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How to Use a Coping Saw

Coping saws give you that extra-neat professional finish.

Coping is the art of joining one irregular surface to another, much like cornicing and framework. To do this, you need to understand how to use a coping saw. This little tool is the perfect match for cutting those tight inside joints that give your project a professional finish.

Take a look around your home and you’d be surprised how many woodwork elements required the use of a coping saw. Want to know how to use one?

Join us as we talk you through the process of what a coping saw is and how to use one.

Using a Coping Saw Safely

To use a coping saw safely, first grip the workpiece in a clamp. Place the saws central teeth on the line to be cut and start slowly until the teeth bite. Continue the cut, turning the handle and frame to follow the lines of the template you have drawn.

What Is the Purpose of a Coping Saw?

A coping saw gives you the flexibility to cut tight angles and curves. If you are working on door frames or floor moldings and need to create a smooth edge that joins the two parts together without a gap, a coping saw is the tool for the job.

It is U-shaped (referred to as the throat) with a handle, and the steel frame holds a thin blade that enables the user to maneuver the saw around awkward corners. The handle turns to tighten or loosen the blade, and at the end of the frame is a mechanism that allows you to angle the blade.

Coping saws have other uses as well. They are excellent for cutting fiddly shapes around objects like pipework when laying a wooden floor. They also work well when cutting irregular shapes out of small sheet material, which is why hobbyists favor a coping saw for their versatility.

Typically, coping saw blades have between 12 and 15 teeth per inch (TPI), but other blades are available for coarser and finer projects.

What You Need

To be effective at working with a coping saw, you are going to need a few things.

Choose the Blade

You will need a saw blade that matches the task ahead. The higher the tooth count, the smoother cut line you will get.

If you are working on highly-detailed moldings and want it to look like a professional finish, think about the type of blade you need. Most blades are 6.75 inches in length, and the tooth count ranges from 10 to 20 per inch.

Choose the Saw

There are other types of saws that are part of the coping saw family. A fret saw is a good alternative. It is preferred by those working on a smaller, more detailed scale. Jewelry makers like using fret saws because they enable smooth cuts in precious metals with a high-quality finish.

Choose the Safety Equipment

You will need safety goggles to protect your eyes from debris, especially if you are cutting precious metals. Using a coping saw means your face is always close to the surface of your project to get that extra detail.

If you are working with MDF or other composite materials, you should also invest in an N95 face mask to avoid inhaling any harmful particles.

Choose the Right Size

Decide on the size of coping saw you want. If the project is small, you might opt for a fret saw, but for the larger stock, a 5-inch throat depth is standard. It gives you enough depth to tackle workpieces without compromising on the maneuverability of the saw.

Choose the Right Clamps

When working with a coping saw, it is standard practice to use a vice or other clamps. It should hold your stock securely without allowing it to move, but give you the freedom to work around the shapes without hindrance.

How To Use a Coping Saw

1. Install the Blade

Place the end of the frame furthest from the handle on a sturdy surface. The handle should be facing upwards. Insert the blade in the spigot and press down firmly to compress the steel frame of the saw. Insert the other end of the blade in the housing near to the handle and release the tension. Now adjust as needed.

2. Clamp the Material in Place

Place your project in clamps or a vice to prevent it from moving or slipping while you’re making cuts. You don’t want any mistakes, especially if you are working with precious metals.

3. Start Cutting

Place the saw blade on the line where you want to make your initial cut. Push the saw in short cuts to start with. This ensures the blade has bitten securely into the material, and the line won’t wander off course.

4. Continue Sawing

Continue sawing perpendicular with the wood, following the lines of the pattern. As you cut, turn the blade to help you achieve complicated angles. If you are cutting through moldings, you may need to make a couple of sweeps or consider starting from the other end.

Quick Note

Coping saw blades are thin and prone to snapping, so make sure you have spares.

What Material Can You Cut with a Coping Saw?

Because coping saws are agile and delicate, they don’t suit thick or larger workpieces. However, it doesn’t mean to say that coping saws won’t carve through a varied selection of materials.

Coping saws can cut through wood, plastics and even metals, provided that you use the right blade.

How Thick Can a Coping Saw Cut?

Because the blades are so thin, coping saws are not suited to a thicker stock, but they will cope with wood measuring 1 to 2 inches in thickness. You may still experience the blade snapping if you apply too much pressure. If you try to cut anything over that thickness, the blade will almost certainly flex and snap.

Coping Saw Safety Tips

There are many things you can do to stay safe while using a coping saw.

Inspect the Saw

Nothing beats a thorough examination of your coping saw to see it everything is in working order. Inspect the frame, the handle and the blade spigots for any damage. The blade on a coping saw is extremely sharp, so if it were to fall out during operation, it could easily slice your hand.

A visual inspection should always happen before you start any work with your saw.

Inspect the Blade

You will put undue pressure on a dull blade, which will cause it to snap. To check the sharpness, first cut a scrap piece of wood to see how sharp the blade is.

Choose the Right Material

Different materials require different types of blades. Make sure you match the blade to the stock before you begin.

Protective Eyewear

As we’ve already mentioned, when you use a coping saw, you are working closely with the material. Detailed work requires a keen eye. So, to avoid any debris doing damage, wear protective goggles.

This Saw Can Cope

For all those detailed cuts and awkward angles, a coping saw is your best buddy. Nothing quite feels as satisfying as working in such minute detail to produce the very best results. Coping saws are specialist tools, but they are effective at getting the job done to give our homes a little more finesse and style.

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About the Author

Mark Weir

Mark spent 24 years working in real estate, so he knows his way around a home. He also worked with contractors and experts, advising them on issues of planning, investments, and renovations. Mark is no stranger to hands-on experience, having renovated his own home and many properties for resale. He likes nothing better than seeing a project through to completion.