How to Use a Bow Saw? The Best Pruning Tool

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Written By Michael Culligan

With over 12 years of experience in Oregon's forestry industry, I have established myself as a skilled and knowledgeable lumber professional. As a passionate competitor in local timbersports events, I have consistently ranked among the top lumberjacks in my area. I take great pride in meticulously maintaining an extensive collection of restored vintage axes. I personally test every axe I review by using it to fell and chop up oak firewood on my land.

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To use a bow saw, securely clamp or brace the material, position the saw’s teeth at the desired cutting point, and apply light pressure while making long, steady strokes. Alternate between push and pull motions, keeping a consistent rhythm. Maintain a proper grip and stance for control and safety during the cutting process.

Working around your garden is therapeutic. It’s also an easy task if you have the right tool. 

A bow saw is the perfect tool for pruning, limbing, and even felling smaller trees in your garden. In addition, it’s a lightweight and portable tool you can use to cut firewood or wooden logs and sheets for any purpose. 

Safety always comes first when you’re working with a cutting tool. I prepared this detailed guide to teach you how to use a bow saw like a pro. So, keep reading to learn more about this topic. 

What is a Bow Saw Used For?

A bow saw is a lightweight tool with great capabilities. It’s one of the oldest cutting tools and is a variation of the crosscut saw

It’s simply a framed crosscut saw that can wood vertically or horizontally. If you hold it on its side, it resembles the look of a bow and arrow, and this is how it gets its name. 

Homeowners and professionals love the bow saw because, compared to other cutting tools, it’s relatively easy to use. In addition, it’s usually inexpensive and easy to maintain. As a result, you’ll always have a cutting tool ready for your next pruning session. 

You’ll have a portable and functional trimming tool with proper care and handling for various sawing tasks. However, the bow saw has some limitations. For example, the blade tends to rust, and the handle can limit its access to the tightest spots. 

Nevertheless, if you understand the scope of the bow saw, it can be a versatile tool that you can use for DIY projects, landscaping, and gardening purposes. 

A bow saw is a handheld saw that can cut through small to medium-sized branches. If the branch is too thick for a pruner, the bow saw will cut through it quickly. 

You can also use a bow saw to cut through other wooden objects. Most modern designs feature a handle that allows you to cut easily. There are big, small, and even foldable bow saws, so you’ll always find the right one for the job. 

Since it’s a versatile tool, the bow saw can be used for various applications. 

  • This is an excellent pruning and limbing tool. It can easily crosscut through branches, limbs, and logs. 
  • It’s an essential tool if you’re interested in woodworking DIY projects. 
  • This is a good gardening tool to trim unruly shrubs that ruin your landscape. 
  • The bow saw is used to cut firewood to the perfect size
  • People usually add the bow saw to their camping kit as it can help you prepare firewood, cut through leaves, or cut ropes. 
  • If there’s a small tree in your garden, you can use a larger bow saw to fell it. 
how to use a bow saw

Prepare Your Equipment

Getting your bow saw ready before cutting through the wood will help you finish the job in perfect quality. You should also prepare yourself mentally and physically to easily use this cutting tool. Here are some tips to follow. 

  • Safety always comes first when you’re using the bow saw. Although this is a manual tool and not battery-operated, you should still handle it carefully, so it doesn’t accidentally hurt you. 
  • Wear the right clothes and safety accessories before working with your bow saw. Protective goggles are essential because sawdust and flying particles can harm your eyes. 

You should also wear protective non-slip work gloves and ensure your clothes aren’t too tight or loose. 

  • Before working with your bow saw, inspect it first and ensure the blade is sharp. A dull blade won’t cut through the wood and can pivot while you’re working, causing much damage. 
  • Look at all the screws and ensure they’re in place, as the blade can accidentally move while cutting. 
  • Use sandpaper to remove any rust you can see on the blade. A smooth bow saw can cut easier through the wood. 
  • Apply some cutting oil to the saw’s blade, allowing easier and faster cutting by reducing friction. 
  • If your bow saw comes with a handle, practice holding it until you find a sweet spot. After that, you need to use a pull and push motion to be able to cut wood precisely. 

How to Cut a Branch with a Bow Saw

This job is easy for the bow saw because you can easily trim and prune a tree. A bow saw will be an excellent choice if you’re targeting a lower branch you can access while standing on the ground. For a taller branch, a pole saw will be a better choice. 

