As we move towards the autumn, it’s time to start planning for future pruning and firewood-cutting needs. Having the best bow saw on hand when that time comes is a necessity. And finding the right one may seem a bit difficult.
Today, we’ll talk about everything related to the bow saw, including the blade types, how to change the blade, and even the history of the saw itself. You’ll be prepared to get out there and find yours by the time we’re done!
And of course, I’ll share my recommendations of the cream of the crop.
- Triangular Bow Saw: Bond BS21 Gardener’s Choice 21-Inch Bow Saw
- Triangular Bow Saw With Hand Guard: BAHCO 332-21-51 21-Inch Pointed Nose Bow Saw
- Standard Bow Saw With Hand Guard: Bahco 10-24-51 24-Inch Ergo Bow Saw
- Folding Bow Saw: Agawa Canyon – BOREAL21 Tripper Kit
- Traditional Bow Saw: Filzer Buckster Bow Saw BBS-1
History Of The Bow Saw
Traditionally used in woodworking, a bow saw is occasionally referred to as a swede saw or buck saw. This style of saw has been in use for centuries, with examples from ancient China and the beginning of the Roman Empire being some of the oldest found.
Modern bow saws are often made out of tubular metal rather than the wooden frame of the older styles, but they function almost identically to their predecessors. A square, triangular, or curved frame keeps a metal blade stretched taut and allows you to create a clean and even cut.
The arborist’s bow saw should not be confused with a British bow saw, sometimes also called a frame saw or framing saw. While a modern bow saw has its origins in the frame saw used by carpenters, the blades themselves are significantly different.
A British bow saw has variable tension, allowing you to tighten or loosen the blade by simply tightening or loosening the tension wire on the upper part of the saw. While this can be useful for woodworkers who’re trying to get into tight spaces, it’s not necessary for wood cutting.
Bow saws like what we’re discussing today also shouldn’t be mixed up with the chainsaw bow saw. A predecessor to the modern chainsaw as we know it today, this early chainsaw with a bow shape was used mostly in the pulpwood industry to cut logs into 4′ segments.
However, those early chainsaw bow saws are incredibly dangerous to use, and have mostly been eliminated in the industry. Forestry rules have made them all but illegal to use now, and modern chainsaws have many more failsafes and safety measures.
Why Do I Need A Bow Saw?
If you have trees on your property, or even large, thick-trunked shrubs, you are going to find yourself in need of a bow saw sooner or later. While these tools require muscle power rather than an electric cord to do their work, a chainsaw is sometimes overkill.
For me, having a quality bow saw is essential. I can skip the wood axes or log splitters for smaller work and trim down smaller wood for my fireplace. If you have a chiminea, this will also be a fantastic purchase for you — after all, chimineas require wood of a specific size.
But they’re not limited to cutting firewood. Bow saws are also the easiest way to prune small to medium-sized branches on shrubs or trees. If you have woody growth at all, these are extremely useful tools in the shed. Even grapevines or other nubby growth can be easily cut to size.
Felling small diameter trees can even be done with a bow saw, although it takes a little bit of skill and a lot of safety preparations. These lightweight, maneuverable saws can spare you the maintenance agony of a chainsaw and the swinging motions of larger axes.
They’re also incredibly safe to use compared to a lot of the power tools on the market. While a chainsaw will make quick work of cutting your wood, it can also be quite dangerous. Hand-operated triangular bow saws can also get into areas a modern power saw can’t!
There are a few component parts that make up a bow saw. Let’s go over those now so you know what to look for!
Bow Saw Frame
As mentioned above, the earliest bow saws were wood, and typically were tensioned much like a framing saw. However, most commercial bow saws available now have a tubular metal frame which was developed in the 1920’s.
There are two basic shapes to a modern bow saw – a triangular bow, and a standard bow.
A standard bow shape is much like the shape of an archery bow or a C. By comparison, a triangular bow saw slants down towards the forward end of the bow, and the arch is back by the grip area.
Triangular bow saws are very useful if you’re going to be removing woody growth on thick shrubbery or in tight joints on trees. The standard bow shape is better for cutting firewood. Both are effective saw shapes, they just have different uses.
Bow Saw Blades
There are two basic types of cutting edges on bow saw blades. One, the peg tooth, is intended for cutting through dry wood. Peg tooth blades are usually a single shape of tooth, meant to cut on both the forward and back stroke.
Peg and raker blades have two shapes of teeth on the blade. The standard pegs cut on both the forward and back stroke, but the raker helps pull wood shavings out of the cut. This makes it much easier to get through green, wet wood.
Some companies offer reversible blades. These have peg blades on one side and peg and raker blades on the other, and you simply remove the blade and flip it over to switch to a different type. This can be very handy if you’re going to a job site.
It’s important that with any of these blades, you get a blade guard that can snap over the edged surfaces of the blade. These can be quite sharp, and it’s safer when transporting or storing your blade to have the edge covered.
While old-fashioned wooden models had a wire that maintained the blade’s tension, the modern metal versions use a screw on one end to secure the blade, and a tensioning latch on the other.
To replace most of the modern blades, you will loosen the tensioning latch, then unscrew the screw and remove the blade. Slide a new blade in to replace it, tighten the screw, hook the latch onto the blade, and lock it down. It’s extremely easy to do.
When the latch is engaged, it pulls the somewhat-flexible blade taut, keeping it securely in place and unlikely to bend during use.
