Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Outdoor Gear Review - Northwest Woodsman Folding Bucksaw

Among the more pleasant elements of a trip into the back country is the time spent at days-end beside the fire. Somewhere deep in our DNA remains an atomic post-it note that tells us the fire is not only a source of warmth but of safety and of comfort and a place for fellowship. That time spent alone with your thoughts sipping the spirit of your choosing or with a buddy or wife is a big part of why we seek the distance from "civilization".  If you are as lucky as I, in that your wife is also your best friend, well so much the better.

Making a fire is easy. We learned the necessary skills in Boy Scout or YMCA camp as kids. Making a GOOD fire is another thing. Collecting deadfall works fine in dry places where wood doesn't remain damp or quickly begin to rot. If you find yourself in a more damp environment you need to find standing dry wood which is often still firmly in the form of a tree, albeit a dead one. The challenge is in turning a 4-8 inch diameter 12 foot tall dead tree into a useful pile of firewood.

An axe is heavy and awfully difficult to stash in a pack. A hatchet is too small and a lot of work for anything other than splitting. A chainsaw....um..no....and survival saws are usually not up to the task of breaking down a bunch of wood. Which leaves us with an old and still the best option, a folding bucksaw. The one I like is offered by Northwest Woodsman http://nwwoodsman.com/index.html

Above photo belongs to Northwest Woodsman & is included to show the alternative assembly using a windlass rather than the included tension bar.
Randy January ( Here's his blog http://www.alwaysjanuary.com/ ) turned me onto this product and it has quickly become one of my favorite pieces of outdoor gear.

The saw comes in an attractive and durable waxed canvas bag made by Frost River of Duluth, MN who specializes in making authentic back country gear using "heritage" materials and techniques with just enough modernity to make them just as useful and durable as stuff from REI.

Included in the purchase of the Northwest Woodsman Folding Bucksaw is a 24" Bacho saw blade, a solid American Hickory frame & crossbar and an aluminum tension rod with washers & wingnuts. The assembled saw is 27 inches long by 12 inches tall and when packed is a mere 24.5 inches long and 2 inches in diameter. It weighs only 1.5 pounds (including the robust waxed canvas bag) and packs easily into a portage pack or backpack. 

There certainly are a number of more modern offerings on the market such as the Trailblazer Sawvivor seen below.

Although that saw weighs just a tick over a half a pound it has only a 15" or 18" blade and will only cut logs up to 5" in diameter where the Northwest Woodsman offering has a 24" blade and will handle logs a full 8" in diameter and though it weighs in at 1.5 lbs, it's wood, so it floats.....not that I plan to drop my saw in the lake but.... The result is that with the Northwest Woodsman saw, you can cut a larger log, and with the longer blade you can do so in fewer strokes.

The Northwest Woodsman saw assembles quickly (see video below) into a very rigid, easy to handle structure and it absolutely blazes through hard, dry timber. There is no discernible flex in the saw making it very confidence inspiring to use without fear of it flexing, binding, or jumping out of the kerf. The handles are well shaped and are very comfortable in the hand with no pinching or blisters even with my "desk-job" softened hands. Because it's stiff and because it's comfortable you can really power through the timber. This past weekend in the Sierras I reduced these five 10-12ft trees....

....into this pile of 12-14 inch long logs for our small fire pit in about 18 minutes.

Barely enough time to work up the thirst for a cold beer and I was all-set for two nights of sitting by the fire with my beautiful wife. The peg blade yields a very fine sawdust which makes for useful tinder if you happen to be using a fire-steel rather than matches for lighting your fire.

I'd considered making my own video about the saw, but Northwest Woodsman has their own which shows the assembly and demonstrates the saws use. One note, the bag shown in the video is a cheap nylon sack. The bag they deliver the saw in is the very nice, aforementioned waxed canvas bag:

Criticisms are few and though I'd buy another one in a second here are a few things I'd change:
  • The notches for blade storage could be beveled a bit to make folding a bit easier. The blade tends to catch the edge. Not a big deal but more of a fine-tuning suggestion.
  • The threads on my aluminum tension rod are showing some signs of galling. I'd stick with aluminum, but perhaps find a harder formulation. If that can't be done, switch to stainless. It would be a major drag to strip a thread and not be able to disassemble the saw for the trip home.
As I said before, this saw has rapidly become one of my favorite pieces of outdoor gear. It packs easy, its light, it's comfortable to use and it blasts through timber in no time. I think you'll like it.

Hum a few verses of "I'm a lumberjack and I'm ok"  as you use it and enjoy the fire later that night.

Northwest Woodsman 

Email - info@nwwoodsman.com

1 comment:

  1. There's something about chopping wood that's vital to the soul.

    I don't know what it is but I really enjoy it.

    Picked up your blog on calguns. I love canoeing and kayaking and reading your trips has really been great! keep it up :)