The Best Hand Saw for Cutting Plywood

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I like plywood for multiple reasons, but especially because of how beautiful and durable it is. It has this modern yet rustic feel, and it is cheap and widely available in most hardware stores.

If you have some plywood sheets laying around and want to create something neat, you’ll have to cut it into appropriate pieces for assembly.

While most people tend to think table saws are the only option, you probably don’t own one unless you have access to a workshop. So how do you cut your plywood?

I’ve had great experiences using a hand saw for cutting plywood, and there are a few easy methods that enable you to make precision cuts easily. I’ll get into those methods at the bottom of this article, so make sure you read it all.

But first things first — you’ll need a proper hand saw for the job. I wouldn’t consider it an essential tool for homeowners, but you should get one if you need to cut wood from time to time.

Below are my personal recommendations, coming from a family of craftsmen.

Our Top Picks – The Best Hand Saws for Plywood

SUIZAN Ryoba Pull Saw
Editor’s choice

SUIZAN Ryoba Pull Saw

  • Lightweight and easy to use
  • 15 teeth per inch results in a fine cut
  • Double-edged saw blade

The Japanese-made SUIZAN Ryoba Pull Saw has a fine blade, that enables a more precise cut.

It features a strong double-edged saw blade with 9 teeth per inch on the rip-cut edge, and 15 teeth per inch on the cross-cut edge.

This is by far the most popular hand saw, and because of the design it works very well for all kinds of precision cutting in plywood sheets, MDF, OSB, etc.

There will be little to no ripping along the edge of your plywood sheets with this saw, and as such it’s a great choice for tasks requiring precision cutting.

HAUTMEC Hardpoint HT0024-SA
Best value

HAUTMEC Hardpoint HT0024-SA

  • Available sizes: 14-inch & 20-inch
  • Handle design enables marking of 45- and 90-degree angles
  • 11 teeth per inch enables fine cutting

The HAUTMEC Hardpoint HT0024-SA enables you to make fine cuts with the durable 11 teeth per inch saw blade. It is a popular hand saw for plywood, and works great for other purposes as well.

If you’re in the market for a small hand saw, choose the 14-inch model, but if you want more efficiency, you can choose the 20-inch model.

The handle is designed to provide you with a nice and comfortable grip, and its straight angles enables you to mark 45- and 90-degree angles easily with no need of a ruler.

Spear & Jackson 9550B Traditional Brass Back Tenon Saw

Spear & Jackson 9550B Traditional Brass Back Tenon Saw

  • 14 teeth per inch means precision cutting
  • Brass back adds stability while cutting
  • Premium design – made in England

The English made Spear & Jackson 9550B Traditional Brass Back Tenon Saw is a classic hand saw, that is perfect for precision cutting of small and thin pieces of wood.

It is a general-use saw that is able to cut along and across the grain, and the brass back adds additional stability as you cut through the wood.

While this type of hand saw may not be suitable for large and thick pieces of wood, it is my personal experience that it does very well on small/thin plywood sheets, and if you want precision cuts, this is a must-have.

What to Expect With a Hand Saw

You may expect to make a cut as precise as a table saw, but although a hand saw comes close, there’s a lot of technique involved when using a hand saw.

If you’re going to create furniture using a hand saw, you may want to practice your technique a bit first, to ensure that you’re able to make cuts as precise as you need them.

Otherwise you may be able to hire a professional, and/or ask the hardware store to cut the sheets at a small extra cost.

How to Cut Plywood Perfectly With a Hand Saw

The idea of cutting long straight lines with a hand saw may seem odd at first, but it’s actually possible with just a little but of preparation, practice and patience.

There are basically 2 ways to cut plywood by hand:

  1. (Quickest option) Mark up the line you want to cut, and hold your saw in a 20-30 degree angle to prevent the edges from ripping.
  2. (Better precision) Use a jig to guide your saw blade in a straight direction, with minimal ripping.

We’ll get into details with both options below:

1. Cutting plywood by hand

This method can be used for any type of plywood, but requires a firm hand, patience and some precision.

