Resembling the letter ‘D,’ a Bow Saw comprises of a thin, coarse-toothed blade held between the ends of a wood or metal frame. Extensively used even in this age of powered saws, it is a he-man hand tool that remains a firm favourite of woodcutters and outdoorsmen.
Time was when lumberjack camps dotted much of the United States and, among many kinds of chopping, sawing, and cutting tools, Bow Saws of a variety of shapes and sizes were commonplace. That time is long gone and with it, many tools of the time, such as two-man crosscut saws which mainly exist only as curiosities.
In our age, the petrol chainsaw is the primary tool used for tree-felling and bucking. However, one sawing tool that has not only survived those bygone days of logging in the Yukon but still remains both popular and useful throughout the world is the Bow Saw. It is popular with Timber Industry and Construction Industry professionals and it is very useful for gardeners, handymen, and DIYers.
The Bow Saw is so named because it looks like a bow, as in bow and arrows. The endpoints of a coarse-toothed narrow blade are bolted or otherwise attached or fastened to the endpoints of a curved frame made of wood or metal – and that’s about all there is to a Bow Saw. Some models may have a comfortable grip handle, others a knuckle guard, and still others a tensioning lever, while a few may even have all three but essentially a Bow Saw is a simple tool. It is slim and slight in appearance but unsurpassed in cutting capability and is just about the best hand tool for sawing limbs, branches and small logs for firewood.
Unlike carpentry hand saws which give both fine control and fine finish at the cost of being slow and cumbersome, a Bow Saw is rough-and-ready but is probably easier to learn to use, is certainly more manoeuvrable, and is very fast. It is expressly designed for fast crosscutting.
If you need to get your firewood pile in order for winter and want to give your upper body a workout, or if you’re wary of chainsaws and recip saws, a Bow Saw is your best bet.
That Bow Saws come in a limited range of shapes and sizes would be obvious, as would be the thrust and reason behind those shapes and sizes. What may not be as obvious is the different tooth configurations that these saws have. While these saws have bigger teeth and fewer teeth per-inch than carpentry saws, you will notice that, for example, after every three or four teeth a gullet is clearly wider than the others, or that every fourth or fifth tooth is as if double-tipped or twinned. These special tooth designs play a part in increasing speed and efficiency as they are meant to clear out small chips from the developing cut. A blade without these tooth variations is most likely not one that is well designed or is well suited to effective crosscutting of green wood limbs.
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All five Bow Saws selected underneath are well designed and very effective, and are smart choices for gardeners, handymen, and DIYers.
Bahco’s flawless 10-24-23 is as good as it gets; this flawless, robust bow saw effortlessly cuts through thick, damp, green limbs, and even fells small trees.
Bahco’s bow saws are available in three sizes (21-inch/533-millimetre, 24-inch/604-millimetre, and 30-inch/760-millimetre) and geared for dry wood or green wood. Our choice is the 24-inch green wood variant, model 10-24-23. It weighs 748 grams, and measures a big 73.3 x 24 x 2.9 centimetres.
This saw’s frame was developed according to Bahco’s ERGO process. (The ERGO process is developed upon observing professionals at work and incorporating their preferences and needs into designing and building tools.) The frame has a sturdy handle with a knuckle guard.
A snap-on/off blade guard is included.
An easy-to-use mechanism in the handle allows you to tension the blade before and during use, and de-tension it for storage.
It is a robust, well-made saw that will ‘cut the mustard’ in rough environments.
The 10-24-23 is as flawless as a saw can be. You might find that the blade has a bit of flex under sawing tension but that is normal – it comes with the territory of being a bow saw. It is up to the user not to misuse a bow saw, to apply it correctly, and to adjust the tension optimally.
This bow saw makes smooth and clean cuts; more so than most other bow saws. Its handle, blade, and overall design permit and somehow foster a natural and easy sawing action.
Though this saw is ideal for pruning big, thick limbs, if you want to cut down smaller trees with a bow saw, Bahco 10-24-23 Green Wood is the saw for you. Furthermore, it even handles damp wood with more ease than most others.
Its performance is absolutely awesome; green wet wood that would give a chainsaw trouble is a piece of cake for this superlative saw. If you can spare the sweat, this saw’s got the teeth and the bite – of an allosaurus. It has no competition as our Best Pick choice.
- Robust, well constructed, and durable, and virtually flawless.
- Makes smooth, clean sawing somehow easy and automatic.
- So top-notch that it is good enough to fell small trees with.
Lightweight and compact, Stanley’s very serviceable and manoeuvrable bow saw is convertible to a hack saw giving you two good saws for one attractive price.
Stanley’s bow saw is very lightweight and also very compact, clocking in at 458 grammes and measuring only 41 x 17 x 2 centimetres. Set up with a bow saw blade, it comes with an additional 300-millimetre hacksaw blade (for cutting metal). The bow saw blade has the classic tooth arrangement of four triangular cutting teeth interspersed by a slightly shorter fishtail raker.
The frame is constructed of tubular steel. The lever clamp doubles as a handle and includes a tensioning mechanism. It also has a knuckle guard.
Although the lever clamp may be meant to accomplish ‘quick blade change,’ this is easier said than done because removing and inserting the blade is not easy. The wingnuts, though, are indeed easy to use and are a welcome bonus on a budget kit.
The light weight and compact size of Stanley’s saw makes it very manoeuvrable. It is a very good choice for pruning thin branches, for sawing firewood, and for cutting down saplings.
Besides the extra blade, the saw comes with a plastic safety cover.
Neither the best bow saw nor the best hack saw, Stanley’s 2-in-1 deal is an excellent economical option for persons with now-and-then light duty bow saw and hacksaw needs. In its class and at the incredible price, it is an unmatched value for money and earns its position in our Value Pick slot.
- The included extra blade converts this bow saw into an equally good hacksaw.
- Tried-and-tested tooth configuration does a very good job.
- Astonishingly low price makes it an outstanding value for money.
- Blade changes are not as quick and easy as with other bow saws.
Spear & Jackson’s bow saw really is ‘razorsharp’ and features a super clamping lever but a flimsy rivet is a downer on a rugged kit that can fell small trees.
A big bow saw meant for green wood, the series or category name ‘Razorsharp’ is a most apt descriptor for this almost first-rate saw. It measures 61 x 20.3 x 1.3 centimetres and weighs a substantial 699 grammes.
The ‘hard point’ blade and teeth live up to their billing of staying sharp for a long time; they are hard-wearing and retain their sharpness over many uses. The blade has 3 points-per-inch. The teeth are designed for fast, free cutting on both the push and pull strokes.
This versatile and fuss-free bow saw, though not meant for brown wood, sportingly makes ‘short work’ of logs for your firewood. But it is even better at blazing through green wood and new wood; it will not only prune stout branches but can even take down small trees.
On the downside, the rivet or pin in which the fore part of the blade is anchored is quite flimsy; prudence suggests replacing it. However, the frame itself is especially robust.
Considering the size of the saw, the blade is perhaps on the thin side and has a bit more flex than it should.
The metal tensioning lever doubles as a handle. There are no grips or rubber handle. The tensioning lever makes blade changes quick and convenient.
The kit could have done with a blade guard. Blade guard or no, this excellent bow saw took home Great British Growing Awards’ 2018 gold award.
Spear & Jackson provide a 10-year guarantee.
- It says ‘Razorsharp’ and so it really is; what’s more, the teeth stay that way for a long time.
- The clamping lever is among the best and blade changes are quick and easy.
- Rugged kit is good enough for felling small trees.
- The rivet or pin that holds the blade is flimsy.
- Doesn’t come with a blade guard.
Pulled down by straight-line teeth, AB Tools’s big bow saw sells at a ‘little’ price; it does the job well enough and is the best in comfort and ergonomics.
Another saw with heft, AB Tools’s bow saw clocks in at 699 grammes. It is 70 centimetres long and measures 59 centimetres pin to pin.
It features a hard point blade but the drawback to this bow saw is that the teeth are all in a straight line and are not offset which will contribute to the blade binding or getting pinched, especially in green wood. It is an excellent buy for pruning branches and cutting thinner logs.
It has a tubular steel frame that is quite robust. The clamping lever allows for quick and easy blade removal and insertion.
While the blade is good enough for medium-duty tasks, the standout draw of this saw is its design which makes it among the most comfortable to handle. It has a shaped, semi-cushioned grip with a plastic knuckle guard, and another cushioned grip on the fore bend of the frame. On the criterion of ergonomics AB Tools’s bow saw is the pick of the bunch.
It is most un-ergonomic in colour, however. The frame and handle are a light shade of green. If you forget it in some dense foliage, you may just have to . . . forget about it!
A versatile medium-duty saw that may not set you alight but which is a fit-for-purpose pruning bow saw that is good enough for sawing tasks but which brings a greater degree of comfort into the endeavour than most other saws; a consideration which may make it a leading choice for the weak or infirm.
- Excellent, ergonomic handle and grip make this kit most comfortable to use.
- Even has a second comfort grip at the forward bend of the frame.
- Inexpensive choice for sawing thinner logs and pruning branches.
- The straight-line teeth lend to the blade binding and pinching.
- Green-coloured frame means the saw blends in with foliage.
