Whenever I saw by hand I end up with edges that aren't straight. This includes both the long edge and short edge, or horizontally and vertically.

What is the key to sawing straight by hand?

Update 1

I've had the same wonky results with a crosscut saw, coping saw, and backsaw.

  • 2
    What kind of saw?
    – longneck
    Feb 18 '14 at 19:00
  • 1
    assuming you're talking of a one-handed manual saw: practice the pull. you want more of the cutting action when you're pulling the saw towards you and you want to skim the surface as you're pushing the saw away. initially at least, you don't want to cut while pushing the saw away - you'll certainly see jitters.
    – alt
    Feb 18 '14 at 19:38
  • 2
    Standard European and American handsaws cut on the push, Japanese handsaws cut on the pull and Stanley Fat-Max style handsaws are a combination of the two and cut on both. While the European/American crosscut saw theoretically could cut on the pull, you expend a lot of energy trying to put all the power and force there. Experience from a lifetime of using them all... Usually the cause of curved cuts on all versions is that you've dulled the teeth on one side or your sharpening guy needs to work on technique. And there are two types, rip and crosscut. Using the wrong one = excercise in futility Feb 19 '14 at 3:27

I can think of two possibilities: 1) you're beginning your cut with the saw out of alignment, or 2) the saw teeth are not set correctly. ("Set" is the distance of the tip of each saw tooth from the center. If you look, you'll notice that the saw teeth are bent slightly away from the saw plate in alternating directions).

Let's assume you have already worked out your body geometry and you're holding the saw straight to begin with. It's possible that the saw teeth are set more on one side than the other. This can cause a saw to drift off the intended cut line.

  • 2
    All good points, another one to add is the sharpness of the saw, whether one side is dull compared to the other side. I know this would be remedied if sent to a person who tuned hand saws, but I had to mention it. A tip my old school carpenter mentor taught me was to not wrap my index finger with the rest of my fingers to grip the handle, but extend my index finger to "point" the direction I was sawing. For me, I "feel" the balance of the saw while cutting. As in, I can keep the top edge of the saw from leaning to the left or right to much. It helps keep the saw from jamming and the cut square
    – Jack
    Feb 19 '14 at 3:35


There's just so many variables:

  • type of saw (fine, rip, cross-cut, pull..)
  • condition of saw (are teeth dull, or sharp, is handle loose,..)
  • your posture, stance
  • your grasp of saw
  • type of wood
  • work surface (e.g. is it level in relation to where you're standing)
  • lighting
  • fatigue

In the end, IMHO, a lot of it comes down to practice and getting a "feel" of how the wood and the saw respond to one another on each stroke.


If possible, clamp a metal straight edge to the inside of the cut line to guide the saw. If your cut curves, it will curve away from the piece.


Watch the reflection of the wood on the saw blade, to keep the blade perpendicular; if that is what you are trying to do. If you can't see the reflection on the saw blade, then get a new saw, or polish yours up. Rusty saws don't cut well.

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