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Is it safe to let young kids use handsaws? Tips for using handsaws with three-year-olds.

Montessori Children's Hand saw at How we Montessori woodworking at three years

Have you considered introducing a handsaw to your home or classroom woodworking area? Introducing a saw into a Montessori or other child-led environment requires careful forethought and planning. Montessori parents who have already introduced their children to real knives in the kitchen may find it easier to introduce a saw in the woodworking area as the principles are similar. Our focus is on supervision, preparing the environment, and scaffolding skills

Benefits from using a saw with children include:

  • allows the child to cut different lengths of wood and having greater creative control over their work.
  • can provide a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction on sawing through a piece of wood, which can help develop a sense of self and self-pride.
  • helps to develop concentration, coordination, and perseverance.
  • fantastic for developing gross motor skills and core strength. 
  • allows the child to explore risk-taking in a controlled and safe environment.
  • useful for refining the senses, the child will find just the right amount of pressure and refine their movement to ergonomically and efficiently cut the wood.
  • may introduce mathematical terms such as half or measuring the wood pieces and cutting them to size. 

This is the first time I've introduced a handsaw to a child so young, Otto pictured above is three years old (44 months). So I want to share not only my experience but also the experience of those more familiar with woodworking in the early years. Today Lisa McGlashan from Kids Carpentry is sharing her Top Ten Tips for Teaching Kids How to Use a Handsaw.


Top Ten Tips For Teaching Kids How To Use A Handsaw

by Lisa at Kids Carpentry. 


Is it safe to let young kids use handsaws? I get this question almost daily and my answer is always:

"Yes, under correct supervision and guidance children as young as three can enjoy the feeling of success that comes from cutting a piece of wood in half."

So, if you find yourself feeling a bit nervous when a child tells you they need to cut a piece of wood, read on...


1. Make sure your saw is sharp.

You may think a blunt saw is safer for a child to learn with but in fact the opposite is true. Blunt tools mean that the child has to put a lot more effort into pushing the saw which leads to loss of technique and the saw going astray with all that extra force behind it. It is very frustrating and tiring for children trying to cut wood with a blunt saw!


2. A bench vice or bar clamps are a MUST.

The wood must be held firmly so it does not move around while they are sawing. Children can not hold the wood and saw at the same time. Clamps keep everyone's hands clear from the saw.

Cut the wood as close to the clamp as possible as this is where the wood will be the most rigid. Make sure your work bench is stable and won’t wobble with the sawing.


3. Take the time to practice using a handsaw yourself!

Get familiar with it, cut some wood, find out what makes it easier and what makes it harder. Confidence in your own ability will give the children confidence in theirs.


4. Introduce the saw to the children first.

Let them gently feel the sharp teeth and imagine how much it would hurt if they cut themselves. It may sound harsh, but the children will respect that it is a real tool only to be used for a specific purpose. This is also a good time to remind them about the rules of your carpentry area.



5. Get the technique right.

The photo above is a great example of the stance the child should be in when sawing. Note the spare hand is deliberately holding the bench a good distance away from the saw - make this a carpentry area rule for sawing.

Not only does this keep her hand safe and occupied, it also gives her stability and extra strength to push the saw. Feet are apart and planted firmly on the ground.


6. Start with small pieces of wood!

Successfully cutting small pieces will give confidence to persevere with larger pieces later on.


7. Sawing the wood.

Getting the cut started is the trickiest part. A few little back strokes with the saw will create the initial groove to guide the saw going forward.

It is important to keep the saw in a straight line otherwise it can jam. Emphasise keeping eye, arm and saw lined up. You could draw a straight line on the wood for them to follow to help with this.


8. Feel the rhythm.

Once the cut is started, use the traditional back and forward motion to cut right through. Demonstrate how to get into a rhythm and how to avoid using too much pressure. Let the saw do the work.


9. Maintain 1:1 supervision at all times when a child is sawing.

Have a wide "no go zone" so that other children do not walk in front of the saw. Children do like to watch but have them stand well back.


10. Safe storage.

When the task is complete put the saw away in a safe place that is inaccessible to children. I like to have the saws visible so that the children can see them and know they are available, but up high so that they need adult assistance.

As always, we are here to help with any carpentry questions you might have so please do reach out if you need.


You can contact and follow Lisa at Kids Carpentry, on Facebook and Instagram. Sign up to receive her 10 Fun and Easy Woodwork Projects for Kids! here.  

Montessori Children's Hand saw at How we Montessori woodworking at three years

I have a few extra tips that we've found useful using a saw with our three-year-old:

  • start with a soft wood - especially if the children are 3-4yrs. We started using balsa wood with the saw, so the child can learn all about sawing and getting the technique right before sawing harder woods.
  • use slow movements - it might just be my child but he wants to do everything so fast. I encourage slow sawing movements, this reduces the risk of harm but also allows the child to feel the wood and become familiar with the sawing movements.
  • wear safety glasses - we have a blanket rule, no safety glasses no woodwork, it doesn't matter what tools are the child is using. We haven't had any issues about wearing safety glasses because our child knows it's a must.

Montessori Children's Hand saw at How we Montessori woodworking at three years

There is SO much satisfaction and joy when the child learns they can cut through a whole piece of wood. The focus here is amazing too, my child is often distracted but here he is totally absorbed in this work.

Using a handsaw at How we Montessori kids woodworking three years (2)

"The delight on a child's face when they have persevered cutting through a section of wood is a wonder to behold: a real mixture of pride and surprise that they could actually make it happen." - Learning Through Woodwork: Introducing Creative Woodwork in the Early Years.

Child's handsaw at How we Montessori

Resources: We use the Trojan 150mm Junior Hack Saw (AU) similar here in UK, similar in NZ, and similar US here and here

If you are interested to know more about woodworking in the early years, as a teacher or parent, I highly recommend Learning Through Woodwork: Introducing Creative Woodwork in the Early Years by Pete Moorhouse, it is definitive and comprehensive.

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