Ode to a Hand Saw

Reader Contribution by Bethann Weick
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Our loft is a cozy nook, complete with finished molding and baseboard trim, and comfortably warm as it catches the heat of the woodstove. It’s a giddy feeling to fall asleep within walls we know we’ve built ourselves. 

The rest of the cabin, however, is not so complete. Upon rising in the morning and descending from our perch via the six-foot aluminum stepladder, the main floor is clearly more a construction zone than a home. The table, chest and dog bed are outweighed by the collection of lumber, ladders and tools that surround the central woodstove. 

While the essentials are completed, there is much trim and finish work that remains. We’re determined to complete those tasks before we commit ourselves to arranging furniture. Ryan, for example, is turning cedar posts from my childhood home into beams to support the loft. I, meanwhile, am paneling the upper walls where rough logs meets sills and rafters. 

For both these tasks, and many more, one central tool is — and has been — our handsaw. It does now seem to struggle as we push and pull it through 2″x 6″ studs, and cutting 1″x 12″ boards does require a bit more muscle than it used to. The saw, we must admit, has become a bit dull over these months. A couple of bent teeth are the result of building a house — a whole house! — with this simple tool. 

I can well remember September, when we first assembled the rafters: the saw angled the trusses effortlessly. I can look back at October, when we installed the floors: the saw cut through hemlock joists with much more ease than anticipated.  I can look back on November, when we paneled the ceiling: the saw handled the v-groove wood with ease … but it was mere 1″x 6.” Now that it’s December and we’re cutting trim and paneling planks, beveling edges and making specialty cuts, the saw is undeniably worn down. While we have been offered other saws from neighbors, and been quoted elaborate plans of generators and battery powered equipment, it’s almost as if this tool has become a cohort. At any rate, we maintain a stubborn desire to see the project through using the same saw with which it all began. 

And so, this is an ode to our saw. It has been essential through four months of intense work (the chainsaw and ax dominated the summer months of log felling and hewing). I suppose more than anything it is an emblem of our desire to do the work by hand, to live without power lines and enjoy the youthful use of muscle power. Pride in our strength and ability is present, granted, but so are our ideals of living simply, lightly, and intimately with the land. We endeavor to define our reality by raw effort and by the limits of our bodies. We wish to mold our life directly with the work of our hands, reflecting our passionate philosophies and creating the world we wish to be in. 

That being said, we may have it all wrong. We may be unnecessarily fond of our handsaw, and we may be foolishly expending strength and energy. But even if that were to be the case, we sure are having a good time. And what could be better than living and loving this good life.

For garden design & maintenance, land management & wildland services, as well as advice, stories, or commiserations please contact Coösauke via b.a.weick@gmail.com