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Ultralight Saws
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Ed Biermann
(longstride) - F
Re: Ultralight Saws on 11/30/2013 18:11:10 MST Print View

Wow. Lots of progress here in the last few days. I see that this thread is being promoted on BPL's facebook page too. David will be famous.

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Re: Pruning Saw Progress on 11/30/2013 18:13:59 MST Print View

Thanks David, I thought that might be it, but yours looks a bit more grippy (some grit in it) then what I have seen before.

Edited by bestbuilder on 11/30/2013 18:14:33 MST.

Delmar O'Donnell

Locale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
Re: Fun With Slots on 11/30/2013 20:11:23 MST Print View

> The slots look really cool, but I think just making the blade slimmer would reduce the weight even more, and would certainly be a lot easier to just grind down than all the drilling, chopping and filing to make the slots.

Exactly. If I were doing your experiments, I would try the Veritas pull saws (altho their teeth may be too fine for speed):

These are thin saws to begin with. If you push them, they buckle (ask me how I know). They cut like lasers on the pull, though, and if you can remember never to push, you get an exceedingly thin kerf.

The metal feels close to the weight of a hardy windscreen. Can't tell exactly how light because of the big plastic handle.

Edited by Bolster on 12/01/2013 23:28:57 MST.

David Gardner
(GearMaker) - M

Locale: Northern California
Pull saw blades on 12/01/2013 20:11:50 MST Print View

Since starting this thread I have become most interested in saws that are capable of cutting small to medium logs or timbers, not just dead branches for wood fires. For trail maintenance, but also for building a semi-permanent shelter. Building a shelter is not something that I would ever do on a normal camping trip, since I try to follow the Leave No Trace philosophy. But as a survival/disaster preparedness tool in case there comes an EOTWAWKI (End Of The World As We Know It) event I want a blade no smaller than 10.5", preferably larger. 12" is good, 14" is better, etc., as long as the weight does not exceed 12 oz. It also has to be virtually indestructible on the assumption that parts and replacement blades will not be readily available. Multi-use is also good.

I checked out the Veritas saws. I would be surprised if a flush cut blade will work very well for green wood, because the teeth have a "set" only to one side. So the non-set side of the blade will drag on the wood as it cuts. The flush cut saw is exactly what it is supposed to be, a fine cutting finishing blade, but it's not what I'm looking for. I checked out the other Veritas saws, but none are very large. Again, not exactly what I'm looking for at the moment. Delmar, have you cut green wood with the flush cut saw? Does it work well for that?

I did order a 14" Japanese pull saw blade made by Tajima, to compare it and see how light it can be and how well it works.

I may take another stab at a small 5"-7" fixed blade saw with full-size handle at an angle to the blade, just to see how light it can be. Based on the weights I'm getting for 10.5"-12" saws, 1.5-2.0 oz is probably very doable.

Delmar O'Donnell

Locale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
Pull Saws on 12/01/2013 23:25:42 MST Print View

Yeah, my bad. I should have copied the link to a variety of pull saws (with sets on both sides). Try again:

By and large these are all lightweight, thin pull saws. Haven't examined them for green wood or cutting speed, which would require large-ish teeth. I own several of the Veritas Japanese-style pull saws for woodworking and they are exceedingly light (except for the handle!), with an exceedingly thin kerf. Now that you've explained your goal of a durable EOTW saw, I would not recommend them. They are more in the vein of the ultralight enthusiast looking for the lightest possible. If you accidentally push with them, they bend, so they are simply not sturdy saws.

Still, depending on how far down the rabbit hole you go with your saw experiments, you might want to examine several of these more fragile, but very lightweight, saws. I'll be interested to read what you think of the pull saw you just ordered.

EDIT: Looked through the selection for large tooth.

This one 6-9 TPI:,42884,42896

This one 7-10 TPI:,42884,42896

This one says, specifically, for green or dry wood. No TPI, but they look big:,42706,40721

This one also dry and green:,42706,40721,42884,42924

Edited by Bolster on 12/01/2013 23:38:27 MST.

David Gardner
(GearMaker) - M

Locale: Northern California
Re: Pull Saws on 12/02/2013 08:22:49 MST Print View

Delmar, thanks for the links. I'm much farther down the "rabbet" hole than I thought I would be when I started this thread so I might as well keep going. I will be trying out at least a couple of the saws referenced in your links.

I like puns too.

Don Morris
(hikermor) - F
Ultralight Saws on 12/02/2013 08:51:13 MST Print View

This is a fascinating thread, but I maintain that a saw is completely unnecessary for obtaining wood for fires. For other tasks,like trail maintenance or clearing out helispots, there is nothing like a good saw, but it is likely to be rather hefty. For fashioning hiking staffs, and kindred tasks, I find the saw on my leatherman to be quite adequate.

I have obtained fuel for countless camp and cooking fires by simply collecting the available dead wood and busting it up, dropping rocks or stomping - whatever works. This activity satisfies my inner cave man - Neanderthal and is much more fun than "processing" wood, whatever that is.

David Gardner
(GearMaker) - M

Locale: Northern California
Re: Ultralight Saws on 12/02/2013 11:09:42 MST Print View

Don, I agree that a saw is probably not really necessary for most open camp fires. But I'm thinking about small wood burning stoves, most of which can only take 2"-3" pieces of wood.

