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Cutting Lumber Cheap With Elbow Grease  RSS feed

 
David Armsteader
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Any body ever heard of a "Pit Saw"?. A pit saw is a two person manual rip saw that's used to ruff saw logs in to lumber. The only fuel needed is elbow grease. No more loud smokey chainsaw mills or having to haul logs off site. I found a place in Chicago that still sells them but they have to order twenty at a time. As usual, my timing is impeccable because I'm the only customer on the list of twenty for the next order. I only need nineteen more Permies or homesteaders to get on the list with me so I can buy my pit saw. The place is called "Frog Wood Tool". A quick search of that name will take you to their site. I am not affiliated with them in any way! I just want to be able to buy a saw. I have a brother in law and two sons that I can't wait to recruit in to a new homesteading adventure. Thanks in advance guys.
 
Dan Boone
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Hi, welcome to permies! I grew up in the frozen north, way out in the wilderness in an old gold rush town. There were still a lot of big two man cross-cut saws (for felling trees) and pit saws (wider, thicker, longer handles on the end) hanging on the walls of people's cabins. But by the 1970s (when I was a kid there) there was nobody left who was ambitious enough to actually cut lumber that way. It's a hard way to make a living!
 
David Armsteader
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You will get no argument from me there. Some folks would say the same thing about growing your own food. I had an opportunity to try out an antique pit saw and it cut faster than I would have guessed. The thought of a tool that cuts boards without the need to ad gas or plug it in apeals to me. I'm hoping that there's at least nineteen more crackpots like me.
 
allen lumley
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David Farmsteader : I live in Amish Country on the American side of the St.Lawrence River Valley. Amish Sawmills are very common, and all have Gasoline or Diesel

Engines to provide working power for 1910 -1930s Technology ! If the Amish find pit sawing or indeed Running a Large Diameter Circular saw ( With Replaceable teeth)

profitably impossible without a statuary power plant - Then its no job for me ! Basically you are looking to substitute a Technology from the Dark-ages. turning out a good

plank without any ''Run-out'' with a pit saw requires an attention to detail not closely aligned with the amount of hard physical work you are gifting yourself with !


Also there is a special skill in ''setting the teeth on a pitsaw- it is basically a ''rip saw'' and requires at least one table vice if not two or more nearly perfectly inline -my

expectation is that it will take longer to learn how to sharpen and re-set the individual teeth and rakers, to reduce runout than it will take to become a Master Pitsawyer !


Any road at all - Good Luck, For the good of the Craft ! Big AL

 
Dale Hodgins
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I've done well ripping with both my corded and cordless chainsaws. Far less labor and no pit required. Most cutting is done with the bottom of the round tip. This produces long stringy shavings, rather than the fine dust produced when cutting across the grain, as is common with Alaska mills.

Logs too heavy to carry are sliced into thick planks, right where they fall.
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Apple wood for table. Done with cordless E-go chainsaw.
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Made many of these with the corded Stihl chainsaw.
 
David Armsteader
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(Pit Sawing Reclaimed Longleaf Heart Pine.mp4 - YouTube) This YouTube video shows two men sawing an old pine beam into boards with a pit saw. The video claims that two men cut 250 boards in three weeks. That’s less than one man hour per board. Pit saws are designed to cut green or “wet” lumber so productivity would be even better when cutting one’s own logs. They were cutting one inch boards. If they were cutting "two by" stock their board foot per man hour ratio would almost double. I’ll be the first to admit I wouldn’t want to be the one who had to write a business plan based on those numbers. For a homesteader however that just wants an inexpensive (sustainable) way to convert his logs and elbow grease into a valuable resource, this is an intriguing option. I need a few more adventurous souls to go to Frog Wood Tool and order a pit saw so I can buy mine.
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"Pit Sawn" Lumber
 
allen lumley
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Dave here is a ''Click-0n'' link to your U-Tube site. Good luck ! Big AL

/////////// Link Below :



Late note : I am sticking this in as a comparison Log Cabin hand built by Finns- - -
( Be sure to 'click-on' the [cc] closed captions Ikon )

////////// Link Below :



For the crafts ! Big AL
 
allen lumley
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opps ! My Mistake !!! links corrected ! Big AL

 
Michael Cox
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Handsawing is brutal on the body if done to any kind of scale. The tools may be cheap but you may well be knocking years off your body's service life! Using a power tool for this job is definitely appropriate; you get a massive return on your investment. You might use as much fuel as a 30mile round trip to the shops in the car. You will probably knock at least a week off the cutting time too. Plus, who wants to be at the bottom of that pit having all the crap falling in their face and breathing in the dust?

