Which Saws Are Best For Ripping Thick Stuff? [Video]

by | Dec 14, 2022 | 22 comments

There’s a lot of choice when it comes to rip saws.

And unfortunately options usually just make things more complicated.
So hopefully the video above will help clear up some of the confusion around which saw to reach for or at least give you something to think about when you’ve got a lot of ripping to get on with.

And I’ll jot out a bit of a summary below if you prefer to read.

Don’t Over Think It For Thin Rips.

I want to point out that ripping for many of your builds will be a doddle.
Let’s not make this seem more challenging than it actually is. If your projects are small or you’re knocking up carcasses with timber less than an inch thick then there’s no reason to sweat or over think it.

In these cases you have a lot of options that will whip through your timber nice and quickly.
Owt with rip in the the teeth will do.

So for now let’s just focus on the thick stuff.

Even after many years of challenging myself to come up with a pleasurable efficient method of ripping down thick chunks of timber by hand, it’s still a pig of a job!

Which is why my first suggestion is to get yourself a bandsaw!

Using a bandsaw for resawing

The Bandsaw in the Hand Tool Workshop

Due to various workshop moves I haven’t always had a bandsaw but whenever I do get the opportunity it’s the first and only machine that I make space for.
It’s sole purpose in my workshop is for ripping.

The ability to rip down thick stock can help you make the most of the wood that you have to hand, and this will save you a lot of time at the very initial stage of prepping.

If your ripping needs aren’t enough to justify a machine then there’s still plenty of hand saws to pick from.

Western Rip Saws

An obvious choice is a big old Western rip saw.
When it comes to ripping then as a general rule the bigger and rougher the better. They tear through the wood at a good old rate but burn out will come fast. I’d say they’re also the easiest saws to learn how to sharpen with.
A shorter finer backless saw will be much more useful throughout your work though than something that’s fully dedicated, and you can even consider this hardpoint option if you want something low cost that’ll just about do the job straight off the shelf.

Hardpoint raw for sawing rip cuts

My Favourite Hard Point Saw

You’ll be able to see how well this Irwin saw cuts in the video (I have no affiliation).
It’s only 22″ in length and yet I’ve often grabbed it for making thick rips.
The unique thing about this particular hardpoint is that it’s well suited for ripping; it’s the only one I’ve found that is.

Of course if you have the budget for a nice new re-sharpenable saw, or the time to fettle an old one then I’m not discouraging you. Just be mindful of the extra learning curve if sawing and sharpening are new to you.
New skills such as saw fettling take time. Bear that in mind if you’re just wanting to crack on.

Japanese pull saws for ripping

Japanese Pull Saws

In many ways Japanese saws are the opposite of a big coarse western rip saw.
They’re extremely thin in comparison and about half the length.

In general I find Japanese saws to cut extremely fast.
However when it comes to through ripping of think material they’re much slower. This is partly because as a western woodworker we’re probably just using a big Ryoba (double edged), as something more specialised may be difficult to source.

But still, the slower inch per minute time can be made up if there’s a lot to cut as I find sawing with these falls into much more of a rhythm and is something I can maintain for a good long while.

Western rip saws can feel a bit like grunt work powering through a cut, whereas Japanese saws are much more about finding that rhythm (think the tortoise and the hare). Sawing with these can almost feel therapeutic.

Something worth noting here though is that these saws respond better if used as intended. Don’t go at it with a westerner’s stance and approach.

Frame saws for ripping

Frame Saws

Though they tend to be seen a little less than the other two options, frame saws are actually one of my favourite choices.
If I had no bandsaw and was frequently finding myself with lots of thick rip cuts to make then I would invest some time into dabbling with these more.
I’ve only ever worked with frames that I’ve made myself (which can also make them a very cost effect option) but there are blades with all manner of teeth configurations for you to choose from.
This blade is actually a Japanese tooth pattern that works best on the push.

These saws cut very fast. And if you get into the right position they’re easy to find a good rhythm. They are very different from conventional saws so expect a bit of a learning curve while you get used to them.

Repurposing a bandsaw blade is another great route to try with these saws. You’d have full ability to set them up just how you need that way.

I can’t tell you that hefty, thick rip cutting is ever going to be a breeze, but at least there are plenty of options to go at.

