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The last video post, begins with ripping stock for the seat slats.

I’m ripping the wood so I’m using a rip saw.

To be specific, I’m using a Disston D-18, 26-in. rip saw filed 5 tpi (teeth per inch)

If I was cross cutting the stock, meaning I’m sawing across the grain direction, I would use a cross cut saw.

What’s the difference between the two?

Basically, the tooth geometry.

One saw, the rip, cuts better ‘along’ the grain, while the other, cross-cut, cuts a little cleaner ‘across’ the grain.

I teach wood working classes about twice a day, six days a week,

and usually get asked the following question more than once.

“If you only had one saw, what would it be?”

Let’s take a closer look.

Disston D-18. This saw belonged to my grand uncle, Johnny Pier

Disston D-18.
This saw belonged to my grand uncle, Johnny Pier



People new to wood working have some hard choices to make.

Tools aren’t cheap and you’d like to know what the essentials really are.

Ask 100 wood workers and you’ll get 100 answers.

The good news is, when you’re just getting started in the ‘hand tool only‘ wood shop,

you can get by with a rip saw to rough dimension stock.

It sounds funny, but a rip saw will cut across wood grain without any difficulty.

You’ll be left with a jagged edge, but it’ll cut.

Now the flip side of that coin is a cross cut saw is painfully slow when ripping, or, sawing along the wood grain.

I’m not going into saw tooth geometry in this post, but if you’re interested in learning more,

Mark Harrell wrote a great piece about saw tooth geometry and sharpening.

You’ll find it here on the Bad Axe website.



So, if you can cross cut with a rip saw, why bother ever getting a dedicated cross cut saw?

Well the truth is, the rip saw doesn’t leave a very clean edge after cross cutting.

That’s not the end of the world.

The beginner can simply leave a little more waste material when laying out parts.

You can plane away the access with a hand plane until you have a clean edge.

That said, you’ll eventually want to pick up a cross cut saw.

This will save you from the additional steps of planing away any extra waste.



The same is true for back-saws.

The rip tooth will get you by in a pinch.

That said, due to the nature of the back-saw, when you’re using them you’re probably sawing joinery,

so leaving extra waste may not be a very practical choice.

The moral of the story?

You can get by with only a rip saw when starting out in wood working, but you’ll soon want a cross cut saw as well.

Both in a panel and back saw formation.

These four saws will go a long, long way if you shop smart and purchase quality tools.

I recommend students start with a 5 tpi rip saw, (and eventually) an 8tpi cross cut panel saw.

As for back saws, I’d go with a rip saw around 12 tpi and then a 14 or 15 tpi cross cut.

There are many choices and manufacturers with as many saw sizes and choices to choose from.

Do your homework and buy the best you can afford.

Take a wood working class or visit a wood show to try them before you buy.


If you had to choose one hand saw- what would it be?

Join the conversation below.