I'm keen on appropriate use of unpowered tool but this does not seem to be it.

As Dale has mentioned above, you can rough cut planks and beams using a chainsaw without any kind of milling attachment - I've done it and made very serviceable 1" by 8"s, 2" by 2" etc for projects around the property just from random windfall trees. Anything requiring a better finish and you then need a whole other level of infrastructure - drying space, then the tools for planing and thicknessing.
 
Peter Ellis
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David, let me suggest you haunt ebay a bit looking for a man and a half size saw. Use able by one, but with option for secondary handle at the tip and a second set of hands. Mine is about 48 inches. I have not red cutting planks with it, been riving my planks so far, but also small scale stuff.
Anyway,a functional big saw for around 50 bucks that can give you a taste of what you are in for. In my view, working this saw, and axes, sledges, etc. beats paying for a gym.
My saw had a terrible binding problem initially because the teeth had no set. I got brave and put the saw in my post leg vice and cranked some of the teeth just a little with vicegrips. No more binding and amazing how fast it cuts.

Sharpening, yeah, not trivial, but chainsaws need sharpening too and that is not any easier

Heck, check ebay for pit saws, loads of old saws on there all the time.
 
Chadwick Holmes
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I've been looking for pit saws for 6-7 yrs and have yet to find one.

If you get one:

be the guy on top of the pit, the pit man has a much shorter lifespan when working this way. This is due to dust, heat, and collapse injuries.

Get it traced by a cad system and worked up so that you can take those measurements to a water cutter for both replacements and for getting this tool back out there.....I know of four guys that would pay great money for them.


 
David Armsteader
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Thanks for all this great feed back folks! If you're like me and you've been interested in adding a pit saw to your homestead tool box for a while, we're in luck! frogwoodtool.com has them for around $230.00. They are German made and come set and sharpened with both handles including the tiller. I am on the back order list already. As soon as they have twenty saws on back order they place the order with the manufacturer. Call them and get yours on order to. They are a top supplier of timber framing tools as well. I am not affiliated with Frog Wood Tool in any way. The only thing I get out of this is the chance to buy a pit saw at the same price as everybody else.
Hand tools like cross cut saws, axes, plains and yes, even the much maligned pit saw, enables us to convert muscle power, aka “elbow grease”, into lumber. Pit saws are still used extensively throughout South America, South East Asia and Africa. They are still manufactured by the tens of thousands in India, China and Germany. Why is it that we in the western world shrink in terror at the prospect of a task requiring a little elbow grease but are all too willing to use gallons of petrochemicals and coal based electricity to do things that our grandparents did without such crutches? Let’s get back to the spirit of “By the sweat of our brows and the strength of our backs and the courage of our hearts”! (Any pirate fans out there?) Check out Roy Underhill's Ted Talk “Have Broad Axe, Will Travel”. I grew up using un-powered hand tools and still do almost exclusively. Often I am working where electricity isn’t available. Most people who shy away from using un-powered hand tools do so because of a bad experience with a tool that wasn’t properly maintained. Many others just have never had the opportunity to give them a try. In some cases the old school un-powered tool is actually more effective than its modern counterpart. If you’ve ever drilled a hole through an old locust post with a modern drill and bit you know what I’m talking about. My grandfather’s old brace and bit performs this task with minimal effort. The key is that he taught me how to sharpen and maintain them.
 