If you’d like a more complete overview of the basic hand tools I’d recommend, then have a read of our guide for your getting started tool kit.

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About Richard Maguire

About Richard Maguire

As a professional hand tool woodworker, Richard found hand tools to be the far more efficient solution for a one man workshop. Richard runs 'The English Woodworker' as an online resource and video education for those looking for a fuss free approach to building fine furniture by hand. Learn More About Richard & The English Woodworker.


  1. Amos

    Insightful as usual! I’m currently in the midst of the conundrum of about the “cost” of keeping a western saw sharp vs a hardened japanese saw.

    When it comes to the frame saw (I don’t have one) I’m wondering if setting the blade to the pull stroke makes a difference? It would seem to bring into play the same body dynamics you mentioned about the japanese saws.

    • Thomas Wyse

      Pulling works great with a frame saw!

  2. Ed

    The single most important thing for ripping with a western saw is shown at 8:39 and forward: Bring your off hand across and hold it crosswise on the top of the handle. It’s hard to see until the last few seconds, but my bet is that Richard will agree that it feels like the sawing motion starts from the hips. With the work vertical in the vise and the saw held with the other hand across, a lot of the stress on the torso is removed, the work is shared between both arms, and that “set up a rhythm” thing Richard mentions kicks in with a lot of power coming from the hips and legs. If you haven’t done this before with a classic saw handle, your eyes are going to open in surprise. All those dips and wiggles and doodles on the top of the saw that you always thought were cute decorations end up being the perfect shape for the off-hand. Even that little curly-cue on the handle that looks totally pointless serves a purpose as the cross-hand pinky settles into it. Old Disstons are like this, but some of the “it looks fancy” saw handles seem to have been made after people forgot about this purpose and they don’t fit the hand.

    For me, I have trouble with the Japanese saws because my arms are long. I need a long saw plate and, for the method just described, I feel like I need to cut on the push. They are wonderful saws, but not for me.

    One thing…please look at your hand hold on the frame saw at 5:41 where you have your hand on the upright instead of the doinky uncomfortable round handle. Doing exactly that brought me into the emergency department with a tendon injury. I was dumb and was using the wrong blade, so the saw jammed, then let go. When it leg go, the saw drove forward and a drove my knuckles into the work. The doctor wanted to do exploratory surgery and repair for a suspected ruptured tendon, but I tried guitar therapy instead and got lucky. The lesson here is that I think that the handle on a panel saw serves a protective function. When you have your hand in a D-handle, you have some protection. On the Japanese handle, the fist orientation is different and I think the risk is less, but on that frame saw, that vertical part of the frame begs “hold me,” and it isn’t a freebie. That injury was over a decade ago and it still bugs me.

    So, all that said……I use a band saw. Sometimes I’ll rip by hand, like when the wrong blade is on the bandsaw and I have a few feet of 4/4 or when I just feel like it, but hats off to the Mighty Bandsaw. Worth every penny.

    • Jakob

      Good call on the hand guard issue. I think Paul Sellers has a video on making a frame saw with a hand guard. So you are not the only one with this concern.

    • Michael

      As a German i can tell you, the round “handle” isn’t to hold the saw. These are only to fix the blade and to switch the blade and they are called “Hoernchen” .You hold the saw at the verticals.
      When going to rip with a frame saw, the blade goes vertikal up and down, both hands holding the frame and the blade is turned 90° to the frame, paralell to the midle frame peace. This kind of sawing is called ” Fausten” .
      And please excuse my bad English.

  3. Brian Barney

    I’ve been working wood for 50 years on and off, hybrid for about 6 years and you are spot-on as usual! I have a bandsaw for re-saving, a planer because hand surfacing is a huge waste of time IMHO, and a mortiser due to carpal tunnel syndrome. Being 68 I have a limited number of years to build furniture so try to optimize my time by using machines when it makes sense and hand tools because I love using them. Merry Christmas!

