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Choosing the correct hacksaw blade

How to choose a hacksaw blade

Hand Tools

Choosing the correct hacksaw blade

Choosing the correct hacksaw blade

By using the appropriate TPI hacksaw blade; your cuts will be quicker, cleaner, and more accurate.

There are a few variations of hand hacksaws, but the most familiar and widely used hacksaw will be the full-frame models that use a 10″ or 12″ long blade. These hacksaws are very useful and a common go-to tool for many indoor and outdoor cutting projects.

To get the most out of these saws, you’ll want to use the best matched blade for a particular cutting project.

First thing first – the saw blade length needs to match your hacksaw frame size.

Lenox Full-Size Hacksaw Frame
Lenox Full-Size Hacksaw Frame Bahco Mini Hacksaw Frame

Hacksaw blade quick guide

Matching the proper TPI to the material is the most essential for cutting. What brand of hacksaw blade to use falls under the personal preference category in my opinion.

I have mainly stuck with Lenox blades because they are readily available, have worked fine for my use, and Lenox is a tool brand I respect overall. I have experimented with other brands of hacksaw blades over the years, but always find myself going back to Lenox for the reasons given.

TPI (teeth per inch) related to minimum material thickness. Hacksaw blade thickness = .028″ (.7mm) on average.
TPIMinimum Material ThicknessPurchase
Wood and Thick Metal Use141.8mm
Heavy Metal Use181.4mm
Medium Metal Use241.1mm
Thin Metal Use32.8mm
Glass, Ceramics, Marble, Fiberglass and SteelCarbide Rod

How does blade TPI relate to material?

Hacksaw blade tooth count explanation and comparison

The lower the TPI…the larger the gap between teeth…and the longer the tooth.

  • Allows more material to be removed and cleaned out with each saw stroke, thus saving time in the cutting process.
  • Starting a cut on hard material can be tricky as the tips of the teeth ride on the material longer before making a cutting groove, and the blade can slide around if forced. Gently work in a cutting groove if precision is needed.

The higher the TPI…the smaller the gap between teeth…and the shorter the tooth.

  • A high TPI blade is required on things like conduit or copper pipe so you can actually cut the material and not just hook it, therefore impeding the cutting process.
Use a 32 TPI hacksaw blade on rigid copper tubing

Use a 32 TPI hacksaw blade on rigid copper tubing and conduit

Cutting Tips

The above information explains tooth blade count in detail, but you may be surprised to know a few extra things that will maximize performance, allow you to take extra advantage of a hacksaws use, and what may be a better alternative for a hacksaw when cutting certain materials.

Note: Like any cutting blade with teeth, let the tool do the work, whether a hand or power tool. At some point the cutting blade struggles to keep up when too much force is applied.

Blade Break In
A new blade that is not broken in can sometimes be difficult to work with (cuts hard and may jump off-line). This is even more true with a lower TPI blade that is already more demanding in creating a precise cut.

A test cut can be helpful, as it removes some of the finish on the blade and tooth machining burs, which then allows the blade to work more smoothly.

This break in process helps eliminate any errors on the final cut piece as you now have a blade that cuts more easily and precisely.

Cutting Very Thin Material
Even with trying to use the proper blade, very thin material like sheet metal, gutter material, etc. can be difficult, and may move around when trying to cut. Using a metal cutting snip on flat material, or a circular saw with a metal cutting blade on 3D objects works better.

The use of a miter box; e.g. cutting a replacement shower door seal, will help secure the material to be cut, and can be accompanied by clamps for even more assistance.

How to cut a shower door sweep

A basic miter box helps cut a straight edge

Cutting PVC
A standard hacksaw can be used for smaller diameter PVC cutting, but there are specific PVC hand saws and blades designed with a taller blade and lower TPI to make larger diameter PVC pipe cutting easier.

What’s wrong with a using standard full-frame hacksaw? For large diameter pipes, or any large material, the space between the top beam of the hacksaw frame and blade limits cutting material diameters that fit in this space, unless you cut partial way through then turn the material, which can lead to an uneven cut.

Lenox PVC plastic pipe hand saw

Image Credit: Lenox PVC/ABS plastic pipe hand saw

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. L lamaur

    October 12, 2016 at 12:42 pm

    This is great basic information and is a help to me. thanks,

  2. Ellen Martin

    May 14, 2016 at 6:58 am

    I appreciated the information very much. I had bought a hacksaw with three blades, but there was no information regarding which blade to use for metal and which one for plastic. I did not want to ruin one as two of them looked similar – one had 24TPI and the other 10TPI, but didn’t say which one was for metal.

    • Editorial Staff

      May 15, 2016 at 8:41 am

      Hi Ellen,
      Thanks for the comment and glad the article was informative. I don’t think there were any further questions?

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