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A good bushcraft saw is one of the most important tools in your kit! Buying a good bushcraft saw can difficult. There are a wide variety of options, prices and manufacturers when it comes to bushcraft saws.
Knowing what to look for can help you make the right decision. This is not a product review guide. It is a buying guide that will teach you how to evaluate your options when picking best bushcraft saw for you!
There are 5 key factors to consider when purchasing a bushcraft saw. We will summarize them here and then go into detail on each one throughout the article. The key factors to consider when making a purchase are:
- Field Serviceable
- Construction Quality
- Blade Material / Teeth composition
Understanding these 5 factors will allow you to make the best choice for your saw. Proper saw evaluation will allow you to avoid disappointing purchases or potentially serious problems in the field.
Mobility is an important consideration in bushcrafting. Fixed length saws are akward to carry, bulky, lack multiple use applications and are less safe than collabsible or folding saws. While fixed-length saws can handle larger trees, the right collapsible or folding saw should be able to fell almost any tree a bushcrafter would need. Case in point: we once cut down a dead 14" dimeter black walnut tree to make camp furniture using a 8" Silky Gomboy!
Different saws have variable cutting capabilities. Almost every type of cutting application comes in some sort of collapsible/takedown or folding version.
When buying your bushcraft saw, make sure you select one that is collapsible or foldable. This allows you to maintain your mobility in the field. We prefer the folding saws because of their ease of use.
Whether you choose a folding or collapsible saw is ultimately up to your personal prference. Here's an example of a good collapsible saw.
If you opt for a folding saw, you want to make sure of the locking/unlocking mechanism is push-button style. They are more mechanically sound and less likely to fail in the field. Conversaly, the switch-style (or worse, no locking mechanism) is less mechanically sound and not as safe, and should be avoided.
The next feature of a good bushcraft saw is how field serviceable it is. Blades snap, bend, and chip and being ablw to quickly and reliable repair or replace them is an important consideration. This again makes fixed-blade saws and inferior choice for bushcrafting.
Many of the collapsible or take-down saws do have replacement blades. However, they're harder to pack than their folding saw counterparts. In addition, good folding saws have an easy to replace blade screw. In less than 3 minutes, you can easily replace a damaged blade.
Another consideration here is the handle durability. Soft rubber grips and steel are more durable than hard plastic for handle material. Collapsible saws have a disadvantage here, as a bent or dented metal handle may render the saw useless.
If your tool is not comfortable to use, it can cause injury. This may make other tasks harder or impossible.
In a survival situation, this could be a serious problem. In our experience, a soft rubber grip is the most comfortable. One with rounded edges that fits nicely into your grip is the best kind.
The soft rubber has a little more give and cushion compared to metal or hard plastic. Metal handle materials are have sharper corners and without gloves, they're quite uncomfortable to to use. Extended sawing can put pressure on sensitive parts of your hand, even with gloves. For this reason, soft rubber grips are the best choice.
We've touched on this indirectly a few times. Materials quality and engineering are important considerations.
Steel materials are the most durable and the best choice. Be aware that some saws look like steel, but are construction from aluminum. These are less ideal because aluminum is a less durable and softer metal. For bushcraft applications, the weight savings from aluminum constrution do not outweigh the loss of durability.
Hard plastic is the worst construction choice. It is hard, brittle and easily cracked. If it splinters or shatters during use, it can send sharp shards into your hand or arm. A punctured hand could make other tasks impossible!
The locking mechanism is also an important consideration. The blade should lock securly either into deep blade notches or hooks. The components holding the blades should be sturdy, secure and adjustable. Welding is better than riveting in most cases.
Blade Material and Teeth Composition
There are many different types of saw teeth and blade steel materials. The type of teeth you need depends on the specific use-case scenario. For exampe, more aggresive teeth would be appriate for tree felling, and smaller teeth would be appropriate for detail work.
Specifically for bushcraft and camping, all-purpose teeth are ideal. All purpose teeth can handle cutting medium-sized logs. For most bushcraft applications, rarely will you be felling something over 6" in diameter.
However, they still provide a relatively smooth cut. Smooth cuts are important for detail work or where you need precision. For example, an all-purpose blade could allow you to save time on shaping a bow without risking damage to the stave.
For blade material, a high carbon steel is best. Stainless steel has no place in saw blades - it's too soft. Stainless steel is also more expensive. Unless you're using a chainsaw, once a blade is dull it needs to be repurposed or tossed.
Carbon steel, on the other hand, is ideal because it is durable, stays sharper longer, and relatively cheap. There are many grades of high-carbon steel. Unless your saw manufacturer specifies it, assume its the cheapest (which is fine).
Our preference is SK5 Japanese carbon still. It is a low/mid-range carbon steel that is especially hard (61 - 64 HRC).
This high hardness allows it to be used for a long time before it dulls. It is also realitvely cheap. Saw blades are expendable and it makes it more affordable when it inevitably needs to be replaced.
Conclusion: The Best Bushcraft Folding Saw
Now that you know how to evaluate a bushcraft saw, you should have no problem finding the right one for you. When evaluating any tool, the most important thing to remember is:
What is my use case scenario?
In general camping and bushcrafting, you'll encounter a variety of situations and circumstances. For that reason, we recommend the looking for the following features:
- Folding saw with push-button blade locking/release mechanism.
- Soft rubber-coated handle/grip.
- Steel body construction.
- Deep set blade lock.
- High carbon blades, preferably SK5 steel.
- General purpose teeth.