operating principles. First, all body parts should be kept away from the saw’s blade while in use. Further, the item being sawed should be firmly secured into place to prevent it from slipping and potentially striking or cutting the user. Finally, to prevent breakage, saw blades should be oiled before use and thoroughly cleaned afterward.

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M.C. Huguelet
By M.C. Huguelet
Cate Huguelet, a Chicago-based freelance writer with a passion for storytelling, crafts engaging content for a wide range of publications, including About Mechanics. With degrees in Writing and English, she brings a unique perspective and a commitment to clean, precise copy that resonates with readers. Her ability to understand and connect with audiences makes her a valuable asset to any content creation team.
Discussion Comments
By Jacques6 — On Jul 16, 2011

@zeak4hands - I only have a mini hacksaw, but I use it for metal and plastic. I do a lot of 3D artwork so having a hacksaw makes cutting out complicated shapes a snap.

If you're cutting smaller piping, you can do what I do. I strap it to a flat board -- like a 2x4 -- with either duct tape or a belt as tight as I can. It holds it still and I don't have to sit on it. I use a lot of dowel in my work and I always duct tape it down to cut it.

Hope this helps!

By Calvin77 — On Jul 15, 2011

@zeak4hands - You might try using an actual pipe cutter. They're not as versatile as a hacksaw, but they get the job done. Pipe cutters work for both metal and plastic.

There is an adjustable pipe clamp out there by H&M. It's a little expensive, but if you do a lot of pipe cutting -- it might be worth the cost.

You also might try changing your hacksaw's blade. The slipping might be just because the blade is too dull.

By amsden2000 — On Jul 15, 2011

@Zeak4hands - I've tried the sitting-on-it technique too! I don't cut piping with my hacksaw, but plenty of boards. C-clamps are good for holding whatever you're cutting still -- but I don't know if that would work on piping since it's rounded.

You might try a Bessey H pipe clamp. They aren't too pricey, but you have to get different ones for each size of piping. They aren't adjustable. It's better than having the blade slip around and it gives you a flat edge to line the saw up with.

By zeak4hands — On Jul 14, 2011

If anybody else is going to use their hacksaw to cut metal piping, make sure you hold it down correctly. Since the piping is round, I've had the blade slip up. Even when I'm cutting plastic piping -- the blade can still slip around all over the place.

As silly as it sounds, I usually sit on one side of the piping to hold it still while I cut it. It keeps it in place and I can still press as hard as I need to cut it. It's a pain in the butt -- figuratively and literally -- but it works.

M.C. Huguelet
M.C. Huguelet
Cate Huguelet, a Chicago-based freelance writer with a passion for storytelling, crafts engaging content for a wide...
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