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Ultralight Saws
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David Gardner
(GearMaker) - M

Locale: Northern California
Ultralight Saws on 11/24/2013 16:17:24 MST Print View

After being inspired by a thread started by Ross Bleakney, who was looking for a folding saw around 4 ounces (, I wanted to start a thread on ultralight saws in general. I'm interested in what other people use and/or have made and their experience with them, good or bad.

For the purposes of this thread, I suggest the following definitions:

"Ultralight" for a folding or fixed blade saw is anything under 6 ounces.
"Ultralight" for a bow saw is anything under 12 ounces.

I've used and made a few now, with the following results.

Folding Camp Saws

I have a Gerber folding saw (apparently discontinued) that I have used for years on trips where wood burning is permitted. 3.1 oz, 5.25" blade length. Chain saw style teeth that cut on the pull stroke. Quite effective for such a small saw. Cut through a scrap 4 x 4 from my wood pile in 2.5 minutes.Gerber

Reciprocating Saw Blades

David Thomas posted some info and photos in the other thread showing several saws, including two he made by modifying existing saw blades. One from a piece of band saw blade, and another fashioned from a reciprocating saw blade. I bought a couple of aggressive looking reciprocating saw blades and ground finger cut outs to make handles. One cuts in both directions (7" blade, 1.7 oz with red oak handle), and one cuts on the pull stroke (8" blade, 2.3 oz, Plasti-Dip handle). Nice and light, but not very effective. The fat blades have a wide kerf, which requires cutting a lot of wood. I tried cutting that scrap 4 x 4 from my wood pile, but gave up after five minutes when my arm got tired and I was less than half way through.1.7 oz

2.3 oz

Pruning Saw Blades

Next I modified a fixed blade from a pruning saw. Nice chisel point teeth that cut on the pull stroke ("Japanese" style blade). Ground a hand grip into the base and coated it with Plasti-Dip. Because of the shape of the blade I started with, the handle is parallel with the blade. 11.5" of teeth, 4.1 oz with several lightening holes drilled in it. Cut through the same 4 x 4 in 1.5 minutes.11.5

Then I modified a wider fixed blade from a different pruning saw. The wider blade gave me room to grind the handle at an angle, which made a huge difference in its effectiveness. Cut through that 4 x 4 in 45 seconds. 10.5" of teeth, 4.1 oz, no lightening holes yet. When I get the lightening holes drilled I'm pretty sure I'll be able to shave off .1 - .3 oz. (I'm waiting to drill the lightening holes until a drill bit sharpener is delivered, having burned through three cobalt bits to drill seven holes through the previous pruning saw blade.)10.5


I have ordered another fixed pruning saw blade which is even wider, so I can grind the handle at more of an angle. Will post photos and info when I get it done.

Bow Saws

I have not used a bow saw on camping trips previously because of their weight. There are several available now that weigh around a pound. Sven and Sawvivor are two. Steve at Suluk46 made a prototype 12" bow saw that weighs less than 3 oz (, but it is not available for sale at this time.

I am currently also working on a couple of bow saws. One uses a 12" blade and the other uses a 24" blade. I'm making them from carbon fiber tubes cannibalized from fishing poles and golf club shafts, with reinforcements made from aluminum tubing at the hard points (where the blade attaches and where the tubes join). Below is a picture of my progress on the 24" saw. Will post photos and info when completed.24 inch bow saw

Edited by GearMaker on 11/24/2013 16:20:15 MST.

Jeffs Eleven
(WoodenWizard) - F

Locale: Greater Mt Tabor
Re: Ultralight Saws on 11/24/2013 17:21:24 MST Print View

Wouldn't the pressure created to keep the blade stiff put too much lateral pressure on the carbon and snap it. I'm prolly saying things wrong.

I'll be interested to see what your testing shows. Good idea... I just wonder

David Gardner
(GearMaker) - M

Locale: Northern California
Re: Re: Ultralight Saws on 11/24/2013 18:05:31 MST Print View

After snapping two prototypes of the bow saw at the joint I have heavily reinforced the longer tube that inserts into the shorter handle tube. Internally it has a thin steel tube with a solid fiberglass plug about 4" long. And the longer tube is actually two tubes, one epoxied over the other. I have loaded it with over 50 lbs. of force along the axis of the blade and it has held up so far. If I can't get the 24" blade tight enough to work I will try a 21" blade by reducing the length of the handle and making the angle between the blade and the long tube more acute, so that more of the force from tensioning the blade will be compressive down the tube instead of bending at a right angle at the joint:modified bow saw

Jeff Jeff
(TwoFortyJeff) - F
Re: Re: Ultralight Saws on 11/24/2013 18:13:00 MST Print View

The engineering terms are "tension" and "bending moment."

