[Homestead] A saw blade odyssey

clanSkeen sgian at planetc.com
Sun Nov 7 12:57:18 EST 2004

> So they will
> outcut James" bucksaw or the much faster two-man crosscut by three or four 
> factors.

Mebbe, mebbe not.   First your comparison based on muscle power is based on 
two sawyers standing by the logs at the ready, chainsaw already running, 
with TVO announcing "Gentlemen, strat your sawing!"   But in the real world 
you have to buy the saws and maintain them.  The blade for my bowsaw cost 
about $8 and if it is as good as the last one I bought like it will last an 
entire season.  With a chainsaw you have to add the time it took earn the 
money for the fuel, blades, saw itself and the time it takes to sharpen it 
(more on that later) One does not sharpen a bowsaw blade.  I tried and the 
manufacturer is right, you can't do it.  Second, I don't get firewood by 
cutting down the mightiest tree in the forest with a herring.  That's hard 
dangerous work.  I seed out copices and dead standing trees 4" to 8" in 
diameter, cut them to pickup bed length, then cut them to stove length on a 
sawhorse.  The advantage of the extra horspower is less and less as the 
sawlog gets smaller in diameter.  By the time a sawyer has hefted the 
snarling obscenity, centered the blade, revved up engine, followed through 
on the stroke, waited until the momentum of the blade has subsided so he can 
reposition the log, or the saw, or both, by that time I've sawed the thing 
in half with the bowsaw.

Most of the wood is very hard dried hardwood (did I mention 'hard').  It is 
not the ideal environment for the chainsaw which was made more for sappy 
wood, the saw cuts less efficiently, is more dangerous than ever, and dulls 
more quickly.  On the otherhand I have a peg-toothed blade especially made 
for dried wood giving me another small advantage.

As to getting tired, although the average human output might b 1/4 horse, 
I'm half horse myself and I imagine that after all this sawing, I generate a 
bit more than that.  But with a sharp saw and a good technique,  1/4 hp is a 
huge overkill.  I routinely saw for an hour at a time and if I wanted to do 
it still short of making a pentance out of it, I could go for three or four. 
Don't want to, but I could.  I can't recall being tired from sawing 

One reason that it is difficult to compare heating wood now of days to you 
guys' geezerly past is that my house is hugely insulated, quite modest in 
size, and during warm weather we use propane (for as long as it's available 
and cheap) for cooking.  Our firewood needs are modest.  It's 7 Nov and so 
far we've used somewhat less than a quarter face cord (16") so ar this year. 
No big hulking oak trees for me.  Oh, I'd take on, and manage to cut it up, 
if one was offered.  But I don't seek them out.  So the 'brrrrtttt" of the 
chainsaw, the chainpulling and cursing, the blade sharpening in my case 
would be a lot of macho "sound and fury signifying nothing".   Your three 
and half to four ration might settle out at one and a half to two ... but 
factor in the time spent to earn the money for the mechanical obscenity and 
the time to maintain it and I'm probably haning up the saw and going into 
supper while your bio-mechanical sawyer is still having his gizzard shaken 

Says I.


However, I remember the days on the farm when all the
> wood was felled by a double-bitted axe (kept sharp) and blocked by a 
> two-man crosscut (kept sharp), until we arranged with a nest-door neighbor 
> to bring us his Model A Ford engine-powered cut-off saw which could do in 
> an hour more than we could cut with a two-man crosscut  in half a day. 
> All a matter of energy applied---saws of any kind don't care what is the 
> energy source, just respond proportionally with output according to energy 
> input.
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