I hear from woodworkers all the time who struggle with their hand saws. Usually it has to do with just getting the cut started. Starting your cut is all about taking the weight off the toe of the saw so that the teeth can glide over the wood. Some people like to go backwards first, but a starting backstroke does nothing but mangle the wood and makes your cut more about guesswork than precision.
On a recent WoodTalk episode, I answered a question about this and launched into a complex explanation of an exercise designed to improve your feel for starting the saw accurately. But describing that exercise is where the audio medium fails and video is much better. Hence this video:
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There are of course things you can do to the toothline of your saws to make them easier to start—like relaxing the rake angle of the first 10-20 teeth or using a finer pitch for the first 10-20 teeth. However I can't help but feel that is extra work when all that is really needs is a little improvement in technique and a greater feel for the saw. Both of which will vastly improve your sawing accuracy across all your woodworking.
This "Hand Tool School" series is provided courtesy of Shannon Rogers, a/k/a The Renaissance Woodworker. Rogers is founder of The Hand Tool School, which provides members with an online apprenticeship that teaches them how to use hand tools and to build furniture with traditional methods.
Shannon Rogers started woodworking by trying to build a proton pack, and has been in love with the craft ever since. He runs The Renaissance Woodworker website which is dedicated to spreading the love about hand tool woodworking. He is also the head glue pot keeper at The Hand Tool School where teaches thousands of woodworkers on 6 continents (still trying to find somebody in Antarctica) how to cast off the power tool oppressors and build "the hard way".
By day Shannon is the Director of Marketing for J. Gibson McIlvain, a lumber company founded in 1798 that supplies high quality hardwoods from all over the world to everyone from Calvin Klein, the New York Yankees, and the US Government. He is a wood nerd through and through and often finds reasons to inject latin botanical names into everyday conversation.