The ripping saw, or rip saw for short, is an essential tool for any hand tool woodworkers shop. Heck, they even come in handy in a power tool shop as well. A finely tuned rip saw and experienced user can rip a board faster than it takes to get the table saw set up.
Rip saws are designed to cut wood lengthwise, or along the grain. This is opposed to crosscut saws which are designed to cut across the grain.
The difference between the two saws can be found in the shape of the teeth. Crosscutting wood is a far more difficult task for the saw! So the teeth each have a slight angle ground into one side of them. This makes each tooth look a little like a knife. This sharp, knife-like edge cuts through the wood fibers which makes it easier to cut across the grain.
Rip saws, on the other hand, have flat teeth. This creates more of a scraping action which is ideal for cutting along the long fibers of the wood.
This shape has two other added benefits. It helps the rip saw maintain its sharpness through the longer cuts needed for ripping wood and helps the saw track in a straighter line.
What Makes for A Good Rip Saw?
All in all, rip saws are one of the simpler tools you’ll find in the shop and for that reason there area ton of good options, both new and vintage, available on the market.
There are a few characteristics to look for though in selecting a good rip saw.
Tooth Count (or TPI)
Tooth count is the number of teeth per inch on the rip saw blade. The lower the number of teeth per inch the faster, and rougher, the saw will cut. A TPI of 4 – 7 is a pretty standard range for most large rip saws. This allows for a quick cut yet doesn’t leave too rough of a finished surface.
Rip Saw Size
Your traditional looking rip saw with a long, angled black and wood handle is called a panel saw. This name comes from their size which was designed to fit into top lid panel of a woodworker’s tool chest.
While most panel saws are around 24-inches long you can find saws anywhere from 20 inches to 26 inches long. These longer lengths allowed for making long, straight cuts while ripping boards.
Other rip saws on the market like Japanese-style pull saws, tenon ripping saws, or dovetail rip saws will be shorter. And in the case of the tenon and dovetail saws, have a rigid back which limits their cut depth but adds a lot of structural stability.
New or Used?
Because rip saws were, and still are, fairly easy to make they were produced by the millions in the early 1900s. This has resulted in a flooded vintage saw market which means you can often find high-quality vintage saws for as little as $5. Sometimes all they need is a little sharpening and they will perform just as well as any new saw on the market.
There are a ton of old brands available on sites like Ebay but if you’re new to vintage saws I’d recommend looking at Disston saws. They were widely produced so they are still easy to find. Some models certainly fetch a higher asking price than others but you should have no problem finding a saw to fit your needs at a pretty affordable price.
Hand tool swaps and flea markets are another great option to find vintage saws. These are more popular on the East Coast and Mid-West than they are on the west coast.
If restoring or sharpening an old saw isn’t your style then there are definitely plenty of high-quality saws available to purchase new.
Our Recommendations for the Best Ripping Saw
Here are a few of the best new rip saws available on the market right now.
Crown 190 24-Inch Rip Saw with 4.5 TPI
The Crown 24-inch rip saw is a quality mid-range saw from Crown Hand Tools out of Sheffield, England. The 24-inch length and 4.5 TPI makes this tool extremely fast at ripping through wood stock. The final finish will be a bit rougher than higher TPI saws but that is always easy to clean up with a hand plane.
This ripping saw’s beechwood handle is well balanced and comfortable in the hand. The steel used in the blade has a moderate flex and stays fairly sharp through repeated use. The teeth can be easily sharpened as they dull.
Some users of the saw have noted that the lacquer finish on the blade leads to some drag while cutting and recommend removing it with mineral spirits.
Lynx Garlick Taytools 24” Rip Saw with 4.5 TPI
The Lynx Garlick 24-inch Rip saw is another British made saw with a 24-inch length and 4.5 TPI.
This saw features a taper ground saw place which helps to reduce binding while cutting progressively deeper into the wood.
Once again the 4.5 TPI pattern will leave a slightly rough cut edge but that is easily cleaned up.
The handle is also made of beechwood with brass screws attaching it to the blade.
Kataha Tatebiki Z Saw 10″ Single Edge Rip Saw
If you frequently rip smaller pieces of wood or larger tenons then a smaller, Japanese style rip saw may be just what you need.
These saws have a shorter length and finer tooth pattern which allows for a more precise cut.
I personally keep a number of different Japanese pull saws around the shop as they are cheap and are often the best tool for the job when making quick cuts.
Pax Handsaws have a pretty impressive reputation. They have been around since 1776 which has given them a few years to perfect the design of their saws!
The Pax 22-inch ripping saw is slightly shorter than some of the other models discussed earlier. This gives a the user a bit more control and makes it a great saw for breaking down thinner stock.
The blade is a durable alloy-steel that has been taper ground to reduce binding. It also features a beautiful, two-tone beechwood handle that will make the saw stand out hanging on your tool wall.
If you’re looking for a top of the line tool then the line ends at Lie-Nielsen. Their tools are lusted after by woodworkers around the world and their prices certainly reflect that.
Luckily, once you purchase a Lie-Nielsen tool you probably won’t be looking at replacing it any time soon. They are well know for their quality and finish on all of their tools.
The Lie-Nielsen 20-inch rip saw has one of the finest tooth patterns of the bunch at 7 TPI. This leaves an extremely fine finish cut that requires very little work to get it to its finished state.
The saw features a Swedish steel blade and beautiful curly maple handle that absolutely pops.
Once you get acquainted with this saw it’ll feel like it was designed specifically for your hands.
Other FAQs About Rip Saws
Can a rip saw be used for crosscutting?
A rip saw can be used for crosscutting. Just as a crosscut saw can be used for ripping. Both will be slower than the other though when used in their unintended manner.
Some companies have made sash style saws that combine a rip and crosscut tooth pattern. These saws don’t excel at either task though so if money is an issue then I’d recommend buying a used rip and crosscut saw. Spending $20 on two used saws and learning how to properly sharpen them will make for a much more enjoyable sawing experience.
How do I sharpen a rip saw?
Sharpening a rip saw, with its flat ground teeth, is a fairly easy process. At least compared to the process to sharpen a crosscut saw.
This video by Wood by Wright is a great demonstration for how to sharpen a rip saw properly.
Final Thoughts On Choosing A Ripping Saw
Rip saws are a great tool to have around the shop and whether you choose to buy new or used you will find you’ll be reaching for them more than expected.
You’ll notice that most of the saws we recommended here were a bit more expensive than the run-of-the-mill big box hardware store variety. Now if you’re looking for a saw to cut a tree branch or maybe trim a piece of construction lumber then those $20 saws will probably work just fine. They really aren’t true rip saws though.
If you’re looking for a saw for your woodshop to build furniture with then it’s worth buying a quality new or used saw. Otherwise, you’ll just end up frustrated making inferior cuts with a cheap saw.