How to cut wood without a saw: Top Best alternatives

How to cut wood without a saw: Top alternatives

A saw is the most useful tool for woodworkers. When this equipment is lost, misplaced or destroyed, there are several quite effective alternatives.

If you end up in a situation where you need to cut some wood, but you don’t have a saw, you can learn some useful tips on how to cut wood without a saw. Maybe not so accurate and precise, but still very practical.

Is it possible to cut wood without a saw?

You can cut timber without the use of a saw. It’s possible to use different wood cutting tools. All of them have their own functions, so it’s essential to decide which tool will best suit you. Depending on the type of wood you’re working with and what cut you need, you can use some different tools.

Wood cutting tools

Let me tell you, there’s no need to use highly professional tools to cut wood. If you wonder how to cut wood without a saw, there are at least 10 examples of different wood cutting tools that you can use to cut wooden boards.

Honestly, even a knife can cut some wood. But of course, you can’t cut down a tree with it. So, here you can learn about some of the best ways to cut wood without a saw.

Let’s take a look at these tools:

  1. Using a chisel for precision
  2. Using a sharp knife for rough cutting
  3. Cutting wood with a machete
  4. Use an axe to cut wood
  5. Cut wood with a drill
  6. Using a wood router
  7. Cutting wood using a lathe
  8. Try a plane
  9. Cutting with scissors
  10. Use wire if you’re limited in tools

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Chisels are great tools for cutting wood, but they are much slower than saws and require removing a significant amount of material. However, they are often the best option for the beginner if a proper saw is not on hand.

Wood chisels are often seen as tools for shaping rather than cutting, but in fact they can be both.

A wood chisel can be used to cut a mark at an oblique angle, but it can also be used to cut through wood or split wood.

You can use a chisel to cut wooden boards precisely. It is a simple tool for working with wood. The problem some people have with using a chisel is that it “cuts through.” This means losing a significant portion of the workpiece.

I recommend starting with a ½ or ¾ inch chisel. Use a sharp chisel for best results, as a blunt chisel is difficult to use and can lead to accidents. Use a mallet or chipping hammer as you work.

Mark where you will be cutting. Do this on both sides of the chisel, so you know how much wood is coming off the workpiece. This is doubly important if you plan to make multiple cuts.

If you have a sharp knife handy, you should make marks before you start. This will help limit the material to be removed to the marked area. Pay attention to the grain as well: chiseling across the grain is much harder, and chiseling along it can remove too much material if you’re not careful.

Remove the material slowly. If you don’t know how to chisel, it’s best to continually remove thin pieces until you’re almost through. Then you can place the chisel vertically with the flat edge against the wood to pierce the bottom of the piece.

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One of the best ways to cut wood without a saw is to use a knife. A sharp hunting knife can be used for many different things. It is also quite effective way of cutting wood.

Using a knife, you can create both rough and precise cuts. It all depends on the technique and the knife itself. Let’s look at three main wood cutting methods using serrated knives.

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Notch method

This method is rather simple but slow, it is used to shorten the length of the lumber.

To cut lumber using this method, you need to follow these steps:

  1. Select which part of the wood you will be cutting. Evaluate the width from both sides.
  2. Hold down the workpiece and start prying small pieces of wood. Do it a little bit and then repeat it on the other side.
  3. Repeat this on different angles until you create a V-pattern.
  4. Once the piece is thin enough, snap it with your hands.

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Batoning method

This method is mostly used to split firewood and can be very stressful for a knife. If you’re trying this method, know that the knife must be thick and long. You also need to use a mallet.

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To cut wood with a knife and baton method, you need to follow these steps:

  1. Take the knife and place it with the sharp edge down on the wood to be split. Push the knife in as hard as you can.
  2. Strike the back of the blade with a hammer.
  3. The pressure resulting from the application of force will guide the knife downward. Make several strokes until the knife locks into the lumber.
  4. Once you see that the blade is recessed, continue striking the protruding tip of the blade with your percussion tool.
  5. Continue until the lumber splits.

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The ringing method allows you to break a round or irregularly shaped part into small pieces. This method takes time and patience. It can be adapted to most long pieces of wood.

To get started with the ringing method, do the following steps:

  1. Make several marks along the edge of the piece of wood you want to cut. Some material on either side of the line will be lost.
  2. Run your knife with a sharp edge along the marked line. Gently tap it with a mallet if you find it difficult to draw.
  3. Cut the mark on one side and cut diagonally at an angle.
  4. Keep going in from each corner to make a deep cut. If it’s thin enough, split a piece of wood.


In comparison to a knife, a machete is much less precise. On the other hand, if you need to cut through larger pieces of wood, it will work better.

