A couple of years ago, when I was on my way to a meet some buddies for our annual January man weekend (Manuary!) in the hardwood bluffs of the Mississippi River Valley, I picked up a D-handle saw made by Fiskars at the last minute, almost as an after-thought. It was going to be a group campout, it was dang cold, we were going to need a lot of wood, and I didn't want to loan out my better take-down bucksaw saw and risk having it ruined on frozen oak.
D-handle Saw Benefits
This purchase has turned out to be a great tool. The Fiskars D-handle saw has a large, sturdy, fixed blade, with aggressive teeth that cut on the push and the pull stroke. The wooden handle is large enough to use while wearing mittens, has a comfortable feel, and protects my knuckles (to a point) from smashing into the wood I'm sawing. I also like that the wood handle is warm (unlike metal-framed saws) in the winter.
I haven't heard many other campers recommend this type of saw, but after going through plenty of firewood with it, there are a few unique attributes, which should put the D-handle saw on your camp saw consideration list:
- There are no parts to lose. Losing a small nut or bolt could be a huge problem on a wilderness trip, leaving you without a functioning saw. Ever drop a small item in the snow or over the edge of your canoe? With the D-handle saw, you won't have that issue.
- It's all one piece. Having a ready-to-use saw that you don't have to put together could be a lifesaver! Suppose you broke your arm or fell through the ice. Or, it's dark and the bugs are driving you crazy. Either way, you're gonna have a hard time assembling a take-down saw, especially with frozen or busted up fingers.
- Sturdy and dependable blade. When up against rough bark and hardwood, this saw seems less likely to kink or bend a tooth compared to the thinner, more delicate blades on most bow and bucksaws. It may have more drag and not be quite as fast as some of the thinner blades on fine smooth wood, but I haven't noticed much of a difference, and it gets the job done.
- No frame = many cutting options. The lack of a frame surrounding the blade offers some great advantages over framed bow and bucksaws. First, you are not limited in the size of the piece of wood you can cut. Triangular takedown saws are fairly limited, and with bow and bucksaws, you'll also have the frame hitting the wood before you're able to saw through larger pieces. You might say that you don't need to cut wood that thick for your campfire, but what if you encounter a downed tree across the forest service road you're traveling on or a tangled mass of trunks blocking your portage trail? This blade can also be worked into areas where a bucksaw frame would be snagging and get hung up by other limbs or brush (e.g., when trying to saw off a pole close to the ground, or when cutting off a dangerous sweeper on a choked river bank from a canoe). It also allows you to flip the saw upside down for an undercut--extremely useful for downed dead logs under tension to prevent a pinched blade. You can put the D-handle saw to use in the Winter, too, as a snow saw for cutting blocks of snow or ice when you're building a snow shelter.
How Does the D-handle Saw Stack Up Against Other Saws?
The D-handle is a go-to type of saw, but how does it compare to other saws? Let's check it out:
- Buck Saw: There are some very cool take-down bucksaws out there. They work well and breakdown into a compact package. As I mentioned above though, you're limited in the size of wood you can saw, and have to put them together.
- Bow Saw: Good bow saws are affordable and do the job just fine, but can be more difficult to transport. They can also be limited by frame size.
- Folding Saw: Small folding saws, like the popular Bahco Laplander, are very light and compact and offer performance way out of proportion to their pack size; however, they're usually not enough if you're out on a fire-based Winter trip or taking on a more substantial project, like trail building. An excellent option as part of your "Essentials" in your daypack.
When it comes right down to it, the D-handle saw has the cutting ability to match any of these, and is more versatile. The only real drawback I've come across is that it's not quite as portable as a take-down bucksaw; however, I use the D-handle saw regularly on canoe, sled, and vehicle-based trips. Mine usually rides flat against the back of my pack or tucked under the packs against the bottom of a toboggan or stowed in a wannignan/tote box on a canoe trip.
If you're in the market for a new saw, give the D-handle a try!