How to Use a Coping Saw?

A coping saw is used for coping joints – which is the process of matching up two uneven surfaces – and is most commonly used when installing molding and trim. Its unique U-shaped frame combined with the long slim blade allows for highly intricate cutting, which can’t really be matched by any other saw type.

While coping saws are fairly easy to use, there are a few tips and tricks for getting the perfect cut. I’ll break down the ins and outs of how to use a coping saw – so you can install molding like a seasoned pro.

Using a Coping Saw – Guide

Step 1: Install Blade

Perhaps the most frustrating part of using a coping saw is removing and installing the blades. For whatever reason, the design for installing a blade is a real pain – and will likely require you to flex the frame multiple times before you get the blade to fit correctly inside the saw.

attaching blade to coping saw
Mounting blade inside coping saw.

If your saw doesn’t already have a blade installed, then you’ll need to mount one. Start by attaching one end of the saw blade to the far side blade holder. Then using your body weight flex the frame together enough to fit the other end of the blade into the inside blade holder.

Once the blade is in place, turn the saw’s handle clockwise to tighten the blade. This will cause the entire saw to tighten up, and will ensure the blade can’t come loose while you’re using it.

tightening handle on coping saw
Tightening the blade by rotating the handle.

Step 2: Secure Material

Next up, you’ll want to secure the material you plan to cut in a vice or by using clamps. Just like when your cutting with a typical hand saw, the material needs to be fixed in place to avoid sloppy cuts.

Cutting with a coping saw requires some precision, so you’ll want to make sure your workpiece won’t wobble or move while your cutting.

Step 3: Make Relief Cuts

If you’re coping crown molding, then making several relief cuts in the material can help you make a clean cut. Start by cutting several shallow relief cuts every ¼ to ½ inch.

making relief cuts in material
Making relief cuts in material.

As you’ll notice, the coping saw blade can be positioned at any angle by rotating the metal wingnuts on either side of the frame. This allows you to cut in any direction at any time and ensures the frame won’t get in the way of your cut.

There’s no correct angle for positioning the blade, and some people even use the blade teeth facing away from the saw for a push style cut. I prefer cutting on the pull stroke myself, and I’ve found a 20° offset blade angle ideal for most cutting tasks.

Step 4: Make Primary Cut

Next, make your primary cut by carefully cutting along your work piece. As you cut, small chunks of wood should start to fall away from your work piece.

making primary cut in molding
Cutting away excess material.

As you cut be careful not to remove too much material. You can always clean up the cut afterward with a file or sandpaper.

Step 5: Sand Away Excess Material

Lastly, you’ll want to use a file or rasp to sand away any excess material. Whenever you’re coping, you’re trying to get two unmatched pieces to line up perfectly, so some fine-tuning with sandpaper will usually be necessary.

Cutting a Pattern using a Coping Saw

Coping saws are useful for other tasks besides coping crown molding. They also work very well for cutting holes and custom patterns in wood, PVC, and other materials. Other than hole saws, coping saws are one of the few cutting tools able to cut a large clean hole through a piece of material.

The first step to cutting a custom pattern or hole is drilling a hole through the material. This will enable you to get the saw’s blade through the material and attached on the other side.

threading blade through material
Threading the coping saw blade through the material.

Next, you’ll want to detach the blade from the frame and pass it through the hole you just drilled. Then reattach it to the saw on the other side.

Now you’ve got the saws blade threaded through the work piece so you’re able to cut freely.

cutting custom pattern in material
Cuttting custom pattern with coping saw.

At this point, you can cut any pattern you like in your material. Be careful when cutting tight angles or intricate details as you may need to change blade angles in a tight spot. This can lead to a broken blade, which is easy enough to replace if needed.

Denis Gardner

I've loved tinkering and fixing things for as long as I can remember. So, naturally, I gravitated towards DIY and home improvement when I bought my first home. Nowadays you can find me writing about my passions or messing around with my newest tool!

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