David Gardner
(GearMaker) - M

Locale: Northern California
Re: Re: Re: Ultralight Saws on 11/24/2013 18:26:31 MST Print View

Tension would be pulling the long tube away from the handle. Compression is pushing the long tube into the handle. Tension on the blade will compress the long tube into the handle. The smaller the angle between the blade and the long tube the more the tension of the blade will translate to compression instead of bending moment on the long tube.

Delmar O'Donnell

Locale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
Interesting on 11/24/2013 20:22:35 MST Print View

Very interested in your UL saw experiments. Watching with anticipation. Where are you finding aluminum and steel tubing of just exactly the right ID and OD? Good find. Is there any way of making the connection point between the two tubes, a metal-to-metal connection point, perhaps of aluminum?

Also: when grinding those pruning-style pull saws, tell me you have wrapped the blade in a wet towel before you grind. It will help you keep the blade's temper during grinding.

Edited by Bolster on 11/24/2013 20:30:07 MST.

David Gardner
(GearMaker) - M

Locale: Northern California
Re: Interesting on 11/24/2013 20:50:44 MST Print View

Delmar, I will be sure to post my results. It may be a few weeks till I'm able to machine the aluminum fitting for the butt end of the handle and the tensioning screw.

Finding the right size aluminum and steel tubing has been a matter of some luck and some reverse engineering: I use standard 1/2" and 3/4" aluminum tubing and cut the tapered fishing pole and golf shaft to fit. There was about 6" of tapered steel tubing at the end of the particular golf shaft I cannibalized, and the fiberglass plug was from the fishing pole, both of which happened to be the right size. There has also been some hand work slightly enlarging inside diameters where things were too tight, and copious amounts of epoxy where things were a little too loose.

I thought about trying metal-to-metal at the joint but I would have needed to use 5/8" aluminum tube for the inserting end of the long carbon tube and, given the 3/4" size of the aluminum tube I used for the receiving part of the joint, there wouldn't have been enough metal left if I enlarged the hole through it to receive the 5/8" tube. If this design doesn't work, I have my eye on a beefier salt water fishing pole with larger diameters than the one I happened to have at hand, which would let me up-size all of the aluminum tubes.

Good to know about the wet towel. I will do that going forward. Fortunately I don't think the blades got too hot, as I was able to hold them about 1"-2" from the spot I was grinding, and when it got too hot for that I air-cooled the blade with the breeze coming off the adjacent 6" wire brush wheel.

Delmar O'Donnell

Locale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
Fabulous Fabrication on 11/24/2013 22:52:46 MST Print View

You're doing a heck of an amazing fabrication job, given you're not using a lathe or a mill!

I recently ordered a custom small Sawvivor that can take 12" hacksaw blades, and it arrived sized wrong (close, but would not take the standard hack blade). So I had to do a bunch of customized machining to get it to work, but now it's the bee's knees; can cut metal, woodwork (fine) or pruning (rough), given the correct blade. And very light for its skillset.

While working on (and with) the saw, I really grew to appreciate the articulated setup of the hinges. Your nesting design is better for space savings and weight, but have a look at the Sawvivor hinge anyway; it's a thing of beauty, very stout. Maybe a nudge to get you thinking about square joints rather than round ones.

If I were fabbing your saw, I'd certainly try to sleeve all the ends. Regarding the corner connection, perhaps with a "tongue and groove" type fitting would work well. The "tongue" can be thinned out in one dimension so it doesn't get so thick, (rectanglish,) and might uncomplicate the "round into round" issue you're having. On the downside, that would require a square hole to fit into, which would require broaching if you didn't find some other workaround.

I don't have problems with pinned or screwed connections. People generally denigrate them, because then you have a pin or screw you can lose, rendering your saw into spare parts. That's true, but, this is BPL, where you must behave thoughtfully. I don't mind screw together field equipment.

Ed Biermann
(longstride) - F
Re: Ultralight Saws on 11/24/2013 23:32:01 MST Print View

Sheath? Especially for those pruning saw blades.

