As a blacksmith, I use a hacksaw to cut mild steel all the time. It’s great for times when I don’t have access to my angle grinder or cold saw. It’s also great for those folks that are just starting to fill out their shop with tools and don’t have access to more expensive machinery.
It’s much cheaper for me to buy mild steel in lengths of 6 feet or more, as such, being able to cut this down to a more manageable length is a requirement for my daily work. While it’s a relatively simple tool, it’s still worthwhile to do a bit of research and buy the best hacksaw possible.
What To Consider When Buying A Hacksaw
Hacksaws are simple tools. You only have to worry about the blade and the frame.
Best Hacksaw Frame
More than anything else, you will want a hacksaw with a rigid frame that will hold the blade in place without it warping or tilting during the cut. A poor frame will cause crooked cuts and will also lengthen the cut time. It may be tempting to buy a cheap aluminum frame, but I would recommend a frame made out of a lightweight steel.
Which brings me to my next topic: how heavy should the frame be? Most people recommend a light frame, and for a general purpose tool this is the correct response. A light frame is better for situations when you have to cut something from a bad angle or with poor ergonomics.
But there are situations where a heavy frame is better. In fact, for cutting mild steel bars I prefer a heavier frame, as it is possible for me to use the weight of the frame to cut faster. If you use good cutting technique – more on that later – a heavy frame becomes your friend rather than your enemy. If you use a bad cutting technique, a heavy frame will make you tired and sore.
If you are in doubt, buy a lightweight one. A heavy frame is only useful in situations where you have complete control over your workspace – this is not always possible, especially on construction sites.
Best Hacksaw Blade
Don’t buy a high quality frame and then put cheap blades on it. If you are a blacksmith like me, you will be cutting STEEL so you are going to want good blades. Good blades cut faster and straighter. You will get your money’s worth by saving yourself time and frustration.
Most good blades made today are made bimetal blades. This just means they use two different types of metals for the blades. Most blades today use high speed steel for the teeth; the teeth are then electron beam welded onto a softer but stronger spine. Constructing the blades this way allows you to have the durability of the high speed steel without brittleness.
Side note: when they first started making hack saw blades with high speed steel, they originally tried having the entire blade be made out of this material. These blades were too brittle for most work and often fractured mid cut.
Best TPI For A Hacksaw
TPI stands for teeth per inch. Hacksaw blades are most commonly found in the following sizes:
- 14 TPI
- 18 TPI
- 24 TPI
- 32 TPI
The lower the number the fewer the teeth. The fewer the teeth, the coarser the cut. Fewer teeth also means bigger teeth, which means more material gets removed with each cut. For cutting really thin material you will want a higher tpi, as low tpi blades will get “caught” during the cut. Really thick material will want a lower TPI.
I use 14 for my shop, as I mostly cut thick steel bars, but you may want a higher TPI blade. I wish I could provide exact numbers for other materials, but I see A LOT of conflicting info on this topic, and I don’t want to give misinformation.
So What Is The Best Hacksaw?
I use a hacksaw made by bahco – a swedish company – that is specifically made for professionals. If you want a cheap $20 hacksaw for a one off project I completely understand, but I use my hacksaw all the time and I didn’t have the patience for a cheaper model. This thing is STURDY, and it holds the blade straight under high tension. I can consistently make clean accurate cuts with this blade. It is a more expensive option, but it was worth every penny for the headache it has saved me.
It also has a single touch spring loaded blade release mechanism which allows for much faster blade changes.This has saved me time on two fronts. First, it makes changing the blades a breeze – you don’t have to mess with some obnoxious screw for 5 minutes with this hacksaw. Secondly, because changing blades is so quick, I spend less time cutting with dull blades as I no longer procrastinate changing blades – it’s that easy now.
One thing to note: if you buy this hacksaw, it comes with a 24 tpi blade. I swap them out with the lower tpi blade shown below:
Best 14 TPI Hacksaw Blade
There isn’t too much to say here. They come in packs of 10 bimetal blades. They work well and I change them when they get dull.
How To Use A Hacksaw
You don’t want to cut with just your arm strength as your arms are weak compared to the muscles in your chest and back. So instead of focusing on extending and contracting your arms, you should instead keep your arms fairly loose and start each cutting movement with a big powerful movement by slightly turning your body as opposed to starting the movement by bending/extending your arm. It’s hard to describe with words, but if you do this correctly you should cut through most stock without much effort. I will try and upload a gif of the proper technique sometime in the future.
There is also the issue of how close you should stand to the blade/cut. When using a hacksaw you are trying to balance two opposing forces:
- You are stronger with your arms closer to your body
- You don’t want the cutting blade too close to your body
This really should be common sense, but I have seen some wacky cutting techniques before where people are cutting with their arms extended straight out. And I have seen others cut with the blade so close to their belly that it damn near gave me a heart attack watching them work.
Hacksaws are great tools. They are more versatile than cold saws and other cutting equipment, and they are very cheap compared to the alternatives. They are one of the first tools a beginning metal worker should buy, and they still provide value to experience builders. All in all they are a worthy tool to have in your shop!