How to Make Primitive Tools Pt. 2: DIY Saws

Any saw blade can be turned into a DIY saw, as either a bucksaw or bow saw.

| January 2014

In Makeshift Workshop Skills for Survival and Self-Reliance (Paladin Press, 2009), author James Ballou provides creative and, certainly, unconventional workshop skills from construction to repair. Ballou also offers useful DIY projects for around the workshop. The following excerpt from chapter four, “Improvised Tools," provides basic assembly instructions for DIY bucksaws and bow saws. 

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DIY Bucksaw

Nearly any straight saw blade can be mounted into a bucksaw configuration of one variation or another, and this usually creates a fairly rigid frame that makes the blade easy to handle and use. The basic concept involves two vertical bars that serve as handles, to which the blade is secured on its ends at the bottoms. The handles pivot over a horizontal bar and are pulled toward the frame’s center at their tops in order to create the tension that keeps the whole unit rigid.

The frame can be made of hardwood dowels, tree branches, narrow flat boards, or metal pipe or tubing. The tops of the handles can be drawn toward the center with rope, strong twine, or even cables or metal wire in conjunction with turnbuckles, just as one might tighten up a fence gate. The simple system shown in the photos and sketch includes thin rope looped through the tops of the handles and twisted tight with the tourniquet method, using a short, sturdy dowel through the loop. The dowel is braced against the horizontal bar with the tension of the twisted cord to prevent untwisting.

Besides being easy to assemble, the neat thing about a bucksaw like this is that it can be disassembled easily for stowing in a pack. Disassembled, it takes up less space than a typical bow saw or almost any similar saw that is ready to use. It is also very easy to change blades, and its tension is adjustable.

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