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Sawing and Chopping Tools
Part Four of an illustrated compendium
of trail tools by Jim Schmid
-- download a printable version in Word:
text and cover
Bow Saw: A bow saw with a blade 16- to 21-inches in length
is handy for cutting brush out of the trail and trimming small
branches. The longer 36-inch bow saws are unwieldy for brushing
projects. They are better suited for cutting medium size logs
along the trail or cutting firewood back in camp. When properly
maintained they will cut quickly and efficiently, however they
can bind easily. Bow saws cannot be resharpened due to the hardness
of the blade. When the blade becomes dull, rusty, or bent, it
should be replaced. If a saw has no sheath, make one by splitting
open a piece of old garden hose as long as the blade. Fit the
hose around the saw blade and hold it in place with cord or duct
tape. A sheathed bow saw can be carried by hand or strapped onto
Safety tip: Never use bow saw to cut overhead branches. Use
a pole saw instead.
Razor-Tooth Saw (Protooth Saw): These saws have an extra
thick, extra wide razor-tooth blade for rigidity are used to cut
limbs encroaching on the trail as well as cutting small tress
or shrubs at the base and removing small to medium sized windfalls.
They come in a wide variety of sizes and tooth patterns.
Safety tip: With their extra sharp teeth the saw should be
kept in a sheath when not in use.
Folding Pruning Saw: A handy tool that is easy to carry,
folding saws are a smaller alternative to the bow saw, with the
ability to get into tighter places. They are useful for limbing,
some brushing, and removing small downfall. There is a vast array
of blade lengths and styles. Some have replaceable or interchangeable
Safety tip: Make sure blade is locked open before using.
Pole Saw with Pole Pruner: A pole saw with pole pruner
can be used to trim branches that would otherwise be out of arm's
reach above a trail. On some models, the pole can be taken apart
or telescoped into the handle and the blade removed for easy carrying.
The built-in pruner can be operated from the ground with a rope.
When cutting larger limbs with the pole saw, it is best to use
a two-step process. In the first step, a 4 to 6 inch stub is left
by making an under-cut and then a cut from top of the limb. This
prevents stripping the bark from the trunk of the tree. In the
second step, the stuff is cut flush the with the trunk.
Safety tip: Never stand right below the branch you are cutting.
Stand well clear of the falling branch.
Crosscut Saw: Favored a century ago by loggers felling
trees, the crosscut saw is still used to cut logs for timber projects
and to clear large deadfall from trails and campsites, especially
in Federally designated Wilderness Areas (and by those who prefer
not to use chainsaws). Crosscut saws are available in two basic
designs: one-person and two-person. The one-person models are
generally 3 to 4 feet in length and perhaps most useful for clearing
blowdowns. Two-person crosscuts are 5 to 8 feet in length, with
a handle at each end. Pictured is a bucking crosscut which has
a straight back and is heavier and stiffer than felling saws.
Felling crosscuts are light, flexible, and have concave backs
that conform easily to the arc of the cut and the sawyer's arm.
Crosscut saws require special skills and care and must always
be sheathed before they are carried. A sheath can be made from
an old piece of fire hose split open to fit over the saw blade.
Safety tip: Know where the log will roll after you cut it
and plan your stance accordingly.
Axe (Ax): Axes can be used to chop deadfall from trails,
shape stakes for turnpikes and waterbars, and cut notches for
structures made of timber. Most trail crews use the single bit
axe (one sharp side) versus the double bit axe (two sharp sides)
feeling that one sharp blade is safer than two. Although the axe
is a traditional wood working tool, saws are usually recommended
for trail work because they are safer and generally more efficient.
The axe is best reserved for cutting jobs too thick for available
saws. When not in use, or when carrying the axe, the blade should
be covered with a sheath.
Safety tip: Never use a single bit axe as a sledgehammer or
as a splitting wedge.
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