Introduction: DIY Magnetic Hand-Saw Guide - Extremely Accurate Cuts!

Picture of DIY Magnetic Hand-Saw Guide - Extremely Accurate Cuts!

I think handsaws are WAY better than circular saws for many reasons, but I always come across one problem: I'm never able to saw perpendicular, aka square, at a 90° angle. You can see the example for this here.

I have (finally!) received the saw that I won back in the 2015 Shelving Contest with my Ultimate Magnetic Pegboard. It's extremely sharp, beautifully made, and has a really comfortable handle. However, it is very thin, and doesn't have any aligning support on the top, so it bends really easily while sawing.

A well known solution for this is a Miter-Box. I've bought one, but it just doesn't work. Instead of having the sides hold the saw, I just saw into the plastic...

One day I was daydreaming a bit: "If I take that magnetic dovetail jig that I saw in one of Jay Bates' videos, and align it differently, will I be able to use it for sawing at 90°, perpendicular, and square to the wooden board that I'm sawing?" So I do a quick search and: "Wait, WHAT? It costs 50 DOLLARS?"

"OK, nevermind. I'm making my own!" I decided that I'd make myself a magnetic guide, which ensures that the cut will be square in all directions. Alternatively, you can modify it, and use it for dovetails, miters, or anything else.

Let's get started!

EDIT: I've built a better handsaw guide! You can see the new Instructable here , or watch the video here .

Ultimate Woodworkers' Miter-Box (Magnetic Handsaw Guide V2.0)

Step 1: What You'll Need

Picture of What You'll Need

Below is a list for everything you'll need to complete this project. If you don't see something that you think should be here, please let me know in the comment section below. If you would like to know more about a specific tool/part that I used, feel free to ask in the comments.


Hardware & Materials:

Salvaged 90° piece of wood

Neodymium magnet (salvaged from an HDD)

Moist paper towel

Synthetic towel


Chemicals & Adhesives:


Alcohol swab

Contact cement


Tools (+Attachments):


Speed square



Glue mixing stick


Silicon carbide sandpaper



Subject: Woodworking

Recommended Safety Equipment: Respirator

Approximate Time: <2 Hours

Cost (for me): FREE

Difficulty: Fairly Easy

Step 2: Choose Your Magnet

Picture of Choose Your Magnet

Choose your magnet! I recommend using a magnet that is stronger than what you need. You see why in a few steps...

I found a magnet that I had salvaged from a hard drive which I thought would work well.

I don't have a pictures of removing the magnet from the other metal part (ferrite?) because I did this a long time ago, but Ben has a great tutorial. See step 1.

Step 3: Choose Your Piece of Wood

Picture of Choose Your Piece of Wood

Since I didn't have a saw that can actually saw wood accurately, I needed to find a piece of wood that was accurate. I looked through my collection of wood until I found an accurate one, which happened to be a leg of a chair that I had taken apart. This chair was made of European Beech.

If you're going to be taking apart a chair, I really recommend Making your own (non) Dead-Blow Hammer, since most chairs are made with mortise and tenon joints, which are very strong. I did a quick measurement with my speed square to make sure that it was square...

Step 4: Sand!

Picture of Sand!

I sanded both the endgrain of the chair, and the magnet, until I saw that a bit of material had been removed. This is a very important step, because it allows the adhesive to adhere significantly better. I used silicon carbide sandpaper, which I estimate was about 200 grit.

While sticking the magnet in some dirt, as an attempt to clean the magnet, the thing that was funny was that the dirt actually stuck to the magnet! A wet paper towel did the job better...

Step 5: Epoxy-ify Them Together!

Picture of Epoxy-ify Them Together!

I cleaned the magnet thoroughly with an alcohol swab, and mixed some Epoxy (more like WAYYY too much). After that I used a screwdriver to apply it onto the magnet. This was another mistake, as the screwdriver kept sticking to the magnet, which of course, did its job very well :)

I finally stuck the magnet onto the wood, and cleaned the part of the magnet that was exposed.

Step 6: The Anti-scratch Cloth

Picture of The Anti-scratch Cloth

If I recall correctly, these magnets are made of really hard material, meaning that they might scratch the saw. The magnet is also really strong, so I thought it would be a good idea to reduce the friction somehow.

