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ultralight wood cutting / chopping / splitting solutions?
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Michael Meiser
(mmeiser) - F

Locale: Michigan
re: cord saws on 11/25/2009 13:42:44 MST Print View

A cord saw was my first instinct, but I like others have not found one that works satisfactorily.

I may be tempted to keep experimenting though if there's some consensus on the group about a particular brand that is best.

This cammando saw looks like it will cut more aggressive.

Is there anyone else whom recommends it?

Is there any other wire saw people have had particularly good luck with?

Johann Burkard
(johannb) - F

Locale: Europe
Re: re: cord saws on 11/25/2009 15:11:58 MST Print View

This cammando saw looks like it will cut more aggressive.

Is there anyone else whom recommends it?

That's the one I have and it works.

Karl Gottshalk
(kgottshalk) - MLife

Locale: Maine USA
Re: Pocket Saw on 11/25/2009 15:25:05 MST Print View

My "Pocket Chainsaw" is listed at 3.28 oz/93 gm. I have not tried it as a bow saw as it works fine the way it is. I ususally use it to clear small (less than 6 inch) blowdowns from the trail. I have been very happy with it. I have the "military" version which has a small nylon pouch to keep it in. It is available with nylon handles, but mine just has loops of nylon cord that work fine for what I do. Here is a link to a comparison of a wire saw and the pocket chainsaw (the same model I have)

Edited by kgottshalk on 11/25/2009 15:31:50 MST.

Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
Pocket Saw - Folding Saw on 11/25/2009 17:05:36 MST Print View

Here is my solution for a light weight folding saw. I modified one of the Japanese Silky "Pocket Boy" Folding Saws. It started out weighting 6.6 ounces and when I was finished it weighed 1.68 ounces. This saw is "Wickedly" sharp.

The clip is to hold the folding saw upright so I could take the picture.

Light weight Folding Saw

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Gerber Switchblade on 11/25/2009 17:34:58 MST Print View

In my Ski Patrol fanny pack I carry a Gerber Switchblade folding lockblade saw. It's PROPOSED 1st aid use is to saw off a branch upon which an unlucky skier may be impailed!! Hope that never comes to pass but we're asked to carry them just in case.

I've used it to trim branches for my hunting treestand shooting lanes. Works well for that purpose as it's easy to use one-handed.

BUT... I'd never cary a saw for summer backpacking.

For winter camping WITH A WOOOD TENT STOVE I'd cerry the Gerber or maybe even my folding, triangular Sven saw.

I plan to be using a Caldera Cone W/ Inferno conversion for wood burning this spring. Don't need a saw for that stove.

Edited by Danepacker on 11/25/2009 22:52:37 MST.

Michael Meiser
(mmeiser) - F

Locale: Michigan
Re: Pocket Saw - Folding Saw on 11/25/2009 18:55:56 MST Print View

Wow, is it me or did you remove one entire side of that handle?

P.S. I just purchased a 21" buck saw blade, a 2.5oz Coughlan's Pocket seirra saw, which may suck, but heh, it's cheap.

I also picked up an extrmeley light lock blade knife which hopefully as a good splitting blade, and found a few other tools including an extrmely light weight hand pruner. Also, been looking into making my own ultralight chopping tomahawk or chopping knife blade. Got to cover all the bases. Cabellas tomahawks were... complete crap.

BTW, the one thing I set out to find the Fiskars pruning saw was nowhere to be found. I had my highest hopes on that.

Joseph Morrison
(sjdm4211) - F

Locale: Smokies
"ultralight wood cutting / chopping / splitting solutions?" on 11/25/2009 19:48:57 MST Print View

I am a big knife and tool junkie but most of the time I do not carry a axe or saw while backpacking. There is a saw on my SAK but it is not big enough for fire building chores. I mainly use it to cut walking sticks and poles for the tarp.

I always carry a 4" fixed blade when hiking (ML Kephart or ML Woods & Bush) but they really aren't big enough to split wood over a few inches in diameter. They are kept razor sharp so fuzz sticks could be made but Birch trees provide all the tinder I could possibly need.

