How to Cut a Door with a Handsaw

7 Phases for Trimming Your Door to Perfection with a Handsaw

You’re finally investing in your dream flooring, hurrah! Perhaps it’s a plush carpet that feels like woven summer clouds beneath your feet.

Maybe it’s that genuine hardwood oak you’ve envisioned in your living room since you moved in. It might even simply be the addition of some extra padded underlay to increase the comfort of your already ideal flooring.

Whatever the change is, if it’s adding extra height to the floor of your room, your doors are no longer going to have the correct dimensions.

They’re going to be hard to open and close and may even damage your lovely new flooring by rubbing or scratching against it.

Ideally, you could just use a door trimming or plunge saw to get the job done in no time, but if you only have a hand saw available, then so be it. Let’s discuss how you can go about trimming your door with just a handsaw and a few other tools.

What You’re Going to Need

One handsaw – We’d recommend something with particularly fine teeth like the Presch Handsaw to prevent unintended damage and keep the cut as smooth as possible.

You can check prices and availability here:

Presch Hand Saw 450mm - Wood Saw with 11 TPI...

Presch Hand Saw 450mm – Wood Saw with 11 TPI 45° and 90° Stop

1x pencil

1x 0.5” thick block of plywood

1x block of wood that represents underlay

1x block of wood that represents the top layer

1x  nail set or any other similar pointy metal tool

1x friend…briefly

A workbench

3x clamps at the very least (or improvised timber clamps)

1x small bit of sandpaper wrapped around a timber block.

1x saw jig Note – If you don’t have a jig, you’ll need two long, straight bits of timber, two small bits of timber roughly the width of the longer bits of timber pushed together, super glue, an electric drill, and some 1 ⅕ – 2-inch nails to make one.

If you don’t have a drill for this task, we recommend checking out this awesome affordable option from Terratek:

Terratek 13Pc Cordless Drill Driver...
Terratek 13Pc Cordless Drill Driver 18V/20V-Max Lithium-Ion Combi Drill

Phase 1 – Marking the Door

Possibly the most important part of this whole operation is having accurate measurements of your new flooring. You need these so that you can measure out how much you need to trim your door down.

You’ll need to account for underlay and the flooring. Try to find some small planks of wood that can be used as representations of the total height of the new flooring.

Push them flat against one side of the door, then add your 0.5-inch plywood board on top to represent the gap you need above the new flooring.

Next, take your pencil and mark the door using the plywood as a ruler. Slide your stack of wood along to the other edge of the door and do the same thing. That’s your cutting line sorted.

Phase 2 – Removing the Door

Door hinges are composed of two adjoining sections, one attached to your door and the other, the jamb. They’re normally held in place by a downward pin.

You’ll need to remove both of these pins to dislocate the door from its place.

To do this, you’ll need the nail set (or any other short, pointy metal tool) and a hammer. Your pointy tool needs to be short because you’ll be knocking the pins out from underneath.

This means it has to be able to fit between the floor and the bottom hinge, with room for the hammer strikes as well.

Have someone hold the door steady to reduce pressure on the hinges and to prevent it from falling once the pins are removed.

If you can’t find a willing participant, make sure the door is closed to reduce pressure on the hinges.

Take the point of the nail set and place it underneath the central pin of the lower hinge, and gently hammer your pointy tool upward until the pin starts emerging at the top of the hinge.

If the pin won’t pull out from there, why not use a paint scraper wedged under the pin’s ridge, and continue the gentle hammer strokes.

Do this to both hinges and the door should then pull out nice and easy away from the jamb, ready for the next step.

Phase 3 – Getting Jiggy With It

Before you get cracking, you’ll need to make a jig. If there’s one piece of advice you take from this article, it’s that you should never trim your door with a handsaw freehand for two reasons.

Firstly, it’s almost impossible to execute straight cuts. Secondly, without pressure around the cut, the sides of the door will chip away, leaving you with a pretty nasty looking finished project you wouldn’t want in your skip, let alone your home.

You’ll need your two scrap pieces of timber with straight edges for this. They should be longer than your door is wide.

On your workbench, place your saw in between the timber planks, then push them in towards the blade until they’re supporting the weight of the saw. The gap between the planks needs to be just wide enough to let the teeth of the saw pass through.

Next, you’ll need two short pieces of timber to secure the longer ones together at their ends. To make things easier for yourself, try supergluing your connective timbers in place.

Now you’re free to drill around five equally spaced holes into the connective timbers and screw them down to the jig boards.

Phase 4 – Prepping for Surgery

First thing’s first, you need to secure your door to the bench. You can either do this with clamps or in the absence of proper equipment, you can use more scrap timber leant against the door edges, screwed directly into the surface of the workbench.

Now, before you clamp your jig in place, you’ll need to measure from the top or bottom of your door, to the cutting line.

This enables you to align the jig precisely on the line, even though you can no longer see it. Clamp the jig in place and viola! You’re all prepped.

Phase 5 – Trimming Your Door

So, your door is locked down, your jig is clamped. All there is to do now is to get sawing. Use gentle, full strokes at a roughly 90-degree angle the whole way across, letting the saw do the work for you.

Phase 6 – Finishing touches 

Even with the assistance of a good jig, a handsaw isn’t going to leave perfectly smooth surfaces in its wake.

To remedy this, simply wrap a little bit of sandpaper around yet another block of spare timber (one you can hold comfortably in your hand), and use it as a sanding block.

Sand the edge with long measured strokes until the teeth marks dissipate.

Phase 7 – Put Your Door Back On

Bring your friend back into play here to hold the door in place as your repin the hinges. That’s it. Done!

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you cut a straight line with a hand saw?

You don’t. To cut straight lines with a hand saw, you’ll need the help of a jig.

How do you shave the bottom of a door without removing it?

If your door is already too low, you can shave it slowly by sticking sandpaper to the floor rough side up beneath it.

If you’re preemptively trimming your door, and you’re looking for a quicker solution, a plunge saw will take significant portions off in one go.

Why not check out our awesome guide on the Best Hand Saw For Laminate Flooring?

DI… Why Not?

There you have it, a full seven-phase guide on how to cut a door using a hand saw.

As long as you have some decent clamps and you get the jig construction right, there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t have a go at doing this yourself, no expensive power saw required.

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