After letting the Epoxy cure for a few days, I got back to work. I found some type of synthetic towel, which I thought would work well.

I cut it to the size that I wanted, and applied contact cement to one side, and onto the magnet. About an hour later, I stuck them together.

Step 7: Cut Off the Excess Wood

Picture of Cut Off the Excess Wood

As you might remember, the piece of wood that I used was an old chair leg, meaning that it was pretty big.

First, I clamped the guide to the table, and then started cutting it. I made sure to leave enough space so it would be easy to use in the future...

Here, you can see why you MUST wear a welding mask when I saw!

Step 8: DONE! | How to Use It | Examples | Video!

Picture of DONE! | How to Use It | Examples | Video!


If you LOVE watching horribly edited videos, you can click here to watch my video about it. If you liked it, make sure to check out my new YouTube Channel, as I upload quick videos of my projects in action, and more!

To use it, first, you need to mark a line, which represents the angle that you want to cut. This can be done with a speed square. After that, you need to clamp both the guide, and the board onto your workbench. Nw you can start sawing! You'll be amazed at how accurate the cuts are!

Do whatever you want with it: crosscuts, dovetails, miters - Anything!

Don't forget to Follow me on Instructables, I have over 80 Instructables that I'm sure you'd like!

DON'T BE SHY! Liked it? Let me know! Didn't like it? Let me know why!

Are you a hand-tool expert? Leave your handsaw tips in the comments below!

I read ALL comments, and reply to as many as I can, so make sure to leave your questions, suggestions, tips, tricks, upgrades, improvements, and any other ideas in the comments below! - Thanks!


Yonatan24 (author)2016-10-25

Do you want a FREE PRO Membership?

I'm giving a FREE 3-Months PRO Membership to the first member that makes their own magnetic saw guide!

Here's what you have to do to be able to receive the free membership:

1. Follow me on Instructables

2. Reply to this message with pictures of the end result (Don't forget to click "I Made It!")

3. Nothing! I will PM you the free code!

ajod (author)Yonatan242017-03-07

Are any of those free codes still available?

Yonatan24 (author)ajod2017-03-08

I've already given the free membership for this I'ble away (to srilyk), though the giveaway is still available for many of my other Instructables.

I think I'm going to make a similar Instructable to this one (a few upgrades) in a month or so, so I will be giving away a free membership over there too :)

littledrummerboy (author)2017-04-14

Here's a link to the saw guide in case anyone's interested. Unlike a miter box, this guide can use a board as a fence and do accurate cuts of unlimited length.

Joedproctor made it! (author)2017-02-13

Great idea Yonatan24! I used a knife block I got from a local thrift store in hopes the knife block company got the 90 deg angle right...get it...right...nevermind. I also used an old thin towel. Think it worked out ok, bright pink and all.

Yonatan24 (author)Joedproctor2017-02-14

Looks great!

I hope you sand down the piece that you used in the first picture, I don't want to think I was involved in the illegal activity of ruining a precious piece of wood! Not if it's Pine, though. I hate Pine!

I already gave the premium membership to srilyk. I would've normally sent a patch, but I think that option has been canceled. :)

naiksu (author)2016-11-08

Great DIY idea. I will be making one. Thanks for sharing the idea.

Yonatan24 (author)naiksu2016-11-08

Glad to see you liked it! :)

spark master (author)2016-10-31

I will make one, soon enough. You really knocked off a great tool even one should have. I think the Vertas tool is great but for el-cheapo people like myself, this is better.

Below are comments saying to use square tubing, don't buy ot, look around there are many sources for free, some baby carriage styles, some umbrellas just to name two. I have used them for other things myself!

Yonatan24 (author)spark master2016-10-31

This is weird. I didn't get notified for your comment...

This Veritas guide does look pretty nice. I have some square tubing-- I've salvaged a bit from an old lamp! :)

Analog1Jim2 (author)2016-10-27

Your idea is simple & effective. Comments/questions.

