Push saw vs Pull saw, Which is better and why?

Disclosure: We may earn commissions at no cost to you from qualifying purchases made via the product links in this article.

In the previous blog post, I wrote about the different types of hand saws and their uses. We saw that hand saws can be categorized either by their tooth design, the type of application, and/or mode operation. By mode of operation, I mean a hand saw can either cut by pushing or pulling through the material. Hence push saw or pull saw.

In this post, I will focus on how pull saws and push saws compare, and which one is better for the job. To start off, a push saw is a saw that is designed to cut by pushing through material. It is the conventional type of saw in the US and Europe. In contrast, a pull saw cuts when you pull it through material and it is a Japanese design or Eastern design, if you may. The two types of hand saws have many other differences besides their mode of operation.

Pull Saw vs Push Saw Comparison

Pull sawPush saw
Japanese saw or eastern sawWestern saw/ European saw
Cuts on the pull strokeCuts on the push stroke
Teeth face backwardTeeth face forward
Generally smaller teethHas larger teeth
Teeth cannot be sharpenedTeeth can be sharpened
Has thin bladeHas thick blade
This table is a summary of the side-by-side comparison of the pull and push saws highlighting the 6 key differences. 

Differences between Push saws and Pull Saws

The most striking difference between a push saw and a pull saw is the mode of operation. A pull saw, as the name suggests, cuts on the pull stroke whereas a push saw cuts on the push stroke. This boils down to the difference in teeth design on these two saws.

The teeth on a pull saw lean towards the handle or rather face backward whereas those of a push saw face forward. This causes the pull saw to sever wood fiber on the backward stroke and the push saw on the forward stroke. The teeth of a push saw are also larger than those of a pull saw. Another key difference is that the Japanese pull saws have thinner blades than the western saws. As a result, push saws generally have rougher cuts and thicker kerfs than pull saws.

Furthermore, the blades of hand saws from Japan are hardened at the factory and therefore cannot be sharpened. However, they are very sharp and ready to go right out of the box. It is also possible to replace the blade alone when it gets very dull. On the other hand, western hand saws are not hardened and therefore can be sharpened when they get dull. The downside of this is that not all push saws can be sharpened, especially those that have very small teeth such as a tenon and dovetail saws. Also, the blades of European saws cannot be replaced.

Another difference when cutting a board is that you start from the nearer side when using a push saw and the farther edge when using a pull saw. It is also very easy to use both hands when operating a Japanese hand saw.

Pros and Cons of Push Saws

Advantages of push saws

  • Teeth can be sharpened.
  • Relatively inexpensive

Disadvantages of push saws

  • Requires more effort to cut
  • Results in rough cuts

Pros and Cons of Pull Saws

Advantages of pull saws

  • Requires little effort to cut
  • Produces clean cuts and thinner kerf
  • The blade is replaceable.
  • Provides better control of the saw

Disadvantages of pull saws

  • Teeth cannot be sharpened.
  • More expensive
  • Unconventional

Which is better? Pull saw or push saw?

Going by the pros and cons of both saws, a pull saw is by far better than a push saw. It is good for precision cuts due to its thin kerf that results in very clean cuts. That being said, push saws are also good because they are more affordable and are readily available in hardware stores. You can also sharpen the teeth when they get blunt instead of throwing the blade away.