Don Morris
(hikermor) - F
UL Saws on 12/02/2013 11:26:34 MST Print View

Smaller pieces pose no problem. Just keep on bashing. Generally where I hike, smaller pieces (so called squaw wood) are quite abundant.

David Gardner
(GearMaker) - M

Locale: Northern California
UL Saws Big & Small on 12/07/2013 09:05:50 MST Print View

I took Delmar's suggestion and made a couple of saws from Japanese-style pull saws. The first was a 10.5" replacement blade by Tajima. Very thin metal, carved up nicely. So thin that I added some Basswood on either side of the handle for better grip. Ended up with an 8" blade and weight of 1.3 oz that buzzed through my test 4x4 in 44 seconds.


Small Japanese blade with Basswood grips before assembly

8 inch

Finished small Japanese saw

Also tried grinding a pruning saw blade to a narrower width instead of putting in holes and slots. to lighten it. The Basswood grips worked so well that I added them to it as well. 11.5" blade, 3.7 oz, 45 seconds on the test 4x4. Not quite as light as the lightest saw with holes and slots, but immensely easier to fabricate:


Narrow pruning saw with Basswood grips before assembly


Narrow pruning saw with epoxied grips

Then I remembered that I had a 20 inch "Sabre Tooth" pull saw in my tool chest and took off the blade and modified it. Ended up with an 11.5" blade, 2.4 oz, 30 seconds on the test 4x4:


Next I obtained an 18" Corona pruning saw and started working on it. This will be a big saw when completed. No final weight of test cut yet.


18" Corona blade marked up for grinding

Finally, I finished the 24" bow saw. A bit of a disappointment. Was shooting for 8 oz, but it weighs 9.9 oz, mostly due to the 1.6 oz handle butt and 1.1 oz tensioning bolt. Was expecting great speed on the 4x4, but the best I could do was 45 seconds, the same as much lighter, simpler and smaller modified blades. Ed Biermann's 24" buck saw is lighter and has more usable blade length, plus a deeper throat for bigger logs.

24 inch

Will report on the 18" Corona and 12" bow saw when finished.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Zippo axe/saw on 12/07/2013 10:15:58 MST Print View

I ran across the Zippo combination axe/saw the other day. While the design would need some adaptation for UL consideration, I did think it was a clever use of the axe as a saw frame. I found one review that noted that the plastic cheeks on the axe head interfered with splitting chores.

I think this sort of design has promise for a flat sheet cutout for the axe body with a handle grip using knife style sandwiched scales. That sort of design is common in big game butchering sets and "tactical tomahawks." I would make the back side of the head flat for use with a baton.

It should also be noted that this design limits the cut to 4" deep.

Zippo axe saw combo

Delmar O'Donnell

Locale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
Progress. on 12/07/2013 11:24:06 MST Print View

Excellent progress, David. You are getting some UL, fast-cutting saws in your arsenal. Impressive to watch you hunt down your preferred solution.

Are you doing your work on an 8" circular bench grinder? Or do you have some other bench tool? As you get more interested in saw-making, take a look at the BELT GRINDERS used by knife makers. I own the Coote, which is a handy and versatile machine, but there are nicer ones out there. The neat thing about belt grinders is, they can take off the metal in black powder--no sparks--because they have sharp, fresh abrasive on the belts and run at low RPMs. Preferred by knife makers to keep the temper in the tool.

If you go into production, of course, then a water jet or some other high tech cutter is warranted.

Edited by Bolster on 12/07/2013 11:29:00 MST.

David Gardner
(GearMaker) - M

Locale: Northern California
Re: Progress. on 12/11/2013 18:17:49 MST Print View

I use a 6" circular bench grinder and a Dremel with cutoff wheel and grinder. If I get into knives I'll check out some belt grinders.

Here's the latest on the Corona MAX 18" pruning saw:

Stock saw with handle


Handle removed, marked for cutting and grinding


Excess cut off, handle anealed for drilling


Drilling and grinding complete, ready for Plasti-Dip

As you can see, I got the weight down from 8.5 oz to 3.7 oz. The Plasti-Dip will add back a couple tenths of an ounce. Went from 18" of teeth to 15".

Cutting time on the test 4x4 = 20 seconds. Now that's a saw!

Edited by GearMaker on 12/11/2013 18:19:24 MST.

Ben H.
(bzhayes) - F

Locale: So. California
Re: Re: Progress. on 12/12/2013 10:31:28 MST Print View

Another beautiful looking saw.

I notice you seem to prefer cutting down the height of the saw blade versus keeping the height (or more of the height) and slotting out the blade (like you do with the handle). Is this preference due to performance or manufactorability? Using a grinding wheel it would be somewhat painful to slot out the entire blade. Doing so, you would probably still end up with a heavier saw and I am not sure how much it would improve performance.

David Gardner
(GearMaker) - M

Locale: Northern California
Re: Re: Re: Progress. on 12/12/2013 10:57:19 MST Print View


After experimenting with drilling/slotting versus cutting down, the cutting down process is much more manufacturable. At least, until I get to the point where I ramp up to water jet cutting or similar. I like the appearance of the slotted blades and they may perform marginally better, but it's too much work (and too many dulled drill bits).

The handles are relatively easy to drill and cut out because I can anneal the entire handle without worrying about de-tempering the blade and teeth.