Sawing a board in two or sawing the end off with a crosscut saw is perhaps the most common task in carpentry. There is just one way to proceed to set off a line properly. Grip the handle of the saw securely with the right hand, using the thumb and the index finger touching the side of the handle. Then draw the saw up at least once or probably several times, with the thumb of the left hand directing the blade on the wood where the cut must be made. It must be drawn up gradually and carefully at preciselythe point at which you want the cut to begin. When you try to do it rapidly, the saw will jump and give you with a cut thumb instead of a cut board. Repeat this upwards movement a few times. Don't try to start the cut by pushing down on the saw rather than pulling up. Before you could push down you should have the short guiding cut in the edge of the board. It is this down-stroke that makes the actual cutting when you're going full blast. Keep in mind that a saw has thickness of its own. Do not start in the middle of the line; you must start outside of it. Saw roughly near this line, on the waste side, leaving the line on the board to be cut to precisely with the plane in the finishing that takes after rough cutting by the saw.
Hold the saw very securely after you have accomplished the preliminary cut. When the blade goes off the line, bring it back with a twist of the handle. It will be very difficult to saw on a straight line when you are holding it loosely, and your arm gets tired very quickly. When you push down, the saw bites in perfectly, and when you hold it firmly and render a little pressure to the blade, it creates a firm, fairly rapid movement. Now the cut would begin easily and nicely. The blade should be started vertically—perpendicular to the board—to establish a square cut. You could easily catch on to this if initially you carefully sight above and to one side once your cut is started, or you could testthe angle using a try square. Since it is oftentimes hard to judge the angle of the blade when working, some carpenters put a 45- and a 90-degree angle markings on the face of the blade, or place in the handle (using a brass nut and a long screw) a small hardwood block likewise marked.
A slow, long, easy stroke is best, moving the saw from the top to the hilt, setting pressure just on the downstroke, with the board held securely. The teeth of the saw don't have a chance to do their real work unless you keep the blade at about 45 degrees to the surface of the board.
When cutting difficult parts, guide the blade, with the stronger part of the blade near the handle, but avoid hitting the pawls. It is recommended to face in the direction of the cut.
Careful not to force the blade when it gets stuck. When there is resistance, do a short back-and-forth stroke to loosen the blade and to expand the kerf. At the end of the cut, make sure to give support for the waste, and reduce your cutting strokes. Get your saw checked for set and sharpness.
When you're sawing a long board stretched between two sawhorses, or kitchen chairs, you should hold up the weight of the board using your left hand as you get to the edge of the cut. The weight of the board narrows the kerf on the saw. Furthermore, if you do not hold it up, a piece of wood can break away before the saw finishes the cut, and leave you with a piece of wood that you'll have to glue back.
© Athena Goodlight (repost from 2012)