  4. MoreHSN

    Wow ALWAYS so many insightful points to learn from your blogs and videos. Thanks Richard.
    The suggestion to use a disposable hard-point to get on with making projects was an eye opener which got me out of a rut when I saw this a few years ago.
    The brick bolted made me chuckle- there’s always another way to get the job done

  5. Kevin

    Thanks Richard. Nice to see this covered from different perspectives. In my brief years working with hand tools, I have never enjoyed a heavy rip, resawing is even worse. Pure punishment, but it’s nice to know even the pros don’t enjoy it. In general I track better with a western saw and a straighter, cleaner cut = less cleanup of the face afterwards. For me it’s pay now or pay later!

  6. Thomas Wyse

    I stopped using panel saws as I got better with frame saws. I like them a lot. They sharpen easily. They can cut very fast. I cut hardwoods almost exclusively. Relaxed rip filed for crosscut and ripping. 6 and 9 tpi depending on operation and wood thickness. I like the long relaxed stroke I can take with them. A short saw for smaller work like cutting tenons. with 9 tpi. A long 3.5 tpi for really big rips. There are two things about frame saws that I don’t hear discussed much. Since the blade is so narrow compared to a panel rip, it’s a LOT less work to use the same tpi with the same rate of cut. The frame saw can be pulled effectively. It mixes up muscle wear if you’re cutting a lot, and it makes a difference for me. Oh, and another thing. Effective horizontal ripping is possible too since you can turn the blade. That is, the board can be in a vise like you were going to joint the edge, the frame is vertical and the blade is horizontal.

  7. John

    I usually rip on my band saw, but I have had to hand rip oak when making a rail for a stairs. My shop doesn’t really work for long boards longer than around 6 feet. When I want a quick result I’ll rip on my table saw. I nearly always crosscut using a handsaw which was converted from a rip saw. I’ve had a difficult time finding old crosscut saws. I’ve now new hands saw except for a Japanese saw that sees very little use. When ripping with a hand saw, I put the board on a long Douglas Fir 4X6 on saw horses. Then just start cutting. With the coarse toothed saws, it goes quickly enough, but the arms get tired. Use the two-handed trick and a D-8 Disston with the thumb hole. It’s a good deal easier on elbows.

  8. Frank Stalteri

    Very good video. I been trying hand tool now for maby a year or so. I love it. But when it does come to ripping, even 3/4 stock its challenging. Especially when I look over to my right and see a 10 inch tablesaw sitting there. The hand tool users that I read about or see on you tube make a whole lot of sense. I can bare the thought of selling all my power tools. So I am looking for balance between the two. plus my time allocated for practice with hand tools is very limited. Thanks again.

  9. John Land

    100% Richard, many years ago I got a Frame saw with two different blades from Dictum, 600mm size. I’ve used it most to cut firewood, with a Sandviks aggressive bow saw blades fitted, meanwhile Camelia oil has preserved the barely used blades. Access to a bandsaw etc!
    But a rare bit of madness at Lidl, must be a dozen years ago, got me into the Pull saw. They had an actual Japanese 265mm pull saw, cane handle – hook blade, for peanuts, In the Middle of Lidl !!
    Wickedly sharp, ripped and cross cut with a super light touch. It Also ripped flesh too easily if mishandled and makes an excellent workshop wasp swatter, long, light and whippy. Real Japanese replacement hook blades fit the handle, the first blade is still ‘sharp’, just it’s lost a few hardpoint teeth spoiling it’s cutting action.
    The Z-saw company, go view – (z-saw.com) – have a staggering variety of saws. One group is a relatively inexpensive range of interchangeable blades and handles, (sold over here as the Vaughan Bear Saws) with blades from a fine toothed flush dowel blade, thru to your Ryoba and a longer 14″ carpentry crosscut blade. Two handle styles, a pistol grip or a straight ryoba handle all can be mixed and matched – and dismantled to drop in a tool bag. It’s getting the idea into your head, that the sawblade is a razor/scalpel blade not a Disston. It cuts superbly for so many years, the performance drops off, teeth get damaged then swop it out. Like you say the Western saws require fettling too quickly.
    The frame saw?, it still hangs on the wall it’s got a Z-saw cross cut blade from Dictum.com waiting to be used, I’ve recently retired so no bandsaw access!!