You use a square cut piece of wood to mount the magnet, but how do you know the magnet is square after you glue it? Thought about embedding the magnet in the wood? If slightly below the surface the squareness is preserved and scratching of the saw minimized. The addition of material to cover the wood would still be a good idea.

Thanks for the instructable.

Yonatan24 (author)Analog1Jim22016-10-28

Thanks, Why wouldn't it be square after I glued it?

I didn't think of that. I might do something like that if the future, if I build myself a plunge router mount :)

SirCooksalot (author)Yonatan242016-10-28

You could just trace out the magnet shape in the wood and then chisel out a depression for it, like an inlay. I think if you inlayed the magnet JUST under flush, the saw would slide nicely on the face of the wood, but still stick. An easier way to do the inlay method would be to get say 5 neodymium ROUND magnets, and then you could just drill a hole for the inlaying... one in each corner, one in the middle, like the 5 on a die. Super glue those puppies and done. Cool 'Ible, thanks!

Yonatan24 (author)SirCooksalot2016-10-30

Great idea! I have a 25mm (I think) round magnet that I think I could use for this :)

AlejandroR26 (author)Yonatan242016-10-31

forstner bits work great for that purpose!

srilyk (author)SirCooksalot2016-10-29

This is the exact comment that I was going to make. If you look at the saw guides that Jay Bates has (at least if he is who I'm thinking of) then you'll see that they're a large circular magnet embedded flush into the surface of the guide. Yours isn't circular (obviously) so it's a little harder to use something like forstner bits, but a chisel would work just fine. Alternatively if you have forstner bits and a drill press/vice you could easily use that to remove the material you need. And now that you have a square guide that works you could totally use it to bootstrap yourself a hand saw guide version 2 :)

Analog1Jim2 (author)Yonatan242016-10-30

It might not be square because the glue under the magnet may have a slope to it. Glue tends not to evenly distribute unless the pieces are clamped square while the glue dries. Thank you again for your instructable.

Yonatan24 (author)Analog1Jim22016-10-31

I wasn't able to clamp it properly, but I guess that would be an issue if I was looking for extreme accuracy.

I was planning on using CA glue, but I found out that I didn't have any. That would probably be a better option :)

srilyk made it! (author)2016-10-29

I made it! I gave it a try and it kind of worked - my magnets were pretty small and I only used 4 of them... and I was in a rush to publish this. But I definitely have some ideas for improving it :)

srilyk (author)srilyk2016-10-29

I just used a piece of scrap 2x4 I had laying around the garage. The end looked square, so I cut out a channel wide enough for my magnets using my dremel & cut-off wheel (yeah, it's a terrible way to remove wood, but it works for small things).

I affixed the magnets using hot glue, which actually worked really well due to the rough nature of the cuts the dremel made in the wood. Here's the test cut that I made. I didn't clamp it at first, so that might have something to do with why the cut is so rubbish. The other thing that I noticed is that my magnets are quite a bit "thinner" than your HDD magnet. So I'm thinking that I should take SirCooksalot's idea and put one set of magnets in the middle, and then 4 more sets around the corners of the guide.

But the wood against the saw worked just fine, I bet if I rubbed a bit of beeswax on it it would make it even better.

One thing to take note of if you follow my lead and use multiple magnets - you want to alternate which pole of the magnet is facing up. If you have something like this:



Then what you're actually doing is creating a set of magnets like this:



Which weakens the grip of the magnets on the surface of what you're holding. However, if you alternate:


Then the magnetic field will look something like this:



Though when I was looking for some source materials just now it turns out that if you can make a Halberch Array you can make the magnet even stronger: (and to see what some people are doing with them:

spark master (author)srilyk2016-10-31

that was so very cool, thanks for posting

Yonatan24 (author)srilyk2016-10-30

Looks great! Check your inbox :)

Passing You (author)2016-10-28

You could use part of a steel square tube. Put a magnet on it which would magntise the whole thing. It would do the same thing and last longer.

Or just use a square.

Your main problem is this "However, it is very thin, and doesn't have any aligning support on the top, so it bends really easily while sawing." Even with a square you make the job harder with a flimsy blade. I would get a better saw with a thicker blade. It will make your sawing easier.

srilyk (author)Passing You2016-10-29

Note that this saw is a Japanese-style saw, i.e. it cuts on the pull stroke. It's only going to bend if you're sawing improperly, trying to cut on the push stroke. They're designed that way because with a pull stroke you can use a thinner blade which means a thinner kerf and less waste material.

