Building a Better Sawbuck
Story and Photos by Brett R. McLeod
TRICKS of the trade
Does your back hurt from bending over to buck firewood on the
ground? Can you admit that occasionally you cut too far and run
your newly filed chain into the dirt? Do you spend too long bucking
pole-sized firewood or sawmill slabs for sugaring wood? If so, it’s
time to put down your chainsaw and pick up a cordless drill. In less
than an hour, and for about the cost of a new chainsaw chain, you
can build a sawbuck that will save time, money, and your back.
Historically, sawbucks were V-shaped and used to hold firewood
at the appropriate height while bucking with a crosscut saw or bow
saw. With the advent of chainsaws, sawyers figured that they could
speed up the process by cutting multiple pieces at once, which they
accomplished by making a deeper V or using a square crib arrangement. However, the one challenge of working with such a design is
that as you cut, the weight of the severed wood on top pushes down
and pinches your chainsaw bar as you work through the stack.
One solution to this is the inverted-V or tent-style sawbuck,
where pieces fall to the center instead of resting on the chainsaw
bar as you cut. The tent-style sawbuck can be either one- or two-sided and works equally well with both poles and slabs. Here’s how
to make one:
Step One 1 We opted to build our sawbuck out of rough-cut 2x6
lumber. The lumber dimensions can be scaled up or down based
on your application. Start with two seven-foot-long boards and use
three and a half-inch lag screws to attach them at a 90-degree angle.
2 Repeat so that you now have a matched pair of sawbuck ends.
Step Two 3 With a helper, stand up each end and attach horizontal
stringers at both the top and bottom on each side. The length of these
stringers should be divisible by the length of firewood you wish to
cut. The overall length should also reflect the approximate length of
material that you’ll most frequently cut. In this case, our stringers
were eight feet long. (Hint: if you don’t want to bend over too far,
consider raising the bottom stringer to match a work height that’s
comfortable for you.)
Step Three 4 Screw 2x6-inch vertical markers equidistant at the
desired cutting interval. In this case we opted for 16-inch spacing.
Screw a 2x8-inch baseboard perpendicular to your bottom stringer
to create a rest for the bottom log/slab.
Step Four 5 Stack your slabs or pole wood on the sawbuck and
begin cutting. As you make each pass, the firewood will fall into the
open space below instead of pinching your bar. Long pieces may
need to be adjusted after taking a few cuts.
Brett R. McLeod is an associate professor of forestry and natural resources at Paul
Smith’s College and the author of The Woodland Homestead: How to Make Your Land
More Productive and Live More Self-Sufficiently in the Woods (Storey Publishing, 2015).