Saw options as a bushcraft tool

To compile a set of tools that you can use when in the woods to make items, kit and furniture there are certain things that will make life easier. Most of the time you can achieve what you need to a certain degree with nothing but a good knife and occasionally a beetle or mallet to assist with batoning and stop cuts, but it is worth experimenting and finding the limits and potential of just using a knife. However, we often carry other tools, saws and axes are the next two “staple” tools of the average bushcrafter, both allowing us to process and gather larger trees and materials with greater speed and refine them with more accuracy and utility. 

There are a variety of saws available to you and depending on the job that you have in mind this will guide you to the best saw to choose.  Also worth noting is that most saw cuts in bushcraft and firewood processing are done cross grain, meaning you are cutting perpendicular to the fibres of the wood.  Very rarely do we need to cut in line with the fibres in large pieces of wood except in the example given in the final saw type. For removing and refining material along the grain we typically turn to knives, axes, adzs and froes which I will cover in later blogs, hook knives, crook knives, mocotaugans, work in both directions.

Bahco Laplander open blade

The Bahco Laplander folding saw is the go-to saw for most jobs. It is relatively cheap to the point that if it breaks it is often simpler to buy a new one than try and buy and replace just the blade or handle depending on what’s broken. It is a folding saw, so when closed correctly is inherently safer to carry and stow in your kit or a pocket than other saws.  With a Bahco Laplander you can do almost any task from felling a small tree to making a pot hanger to carving a spoon.  With a thin blade and narrow kerf (the amount the teeth of the blade stick out left and right from the blade) you can be very accurate with this saw.  Pictured is the Bahco Laplander but other folding saws are available and are comparable in use and style.

Bahco Laplander closed blade

Another option is a bow saw. These can come with a couple of blade options; for green wood, new wet wood from a living tree, and for dry wood, older dead standing wood or seasoned timber. The longer blade and larger teeth allow for faster sawing and the ability to process larger trees.  These are permanently assembled saws so are bulky and are risky to carry as the blade is exposed, so they need a mask or sheath on when walking or transporting them around. These saws are mostly used in camp to process firewood ready to be split but can be used with some accuracy to make cuts in larger stock for camp style furniture and structures.

A bow saw

There are also folding bucksaws; these are effectively take down versions of bow saws where the blade can be removed and stowed safely and the frame broken down to fit more easily into a pack or bag. For weight and space reasons some people will only carry a blade, safely stowed, in their pack and then make the components in the woods as required.  

An example of a bucksaw made in the woods
A homemade folding bucksaw

Blade lengths, styles and teeth per inch can vary by blade manufacturer for bow and buck saws 

The final saw type I want to mention are the two person saws.  Made famous by logging photographs from the early part of last century and the late 1800’s these types of saws are now rarer but can be found occasionally in antique stores and car boot sales.  They seem to be being sold as decorative items but with a little work can be restored to a usable condition.   These saws are for felling and logging large trees and can, with some effort and support frames, be used to plank up timber into boards. As mentioned earlier, this is the only time you will find yourself cutting in line with the fibres of the tree.

Example of a two person saw Credit Wikipedia

As a note on safety, felling trees is dangerous and should not be undertaken unless trained to do so.

For my next blog I will go through some axe choices followed by knives, and then we can look at what can be done with this toolkit.  


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