Bowsawing

Description

There are two bowsawing events, one for men and another for women. Both cut on an 8 by 8 inch square piece of wood, usually yellow-poplar or sweetgum. Fastest time from when the saw starts moving to when the cookie (cut square) hits the ground wins. The men's event has been run every year since 1960, while the women's event was the last physical event added to Conclave in 1999.

Examples

Bowsawing - Women's

Click HERE to view the video on YouTube.

Thanks to Chelsea Lopez for shooting and providing this video of Kaitlyn Yates bowsawing at the 59th Southern Forestry Conclave hosted by Clemson University.

Ian Erickson's Conclave Record

Ian set the record at LSU in 2019, cutting an 8x8 inch yellow-poplar cant in an offical time of 6.56 seconds, besting the previous record of 7.85 seconds held by Buchanan of NC State since 1993, several years before Ian was born! Click HERE to view the video on YouTube.

Thanks to Rachel Murray for shooting and providing this video.

Techniques

Bowsawing Tips & Techniques Video

Click HERE to view the video on YouTube.

Many thanks to Sarah Fuller for her work in shooting, recording, and editing this video.

Equipment

How to Set Up a Bowsaw for Competition

Click HERE to view the video on YouTube.

Bowsaw blades are among the most fragile equipment we use in timbersports. Care must be taken to follow proper techniques when practicing and competing, as a new racing blade can easily cost $400 or $500! Common failures include bent rakers, broken teeth, or even snapped blades. Bowsaw blades rarely last long enough to require sharpening. Typically for timbersports we use a 42 inch blade. It is difficult to find manufactured handles that fit this length of blade, so generally they are home-made or manufactured by the same folks selling the blades.

  • Mercier Racing Saws - Canada
    • Look for Jean-Pierre Mercier on FaceBook.
    • (418) 831-2723

  • Paul Pfenninger Racing Saws - USA - New York
    • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
    • (585) 713-5442

Bowsawing Manual

The following page was excerpted from the 2005 edition of the USDA Forest Service's Handtools for Trail Work, 0523-2810P-MTDC. If the document does not load below, click to download the PDF.

Historical Context

Bowsaws are a type of crosscut saw with an arch or H-framed handle. While the H-framed version has been in use for more than 2000 years, and is still commonly used in woodworking and traditional carpentry, the tubular metal-handled version commonly used in forestry applications was invented in the 1920's. It is also know as the Swede saw due to its invention by the Swedish company Skandvik (since sold to American company Snap On in 1999).

Bowsaws are primarily used for limbing and bucking small logs in forestry applications. With the advent of the chainsaw, bowsaws are now primarily employed in federally designated wilderness areas, urban forestry applications, and home landscaping projects.

Photo Credit: Bucking a log with a bowsaw around 1940. http://www.hankstruckpictures.com/jim_falconer_bowater_woods07.html