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Nov 17, 2015

ManMade Essential Toolbox: In Praise of the Humble Hacksaw, a Seriously Good DIY Value

Each week in 2015, ManMade is sharing our picks for the essential tools we think every creative guy and DIYer needs. We've selected useful, long-lasting tools to help you accomplish a variety of projects, solve problems, and live a hands-on lifestyle that allows you to interact with and make the things you use every day. 

created at: 11/17/2015

The hacksaw, like many of our favorite tools, has gone virtually unchanged for nearly 150 years, and its basic design dates to a couple centuries before that. Its structure is simple, its purpose is clear, and it does what it's designed to do.   

Which is, of course: cut stuff. Namely metal, but also wood and plastic/PVC. For the money, it's incredibly versatile, and a must-have for woodworkers and general DIYers who occasionally have a need to cut metal for projects. Which, of course, if you make stuff, you're gonna need to. Trimming bolts and other hardware to length, cutting aluminum angle or l-stock to size, cutting PVC or metal pipes, sizing sheet goods, etc, etc, etc.

I prefer them to a tool like an angle grinder and cutting disc for crosscutting metal, as they allow for much straighter, precision cuts, and despite the physical work involved, actually end up being a lot faster than setting up a powered tool, donning safety gear, etc. Not that metal cut-off saws aren't great, but for quick, portable cuts that allow you to get back to work, nothing beats a solid $20 hacksaw. I'm not lugging anything with a power cord up a ladder or under a cabinet unless I absolutely have to. 

 

created at: 11/17/2015

A hacksaw is a basic C-shaped frame, usually designed with a pistol-style grip at one end. Modern hacksaws have screw adjusted pins that make quick work of installing and removing blades, which are a standard length of 12". Tightening the screw and closing the handle puts the blade under tension, allowing it to cut quickly with only the desired amount of flexing. 

 

created at: 11/17/2015

The real trick to using a hacksaw well: the bi-metal blade. These use a soft but high-speed steel to create a fine tooth pitch that will last against hard materials, but isn't as brittle as harder steels, preventing breakage and allowing the blade to last a great deal longer. These blades also have a gentle wave pattern rather than teeth set side-to-side. This creates the right amount of clearance for the small teeth, allowing them to stay on the line. 

In short: a bi-metal blade can cut, basically, any material soft enough to cut with a saw. 

created at: 11/17/2015

When looking for a hacksaw, your best bet is to simply buy one from a name you trust. They're not $8.00 tools, but they're not $40.00 ones either. Anything made from mostly metal in the $15.00-$25.00 range will work. Smaller saws, often called "junior hacksaws" work well in tighter spaces (say, under a sink), but if you want something small, just go for a knife-style grip "mini" or "compact" saw. 

Don't skimp here. The difference between a buy-it-for-life tool and a intro model is only a few bucks. $25 will get you a heavy-duty model that can support a variety of blades and won't tire you out. Get the one you need, and never need another. 

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