Cutting Lumber Perfectly Square with Hand Tools

Lately I’ve been getting more interested in working with hand tools.  When I first got into remodeling and then woodworking I purchased a bunch of power tools almost immediately because, with my limited knowledge, every cut seemed impossible unless I had just the right blade, on just the right tool, cutting at just the right height and angle.

Ironically just about any cut you can make with a circular saw, jigsaw, compound miter saw, table saw, band saw, planer, or jointer can also be made with just a couple of hand tools, some patience, and a little experience.

Making accurate cuts with hand saws is no exception.

Use a Knife for Marking

During my reading I came across some advice from a master woodworker named William Ng who recommended that laying be done with a marking knife for several reasons: a pencil line is thicker than a cut from a marking knife and thus less accurate, the cut separates the fibers on the outermost layer of wood which reduces tear-out, and finally because the tiny ridge made by the knife blade creates a guide for the saw blade.

I expanded on this advice and found a method for making accurate cuts.  I use a combination square and marking knife or utility knife to mark a perfectly rectangular line around my workpiece, I then cut in at an angle from the waste side of the cut, forming a wall the entire way around the work piece.  Finally I make the cut, allowing the saw to follow the path I made for it.  This method works just as well for cutting mitered angles, you’ll just need a t-bevel to mark your cut instead of the combination square.