WIA11: How to Bend a Saw



At Woodworking in America I participated in the Hand Tool Olympics. It was the best darn part of the whole show, in my opinion. Truly the only place in the entire show to try out your technique and get coaching. And boy do I need coaching.

I’m a hybrid woodworker, I’ve embraced power tools now that I’m a big boy and my mommy lets me use them. But when I was a kid I was only allowed to use hand tools. When I was sneaky I’d use a handheld power tool. I haven’t crosscut or ripped by hand since I was in my early teens. Yeah, that’s my excuse.

So at the Hand Tool Olympics, I was excited to get back to work with hand tools. I did well in crosscut accuracy, but was a little slow. In the rip, I was also fairly accurate, but boy did I have problems. Not only was I bending the saw (not permanently) in the picture below, but I caused the offcut to split from the board and hit Aaron Marshall in the back. His doctor has told him to rub some dirt on the wound and keep working.

Thanks to Vic Hubbard for the photo. Not only does he do great work, he’s a great photographer.

Matt Bending a Saw

Matt Bending a Saw, Photo Courtesty of Vic Hubbard (@Tumblewood)

So, why would I post this embarassing picture? Well, I don’t know. Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment (and other things). But honestly, as Mark Hochstein and Shannon Rogers pointed out, it’s a great picture for analyzing my form. So what are some of the many things I’m doing wrong?

  1. Get that stupid badge out of the way. Can you imagine if I was going full force and caught on that badge? Even more of a hazard when using powertools.
  2. Get over the work better. My shoulder, arm, saw, and cutline should all be lined up. They aren’t. That’s why I’m reaching with the saw blade and bending it.
  3. Get a saw that fits. I’m a broad guy, but not a tall guy. My saw should fit nicely from my armpit to the tip of my hand. It looks like I am pushing too much saw in the picture.
  4. Get a bench that fits. Because I’m not tall, I’m having a hard time getting up onto that bench and lining up with the cut line. If I got up on the bench any more, my left leg would be up off the ground.*
  5. Don’t push so hard. I blame my superior genetics, physique, powerful forearms, and German “powercalves.”

*Note: Don’t get a short bench with a long saw. You’ll drive the saw into the ground and ruin it.

What tips would you give me for better sawing technique? Post them in the comments section – even you smartaleks are welcome to post.

4 thoughts on “WIA11: How to Bend a Saw

  1. Shannon

    I love this picture! Like I said on G+, more people should take pictures and better yet, video of themselves at work. Professional athletes do it all the time to work out kinks and ticks that effect their performance. I think you hit on most of the points you can derive from a still photo. This is probably a factor of the bench being the wrong height, but try to straighten out your back a bit too. The more you hunch, the more you restrict the movement of your muscles and I find it throws my line of sight off thus introducing error to the cut.

    Video will tell more as well as analysis of the cut after the fact. The biggest thing will be aligning your body properly, but video will then highlight hitch or deviation during the stroke. All that being said, if the cut is straight and plumb. Don’t worry about it. None of us saw by hand SO much that we need to obsess or efficiency or optimization of power.

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