From the Saw Shop, questions and answers: hay knives, axe heads, cordwood saws, and more!


Vern Burke, SwiftWater Edge Tool Works

Skowhegan, ME

Here come the answers!

1. (question about how hay knives are used)

This is a hay knife :).

hay knife

It’s not an ice saw, a wood saw, or for cutting sod (the three most common misinformations I hear). This is for cutting bales of compressed hay. The hay bales are compressed 2 into 1 to save space in the barn. Unfortunately, this results in a bale way too heavy for most people to move. Need some hay? Just slice it off with the hay knife.

2. (question about the toughest axe head)

I’ve seen quite a broad range of axe heads come through the shop here, although not every axe head out there by any means. The toughest head I’ve ever had to sharpen was a 1922 Sager “Chemical Axe”. This one was so hard, I couldn’t sharpen it by hand at all. Second has to be vintage Snow and Nealley (Bangor ME) axes.

3. (question about tools for setting teeth on cordwood saws)

There are a fair number of tools out there for setting the teeth on cordwood saws (aka buzz saws). These range from early saw sets without stops (dangerous for possibly snapping teeth and likely to slip off the teeth) to large Morrill’s Patent saw sets (clamp down on the tooth and then bend to the stop, VERY hard on the hands).

Myself, I never try to use a saw set on cordwood saws. I hammer set the teeth on a vintage 196 lb blacksmith anvil (from my great grandfather’s blacksmith shop 🙂 ).

blacksmith anvil

4. (question about using lemon oil on an axe handle)

I wouldn’t. I’d be inclined to think it would make the handle slippery, not something you want to happen with an axe. Stick to thinned boiled linseed oil and you’ll have the RIGHT thing for almost any tool handle.

Visit me at any of the following locations:

B&G Treasures, 11 Depot St, Norridgewock, ME (Mondays)

Tractor Supply, Madison Ave, Skowhegan, ME (Tuesday)

Somerset Woods turnout, Canaan Rd (Rt 2), Skowhegan,ME (Wednesday)

Arundel Flea Market, Rt 1 & Log Cabin Rd, Arundel, ME (Fridays)

Fryeburg Flea Market (Fryeburg Fairgrounds), Fryeburg, ME
(Sundays, Memorial Day thru end of September)

298 W Front St, Skowhegan, ME (all other days)

If you’re looking for a special tool, please drop me an
email and let me know and I’ll restore one just for you!

SwiftWater Edge Tool Works provides mobile sharpening services across Maine and mail in services around the world for handsaws, carbide blades, planer knives, hand planes, chain saws, knives, scissors, hair clippers, router bits, and almost any blade!

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