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

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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 of operation.

By mode of operation, I mean a hand saw can either cut by pushing or pulling through the material. Hence push saw vs pull saw.

In this post, I compare the two types of saws based on the mode of operation (pull saws and push saws) to help you choose the right one for the job.

To start off, a push saw 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. It is a Japanese design or Eastern design, if you may.

These two types of hand saws have many other differences besides their mode of operation. They are listed below:

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

As I mentioned above, 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 is made possible by the different teeth configurations of the two saws.

The teeth on a pull saw lean towards the handle 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 notable difference is that Japanese saws have thinner blades than western saws. This is why push saws generally have rougher cuts and thicker kerfs than pull saws.

Furthermore, the blades of the Eastern-style hand saws are hardened at the factory and therefore cannot be sharpened. However, they are very sharp and ready to go, right out of the box. On some pull saws, you can replace the blade alone when it gets very dull.

On the other hand, western hand saws are not hardened and therefore can be re-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 tenon and dovetail saws.

Also, the blades of European saws cannot be replaced. When the blade is not usable anymore, you buy a new one.

Lastly, you will realize that you start to cut a board from different places with both saws. When using a push saw, you start from the near edge of the board and push towards the farther edge. In contrast, a pull saw starts to cut from the farther edge of the board to the nearer edge. You might also find it easier to use both hands when operating a Japanese hand saw than a Western 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

Conclusion: Pull saw or push saw, Which is better?

Going by the pros and cons of both saws, a pull saw is far better than a push saw. It is good for precision cuts due to its thin kerf that results in immaculate cuts and less waste.

My favorite Japanese saw is Razor Ryoba Saw with Blade. I always have it in my bigger toolbox even though I am an electric saws person.

ryoba japanese saws 770-3600

What I like about the Ryoba Japanese saw is that it is not too expensive and is quite versatile even for a beginner. This saw cuts on both sides of the blade like most Japanese saws. One side is for rip cuts and the other one is for cross cuts.

That being said, push saws are also good because they are more affordable and are readily available in hardware stores. Also, you can sharpen western-style hand saws when they get blunt, which is not possible with most Japanese saws.

So, a western-style saw may be a good option if you are tight on budget. Otherwise, if you have a deep pocket and care about making precise cuts, the Japanese saws are the way to go.