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First bow saw experience

 
master pollinator
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This doesn't fill the criteria for and of the round wood working BBs, so i had no idea where to put it.  Just some observations about using a bow saw.

Not to long ago, I was at an auction and bought two Fiskars bow saws.  $1 each. A friend asked me if I could remove a large snowball bush from her yard.  It seemed like a good opportunity to try out a bow saw. Chain saws can be a little more dangerous cutting bushes with their many flexible trunks,  it was a nice cool day outside,  and i wanted to get a little quiet exercise and contemplate my little world 😊  The bush was approximately 14 feet tall when I started.

I was pleasantly surprised that the blades on the saws were like new.  The largest trunk I had to cut though was maybe 3 or 4 inches across.  That cut took about a minute or minute and a half i would guess. I cut 21 or 22 trunks with the bow saw,  and I would estimate I made 2 or 3 times as many cuts to get them all down to the level you can see in the picture.  It took me just over an hour to cut the tree with my friend hauling away the pieces.  

Cutting with the bow saw was quiet, pleasurable "work". I quickly found that smaller pieces,  say an inch or so across,  are best cut with pruners.  You can cut them fairly easily with the saw if you hold them still with one hand,  but when you get most of the way through,  the small pieces twist and turn with the blade movement and it is hard to finish the cut.

I don't usually wear gloves when working because they tend to slip and I have better control without them,  so my hands are pretty tough.  If yours are not and you use a saw like this,  you will almost certainly get a blister on the web between thumb and index finger.

Once i got all the trunks cut of to a manageable level, i finished taking the bush to near- ground level with a chain saw.  Cutting all the way across the trunks at that level with the awkward position, i would estimate would take 30 to 45 minutes.  It was getting late and  we wanted to get the truck unloaded before dark,  so the chainsaw finished the job in about 3 minutes.

20190518_164344.jpg
Dollar bow saw
Dollar bow saw
20190518_164352.jpg
Dollar bow saw
Dollar bow saw
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Dollar bow saw
Dollar bow saw
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Twisted together mess
Twisted together mess
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Largest trunk
Largest trunk
20190518_174730.jpg
After bow saw work
After bow saw work
20190518_180445.jpg
After chain saw
After chain saw
 
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We also use bow saws for small cuts. They're quite efficient because they cut pushing and pulling. We also just got a Japanese silky saw and haven't used it yet. It cuts only on the pull stroke like a pole saw. One advantage is it can fit into a back pack.

 
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Very nice score, Trace.  I've got a few bow saws, one from the mid 50's and I've got a saw similar to the one Greg posted for camping that cuts anything 4" and under very quickly.  I also use it for tight spaces and it's perfect for that.
 
Trace Oswald
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I've been looking at the katana boys saws (I think that is what they are called). They look great and would have been really helpful cutting this bush out. I had to make any extra cuts because there were places I just couldn't get the saw in. I just haven't wanted to bite the bullet for the cost.
 
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When I was a kid there was an old woman (80's or 90's) who was into Permiculture long before it was cool, and she required a cord of "Biscuit Wood" to heat and cook with on her old kitchen wood stove. Here "Biscuit Wood" is alder bushes since they burn so hot. We were too young to use chainsaws, so we cut her that 1 cord of alder wood every year using bow saws, me and my brother splitting the $35 we got for that cord of wood.

With a bow saw it was hard work, but small enough to be manageable, the agreed upon price being a full cord of wood. 4' long pieces stacked into a 4' high by 8 foot long pile. When the "trees" you are cutting are 2 inches in diameter, you have to cut A LOT of them to make a cord.

It was good memories though.


 
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A useful bow saw safety tip...

If you hold the work with your left hand, and saw with the right, then the saw can jump and mangle the back of your left hand. You can totally prevent this by reaching  OVER or THROUGH the bow with your left hand and hold the piece of wood on the other side of the blade. The work is stabilised, but if the saw jumps it safely bounces the blunt side of the blade against your forearm, instead of the back of your hand. It takes a bit of getting used to, but for most jobs is just as convenient as the conventional grip. I do the same with my folding silky saw.
 
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This seemed to be the appropriate thread for this question....and forgive me if I have the terminology incorrect.

It seems like saw binding when using a bow saw is my small nemesis around the property.  My understanding of 'kerf' is that it is the width of the gap formed by the passing of the blade through the wood.  So....would not a greater kerf, even at the expense of more dust, prevent blade binding more?  I realize that greater kerf might mean greater energy needed per saw stroke, but is there a way to buy blades with different kerf to see what is the best compromise?  I have not seen much discussion of this issue.  Thanks!
 
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Yes, you have the fundamental concept right.

The saw teeth are deliberately offset from the rest of the blade to cut a wider channel. If the channel is not wide enough, the rest of the saw blade binds in the cut.

It makes a difference if you are cutting green wood or dry wood. Blades are often labelled for one or the other purpose.

I have tried (crudely) increasing the set of teeth on cheap bow saw blades, but it's only somewhat helpful. Maybe precise saw set pliers would do better? I think you have to pretty careful when doing this, since the induction-hardened of the teeth means the steel close by is potentially more brittle. And a broken tooth is a pain.

BTW I find that all bow saw blades are not created equal. Anytime I can find Bahco (formerly Sandvik) Swedish saw blades on sale, I stock up massively, because I know they will be a pleasure to work with in the field.
 
Michael Cox
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I second the recommendation for those saw blades.
 
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John Weiland wrote: So....would not a greater kerf, even at the expense of more dust, prevent blade binding more?  I realize that greater kerf might mean greater energy needed per saw stroke...



A few years back I got a crosscut saw and learned about what is involved in sharpening and setting the kerf on those.  The idea is to tweak the very ends of certain teeth outward in an even manner to essentially make two narrow line cuts with then another type of tooth raking out the wood in between.  The effect is that it cuts a line just a tiny bit wider than the main body of the saw blade and this is what helps prevent binding.  I decided to try this on my cheap bow saw with the factory blade that worked but not all that well.  The result was that it worked far better than it did before for me!  At this point I really do need to sit down and resharpen and reset the teeth to tune it up again.

I hadn't considered what Douglas brought up about the potential to shatter brittle teeth.  That does seem like a real possibility.  Maybe I just got lucky when I did it!
 
John Weiland
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Thanks for the excellent comments and recommendations.  Yes, I had just seen Bahco blades go by on an Amazon.com search yesterday and added to wishlist.  I may spring for a new blade and use the older blade for experimentation in re-setting the teeth.  Looking forward to a blade that may not bind as much....and if I can carefully alter the teeth a bit myself, all the better.  Thanks!....
 
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Michael Cox wrote:A useful bow saw safety tip...

If you hold the work with your left hand, and saw with the right, then the saw can jump and mangle the back of your left hand.



It's been more than forty years since I learned this lesson the hard way as a kid, but you can still see the scars if you know exactly where to look.
 
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