    I like the idea of the rip saw frame, you could use a pair of Hacksaw tension assemblies to hold and pull on both ends of the blade. The front end of an Eclipse 20T, (the pin hook, square rod, big washer and wing nut). I’ve used this assembly to upgrade cheap picture frame saw parts, vastly improved tension on the blade.
    Excellent rants, thoughtful commentary, real world experience make the best videos on YouTube.

  10. Monte Milanuk

    I would very much love to see you do a Roubo-style frame-saw build!

    Speaking of the traditional western hand or panel saw… do you ever use an over-hand ripping method with that kind of saw?

    A while back I picked up one of those hard point saws at the big box store, just to give it a go (I do have other, ‘nicer’ saws but figured I’d try it out). I couldn’t find anything set up for a rip cut; I think I’ve seen some online that have more of a three-facet cut like a Japanese pull saw, but this one – despite saying ‘hybrid’ – definitely cuts way ‘easier’ on the cross cut, and ripping is just a mess. Both cuts are super rough and messy. Guess I’ll keep that one in the camping kit for firewood or something!

  11. Alexis

    Hi Richard,

    Have you come up with plans for the frame saw you built?



  12. Mike Z.

    Oh mate – just call a band saw what they really are, a DONKEY! I write rarely but you’ve hit the nail as usual. The three power tools I’d have (other than some kind of dust catchall system) a band saw, drill press and tabletop planer. I’ve been struggling with aging where ripping and rough planing are the worst these days. They flat wear me out.
    I will say we in the west use a Ryoba wrong. They are designed for short cuts in soft construction materials like spruce pine and fir. I went back to western saws as those Irwin rip tooth hard point and good dedicated Japanese rip saws are impossible to source in the US. The Japanese know their stuff and what we usually miss is just how bloody effortless their saws are compared to our classic western push stroke saws – regardless of tooth configuration. I think short of a powered band saw the continental frame or “bow” saw (a completely different beast in the US) might be the way to go. It all comes down to that blade and tooth setup. I’ve spent the last few years relearning how to sharpen western saws and I definitely still love my Japanese hand saws – they are the bees knees for certain! Thanks as usual and keep up the good work.

  13. Gayle

    Where is everyone? It’s a ghost town here.

    • Ronan

      Was thinkin the same thing.

      • Andrew

        Me too!!

        • David germeroth

          Me too.

  14. The other David O

    Lol, its like you have a spy cam in my little workshop/shed!
    I got sucked into buying vintage saws to fix up and a couple of those new Spear and Jackson resharpenable saws (Guess who i was watching on YouTube at the time?…)
    You are 100% spot on, I have spent more money and created more waste by buying file saws in a few short years than i saved buying hardpoint saws, and whats more, the site hard point crosscut saw i bought at the same time for a garden project is still going strong and i’ve cut down trees, cut endless CLS timber, and cheap ply with it.
    I got lucky, I seem to be pretty good at hand sharpening, and setting teeth, and my Dad is a retired apprentice trained Carpenter and Joiner so I had his knowledge and know-how to fall back on, so I can’t imagine the pain of not knowing what I was doing and getting into the saw sharpening black hole of misery.
    So i’ve gone full circle, I have been using japanese saws for a couple of years now and I havent needed to swap blades yet, and I back these up with hard point saws for rougher work. A decent hardpoint western rip saw is something of a unicorn though, but B&Q now stock the Irwin 550mm Rip Fixed blade saw, 8 TPI for £15.
    You’e right, some enterprising individual should design a nice wooden handle with replaceable plates/blades in the western style, don’t get me wrong the plastic ones are usually comfortable enough to hold they are just a bit sweaty and light. Maybe i’ll mess about with an old hardpoint saw and see if i can get the plastic handle off and retro fit a wooden one….. hmmmmm….

  15. Vidar Fagerjord Harboe

    Richard, it has almost been two years since your last comment. Is this site dead? What is going on? Can you please give an update? Please don’t just dissapear. I understand it if you want to do something different with your life, but it would be nice if you could say so to your fans.
    As a blogger myself, I know that creating content regularly can be exhaustive at times, so I understand if you have chosen a different path.

    Sad to see this side drying up though, your content is _by_far_ among the top two woodworking sites that exists!

    I would GLADLY pay a monthly subscription to keep this blog / site alive, but money is not everything of course.

    With the utmost respect,


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