When I break down rough stock, I almost always use three sawbenches, a framing square and a handsaw.
Even when I had access to a monster radical-harm saw, I stuck to my handsaw because the process gave me loads of information that is lost in the roar of an electric tool.
The biggest advantage to using a handsaw is it makes you consider your cuts with care. I am less likely to make a mistake when I have a handsaw and a line. It might just be a personal problem, but fast machines encourage me to work at a faster pace, which makes me more prone to mistakes.
When I’m handsawing, I tend to repeat a quote I heard from an instructor at Lee Valley Tools: “Go slower. It’s faster.”
Also, the handsaw gives me buckets of information about the wood it’s chewing through. The saw tells me which boards are wet, which are dry. It reports back if there is a lot of internal tension in a board. Dense boards and lightweight boards are easy to pick out.
Plus you can sense when something has gone horribly wrong. Like tonight, when I was breaking down the rough-sawn 20th-century teak for my next campaign chest.
I cut down all the major parts of the carcases with no problem. But when I started cutting out the drawer fronts, the saw had this to report back: Dude, this ain’t teak.
Under 40 or 50 years of crud and dust and splinters, the saw found a very hard and dry mahogany. This first cut saved me from making a terrible set of mistakes when cutting out my drawer fronts.
That’s the good news. The bad news is I need some more teak for the drawer fronts.
Time to donate some plasma.
— Christopher Schwarz
Addition (2-18-13): I dug up from my notes the source of the quote. His name was Ian (don’t have his last name) from the Lee Valley store in Winnipeg.