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What is a Back Saw?

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  • Written By: Dantzel Cenatiempo
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 26 October 2016
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The back saw is a cutting tool with a strip of steel or brass running along the spine of its blade; this area is known as the "back." The weight of its back and its sharp, serrated teeth make the back saw blade good for cutting wood. In fact, back saws are typically used to create joints or grooves in wood. They make a great choice for carpentry and woodworking enthusiasts because they are versatile, efficient, and also tend to be smaller than a table saw.

Technically, back saws fall into the handsaw category. Like handsaws, their design consists of a long piece of serrated metal with a handle at one end. This basic design is what most people think of when they picture a saw. Back saws, however, are a miniature version of the classic handsaw. Their reinforced blades will typically measure anywhere from 8 to 14 inches (20.3 to 35.5 cm) long with 11-20 serrated teeth per inch.

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Back saws should always be used with a clamp or vice. To cut joints in the wood, a carpenter or woodworker will first ensure that his project is firmly clamped down, and then grasp the handle of the back saw with his index finger running along the top of the blade for added support. The first cuts should be made softly, with the blade sweeping away from the body. After a groove has been established, it becomes easier to move back and forth in the traditional sawing motion.

Due to its size and shape, the back saw is best suited for cutting joints and tenons. There are actually two specialized versions of the back saw that were developed around these purposes. The more common tenon saw makes general cuts and larger joints. The dovetail saw, as its name suggests, is intended for making the small cuts necessary to create a dovetail joint.

Back saws are operated manually, so taking care of this tool involves getting it sharpened on a regular basis. Those small, sharp teeth need to be kept in prime condition. Otherwise, the back saw’s cuts can become rough and irregular, and the teeth may even get stuck in the wood rather than biting through it. Safety hazards can arise anytime a saw is allowed to become dull, and this is especially true of handsaws, which can slip or stick and cause injury.

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