How to use a tenon saw

There are a huge number of weapons in the carpenter’s arsenal, but one that is vital for most jobs is a tenon saw. They are the short, stubby rectangular saws that are used by joiners to make clean, straight edges in wood in order to create well-fitting joints. There are very small margins of error accommodated in carpentry, so using your saw correctly is vital to make sure your joints fit well. Marking out the lines to cut is equally important, so make sure you have done this accurately before even picking up your saw.

Make the cut

Make sure your wood is secure on the bench and will not move, either by using a G-clamp, a vice, or if you are confident, holding it tightly against the flat edge of a bench hook. Hold the saw in your preferred hand, gripping with three fingers and thumb, but holding your index finger along the side of the saw to help keep it straight. Stand with your legs slightly apart but with both feet facing forward, in the same direction as the cut.

Put your other hand on the wood to be cut and extend the thumb so it brushes the side of the blade as it moves – this will also help keep the blade straight. Make sure the rest of your hand and fingers are well away from the blade. Keep your eye in line with the line you have drawn on the wood and make sure the saw moves in line with this.

Position the blade forward on the wood and start on a corner. Pull the saw back a couple of times on the wood, nicking it to make a starting groove. Now remove your thumb from the side of the blade and start long, even, regular strokes, backwards and forwards on the wood, remembering to keep the blade straight. As you approach the end of the cut, slow down to make sure you don’t cut too deep.


Always exercise caution when working with sharp tools and keep a first aid kit handy.

Things You'll Need

  • Tenon saw
  • Work bench
  • G-clamp, vice or bench hook
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About the Author

Robert Macintosh is a full-time journalist based in Northern Ireland. He has accumulated eight years’ experience since 2005, writing for magazines, newspapers and websites in various countries. Macintosh has specialised in politics and entertainment. He has an honours degree in social anthropology, an NVQ level 4 in newspaper journalism and an AS Level in photography.