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PHOTO: Daniel Johnson
During a recent farm construction project, I needed to cut a piece of metal conduit in half. I have the feeling that if you asked a typical non-farmer, non-carpenter how you might cut through a strong metal pipe, most would have no definite idea how it’s done, and they might even be surprised that it can be accomplished with a simple little hand tool called a hacksaw.
If you don’t already own one, I strongly encourage you to remedy the situation. I’m a big fan of hand tools in general and have plenty of different kinds of saws, but a hacksaw is quite different from what you might typically envision when you hear the word “saw.”
The biggest difference? A hacksaw is designed to cut through metal. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be used on other materials—actually, it works just fine on wood and plastic too—but the hacksaw has earned its place in tool chests across the country for its ability to slice through metal. How does it accomplish this seemingly difficult task while requiring nothing but the power behind your own hands?
The secret lies in the design of the blade. Whereas the teeth of many saws are quite prominent, if you quickly glance from a distance at a hacksaw, you’d be hard-pressed to notice any teeth at all. The size and number of teeth varies, of course, but the teeth are generally very small and numerous—from 14 to 32 teeth per inch.
Furthermore, the teeth on a hacksaw blade are designed to cut in just one direction, so don’t expect to use this tool with quite the same easy (and productive) back-and-forth cutting action of a regular saw. The teeth usually face forward and cut as you push on the blade; pulling back won’t produce a cut.
Another difference is that hacksaw blades are removable and replaceable. A typical hacksaw blade is 12 inches long, with both ends attached to the frame of the saw. This is different than the blade of a typical saw, which is attached to the handle at only one end. A benefit of this two-connection approach is that it puts the blade under tension, giving it a rigidity that is beneficial for the fine, delicate work of cutting through metal.
Needless to say, if you have a passion for DIY projects and engage in carpentry projects on a regular basis, you’ll find a hacksaw to be an invaluable tool. Cutting a piece of metal conduit in half is just one small example of the many ways you can use a hacksaw. Give it some thought, and I’m sure you’ll quickly come up with a half-dozen projects where you can use it. Think outside the box—for example, hacksaws are commonly used by plumbers for cutting pipes, and while you may or may not have an interest in DIY plumbing, it shows you the versatility that a hacksaw can offer.