While older-style wooden bow saws typically used the frame as the grip, a modern metal one usually has some form of a grip on one side. Sometimes this is part of the tensioning system for the blade, as the handle helps lock the blade in place.
Usually, this style of grip provides a very sturdy surface to grasp onto while using the saw. It may also include a D-ring above the interior of the blade which keeps your hand from sliding off the grip surface.
Other variations include a pistol-grip style which wraps around the metal bow, providing a slightly-textured surface that helps you to keep it firmly in hand. And there are some which have virtually no grip at all, requiring you to hold the metal frame itself.
It’s not a bad idea to test out how you hold a bow saw and determine what’s best for you. I personally prefer the D-ring style, as it gives me a little extra leverage on the forward pushing stroke, but some feel the D-ring gets in the way of the cutting edge. The choice is up to you!
Bow Saw Reviews
Triangular Bow Saw
- Heavy duty tubular steel frame with tempered...
- Blade replacements available
- Blades with push and pull cutting action for...
For a very basic and functional triangular bow saw, I have to recommend this Bond bow saw. With a tight-angled triangular nose, it can easily get into tight spaces between branches on trees or shrubs. The steel frame is sturdy, and the steel blade is sharp and works well.
This is a very bare-bones model, however. Many people who use a triangular bow saw find that having a hand guard helps them to more easily hold onto the tool, and this lacks that guard. The handhold is overtop of the tensioning latch, and that may not be comfortable for everyone.
If you want something that’s basic, simple, and no-nonsense, this is your tool. It does its job and the price is extremely competitive.
Triangular Bow Saw With Hand Guard
- Small and handy bow saw for all around use
- Pointed nose makes the saw ideal for use in tight...
- Used for pruning and roofing work
This Bahco bow saw completely outclasses the triangular bow saw. While there is a bit of curvature to the end of the saw’s nose, this 21 in. bow pruning saw is designed to take on nearly any task you want to put it to.
A sturdy grip with a D-ring hand guard offers not only stability while using the saw, but safety so your hand doesn’t slide free. While the triangle’s tip is slightly wider than others in this category, that’s not a downfall, and it still works great in close quarters.
Of our choices today, I will easily say that this is the best saw for cutting tree branches. Swap out the dry wood blade for one meant for green wood, and it cuts through a wet branch with ease. Sturdily made, it’ll last for years and become one of the best bow saws in your toolbox.
Standard Bow Saw With Hand Guard
- Designed to cut through dry wood and lumber
I had planned on highlighting a bow saw with a hand guard and one without. However, after looking at the ones without hand guards, they aren’t on par with others. All of the major makers have switched to a hand guard model on their standard bow saws.
After much consideration, I came right back to this particular Bahco bow saw. It was surprisingly close, on the whole, as other manufacturers have very similar styling. But the guard on Black + Decker’s bow saw was just a bit too meaty, and the one on Truper’s was just a bit thin.
Bahco made one that was just right, and while doing that they modified the tensioning latch. Instead of a latch, it’s a variable tension bolt that will give your blade a little wiggle if it’s necessary, or hold it taut when it’s not. That’s an added perk of this particular model not available on others.
24 inches in length, this will easily cut down your firewood with a dry wood blade, or can be used to remove branches or even cut down sapling trees if you know how. All things considered, I highly recommend this as one of the best bow saws you can get right now.
Folding Bow Saw
- Kit Includes:
- BOREAL21 Folding Bow Saw - black annodized...
- One Lightweight and durable emerald green canvas...
I’m not a huge fan of folding bow saws, but if you’re a backpacker or like to go out into the woods, it can be useful to have a collapsible tool in your backpack. This one comes packaged in a heavy-duty sheath which keeps it from opening when you don’t want it to.
Included in this kit are the folding saw with its anodized aluminum body, a standard dry wood peg blade, a heavy-duty peg and raker blade, and the sheath. That sheath also includes a shoulder strap if you don’t have pack room to spare, so you don’t have to leave it behind.
For folks who don’t need to cut firewood at the campsite, this is not the best option you could own. Opt for a fixed-frame model if you’ll be working out of your garage. But if you’re on the go and traveling, you’ll love the Tripper kit.
Traditional Bow Saw
- Collapses down compactly into a cylindrical tube...
- All aluminum frame design / with Stainless steel...
- Blade - 18 inches/46 cm long
Finally, we come back to the roots of the bow saw, just upgraded to a more modern form. Shaped exactly like a traditional-styled wooden bow saw, this Filzer bow saw is built with an all-aluminum frame and a stainless steel tensioning system.
This beauty of a saw can cut logs up to 13″ in diameter. Its 18″ blade is long enough to get the job done without being unwieldy, and it’s extremely lightweight… only 1.3 pounds.
Perhaps the most unusual capability this saw has is its compact nature. With a little practice, you can collapse this saw down neatly to a single 19″ long tube, enclosing the rest within for transport or hiding it away in a tool chest. Once you’ve done it a couple times, it’s easy as can be.
So if you want a traditional-style saw, but upgraded to the 21st century, take a good, hard look at this bow saw. You’ll be glad you did.
Whether you’re acting as your own arborist or simply heating the house, picking the best bow saw for your needs makes a difference. With luck, you’ve found what you need here! Are there any makes of bow saw which you feel were left out? Let me know in the comments!
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Last update on 2020-01-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API