In most part, it can be used in the same ways as a knife. Just don’t forget to control the blade with your dominant hand and use a sharp blade.

As it can be used for chopping, the machete can also remove large chunks of wood, which is harder to do if you use a knife. Using a sharp machete will lead to a rough cut and less precision, but using it can save time in splitting wood.

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The first instrument anyone can ever think of when talking about wood cutting is a good old-fashioned axe. Very simple and old but nonetheless a very useful tool. It can be used even by a newbie. Let’s see how you can use an axe.

The most common way to use an axe is for splitting wood. There are many different kinds of axes you can find, like throwing or Viking ones, but remember that they are not made for chopping. Usually, the best way to chop firewood is to use a simple axe.

Axes are also used for falling down a tree. This can be done only if you know how to feel a tree in the right way and have an experience in this task. Felling down a tree in general is dangerous and even if you have a saw you must not do it without any special guidance.

In general, axes are good for rough work, if you’re cutting big pieces of wood. They cannot be as precise as axes, so if you need some smooth surface you will need other right tools.

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Do you need to cut relatively thin wood, need high precision, but don’t have a saw at hand? A drill press is a reasonable alternative.

This method is only really effective if you need a cutting line – although you can use a drill to cut more than one straight line to get the shape you want.

Curved lines are not possible with this method, but you will have to drill more holes closer together and be careful when splitting the wood to make sure it doesn’t split along the grain and not along the curve.

You will drill holes in the wood surface along the desired cut until the piece is weak enough to be split along the desired line. In fact, this method can sometimes be faster than using a hand saw, depending on the size of the cut you want to make and the hardness of the wood.

However, as with most things, the harder the wood, the more time it will take and the harder it will be to cut the wood without a saw.

As a rule of thumb, you will need to drill twice as many holes as you think, and the width between the drill holes should be no larger than the width of the holes themselves to get an even cut.

Drilling that many holes in a row can seem tedious, but when you see how effectively the sawn wood diverges at the end, it’s worth it.

At the end of this process, the edge is usually not smooth, but you can smooth it out with any sharp-edged tool.

Cutting wood with a drill is not too difficult, it just leaves rough edges. The good news is that you can use a drill to cut any size of wood, as long as you have the patience.

Take your drill, the process is simple:

Mark a straight line along where you want to cut.

Draw a second line the distance of the width of the drill bit, the drill bit should fit neatly between these parallel lines. In most cases, it is better to use a smaller drill bit, as this results in less wasted material.

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Drill the holes repeatedly along the line, preferably closer together. Periodically check the strength after the first “line” of holes. It is best if there is less material between the holes, as it will then be easier to separate the pieces.

When the wood is ready, snap it along the line.

Finish the edges of the wood with a rasp or sandpaper.

All in all, this is a fairly simple process, just one that requires more care than using a saw.

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Wood routers are good for cutting complex shapes. They are good for use if you need something more than rough cuts. As long as you have the proper jigs or forms, using a wood router is quite simple. Most commonly, jigs and sleds come in circle or straight line configurations.

Usually, routers are used to create a certain shape on the piece of wood. In rare cases, it can be used to cut a circle. Using a router for creating simple shapes is fairly achievable.

It’s better to combine different tools if you need to make a deep cut. In this case, a router can be used to create a shape and to complete the cut it’s better to use something like a knife.

Routers are the best tools for creating curved cuts. But you still need to be careful with them because they can be as powerful as a saw.


Lathes are very accurate tools used to create complex patterns on the outside of a piece of wood, so they are not very useful for making standard cuts.

Still, if using a lathe is the only option you have, you can cut the wood by thinning it out with the lathe. You should consider the fact that the lathe has a few limitations when used for cutting wood.

It’s better not to cut all the way through the wooden piece with a lathe. It’s better to leave a thin piece and then break it.

Lathes always create curvy lines when used, so if you need a straight line, you should consider using different or additional tools.

Using a lathe is a great idea when you need to cut out a round or any other curvy shape out of a wood piece.

You need to be careful when using one to avoid any injuries. It’s one of the most precise and fast instruments for a clean cut, but as you already know, it still has some limitations.

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Although using a planer is not the most efficient tool for cutting wood, they are good for cleaning blanks. The resulting wood also requires some finishing to match the exact parameters you are looking for.

Planers are most often used for finishing large pieces of wood, or in some cases for rounding the rough cut on a piece of wood. They won’t be of much use to you when sawing wood unless you spend hours trying to make a groove in a board.