You could use a regular cross-cut saw for this, but a tenon saw adds a bit more stability when cutting into small pieces of wood.

So here’s what you want to do:

  1. Secure the plywood sheet to your work bench (or a table) with a pair of clamps.
  2. Mark up the line you want to cut.
  3. Place your hand saw, and make the initial cut by placing your thumb and move your saw CAREFULLY against the teeth direction.
  4. Now hold your saw in the lowest angle possible, so you won’t rip the edges.
  5. Keep going, until you’re nearing the last few inches.
  6. Once you reach the last few inches, hold the piece you’re cutting off with one hand, so it won’t break off.

Below is a video showing you the process:

2. Cutting the plywood with a jig

A jig is super easy to make, and can be used many times. All you need is some straight leftover wood, such as a pair of 2×4’s or similar, some glue, a few screws, and clams.

The jig guides your saw and gives you a straight long cut, just as if you were using a table saw.

So here’s how you want to do it:

  1. Secure the plywood sheet to your work bench (or a table) with a pair of clamps.
  2. Mark up the line you want to cut.
  3. Place your jig exactly on top of the line, and fasten it with another pair of clamps.
  4. Now that your plywood sheet and jig are both properly secured, it’s time to cut.
  5. Make sure you hold your saw in a low angle, preferably between 30 to 45 degrees, but a lower angle ensures a finer cut.

That’s it! Here’s a video on how to make the jig:

Types of Hand Saws and Their TPI Ideal for Cutting Plywood

There are many types of hand saws available on the market, and they all have different advantages.

Below are some of the most popular types of hand saws, and their general purposes:

1. A Rip Saw

Rip saws can be quite long, and usually have between 4 to 7 teeth per inch. Just as the name suggests, it “rips” through the wood, will indeed rip the edges of plywood sheets if not used with utmost care.

I wouldn’t recommend this type of hand saw for plywood, unless it’s for internal/non-visible elements and you just need to cut it fast.

2. A Cross-Cut Saw

Cross-cut saws are usually a bit shorter, and have more teeth per inch of the blade. That means slower pace, but it also results in a much smoother edge and less chance of ripping the plywood.

3. A Back Saw

Back saws include mitre saws, tenon saws, dovetail saws, and other saws with a stiffening rib on top of the saw blade. It enables better control and a more precise cutting than with a more flexible saw blade, and as such it’s a good choice for thin/small piece of wood that need to be cut with precision.

They usually have more teeth per inch than other saws, and they vary greatly in length and height of the saw blade.

4. A Coping Saw

A coping saw could be used for cuts that need extra precision. It is commonly used to cut round edges, because the delicate saw blade is able to turn while you’re cutting through the wood.

It’s a great little hand saw for plywood, but can’t be used for cutting long straight lines because of the design.

The blades are interchangeable in this type of hand saw, allowing you to choose a blade that fits the job perfectly.

Teeth per Inch (TPI) – Why Is It Important?

The hand saw comprises a blade and a handle. But, its success lies on its jagged edges. Most hand saws have their teeth measuring between 1 to 32 teeth per inch (TPI).

A 1 to 7 TPI hand saw has coarse-toothed blades. Such blades cut more wood with fewer strokes. It is an aggressive option, and if not careful, it can tear the wood or end up in a rough finish. Examples of hand saws in this category include bow saws and Tajima saws.

Second, a hand saw whose TPI is above 10 has fine-toothed blades. This handy tool has shallow gullets, needing more strokes when cutting wood. Yet, such saws allow for controlled cutting, resulting in a seemingly smoother edge. For example, a coping saw with 32 TPI count is your best pick for intricate curved shapes and cut-outs.

Small Hand Saws vs. Big Hand Saws for Plywood

A hand saw’s size determines how much control you have as you cut through the plywood.

Short panel saws of 12 inches and 20 inches offer adequate control for most woodwork tasks.

But, for more significant tasks like making cabinets, opt for hand saws of 24 inches to 30 inches. They will enable more efficient cutting.