David Armsteader
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Hey guys! I found another video describing the cutting speed of a pit saw. The video shows two men on their first day learning to saw. 46-1/2 inches cut in 7 minutes 15 seconds which is 6.4 inches per minute through 8 inch oak. Frogwoodtool.com guys. Let’s get our pit saws on order so we can use them as stocking stuffers. Don’t waste your money on gym memberships! Take turns being the “top dog” and the “under dog”. I read that pit sawing is where those terms come from. Sorry if the link doesn't work if you click on it. I haven't figured out how to do that yet.


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Pit Sawing 8 inch thick oak
 
Dan Boone
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I've been watching a show called Barnwood Builders on the DIY network, not of particular permaculture interest, but they do tear down old cabins and repurpose ancient logs in new structures. However in one of the filler segments, the guys took a short "break" to go and play with somebody's pit saw.

For whatever reason that guy had set it up on a tall trestle (which was itself a massive log construction) so that one guy was straddling the work eight feet off the ground and one guy was standing underneath the trestle pulling on the bottom handles at about his chest level. They showed the pit saw being lubricated with bar soap, and then they started tugging on it.

It quickly became clear they had no idea how to use the saw. They never got a coordinated rhythm going, the saw never moved more than 10 inches at one go, and they stood there for just about two minutes taking difficult jerky four-inch strokes that were binding up and not cutting much. They cut maybe a four inch cut into one end of their log before giving up, which they accompanied with a hail of banter about how some of the old technologies were abandoned for a reason. With a chorus of "Mr. Briggs, meet Mr. Stratton!" they went back to their worksite and fired up their chainsaws.

It was actually quite sad. Like a lot of highly specialized tools, it's only useful in skilled hands. I know it was for TV, but they didn't make even a minimal effort to master the tool.
 
Peter Ellis
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Dan, from what you say, not only did they not master the tool, they then blamed the tool for their failings.

I cannot cut a log as fast with my big crosscut saw as I can with a chainsaw. But I can start at dawn without waking my neighbors, do not need to wear protective gear, nor stop to fuel the saw or run to the gas station for more fuel, and I think it is easier on my body overall.

Need lots of stuff cut up in a rush, chainsaw is the right tool. Have some more time and maybe want a little more finesse, a little closer connection to the work, then you might want one of the hand saws.
 
Travis Johnson
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I got a few sawmills; a big 48 inch rotary mill, a bandsaw bill, and a chainsaw mill (which is useless because you start a log today and might finish it tomorrow...in other words slow!!), and even a shingle mill for making cedar shingles.

That being said however, I wanted some hand hewn beams in my house to kind of go for the open look we were after and so I did it the old fashioned way, with an axe. I looked into getting a broad axe, but they wanted $315 for that...screw that I thought, so I made my beams with an ole junk Collins axe you get at a hardware store. It was faster then I thought it would be, but honestly I liked the look. They look authentic and not just axed up beams because they are true hand hewn beams!

I guess what I am saying is that everything looks daunting until you try it; in other words, getting started is the hardest part. If your interested in making your own beams...go for it. I went from felling the tree to having it up in about 6 hours time, my wife helping me hoist them into place when she was 7 months pregnant!



 
Milo Jones
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Travis Johnson wrote:I went from felling the tree to having it up in about 6 hours time, my wife helping me hoist them into place when she was 7 months pregnant!

Beautiful work Travis, how can I get your wife to help me? (Just kidding)

Is there any additional support in the foundation for the center support or is it on a slab?
 
Travis Johnson
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It is a concrete slab foundation, but the beams are mostly for looks. I am sure there is some weight on them, but the roof above is trussed so its not structurally required.

In the building of my house, as much as possible I tried to use materials off my own farm. We have a gravel pit so we produce our own concrete here. That works well with our heating system too which utilizes radiant floor heat in the slab for efficiency.

I should point out that the farm table (black cherry) was NOT cut by hand with an axe, but rather on the rotary sawmill then planed and sanded).
 
John Duffy
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another unsolicited plug for Frog Wood Tools...i have purchased some nice carving tools from them and their prices are very reasonable
 
And tomorrow is the circus! We can go to the circus! I love the circus! We can take this tiny ad:
Video of all the permaculture design course and appropriate technology course (about 177 hours)
https://permies.com/wiki/65386/paul-wheaton/digital-market/Video-PDC-ATC-hours-HD
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