My problem with lighter and smaller hatchets is once they get so small they cannot be used to chop or split hardwood. Gransfors Bruks Mini and the Gerber Backpaxe comes to mind. Cute little toys! If splitting larger diameter logs is a requirement make some wedges and a maul from hardwood and split the logs that way. Everything can be made using a knife including the initial cut. You can read about this technique in Kepharts Camping and Woodcraft pages 201-204 of the second volume. And if you don't have this book you really should.

Personally I find it is best to collect wood from dead lower tree limbs or off the ground in dry weather. Usually a half hour to a hour of foraging and I have enough firewood to cook dinner and a few hours of fire before I go to bed.

One thing I believe is knowledge and confidence replaces gear!


jim draucker
(mtnjim) - MLife

Locale: Shenandoah Valley VA
ultralight wood cuting on 11/25/2009 20:09:00 MST Print View

Amen Brother

Knowledge/Convidence over gear

John G
(JohnG10) - F

Locale: Mid-Atlantic via Upstate NY
Wood Cutting tools on 11/26/2009 06:40:30 MST Print View

When I'm in areas with pine trees, I've never had a need to cut wood to length or split it lengthwise to get at dry wood - even when it's been raining for days. Pine trees supply lots of dry tinder since the branches near the trunk die, and the ones near the base hardly get rained on. The twigs will light with a match, and once the fire is the size of your baseball cap, then even wet thumb sized branches will catch fire when put on top. Once they are burning, even wet wrist-sized fuel will catch and burn. Basically, you just need a big enough fire to dry out the branch first, then it will catch & burn fine.

When there are no pine trees (like most Maryland state parks), and there are also no branches on the trees for the lowest 20 feet (ie: old growth hardwood forests), then the branches on the ground are usually very wet when it's been raining for a while. However, I have never had a problem splitting 1.5-2" sticks with my 3.5" Victorinox Swiss Army Knife to create dry kindling. Just set the blade on the narrow end of the stick, raise the knife & stick straight up about 12-15 inches and then try to drive the end of the stick into the ground while the knife is on the top. This will cause the blade to go into the stick about 1/4 inch. Then just keep the stick vertical while pressing down on the knive (I use both hands on the handle), and thumping the end of the stick on the ground to help force the blade down the length of the stick.

Also, twig-sized tinder is more difficult to find in old growth hardwood forests. Usually, if it's not a popular camping area near a large city, then I can find a hat full of twigs to start a fire in a little less than 5 minutes. If I'm in popular campsite near a large city, then I sometimes have to make twig-sized tinder by whittling shavings off a thumbsized stick - but not very often. If I'm playing around and practicing for the day I have run out of matches, then I often make a pile of shavings so thin then are fuzzy and somewhat see through. These will light with a flint rod. Just make 5-10 strikes in rapid sucession so that they get constantly bombarded with hot sparks until they catches fire. (I use the flint rod from the side of a Coglans magnesium bar - ps: the magnesium takes too long to shave off and scatters in the wind, and when you strike the flint).

I have used my Victorinox Spartan to split 1.5-2" sticks to make kindling a few dozen times, and the pivot, backspring, blade notch, etc don't seem to have been effected. I recently got a Vic Camper, and the saw is very handy for cutting walking sticks, tarp poles, or sections of a stick for whittling in the evenings.

Another good alternative is the Mora knives (See Ragnar Forge). My 3.5" fixed blade Mora weights the same 2 ounces as my Vic Spartan, has a longer blade, more comfortable handle and much stronger blade/handle junction (ie: you can baton it through really hard wood). But it doesn't have a small blade for whittling in the evenings, and it's very convenient to keep a knife in my pocket versus having a sheath on my belt (or pocket of my pack).

Edited by JohnG10 on 11/26/2009 06:42:08 MST.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
"chain saw" wire saw on 11/26/2009 07:22:07 MST Print View

I've seen those and they look pretty nifty, but at 3.5 oz I'd wager they wouldn't hold a candle to the Gerber/Fiskar folding saw of the same weight- granted probably a little less volume w/ the "chain saw" wire saw, but folded the Gerber isn't too bad

^ that saw eats wood pretty well, your not going to build a cabin w/ it, but for shelter building or larger sticks of firewood it's the cat's pajamas :)

it's found a permanent place in my day/fishing/hunting pack

j lan
(justaddfuel) - F

Locale: MN
Re: "chain saw" wire saw on 11/26/2009 20:33:20 MST Print View

I have the SaberCut hand chain saw with the chainsaw teeth and wrist straps. Thing is a beast after you learn how to work with it. Weighs 4.4 oz without carrying case, 6 something with, but the carrying case is really not necessary. Also works well with two people operating it. My friend had also brought along a gerber camp saw and fiskars hatchet. The fiskars hatchet is about 24oz and very efficient.

