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We Test the Best Hacksaws

May 05, 2023May 05, 2023

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Thousands of psi of pressure holds these blades in place, making cuts easier, faster, and smoother.

For nearly 150 years, hacksaws have been the go-to tool for cutting bolts, nails, angle iron, pipes, conduit, and many other metal parts and fasteners. Even today, no toolbox, garage, workshop or jobsite is complete without the tool. Here's a collection of four professional-grade, high-tension hacksaws that accept 12-in. blades. Add one of these hacksaws to your tool arsenal and you’ll be able to tackle the most demanding metal-cutting tasks.

There are standard-tension hacksaws and high-tension types. Everyone is familiar with the former, consisting of a thin frame into which you insert the blade, and then the blade is pulled tight with a wingnut. These hold the blade with enough tension for the saw to make a reasonably clean cut. This test concerns high-tension hacksaws, which are a different animal. They stretch the blade under tens of thousands of pounds per square inch of tension, making the blade straight and extremely taught. This helps the blade remain straight when cutting tough metal. High-tension hacksaws can only be used with bi-metal blades, which are a composite of high-speed steel teeth welded to a carbon or spring steel backing. These blades are extraordinarlily strong and have enough tensile strenth to resist the pull on them exerted by the hacksaw frame. When ordinary carbon steel hacksaw blades are used in a high-tension hacksaw, they can shatter, sending steel fragments flying.

We selected four high-tension hacksaws for this test, all are from major manufacturers who know this product category. Given that hacksaws are fairly simple tools, there's only small differences among them. But as the old song has it, little things can mean a lot. So look carefully at our data and select your saw not on price, but on features.

We tested the saws on typical steels: pipe, all-thread, bar stock, angle iron but we also had a few pieces of tool steel laying around and we used that as test fodder. All of the saws were tested with the high-tension blades that were packaged with them.

Not in the market for a heavy-duty hacksaw? That's okay. Scroll down to the bottom of our report for two inexpensive standard-duty saws that pack a lot of metal-cutting value for the money.

Blade positions: 90° and 45°| S pare blade holder: Yes |Converts to jab saw: Yes

Nicholson knows a thing or two about premium hand tools; it's been manufacturing them since 1864. That lineage helped to produce a saw with a superior blade-tensioning mechanism. Adjust the knurled tension knob on the bottom of the handle then flip down the lever on top of the saw to produce a blade holding force of 30,000 psi. The front of the frame folds to create a low-profile saw for cutting in tight spaces, and the saw was the only one to accept a reciprocating saw blade for use in jab cuts in drywall, wood, or sheet metal.

Blade postions: 90° and 45°| Sp are blade holder: Yes | Converts to jab saw: Yes

This is a lot of hacksaw for the money. We like its thumb grip at the front of the frame because it provides greater control for cuts where you need more accuracy than you do force. Placing your thumb behind the grip and your forefinger in front may not sound like much of an improvement but it can be, say when you're cutting through something like a small, hard bolt. And if you do a lot of work with this handtool, one of its best feature is that its tube-steel frame has enough space to hold 12 spare blades. That provides for a lot of repeat cuts or a wide variety of blades if you cut a soft material like aluminum and need a coarse blade and then move to cut a piece of tool steel, which will likely require a finer blade. The Craftsman is comfortable

Blade postions: 90° and 45° Sp are blade holder: No | Converts to jab saw: No

This is industrial-quality saw that features a simple spring-loaded blade tensioning mechanism, which produces 28,000 psi of pressure. Just slip the blade onto the front and rear pins, turn the crank six revolutions and the blade is taut. This saw also has an impressive 4 3/8 in. depth of cut, which is about a half inch deeper than other saws here. Again, that may not sound like much, but it can make all the difference between cutting through in one pass and fiddling around either to gain more access to the workpiece when you're cutting through a metal object in a wall or ceiling, or rotating the workpiece in the vise to finish the job. Those small details are the kinds of thing that has earned Starrett one of the best reputations in the handtool business.

Blade postions: 90° and 45° Sp are blade holder: yes | Converts to jab saw: yes

You can't ask for more than this. The Lenox is a rigid, straight-cutting saw that has a good line of sight over its frame to the blade. It's comfortable fore and aft, with a rubberized thumb grip and a nicely rounded handle. And its blade tensioning is a simple and very firm lever lock mechanism that produces, Lenox says, an astonishing 50,000 psi of blade tension (don't even think of using a standard hacksaw blade in this tool). A final touch that is much appreciated is that its upper frame has enough space for five spare blades. This is the hacksaw perfected.

Blade postions: 90° and 180° Sp are blade holder: no | Converts to jab saw: no

This is your basic, 12-inch, homeowner-grade hacksaw. It accepts standard carbon-steel blades, and there's no need to put an expensive high-tension blade in this saw, though it will accept it. It only applies 225 pounds of tensile force on the blade, which is enough to help you make a cut through a piece of ordinary steel, such as a pipe or small angle iron, a nail, or a piece of plastic. If that's all you need to cut, this saw will work well.

Lenox 20975975

Blade postions: 90° | Sp are blade holder: no | Converts to jab saw: yes

There are times when you just can't get at what you need to cut other than using a very small jab saw like this one from Lenox. I own one and can vouch for the fact that it's an indispensible tool in remodeling work. Insert a standard or high-tension blade in it and slide it through the handle. Tighten the front set screw and there you are. Now you can reach into some dark corner under a sink, or slice between two pieces of impossibly close metal or framing lumber to make the needed cut. Once you own one of these things, you'll wonder how you lived without it for so long.

Roy Berendsohn has worked for more than 25 years at Popular Mechanics, where he has written on carpentry, masonry, painting, plumbing, electrical, woodworking, blacksmithing, welding, lawn care, chainsaw use, and outdoor power equipment. When he's not working on his own house, he volunteers with Sovereign Grace Church doing home repair for families in rural, suburban and urban locations throughout central and southern New Jersey.

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Selection and Testing Blade positions: | S pare blade holder: Converts to jab saw: Yes Blade postions: Sp are blade holder: Converts to jab saw: —Simplest Saw— Starrett K145 Blade postions: Blade postions: Sp Sp are blade holder: are blade holder: | Converts to jab saw: Converts to jab saw: Blade postions: Blade postions: Sp Sp are blade holder: are blade holder: | Converts to jab saw: Converts to jab saw: Blade postions: Blade postions: Sp Sp are blade holder: are blade holder: | Converts to jab saw: Converts to jab saw: Lenox 20975975 Blade postions: Blade postions: Sp Sp are blade holder: are blade holder: | Converts to jab saw: Converts to jab saw: