Rebirth of an American past-time: The crosscut saw

Volunteer Michael Dotson runs through an old growth fir tree down on the Pacific Crest Trail, November 2013. This tree had been dead for a long time, which made for less bind than with a 'green' tree.
3 November 2013 | Ashland, OR -- With over 375,000-acres of federally designated wilderness to maintain, Southern Oregon is begging for a comeback of the crosscut saw. 

It's the preferred tool for cutting downed logs from wilderness trails, where power tools are not allowed. Use of the crosscut goes back to as early as the 1400s in Germany, but it wasn't until the 19th-century that Americans invented the "raker" tooth, which made the crosscut much more efficient to use.
The SMC, and others like Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards, find sharp crosscuts to be very efficient compared to chainsaws, especially on projects that involve long hiking times. Our most remote projects take two days to reach, giving the crosscut's weight and simplicity an edge.
SMC board chairman Will Volpert runs through old growth in the Red Buttes Wilderness
The crosscut's biggest constraint in the 21st-century is skill. Crosscut skills, including the technical filing of them, was kept alive for decades through Forest Service wilderness programs. But those programs barely survive in many areas such as southern Oregon, where there are very many acres of remote wilderness, and very few dollars allocated for its proper management.

The saw is greeted popularly among a new generation of college-aged volunteers. As they cut through the tree, they discover and connect with natural history, and their own wilderness heritage. Each growth ring tells a story, each inch revealing years or decades of growth. Drought years, long winters, short and long growing seasons can be seen all the way to the tree's core.

And in a world dominated by automation and fueled by petroleum, it's reassuring there are still tools and skills in use that exemplify independence.

Do you want to learn to use a crosscut saw and get certified this spring? Make sure you're on our email list for updates on those events.
Lance tooth pattern, photo courtesy Lorinda Photography