Working with vintage tools: Top 5 mistakes using crosscut saws.

Vern Burke, SwiftWater Edge Tool Works

A sharp one man or two man crosscut saw can be a great tool for working up wood without the pollution, cost, and safety issues of a chainsaw. There are a lot of crosscut saw videos to be found on YouTube, unfortunately, most of them are better at showing how NOT to do things. Here’s a list of the things I’ve seen in YouTube crosscut saw videos to AVOID!

1. Pushing on a two man crosscut saw.

Never ever ever push on a working two man crosscut saw. Pushing can result in jams, bent or twisted blades, or even snapped blades if the saw is cold (which can lead to injury). So, how to the people in the YouTube videos get away with pushing? Most of those saws are competition style saws with much heavier and stiffer blades.

2. Single man bucking with a two man crosscut.

I don’t know why the competition guys HAVE to use a 6′ long two man crosscut saw with one handle for one man to buck with (I guess they never heard of a one man crosscut). Trying to handle a 6′ blade with one man is difficult at best and possibly dangerous at worst. Use the right saw for the job, if you only have one man, use a one man crosscut.

3. Using too short a saw.

It was a great video of two guys using a one man crosscut with an aux handle in the toe position to make it a short two man saw. Unfortunately, there’s no sawdust showing up and they aren’t getting anywhere because the saw is far too short for the size of log they’re cutting, leaving the saw unable to carry the sawdust out of the cut. The saw MUST be at least twice as long as the log is wide, otherwise, the saw will NOT work.

4. Not using the handles right.

If your saw has western style handles, where the handles extend both above and below the hardware that attaches the handle to the saw, your hands belong one above and one below to make best use of the handles. Also, if your handles are supposed to have knuckle guards on them, USE THEM. It’s no fun to get your knuckles jammed into the log when the other end pulls.

5. Bucking without wedges.

If the cut is being made between two points supporting the log, the log WILL close up and pinch the saw when it’s cut part way thru. A couple of cheap plastic chainsaw wedges will work wonders to hold the kerf open so the crosscut saw blade doesn’t get pinched.

(Bonus mistake)

6. Not lubricating the blade.

For most cutting work, the saw blade should be lubricated with old fashioned paste wax or bees wax or even kerosene (the old timers used kerosene to lubricate the blade and cut the pitch from the wood).

Avoid these mistakes and your YouTube video will stand out from the legions of yahoos doing it wrong.



2 thoughts on “Working with vintage tools: Top 5 mistakes using crosscut saws.

  1. When solo bucking with a 2 man saw, most of the cut is on the push stroke,so push,push,push. I also find solo use of a 5 foot 2 man saw an advantage. I remove one handle, and can use most of the saws length with either one or two hands. And if a second sawyer appears. I’ll have a real 2 man saw.

    • I resume you’re referring to a competition style 2 man. You’re looking at a saw far heavier than a real one man crosscut, requiring extra energy to accomplish the same work, you’re expending extra energy holding the saw straight with a handle that wants to pivot in your hands, and you have a tall, unbalanced, saw plate that wants to flop over until it gets far enough in that the kerf will support it. I’ll bet you a donut I can out-buck your 5 ft competition style saw with one of my restored 4 1/2 ft Simonds 222’s :).

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