Michael Meiser
(mmeiser) - F

Locale: Michigan
Notes on my ongoing findings on 11/26/2009 23:39:44 MST Print View

Notes on my ongoing findings

1) No chopping tools, instead use a baton

So far I think I've pretty much ruled out anything that chops. If it can chop then it's to heavy for ultralight use.

Instead of chopping it's best to take something that will work with a baton.

2) Never use baton with a lock blade

I had a fairly high quality lock blade. It didn't occur to me that batoning would damage the locking mechanism but it does. Will never try that again.

3) bow saw blades rock

One of my most promising discoveries thus far is just how awesome a bow saw you can make in the woods with just a simple bow saw blade and two medium sized key rings. I didn't even need another knife to make the bow saw. I simply wrapped some heavy cloath around the bow saw blade and that was enough for me to turn a green sapling into a first class bow saw. Only three cuts are necessary.

My 21" bow saw is way more saw then I need since it can cut through a 9" tree in seconds, but when you carry just the blade it's as light if not lighter then any option yet mentioned. (will have to post exact weight later) I think with a little practice I will get to the point were I can make a bow saw in under two minutes. Which is way less than the amount of time it's going to save me

3) Coughlin's Pocket Sierra saw works

I could not find a Fiskars pruning at any of the local stores though I'm more certain than ever that it'll be my final tool of choice.

That said I did find a Coughlin's Pocket Sierra Saw. I didn't expect much from it but it actually worked pretty darn well and it weighs a scant 2.5oz without any modification.

4) Linoleum knifes are tougher then you might think.

My experiments using a baton to section and split wood with a linoleum knife weren't that great, but it's almost entirely do to the blade shape. It is far to curved. That said the blades seem to be tougher then I thought. I'm also fairly well convinced that a fix blade knife is the only way to go for spliting wood so I may well end up revisiting the Linoleum knife and reshapping it to a more ideal shape... i.e. like a Sami / Leuku knife.

5) Hand pruning sheers not versatile enough.

I have recently even discovered a post from Ryan Jordan stating that he has on occasion carried a pair of hand pruning sheers so it wasn't a completely crazy idea on my part but I was unsatisfied wit my initial experiments.

I will continue to experiment with different hand sheers and similar devices but these were way less versatile then I thought.

They have an extremely limited range in the size of wood they will cut and were almost no good at splitting wood. In fact my wire strippers were far more effective.

6) Planning on revisiting the cord saw and trying a hand chain saw.

Since I've had such luck making an improvised bow for my bow saw blade I figure I mine as well get in some more practice by revisiting my cord saw and trying a hand chain saw as well. If nothing else the practice in making improvised bow saws will be good for me

7) WILDCARD: Carbide Grit Rod Saw Blade

This blade is really made for cutting metal and ceramics but when I found it at sears while looking for the Fiskars retracting hand prunning saw I figured I mine as well give it a shot.

It too will require me to make an improvised bow saw albiet a quite small one.

I don't need it to do much more then partially cut through a 3" log so I can snap it so I have high ups. What's more if it works it may well be the lightest wood cutting option ever posted here on backpacking light.

Will keep you posted.

Edited by mmeiser on 11/26/2009 23:58:37 MST.

Michael Meiser
(mmeiser) - F

Locale: Michigan
Re: small, sturdy fixed balde on 11/27/2009 00:08:26 MST Print View

@Mike Moore (mtwarden): I'm pretty sure i'm going to be taking either the Fiskars 3.5oz retracting saw or my 21" buck saw blade (for improvising a bow saw) with me for cutting wood into lengths, but I think you're right on the fixed blade knife.

I made the mistake of trying to baton with one of my lock blades and damaged the locking mechanism. Never again. I learned that lesson the hard way.

A fixed blade knife appears to be the way to go for spliting. What's more while I may well make my knife and make it a hare longer I think the one you posted is pretty much the ideal shape and length for my extremely lightweight wood duties.