If you do have to use a planer for sawing, it’s best to scrape both sides of the board and keep the depth adjustment down until you can break it with your hands. For an even cut, ensure that the plane is properly aligned and equipped with a sharp blade. Using the depth adjustment, adjust the depth of the plane. Begin cutting on one side only, then flip the wood over and repeat the process. Make sure that you move the planer along the entire length of the board, otherwise, instead of a smooth surface, you’ll get a chipped surface, as the curl breaks when the tool is lifted.

Planers, on the other hand, are ideal for eliminating the sloppiness that most wood cutting methods create. The blade in the tool is designed to smooth out the wooden surface, and a sharp planer does this very easily.

While a planer by itself may not be the most useful cutting tool, it is essential for cleaning the workpiece if you are using a rougher method.


Scissors are a great option for thin wood, outperforming even saws with the right material. Scissors can make a straight cut, unlike the other tools on this list. Scissors have one advantage over saws: they can be used very precisely on the wood they will cut. For many jobs, however, they simply won’t make the cut.

The problem is that they are virtually useless for wood that is more than ⅛ inch thick, no matter how good your scissors are. In this case, there is simply not enough cutting power.

Blunt scissors are not recommended because they will tear the material. Make sure your scissors are sharp before you cut the wood. For small woodworking jobs, any scissors will do.


Can wire cut wood? The wire may seem like an odd choice for cutting wood, but in fact, wire cutters work much the same way as a jigsaw, only without the teeth.

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You can also use wire since it works like a jigsaw. Wrap both ends of the wire around the piece and pull it back and forth to create friction. Woodcut with wire usually has smooth edges compared to using the other tools on this list.

Thick wire usually takes a little longer to cut, remember that friction is used to cut, and thin wire helps concentrate that friction into a smaller area. On the other hand, the wire that is too thin will often break and make life difficult.

The easiest way to cut lumber with wire is to take a section of wire slightly wider than your project. You need at least 2 inches of space to move forward and backward.

Wire cutting creates one of the smoothest edges, other than using a saw blade, and can be used to cut straight or curved lines, thick or thin wood, decorative pieces, or rough chopping.

The biggest problem with this method of cutting is that it takes a long time if you are working with hard wood or a thicker piece of wood.

It can also take some practice to work out the saw’s movement and not pull the wire so hard that it breaks.

Before you start cutting, you can use a chisel or knife to map out the direction, so you don’t have to worry about the wire slipping as you pull it back and forth.

For small parts, cutting wire can be more efficient than using a saw, because you can be much more precise and manipulate the wire in a way you can’t effectively manipulate a saw blade.

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Frequently asked questions

Can you cut wood without power tools?

Firewood can be chopped by hand, with an axe, cleaver, or similar implement. It is often impractical to use expensive power tools for cutting firewood for a private home. The axe is considered the most versatile tool, which is why it is chosen to chop firewood.

Splitting firewood with a cleaver is much easier. It is heavier than an axe and is shaped like a wedge, so it either splits the wood on impact or leaves a crack, and very rarely gets stuck.

Can you cut wood with a utility knife?

It may seem that a utility knife is a good choice for wood cutting, as it has fairly sharp interchangeable blades, the possibility of adjusting the length of the blade, and costs quite inexpensive, but using such a knife is dangerous.

When cutting wood, the load often falls on the lateral side of the blade, and in such cases, the blade of the utility knife breaks. However, you can use a utility knife to make the initial marking of the workpiece.

How do you cut wood by hand?

The basic tool needed for any method of cutting down a tree is a chainsaw. If it is not available, you can use an axe or a circular saw.

Under no circumstances should you use a grinder and any discs, because the wood will jam the disc, after which the tool will tear out of his hands, and given the huge speed of the disc and the high power of the motor, serious injury is possible. It is also not worth using a hacksaw for metal, because its shape and blade are not designed for such work.

Without a chainsaw, the process of felling a tree will require much more effort, and the likelihood of mistakes will also increase.

What is the easiest way to cut wood?

The most popular tool for sawing wood is the circular saw. Which sawing operation to use (sawing operation includes decisions about board thickness, log flip, and log taper compensation) depends on many factors: wood grade, quality of the log, its size, machine design, and grade of the lumber to be obtained. Make sure the saw teeth are facing in the direction of rotation.


Cutting wood without a saw may seem impossible, but fortunately, there are several options to choose from. There are many handy tools for cutting wood, regardless of the size of the workpiece. Learning how to cut wood without a saw can make you a better craftsman in general, even if you never have to do it.

The right tool for the right situation is always better, but there is always room for improvisation when needed. Axes, chisels, wire, table saw and other tools can be used to cut wood surfaces depending on the project you are working on.

When choosing a tool, consider the type of wood, the shape you want, and your skill level. Make sure you keep the right tools in your shed that are flexible enough to perform other functions.

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