Make Homemade Garden Tools from Recycled Materials

Make these handy homemade garden tools using recycled saw blades and wooden handles.

| January/February 1985

Saw blades don't last very long on a self-reliant country place. A hacksaw blade can lose its bite on one hardened bolt; a staple buried in a fence post will reduce a bow saw to gumming soft pine; and handsaw teeth just naturally get bent out of shape after being set and filed repeatedly. However, all that's gone is a smitter of steel from their cutting edges; 99 percent of the metal is still good, and fairly begs to be recycled. Well, with a little time and a few common tools (a power circular saw, an electric drill, a vise, a propane torch, hammers, pliers, files and such), you can turn saw steel into homemade garden tools that aren't sold in any store.

The BrushWhacker

Once, I thought I needed a scythe, a Scandinavian bow saw, a scissors-style hedge clipper and a limb lopper to take on the woody vines, weeds and saplings of all sorts that join in a continual march from the woods to our vegetable garden. But now I've got a single tool home-fashioned from an old handsaw blade that handles them all: a curve-edged scimitar machete, or harvest knife, with a long saw on the top, which I call the BrushWhacker. I made one in a couple of hours, and so can you.

To start, first pull that old handsaw off the barn wall and flex it hard a couple of times to make sure the surface rust hasn't penetrated so deeply that the steel will break on you at first use.

Then remove the handle from the handsaw blade. The one in the accompanying photos was fastened with four brass bolts and came off easily. On some newer saws you'll have to remove rivets. To do so, grind or cold-chisel the head off on one side and pound the shank through the other with a punch or a big nail.

On the blade (which I'll refer to as a blank in the working stages), outline a harvest-knife design that appeals to you. The inner handle should go at the tip, or narrow end, of the saw so you can incorporate the wider rear section into the flat of the blade. (This way, the sawback on the tool will cut on the toward-you pull, as Japanese woodworking saws do.) Size and shape the tang to fit your hand comfortably, because that thin bar, covered with a set of grips, is the only connection that'll exist between you and nearly a pound of sharp, swinging metal.

Now you have to cut your blade-and-tang blank from your handsaw. Wood-saw steel is hard, so don't bother trying conventional hacksaw blades. The Super Tough bimetal blades manufactured by Milwaukee Electric Tool Company (Models No. 48-00-1183 and 48-00-1185) for their reciprocating saws are the only hardware store items that'll even come close to cutting saw steel. I've found that abrasive cutters — tungsten-carbide-tipped hack blades or aluminum oxide circular grinding wheels — are priced reasonably, last a long time and work fast. Rather than sawing with jagged teeth, these tools chisel little chips off the work. A rod-type blade for a conventional hacksaw frame (a 10-inch Remington "Grit Edge" tungsten-carbide rod saw) does a fine job of cutting the curved pans of the blades I make, and it could do the entire job. You can save time, however, by making the straight cuts with an electric circular saw that's fitted with a carbide cutoff wheel (Master Mechanic 7-inch Metal, IBM No. 123 554).

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