Passing You (author)srilyk2016-10-30

Yes, I have some Japanes style saws. They are good for somethings and push saws are good also. And yet at the beginning of your instructable, you indicate the need for your square because of your saw bending: "However, it is very thin, and doesn't have any aligning support on the top, so it bends really easily while sawing." So are you saying you are sawing wrong?

I think you came up with a nice solution for a problem you were experiencing with your saw. I think it will help others.

There are other solutions. All I am saying to other people if your saw is bending other people may want to consider a thicker saw and a push saw. I say if your setup works for you do not change it.

As far as as less waste material (saw dust) between a thinner blade and a thicker blade, at least for me it is of no concern chopping off the end of something.

Yonatan24 (author)Passing You2016-10-31

I'm sawing wrong, and I need more practice.

I will take a look at some YouTube videos. I'm sure there's a ton of great information out there :)

Yonatan24 (author)Passing You2016-10-30

I have some steel square tubing. I might do that in the future. Thanks for the idea! :)

kidNeutrino (author)2016-10-27

Nice idea. And I love my draw saw also. Just a beautiful tool.

I have been embedding NeoDy magnets flush in objects that I create. I do this by cutting or drill a small pocket in the item, then back filling with epoxy to bring it flush with the original surface. I think I may try to do that to build my own guide.

Yonatan24 (author)kidNeutrino2016-10-27

I love it! It looks like each tooth is filed in a million different angles!

Great idea! I don't have something like a Pantorouter, which would make that really easy, but I am planning on making a CNC machine in the (near) future. Maybe I should add a plunge Dremel router to my To-Do list. Thanks!

srilyk (author)Yonatan242016-10-29

Well, each tooth should have one angle, and the one next to it should have another. Presumably they alternate like that - if not there's going to be some pattern to it.

Phil B (author)2016-10-25

Around 1970 Sears offered a miter box that held the backsaw in place ahead of and behind the cutting area with magnets. Your Instructable gives me more confidence in that arrangement. Thank you.

Yonatan24 (author)Phil B2016-10-25

Didn't know that. I'd like to have something like this, but I don't have room to store one, and it's probably pretty expensive.

Phil B (author)Yonatan242016-10-26

The photo at the link is very much like what Sears had available around 1970 with magnetic mounts for the saw. The saw was a bit different in those days. The blade was solid and a heavier gauge with a reinforcing or backing strip about 3/4 inch wide on the top edge. The height of the blade was about four inches, not the narrow flexible strip held under tension to keep it straight. The magnets used then were not nearly as powerful as those from a hard drive. I saw these miter boxes in stores, but never used one. In 1970 I think a miter box like that cost around $50, maybe a little more. By comparison, gasoline was about 35 cents a gallon and a nice ten inch table saw was about $250 new.

rafununu (author)Phil B2016-10-26

Sweet 70s, when we were young and innocent (not that much).

Yonatan24 (author)rafununu2016-10-26

Sweet 70s, when I was about negative 30 years old ;)

srilyk (author)Yonatan242016-10-29

Roy Underhill has one of these classic miter boxes. It's sweet sweet metal and is absolutely gorgeous. Also if you're a woodworker and you don't know who Roy Underhill is, go find episodes of the Woodwright's shop *now*. Also check out his book, Kruschev's Shoe, which is about presenting material to audiences and is so good.

itsmescotty (author)Phil B2016-10-27

I grew up with something like what the link was but I'm thinking it was professional and not sears. Was in a box where the entire lid and 4 sides were removed to operate. HEAVY and really concise.

Phil B (author)itsmescotty2016-10-27

eBay still has a selection of classic miter boxes. They were what finish carpenters used before electric miter boxes appeared in the very late 1960s or early 1970s. The miter boxes would still be very functional, but the saws would be difficult to find. Sears had some models that were near professional quality, but also a lot of home duty models for every budget. Quality, capacity, and flexibility varied according to price.

