Hand Saws: Not just for the shop….

Over the past couple of weeks, my wife and I have begun the first of many home remodeling projects on our modest two bedroom ranch. And like any willing woodworker, I relish the opportunity to take my hard-earned skills from the shop and apply them to the home and beyond. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to crack the whip on my new bride and flip the otherwise skewed power dynamic by playing foreman. :)

We decided that the first of our projects should be removing a section of the wall dividing our kitchen from our living room and installing a bar top style eating area.

So when I first told my wife that our goal was to complete this entire project —which includes building two temporary support walls, removing a large section of the main load bearing wall, and framing in a new header and rough opening for the bar top—with only the use of meat powered tools, she thought I was crazy. (Actually, my wife already thinks I’m crazy…but this further confirmed the previous assumption)

As demolition and framing got under way, however, she quickly saw (no pun intended) that I wasn’t completely off the reservation. And further, she even enjoyed some of the work.

I’m happy to report that the only use of a power tool was when I had to whip out the Sawzall to cut back about two dozen protruding nails from a stud that I couldn’t access. Not too bad!

Here’s a shot of me cutting down some studs (which will become cripples for the new half-wall) with my trusty 20 inch panel saw…

Anyway, the most fun part of this whole project was framing in the new wall…who doesn’t like cutting 2x4s with a hand saw?!?!?

If you’re new to hand saws and want to wade into the waters slowly, then I can think of no better first project then building with construction grade lumber. Soft, white pine boards cut like a song with even the worst tools…never mind if you’ve got a half-way decent cc saw and a proper saw bench. Pure Zen baby!

I know what you’re thinking…this sounds like real work man! And it is…but what sweet work, at that! The cool breeze….the soft zzzzzzzrrrrip, zzzzzzzrip, zzzzzzzzrip of the saw cutting through the pine….no cords, no 80 decibel squeal from a power saw, no cloud of dust blowing back into your face when the wind changes….just peaceful, satisfying work. And one of the coolest things about doing work like this with hand saws is that its like practice for your woodworking without the pressure of furniture grade accuracy.

So, I always mark my 2×4 cuts on two faces….it makes it much easier to ensure an accurate cross cut….square and plumb….

And you can see here how I brace the work with my body…the thrust of my downward stroke pushes the board into the kneecap of my right leg and my left knee and left hand hold the board down on the bench…

And here’s a shot halfway through the day…all that’s left is to double up the new cripple studs and the framing is done. You can also see the old fashioned balloon framing and brick and mortar fire blocking in the open stud walls….

Damn, this was a good day!

-Matt  :)

2 Responses to “Hand Saws: Not just for the shop….”

  1. Richard Darjes says:

    I framed up our basement using a toolbox sized Stanley Shark saw 15 years ago. That was where I really learned to use a handsaw. I did it for exactly the same reasons you did. I couldn’t see filling the basement with sawdust using a power saw, especially since I had to work around all the “stuff” we already had in the basement. You have a great blog!

  2. Corey M says:

    Matt, great blog, I’ve really enjoyed reading it over the last few weeks since I “discovered” it. Anyway, my reason for commenting is that I inherited a “nail saw” from my grandpa, and I think you need one of these bad boys. It’s got fine teeth like a hack saw, but the saw plate is like 2 1/2″ tapered to 2″ and stiff. I’ve never used it, but I’m not as hand saw inclined as you are. Now, I’ll have to give it a shot and see how it works. Keep it up.


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