Section 508 Navigation
National Trails Training Partnership Header Skip Navigation
HomeAbout usTrailsWhat's hotCalendarTrainingResources & libraryPartnersJoin usStore

Tools for Trails
Hosted by

Intro | Working safely | Safety tools | Brushing Tools | Sawing and Chopping Tools | Grubbing and Raking Tools | Digging and Tamping Tools | Pounding and Hammering Tools | Lifting and Hauling Tools | Bark Peeling Tools | Survey, Layout and Measuring Tools | Power Tools | Miscellaneous Tools | Sources for Tools & Supplies

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 a backpack.

Safety tip: Never use bow saw to cut overhead branches. Use a pole saw instead.

bow saw

bow saw

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.

razor-tooth saw

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 blades.

Safety tip: Make sure blade is locked open before using.

pruning saw

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.

pole saw

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.

crosscut saw

crosscut saw

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.



Related topics:

More resources:

page footer

Contact us | Mission statement | Board of directors | Member organizations | Site map | Copyright | NRT | NTTP