A trim saw is an extremely handy tool to have nearby, as it can help smooth out any surface while avoiding the extra mess associated with using a powered sander. Where a sander might leave a groove or depression in the wood, a trim saw can be employed to take off small imperfections without leaving any mess.
Using a powered sander to remove small blemishes in wood is a case of overkill that can lead to even more noticeable imperfections. When this happens to be the case, turn to the trim saw to do a better job. The trim saw is essentially nothing but a very small saw that can be laid flat against a surface. It pays to have a trim saw specifically for the job, however, because other hand saws will most likely be difficult to use on areas so small.
A trim saw has no supporting backbone, so the blade itself is flexible and will fit flush against the surface of wood. The handle of a trim saw is also curved upward, meaning that it does not interfere with the saw itself and allows the blade to lie flush with the surface. Other saws will not go as smoothly against a surface because of their reinforced backbones, as well as handles that may be too large to lie flat against a surface. For true trim work, only the trim saw can do the job right.
When using a trim saw, press lightly against the blade of the saw as you cut away the imperfection in the surface. Keeping a small amount of pressure on the blade itself will keep it from sliding around and going over the part that you need to trim away. Once the imperfection, or “dowel”, has been cut away, you can lightly apply a sander to create a perfectly smooth surface.
Applying the sander beforehand may cause the surface to be unevely sanded, which will only lead to further corrections that must be made. Make the cut slowly and carefully with the trim saw, and you should have little trouble. The only trick involved is keeping a finger on the blade to hold it steady throughout the cut.
You can find trim saws very affordably, with the Big Horn 20190 trim saw costing as little as $20. Trim saws are great for the small jobs that require close up attention.