How to Make Primitive Tools Pt. 1: Homemade Saw Blades

Learn how to make a homemade saw blade from scrap metal for survival and self-reliance.

| January 2014

  • Cut teeth into a homemade saw blade using a hacksaw or narrow corner file.
    Photo courtesy Paladin Press
  • "Makeshift Workshop Skills for Survival and Self-Reliance", by James Ballou, teaches the skills necessary to build and repair anything with nothing but salvaged material, your hands, and a bit of imagination.
    Cover courtesy Paladin Press

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 shop. The following excerpt from chapter four, “Improvised Tools," gives a step-by-step guide, based on real-life trial and error, on how to successfully turn scrap metal into a homemade saw blade. 

Buy this book from the GRIT store: Makeshift Workshop Skills.

Homemade Saw Blades

If you already have plenty of good files and saw blades of every variety, making numerous other kinds of hand tools is not usually a problem. But have you ever tried to create an effective homemade saw blade from scrap? This objective nagged me as an irresistible challenge until I built some experimental saws and tested them. Read on, and I will share the results of my research and experimentation with makeshift saws.

To start, it’s important to understand exactly how saw teeth cut. Whereas a knife blade uses the very gradual wedge shape of its tapered edge to separate material in the cutting or slicing process, saw teeth actually act like a series of tiny chisels in a row, each chiseling off small bits of material during the sawing. In other words, a knife blade essentially wedges material apart at a microscopic level, while a saw chews or chisels out material. Hence, you wouldn’t want your saw teeth to taper along the sides like the edge of a knife blade.

If you look closely at a lot of common saw blades, you can see that in many cases the teeth are offset from center in both directions in an alternating sequence. This is to ensure that they will chisel out a larger slot in the material being sawn than the thickness of the blade, giving the blade adequate clearance to move back and forth in the deepening cut without binding. It also sets those tiny chisels in position to bite off more material during every pass. 

Improvised saw blades might be fabricated in a number of ways, depending upon the tools and materials available to work with and the specific sawing tasks at hand. I created some functional homemade saws for rough-cutting wood using mild steel for the blades. The soft, mild steel was easy for me to work but obviously was not the best material for saw teeth, as it probably won’t stay sharp very long during prolonged use. Even so, my makeshift saws proved to be surprisingly effective during my sawing experiments.
5/15/2018 8:00:40 PM

I used the plans at WWW.EASYWOODWORK.ORG to build my own saw blades – I highly recommend you visit that website and check their plans out too. They are detailed and super easy to read and understand unlike several others I found online. The amount of plans there is mind-boggling… there’s like 16,000 plans or something like that for tons of different projects. Definitely enough to keep me busy with projects for many more years to come haha Go to WWW.EASYWOODWORK.ORG if you want some additional plans :)

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