Here are the steps to follow. 

cutting a branch of a bow saw

Step 1: Pick the Right Branch

If you plan to trim a branch on a tree, pick the right one so it doesn’t accidentally break another one while it’s falling. If the branch is already cut and on a stand, secure it properly, so it doesn’t accidentally move. 

Remember that a bow saw won’t be able to cut through bigger branches, and the blade will break. 

Step 2: Wear Your Protective Gear

Wear all the protective accessories and clothes. These will guarantee your safety while you’re working with this sharp tool. 

Step 3: Start Your Cut

Always position yourself so you’re cutting the branch from above. This will help you use the power of gravity to make a deeper cut. 

Attempting to cut a branch from below puts you in danger because the branch can fall on your head. 

Step 4: Move Your Blade

Unlike other types of saws, the angle at which you put the blade doesn’t matter. All you have to do is place your blade on the branch and start pulling or pushing. 

Once you’ve cut through the wood, you can increase the pace. Sometimes, you’ll have to do an undercut to guarantee that the branch has been successfully cut off the tree. The branch might break off without an undercut, creating splinters or giving you an unclean cut. 

How to Cut a Log with a Bow Saw

Cutting logs for firewood can be easily done using a bow saw. However, you should ensure your blade is clean and rust-free, as the rust will affect the motion’s smoothness. 

Securing your log is essential. Your bow saw can easily bind or snap if the timber isn’t well-secured. Here are the right steps to follow to cut logs. 

how to cut a log with a bow saw

Step 1: Prepare the Bow Saw

Use steel wool to rub the bow saw’s blade clean before you attempt to cut any log. The steel wool will remove all the rust, and you can also use an industrial lubricant to guarantee better cutting. 

Step 2: Support the Log

You should never attempt to cut logs without securing them, as the timber might sag and even break. Instead, secure the log and leave the waste end, so the weight of the timber can pull the cut and make it easier. 

Step 3: Position Your Blade

Choose the right size for your wood, depending on your fireplace or stove size. Draw a line if you want your cuts to be more precise. 

Keep the blade vertical while cutting. It’s best to keep the bow saw perpendicular to the log, as this will facilitate cutting. If the blade is twisted, it can result in a crooked cut through the log. 

Step 4: Cut through the Log

While holding the blade, use as much of its length to cut through the log. Keep your hand as straight as possible and push down with a forward motion at a 45-degree angle. Applying too much pressure can cause the blade to snap. 

How to Fell a Tree with a Bow Saw

Felling a tree with a bow saw isn’t the easiest job. It will only work if you want to fell a smaller tree. Safety always comes first because even the smallest tree can crush you. 

So, before you start, you need to check the tree branches. Using a bow saw causes many vibrations, so the branches can fall on your head and harm you. You also need to be careful while determining the fall path of the tree. 

Here are the steps to follow. 

Step 1: Prep the Tree

Bow saws are rather thin, and felling a tree takes more time and effort. So, you can debark the tree with an ax to make it easier to handle. However, ensure you don’t overdo it, as this might cause the tree to snap. 

Step 2: Plan Your Cut

After you’ve determined the direction where the tree will fall, start the cut on the same side. You want the bow saw to stop where you will walk away as the tree falls in the other direction. Ensure the tree’s diameter isn’t larger than half of your saw, or your cut won’t work. 

Start cutting perpendicular to the path where the tree is supposed to fall and apply a back-and-forth motion. Cut through one-third of the trunk because, after that, the tree will start to lean. 

Step 3: Make a Notch

Move your bow higher and start cutting at an angle. Keep cutting until you reach the cut you’ve previously made. 

Step 4: Make the Final Cut

Start cutting on the other side at a higher position than the first one you made. Cut slowly at an angle in the direction of the cut, but stop just before reaching it. 

Watch the gap created. When you see it getting bigger, it’s time to stop. Pay attention to the sounds the tree makes because it can accidentally break if you’re not careful. 

Step 5: Give the Tree a Push

Stand opposite the fall path of the tree and give it a slow push in the direction where you want it to fall. You might have to cut a little more, but you shouldn’t push the tree too hard. 

Wrap Up

A bow saw is an excellent tool for pruning and trimming a tree. You can also use it for cutting firewood and DIY projects. 

Preparing the blade and cleaning it before use is important for a smooth cut.