The top 10 mistakes setting, sharpening, and operating a cordwood saw (buzz saw).

Vern Burke, SwiftWater Edge Tool Works
Biddeford, Maine

The tractor PTO powered cordwood saw (aka buzz saw) can be a speedy and efficient way to work up stove length firewood, especially for those doing homesteading and off grid living. There are a number of videos on YouTube showing the setup, operation, and sharpening of these saws. Unfortunately, most of these videos show some horrendous errors that range from the silly to the absolutely dangerous, so here’s my top 10 mistakes made with cordwood saws (aka buzz saws).

1. Using the wrong kind of file on them.

I just watched a saw sharpening video that used a half round file. The only kind of file that should ever be used on a cordwood saw blade is a single cut mill bastard file, preferably with rounded sides to eliminate the possibility of creating notches that may lead to dangerous cracks.

2. Using a pipe wrench on the saw nut.

Never ever ever use a toothed wrench on a flat sided nut, the teeth will damage the nut. For the saw nut, a monkey wrench, open end or box end wrench, or socket is all that’s appropriate.

3. Creating more smoke than sawdust.

Smoke when cutting equals extremely dull blade. Shut down and get the blade sharpened before you damage it by overheating.

4. Over tightening the belt.

For flat belt driven saws, over tightening the belt actually gives you LESS grip. With a belt set up with an appropriate dip, applying load to the cordwood saw will make the belt “suck in” around the pulleys, giving maximum belt contact and maximum traction.

5. Running a dirty blade.

In addition to making it impossible to inspect the blade for damage, excess pitch and rust on the blade just increases friction, makes it harder to saw, and increases the chance of kickback. A clean blade is a happy blade.

6. Running without even minimum guarding.

Buzz saws can be a dangerous thing to operate if not respected properly. The easiest way to tip the odds in your favor is to make sure all guards are in place or that you add at least basic guards if there aren’t any.

7. Standing in line with the blade.

There shouldn’t be any reason to stand lined up with the blade. Stand on line with a cordwood saw blade and wood chips or broken teeth can be carried around the saw and coming flying off the top at high speed.

8. Unstable base.

Believe me, a running cordwood saw is NOT something you want moving around on you.

9. Operating with one man.

A cordwood saw is far safer to operate with a second person to hold and remove the cut pieces. Dropping the cut pieces on the ground makes it tempting to try to reach under the running blade to get them.

10. Messing around with tractor speed.

Cordwood blades are tensioned to run straight at a certain speed. Set the tractor speed right and leave it alone.


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