PHOTO: J. Keeler Johnson
March 7, 2017

While it would be nice if farm tools could last forever, the truth of the matter is that they gradually wear out over time and need to be repaired or replaced. Not even the simplest of tools can avoid Father Time, and that includes one of my personal favorites: hand saws.

I spend a lot of time each year pruning trees and cutting down invading sapling trees, and while it might be easier and faster to use a chainsaw, there’s something about the peace and quiet of a hand saw that I find appealing. But after dozens of hours of work, the teeth on the saw blade will gradually wear down, making the tool more difficult to use. Trying to sharpen the teeth is an option; although, given that hand saws are pretty inexpensive, it might be more logical to purchase a new one when the time comes.

But when will that time arrive? Here are four signs that your hand saw might need to be replaced.

1. It Starts Binding On Simple Cuts

This is the surest sign that your hand saw is ready for retirement. When it’s brand new, a hand saw will slice right through thick sections of wood—I’ve cut through pine trees 4 or 5 inches thick with relatively little effort, and it only takes a minute or so to do it.

In contrast, an old and dull saw will struggle to cut through trees and branches only an inch or two thick, binding halfway through and refusing to be moved without significant effort. This can be exhausting, so if you’re having trouble making small cuts, it’s probably time for a new saw.

2. The Handle Is Coming Loose

I once had a hand saw that served me well up until the screws that held the handle to the cutting blade started coming loose. No matter how well I tightened them, they would inevitably work loose again, with increasing frequency. Because it’s not very easy to use a hand saw that has play in the handle, a new saw might be your best option if you can’t get the screws retightened properly.

3. It’s Missing A Few Teeth

It might not seem possible that a tough metal saw could lose some of its teeth, but it can happen over time if you use it a lot and really give it a workout. While a couple of missing teeth aren’t a big deal, they can interfere with your cutting rhythm and become an annoyance, particularly if you’re making a lot of small cuts.

4. You Can No Longer Read The Brand Name

Many saws have the name of their manufacturer printed across the blade, though this will eventually wear off with use. To be honest, it will wear off long before the saw is ready to be replaced, so this isn’t the best gauge of when to purchase a replacement. However, if the brand name has been worn off for so long that you can no longer recall who manufactured your saw, then chances are it’s at the age where Reason No. 1 becomes applicable.

In any case, when you do purchase a new saw, you might be amazed at how much faster and easier it is to use. (And sharper, too—be careful!) After years of using an old saw, you might just find yourself buying new ones more frequently in the future!

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