Weight of said sheath will be?

Buck saw..

Edited by longstride on 11/24/2013 23:38:37 MST.

David Gardner
(GearMaker) - M

Locale: Northern California
Re: Re: Ultralight Saws on 11/25/2013 08:57:47 MST Print View

For the pruning saw blade sheaths I use a combination of a report binder spine over the teeth, and thick card stock paper with duct tape reinforcement at the edges. Weight is .7 oz for both.

For the bow saw I use two report binder spines over the teeth and a couple of "hair scrunchy" rubber bands to hold them in place, then everything goes in a long, slender cloth pouch I cannibalized from a tenkara fishing rig. Weight is .8 oz.

Those buck saws are awesome! 3.95 oz for 15" and 8.8 oz for 24". That is ultralight. I'm curious how the blade is connected. The picture on the web site is fuzzy, but it looks like a loop or loops of wire. Do you know?

Now I have a weight goals for my bow saws. Thanks for the link.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: Re: Ultralight Saws on 11/25/2013 09:02:07 MST Print View

"The picture on the web site is fuzzy, but it looks like a loop or loops of wire. Do you know?"


Watch the video.

Edited by greg23 on 11/25/2013 09:07:22 MST.

Ed Biermann
(longstride) - F
Re: Ultralight Saws on 11/25/2013 09:12:56 MST Print View

I'm not going to give the answer away. I suggest you buy one and support another BPLr. The saw works great.

David Gardner
(GearMaker) - M

Locale: Northern California
Re: Re: Ultralight Saws on 11/25/2013 09:16:37 MST Print View

Full disclosure, and a good price too.

Art Tyszka
(arttyszka) - MLife

Locale: Minnesota
Little Buck on 11/25/2013 09:23:19 MST Print View

I have the Little Buck and can confirm that it's a very nice and useful saw. T It's pretty secure once all tightened up and I've cut through 6" branches with it before, just need to be careful not to stress it too much while sawing. I agree on supporting a fellow BPL'r.

I can re-weigh mine tonight, but my spreadsheet says 5.0 oz (with the tyvek envelope) so it's a bit heavier than what the site lists it at. You do have to have a way to cover the blade when it's in your pack, the envelope works well but there are likely lighter ways to do it.

Edited by arttyszka on 11/25/2013 09:27:00 MST.

Daniel Goldenberg
(DanG) - M
Re: Ultralight Saws on 11/25/2013 09:25:34 MST Print View

Just carry the blade and use green wood for the bow:

Edited by DanG on 11/25/2013 09:26:08 MST.

And E
(LunchANDYnner) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
saws straws on 11/25/2013 09:25:45 MST Print View

I keep reading this as "ultralight straws" and think, seriously? Might as well shave some weight by shaving your head/all body hair.


Are wire saws any good? I bought one for a buck on STP just to have around, buy have never used it.

Edited by LunchANDYnner on 11/25/2013 13:07:41 MST.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: saws straws on 11/25/2013 09:31:41 MST Print View

"Are wire saws any good?"

Depends on the wood.

Dry is ok.

Wet not so much.

Got a Lot of time and strength?

David Gardner
(GearMaker) - M

Locale: Northern California
Re: Re: Ultralight Saws on 11/25/2013 09:35:50 MST Print View

I like the blade-only-green-wood idea, but how do you cut the piece of green wood from the tree and the blade mounting slots in the end? I guess this would be a LNT (Leave No Trace) no-no.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Haircuts and woodcuts on 11/25/2013 10:51:31 MST Print View

>"Might add well shave some weight by shaving your head/all body hair."

Voyager, the first around-the-world, without-refueling flight gained 11 miles of range because Jeana Yeager cut her waist-length to shoulder length beforehand.

>"Are wire saws any good? I bought one for a buck on STP just to have around, buy have never used it."

If there's something you HAVE to cut - a stick to the right height for a tarp pole or split, an arm pinning under a boulder, . . . they're good for that. If I was going to be making dozens or hundreds of cuts because my primary stove was wood-fueled, then I'd want something else.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Re: Ultralight Saws on 11/25/2013 11:14:58 MST Print View

"Just carry the blade and use green wood for the bow:"

That is more difficult than it sounds and it takes time. It's a skill worth knowing and trying out but not a practical way to save weight.