I'm sure it works well with a baton given what I assume is a wide wedge shapped blade??

What's more the blade needn't be very long since I'm not planning on splitting anything over 3-4" max.

The other thing about a knife is it's infinitely valueable and versatile for other purposes.

I do have a little blade on my micra mini-leaterman that I carry everywhere and will continue too... but I guess it wouldn't hurt to carry two during the winter months.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Landi PSK on 11/27/2009 07:46:54 MST Print View

the Landi can handle batoning w/o any issues- the blade is relatively short- 2/8" so that limits how big of stuff, but for backpacking we're generally talking small sticks anyways

it's made from 1/8" 1095 stock it's plenty stout :)

it normally comes w/ 1/4" scales, but can be ordered w/ 1/8" scales to save a little weight

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: ultralight wood cutting / chopping / splitting solutions? on 11/27/2009 09:08:57 MST Print View

Many good options mentioned so far. Mora, Bark River, lots of others. Don't forget to check out Grohmann fixed blades.

I wouldn't worry to much about whether a knife has enough mass for chopping. For backpacking wood cookstoves, you should usually be able to break the lengths by hand. A light but stout fixed-blade knife will allow you to baton splits. That said, if I had a TiGoat tent woodstove or something similar, or if weight weren't as much as an issue, or if I were going particularly far out in the middle of nowhere, adding one of the little folding saws, or maybe even a sven (!!) could make a lot of sense.

Keith Selbo
(herman666) - F - M

Locale: Northern Virginia
saws on 11/27/2009 11:31:56 MST Print View

I once saw a pocket chain saw someone left at the Dick's Dome shelter. It was pretty obvious why. It must have weighed half a pound. I got a Coghlan's sportsman pocket wire saw in my stocking a couple of years ago. I think it weighs under an ounce or thereabouts. I tested it in my yard. The trick I quickly learned was to find some short one in. diameter chunks of wood to put through the rings for handles. That done, it worked pretty well pruning green wood; not so well on seasoned wood. I opted to put it in my day pack in the event I might one day have to build an emergency lean-to out of saplings. It's been there ever since.

Here in the east, I've never come close to needing anything to cut fire wood. The stuff is laying on the ground everywhere you look. I guess if there's a secret to starting small damp twigs, it's the couple of ounces of charcoal lighter I carry. 10 to 20 drops on a small rolled up piece of fiberglass cloth in the bottom of my stove has never failed to start a fire. The little bottle lasts about twice as long as all the food I can carry does.

james w glenn
(bark-eater) - F
hack knife on 11/27/2009 13:07:14 MST Print View

Ive found that batoning a large knife feels a lot safer than using a hatchet. It only takes one woops to change your life.
For ultralight camping a hack knife might be considered:

If you had a saw to cut the wood to length, a hack knife or froe could be made of titanium, hard aluminum or the proper plastic. The geometry of a splitting wedge is different than a knife. If a saw kerf was made to start the wedge a sharp edge wouldn't be so important.

A hack knife would probably make a good potty trowel in a pinch.

Edited by bark-eater on 11/27/2009 13:09:32 MST.

j lan
(justaddfuel) - F

Locale: MN
Re: hack knife on 11/27/2009 16:12:40 MST Print View

Reminds me of the Breacher Bar County Comm sells

Weight: 8.2oz

For the purists they also sell a mini folding saw around 7 grams with a 2" blade.

james w glenn
(bark-eater) - F
start drilling and grinding on 11/27/2009 16:54:42 MST Print View

I bet you could cut 4 oz of that and still baton it.

Michael Meiser
(mmeiser) - F

Locale: Michigan
Re: hack knife on 11/27/2009 18:43:37 MST Print View

@james w glenn (bark-eater), regarding the hacking knife, aka. splitting knife.

Yeah, I've just discovered these. Noone carries them so they have to be special ordered online. Not something I prefer to do for someting I've never actually laid my hands on.

I'm thinking I might actually just make one starting with a small file.

I think you're right about potentially making one in titanium. Splitting knifes don't need any weight and they don't actually have to be that sharp. They just need an appropriate length blade with a wide back edge so they can be hit with a baton and work like a wedge in the wood.