MichaelM812 (author)2016-10-27

Oh, what our fathers never taught us! You see, the saw casts a reflection that creates perfect verticle and horizontal alignment. A mark and your thumb as a guide gets you started to perfection. Now position is everything. Your body and shoulders should line up diagonally, about 62 degrees (phi) and your forearm should swing like a locomotive bar. That way you never drift. When I was a kid, I had to build and frame this way, and every joint had to be perfect. 15 minutes of practice and you can do it too.

Yonatan24 (author)MichaelM8122016-10-27

Not sure what you mean by "the saw casts a reflection that creates perfect vertical and horizontal alignment". I've tried using the thumb of my left hand as a guide, but that still isn't accurate enough...

A locomotive bar, from what I understand, is like the blade in a reciprocating saw? When I saw, I pull and push my hand back and forth. I've heard somewhere that I should actually move my whole body back and forth, though I might be confusing that with sharpening chisels, which I also don't do, because I am absolutely horrible at :)

I should take a look at some YouTube videos for beginners.

MichaelM812 (author)Yonatan242016-10-28

Using the saw as a mirror, vertical and horizontal squareness become revealed by a strait line. Should it alter all so slightly, the imperfection of that line is striking. Regarding use of the thumb to set the cut, the first inch or two from the heel of any good quality crosscut handsaw or toe of a ripsaw make it possible to start a precise cut, even leaving just half the mark. I use my forefinger along the handle instead of inside, and turn with my left foot forward so that the shoulder and elbow move my forearm and saw strait in line. The stroke should be easy and feel like all the teeth are working equally. If, however, your shoulders are square to the cut, you'll invariable start to under cut or turn your saw slightly supine, and may cause to saw to drift to the left. This is also the same motion used for sharpening chisels and plane irons. I glanced around the internet and noticed Norm Abrams taught the same method. Norm points out of course, if your saw is rusted, you have to saw to a line. Try it and check for square; you'll be amazed and proud.

lbrewer42 (author)2016-10-27

Good idea!

i can see where this idea may be a way to train yourself to make perfect cuts without the need for the guide. I would think with enough cuts using it, you would "get the feel" for what is the proper way to produce the same results without the magnets.

Yonatan24 (author)lbrewer422016-10-28


(Though it would probably take a very long time... ;)

Yonatan24 (author)Yonatan242016-10-28


DavidN245 (author)2016-10-27

Shame to hear you struggle so much with 90 degree cuts. As some others have mentioned, with the right training and a bit of practice it is possible to saw accurately without such a guide. It's about marking out properly, knowing where to 'look' when sawing and how to correct the cut in the early stages of the cut if it isn't on line at first. Getting your shoulder into EXACTLY the right place is key too. I trained as a Luthier and have taught woodwork for 29 years and only recently really got this sorted when I constructed a large deck and sawed 90% of the boards and supports by hand. I really thought about what I was doing and got to be quick and accurate.....

Yonatan24 (author)DavidN2452016-10-27

Wow! You've been teaching for about 35 times longer than I've been sawing!

When I saw, I'm focused mostly about not breathing, finishing it as fast as I can, and being terrified that there is an invisible nail in my piece of wood. Perhaps that explains a bit...

tzny (author)2016-10-27

Great use for the old hard drive magnet! I can't resist but mention my own instructable featuring those magnets - magnetic knife rack.

Yonatan24 (author)tzny2016-10-27

Looks great! I can't (also!) resist to mention, but I have a collection of my projects that involve magnets! :)

JCambpell007 (author)2016-10-27

If your saw bends while sawing, it is because you are cutting on the push stroke: Japanese saws like this cut on the pull stroke. It is next to impossible to cut straight by pushing like you would with a Western style saw - they are just too thin. Try pulling the blade across your line and things should improve. Nice instructable, though - makes me want to apply your magnet idea to a sharpening jig.

About This Instructable




Bio: 15 year old, sick with a deadly disease called DIY-itis!
More by Yonatan24:How to Enlarge a Washer (No Drill Press Needed!)How to Sharpen a Japanese Saw10 MORE Bench Vise Tips, Tricks, & Hacks (Part 2)
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