The Crosscut Saw

Here is a primer on physical characteristics and use of the crosscut saw.

| September/October 1979

  • 059-crosscut-saws-07-felling-saw-bucking-saw.jpg
    The blunt side of a felling saw (top) is curved or bowed so that a wedge inserted into the trunk of a partially cut tree won't interfere with the saw. The blunt side of a bucking saw (bottom) is straight.  
    CROSSCUT SAW MANUAL
  • 059-crosscut-saws-04-straight-taper-ground-saw.jpg
    A straight taper-ground saw is of uniform thickness from end to end. 
    CROSSCUT SAW MANUAL
  • 059-crosscut-saw-06-one-and-two-man-saws.jpg
    Crosscut saws come in one man and two man versions. The latter has multiple variations. 
    ILLUSTRATION: CROSSCUT SAW MANUAL
  • 059-crosscut-saws-02-saw-tooth-patterns.jpg
    Assorted crosscut saw tooth patterns.  
    CROSSCUT SAW MANUAL
  • 059-crosscut-saw-photo-underbuck.jpg
    Method of underbucking with a crosscut saw to prevent a log from binding when it's being cut into sections. 
    CROSSCUT SAW MANUAL
  • 059-crosscut-saws-01-two-cuts.jpg
    Diagram shows the differing potential for binding between a taper-ground blade and a flat-ground blade.
    CROSSCUT SAW MANUAL
  • 059-crosscut-saws-05-crescent-taper-ground-saw.jpg
    The black of a crescent-taper-ground is slightly convex, which helps prevent binding. 
    CROSSCUT SAW MANUAL
  • 059-crosscut-saw-03-how-a-saw-cuts.jpg
    How a crosscut saw cuts: cutting teeth make the initial incision. Raker teeth peel the cut fibers, collect them in gullets between the cutting teeth, and carry them out of the cut.
    CROSSCUT SAW MANUAL

  • 059-crosscut-saws-07-felling-saw-bucking-saw.jpg
  • 059-crosscut-saws-04-straight-taper-ground-saw.jpg
  • 059-crosscut-saw-06-one-and-two-man-saws.jpg
  • 059-crosscut-saws-02-saw-tooth-patterns.jpg
  • 059-crosscut-saw-photo-underbuck.jpg
  • 059-crosscut-saws-01-two-cuts.jpg
  • 059-crosscut-saws-05-crescent-taper-ground-saw.jpg
  • 059-crosscut-saw-03-how-a-saw-cuts.jpg

Reprinted from Crosscut Saw Manual by Warren Miller (available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office). 


The two-man crosscut saw was known by the Romans, but not till the middle of the 15th century did the tool come into fairly common use in Europe. Records exist of the crosscut being used for cutting logs in the United States between 1635 and 1681. About 1880, Pennsylvania lumbermen began felling trees with the crosscut. Before that time all trees had been ax-felled and crosscut into lengths.

Until the 15th century, the two-man crosscut saw was of a plain tooth pattern. The M tooth pattern seems to have been developed and used in south Germany in the 1400's. Even as late as 1900 most of the European crosscuts still used the plain tooth pattern with only a few exceptions. Not until fairly recently was the saw with a raker or "drag" developed.

In the case of plain, M, and Great American tooth patterns, each tooth both cuts the wood and clears out the shavings. In the case of the champion, lance, and perforated-lance tooth, however, cutter teeth cut the wood fibers and the rakers remove the scored wood from the newly-sawn cut.



By the time crosscut use was at its peak, a large number of tooth patterns had been developed, each presumably suited to a particular set of conditions.

Crosscut saws can be divided into two types: two-man and one-man. Generally speaking, a one-man saw is shorter, but its defining characteristic is that it is asymmetric. Both types of crosscuts can be used by either one or two persons.





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