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Saw Safety

Saw teeth are needle-sharp. Treat every saw with the same respect you give your pocketknife. Close folding saws when they aren't in use and store them in a tent or under the dining fly. Protect the blade of a bow saw with a sheath made from a piece of old garden hose the length of the blade. Slit the hose down on one side, slip it over the blade, and hold it in place with duct tape or cord. You can carry a folded camp saw inside your pack. With its sheath covering the blade, tie a bow saw flat against the outside of your pack.

Camp Saw

A camp saw is the right tool for most outdoor woodcutting. The blades of folding saws close into their handles, much like the blades of pocketknives. Bow saws have curved metal frames that hold their blades in place.

Using a Camp Saw

Brace the wood to be cut against a solid support. Use long, smooth strokes that let the weight of the saw pull the blade into the wood.

When sawing a dead branch from a tree, make an undercut first, then saw from the top down. The undercut prevents the falling branch from stripping bark and wood from the trunk. Make a clean cut close to the trunk so you don't leave an unsightly "hat rack". Cut saplings level with the ground so there's no stumps for someone to trip over.

Saw Sharpening

Touch up the teeth of your saw with a small triangle file or ignition file. Put on leather gloves to protect your hands, and then stroke the file upward following the shape of each tooth. Sharpen one side of the saw, then the other.

The teeth on the saw blades are set - bent so they cut two thin grooves in the wood and then rake out the shavings between the grooves. Even with the best care, the teeth will slowly lose their set. A saw without set binds in the wood, making cutting difficult. Fortunately, bow saw and folding saw blades are replaceable and are not very expensive. Take along a spare blade if you will have a lot of cutting to do.


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