It’s a saw subject
There are many “sexy subjects” in the world of survival and travelling in remote areas. Knives, axes, guns and general shiny things, However, one of the most underrated and useful tools is the humble saw.
When working with wood we need to do three things. We need to split it, shape it and cut across the grain. This is where the saw comes in.
We shall again return to the subject of one of the most valuable assets in survival, FIRE.
Finding dry wood is at times tricky without tools. However, processing dry standing timber soon allows us to light fire, even in the wettest of conditions.
Saws come in many guises and all have merit for various reasons. Below we shall explore my Top 5 and ask When, Why and Why Not?
It is a firm favourite among many outdoor professionals. It is small, lightweight, cheap, reliable, proven and is incredibly rugged. It does have a few minor issues though. It is a little small for serious use in winter and for processing large firewood. It comes with a silly wee lanyard that one day will get hung up and pull the saw back through your hand, get it cut off if you have one, and it is green, which means it is like a chameleon in the brambles and grasses of the woodland. My latest has a strip of high viz tape on both sides now. It remains a firm friend and has helped make countless items and fires.
The 24” Bahco bow saw. This is another firm favourite for professional use and we have two in our fixed camp. One for dead wood and one for green wood, if you’re shouting at your screen “what is the difference” then come on a course and learn all about raker teeth. This saw is cheap, tough and with very cheap blades can almost be classed as an heirloom tool if looked after. It is however a little tricky to pack and carry into the woods and on journeys.
Wooden take down buck saws
These are lovely things. I have one and enjoy using it. It feels traditional and is very “Bushcraft”. The replacement blades are the same as the above Bacho and it packs very well. Unfortunately for the people in the know it is not an option for serious wilderness travel. This has nothing to do with its physical strength. It has everything to do with moisture and the wood swelling and refusing to be reassembled after taking a dunk in a rapid or being rained on for a few hours in February. Ask me how I know!
Hello Big Boy!
The Silky Big Boy, in my opinion, is almost perfect when it comes to a “survival saw”. It cuts like a deranged beaver on crack, it packs well, it’s lightweight and so far, bloody tough. I’m not using it to bang in nails, but during “significant testing” it has performed very well. It is a bit blingy for my liking. What I mean by this is it has now become part of my signalling kit, but other than that I am loving it.
Now, you must understand that this saw is a pull saw, meaning it only cuts material on the pull stroke so you need to slightly change your technique. It is also a little pricey but nothing too outrageous for a quality tool.
The Wire saw
Now don’t underestimate this as a load of junk. It has a place and that place is in your pocket kit as an emergency backup tool. I will explain with an anecdote. True story.
So I was out for a 15 mile run in the hills. I always carry my EDC (everyday carry) kit on long runs along with other kit such as waterproofs etc. Heading down a hill I see a young bullock laying down near some willows. Nothing unusual. When I get alongside I can see his head caught in a large V of a branch. His head scratching the previous night had him caught fast and judging by the ground sign and his condition he had been stuck all night. His mates were way off in the distance.
I could not push his head down and shove him out or lift the branches as they were too thick. The poor cow was almost dead at this point and to be honest I did not fancy having to perform rescue breaths on a snorting bull calf.
I grabbed the wire saw from my running pack and cut through the willow branch, which was around 25cm thick. Now, it was an effort, but in a few minutes I had the branch almost cut through and I could bend it and allow his head to be booted out. That is pretty much how I managed it! He stumbled and breathed hard and eventually made his way off to his mates.
Three lessons here. Always be ready, wire saws have a place and bull calves are thick.
Now I also have a small saw on my swiss army knife, and it is very capable, it is also very good at scraping a ferro rod!
So saws DO have a place, and a very important one. They are safe, much safer than swinging an axe. They are fast and remove little material when cross cutting, where an axe wastes lots of material and uses loads of calories to section up a log. They provide a nice straight cut; a log round is a luxury in the woods (split on it and sit on it) and they are quiet, which at times is also a handy thing. The banging of an axe travels for hundreds of metres. Not good for stealth camping. They also allow precise cuts for making things.
Carry one but beware. A saw cut is a nasty cut. Knives slice but saws remove material. Some of the worst cuts I have seen have been with saws.
Use good safety techniques such as the plumber’s vice and all will be well. Come on a course and I’ll show you. Survive, thrive and overcome.