Bahco’s ‘economy’ bow saw may not be tops in comfort but it has free-sawing strength, sells at an attractive price, and it is tops in all-round versatility.
Bahco’s economy bow saw weighs 675 grammes and measures 60.7 centimetres x 17 centimetres. Meant specifically for dry wood, this kit is positioned as an all-rounder that is fit-for-purpose for not only gardening and odd-jobs but also for building and construction.
This saw justifies its description of the teeth’s points being ‘heat-induction hardened’ as it has an easy, free-sawing smoothness. And it saws through any and all wood, from sappy fresh boughs to dried-out old logs.
The frame is afforded rust protection by virtue of the powder-painted steel frame. Almost as important, its bright scarlet colour is a pretty, eye-catching shade but it will also allow you to spot this saw from a mile away on any shade of green or on earth tones.
The clamping lever works perfectly and doubles as a rear handle. However, it is not the most comfortable and is not ergonomically designed.
A useful plastic blade cover is included.
Because of its unspecialised and all-round cutting capabilities and versatility and its moderate size, this bow saw is a smart choice for keeping in the boot or for including in a camping kit.
And not to lose sight of the price – for a premium brand’s offering, this is one cheap saw, making it a can’t-resist value for money.
- A versatile, all-round bow saw that does that is not particular about the wood it cuts.
- Bright red colour is not only attractive, it means you’ll have a hard time losing this saw.
- The budget price makes it a top value for money buy.
- The clamping lever does not make for the most comfortable or ergonomic handle.
How To Cut Down A Tree With A Bow Saw
First, while it is not wise to try to use bow saws to try to fell mature oaks and the like, you can use them to bring down small trees that have trunks of up to 20 centimetres. Second, all other principles for felling trees such as being aware of the lay of the land, the direction and strength of the wind, the centre of gravity of the tree, the slant or tilt of the tree’s trunk, the shape of the tree’s crown, any close-by trees, etc., are relevant factors.
Decide on the direction that the tree would most naturally fall on. This is the side on which you will make the undercut, assuming there are no other trees or obstructions to block the fall or re-direct it.
At a distance from the ground that is comfortable for you, say about knee-height, you will make a 30° wedge-shaped cut (only) about 40% of the way into the thickness of the tree.
Start by making the lower, somewhat horizontal cut, and then make the upper downward-slanting cut until it meets the earlier, lower cut about 40% into the thickness of the trunk.
Then from the other side make the back cut. It should be at a height that is midway between the upper and lower lips of the undercut which will be just a little above the lateral trough of the undercut. The back cut will penetrate about 50% of the thickness of the tree, leaving about 10% of the thickness of the trunk as the ‘hinge’ around which the tree should make a controlled fall.
How To Sharpen A Bow Saw Blade
Use a tapered file for sharpening. Preliminarily, file across the tooth line of the saw as if trying to blunt it; the objective is to get all the triangular cutting teeth to the same height. Stop as soon as all cutting teeth are touched by the file if you rest it on the teeth. Ignore the fishtail raker teeth which should be slightly lower than the cutters.
First, sharpen each triangular cutting tooth. Do so by filing and bevelling adjacent teeth from opposing sides. That is, file one triangular tooth from the edge to one side and the next one from the edge on the other side. File at about a 70° angle to the tip of the tooth by moving the file in a downward direction.
Then file each fishtail raker tooth. File it perpendicularly to the tooth line so that the ‘fishtails’ make chisel tips.
Finally, bend each triangular cutting tooth slightly outwards alternating between adjacent teeth, just as you did while filing, such that the sharp-pointed cutting point of each tooth gets bent outwards.
How To Replace A Bow Saw Blade
Most newer model saws have a tensioning clamping lever on the handle end. Simply pull open the clamp to release the tension in the blade. The blade at the fore end is held in by a pin or a rivet. Once the blade’s tension is released, this pin or rivet can simply be pulled out or popped out. Unhook the blade from the handle; with the lever and tension released, the blade can be pulled back and out. Remove the blade.
Fit the new blade by slipping it into the foreside of the frame and aligning its eye with the pin or rivet’s hole. Put in the pin or rivet and hold it in place while hooking the rear of the blade into the thin bar or latch at the clamping lever’s base. Push back the clamping lever against the frame.
Other models have a wingnut at the handle end. This wingnut needs to be loosened to release the tension or ‘stretch’ in the blade. Once sufficient tension is released, the bladed can be released from a pin on the handle side.
Kersie learnt the basics of gardening as a toddler, courtesy of his grandfather. In his youth he was an active gardener with a preference for flowering plants. He is a professional and vocational writer and his freelance projects have spanned various kinds of writing.