In the first episode of Fat Guys in the Woods, we made an improvised Bow Saw using a bent sapling. We then used this saw to help build shelters and process wood throughout the week. This post provides a little more detail about this project.
First, about Bow Saws…
I love a good Bow Saw. I actually prefer a Bow Saw over an ax. A good Bow Saw can process an insane amount of wood in a short amount of time. It’s safer to use than an ax, require less practice and takes far less energy. It’s also much lighter. My Bow Saw of choice is the Bahco 36″ model. Here’s a photo below:
I’ll be the first to admit that they are bulky, especially the larger ones. Luckily, the ‘BOW’ part of the Bow Saw can be improvised in the field using a flexible sapling if you just want to carry in the blade portion. Below is how to do it.
Choosing the BOW.
I typically use either small saplings or branches that are about 3/4″ – 1″ in diameter. I cut them about 6″ longer than my Bow Saw blade. That’s typically pinky tip to thumb tip of my open hand with fingers spread. They must be flexible. They must also be GREEN wood. No dead stuff. I’ll often flex them around a large tree to break them in. This really helps.
Next, split the end of each sapling in half about 3″ down. The splits on each end must be aligned with each other. They can’t be going in opposite directions. This is necessary in order for the saw blade to be straight.
Key Rings/Wooden Peg Blade Attachment Options
Threading key rings onto each end of the Bow Saw blade in advance of your trip makes attaching an improvised sapling handle pretty easy. All bow saw blades that I know of have holes in each end. These holes are perfect attachment points for key rings. Key rings can be purchased in the key making dept. of virtually any hardware store.
Start by inserting the end of the bow saw blade into one of the splits on the end of your sapling. Fold the key ring over and around the sapling like shown below. If your sapling is larger in diameter than the key ring then simple taper down the end with your knife so that it will fit.
If you don’t have key rings, an appropriately sized wooden peg will also work.
Next, carefully bend the sapling and attach the blade in the same way to the other end. Flexing the sapling around a tree really helps to ready the sapling for this step in the build.
I’ll often tie some paracord around the blade and key ring for peace of mind but it isn’t necessary. The entire build typically only takes 5-10 minutes and is a really fun bushcraft project.
Although not as robust as the metal store-bought versions, these improvised bow saws may surprise you. I’ve been using one around Willow Haven for a couple years and it still works like a charm. Besides, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of improvising and making tools in the field.
Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,