Bow Saws Initial Impressions: Benchmark, Irwin, and Yardworks

Before chainsaws, bow saws were a popular manual tool for cutting wood. They were lightweight, quite, efficient, and generally safe to use. Alas, they have been relatively forgotten about since the emergence of chainsaws. Nonetheless, they’re still great tools to have as they cost less, require minimal maintenance, and don’t require fuel or electrical power.

Bow Saws Roundup

The following are initial thoughts and impressions on some bow saw found locally in stores.

Benchmark Bow Saw 12” (1062-254)

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Name: Benchmark Bow Saw 12”
Model #: 1062-254
Store: Home Hardware
Price: $8.99
Blades: Peg & Raker, 12“x½“x24T
Center Throat: 7¼”

Benchmark is a store brand for Home Hardware.

  • Bow saw came with both a cross cutting wood blade and a hacksaw blade
  • Hand guard is metal and permanently attached to the bow saw
  • Tensioning is by the commonly designed handle lever
  • Blade is secured by a bolt and wing nut

The first noticeable feature about this mini-bow saw was the 7¼” center throat. It’s not practical for cutting branches more than 6” wide, but in a pinch it will suffice. Definitely a positive feature to have. The second notable feature is the light red color, which easily stands out in the woods on the ground.

The included wood blade looks good. It’s carbon steel, with induction hardened teeth. In addition, the saw blade includes rakers which are ideal for cutting soft and wet wood. The rakers themselves, are optimized for soft wood, as they are shorter than the cutting teeth by about ~0.03”.

In the hand, the bow saw frame feels sturdy and strong.

Overall impressions were good if not great for the price. 12” bow saws are fairly common, but this one stands out for the metal hand guard, 7¼” throat, and rakers on the included saw blade.

Benchmark Bow Saw 36” (1062-307)

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Name: Benchmark Bow Saw 36”
Model #: 1062-307
Store: Home Hardware
Price: $15.99
Blade: Peg & Raker
Center Throat: 8½”

This is another Home Hardware store branded bow saw.

  • Bow saw came with a cross cutting peg and raker tooth pattern
  • No hand guard
  • Tensioning is by a handle lever
  • On the long end, blade is secured by a rivet
  • On the handle end, blade is secured by a hook and latch

It’s difficult to find a decent 36” bow saw. So it was a pleasant surprise to find a good bow saw for a cheap price at the local hardware store!

Upon picking up the frame, it instantly felt solid. In addition, the blade also felt like it had good amount of tension to it.

The lack of hand guard was slightly disappointing; however, it is a minor issue. Given the length of frame, knuckle bashing can be avoided or gloves can be worn.

Securing the blade is a mixed reaction. With only a rivet on one end, there’s only one part that could be lost. However, it’s tiny and it would be more secure to swap it with a bolt and wing nut. The other end near the handle, though, is convenient with a hook and latch. It feels very secure. In addition, if the latch were to unlikely break, a bolt and wing nut can be used.

Center throat is around 8½”, which is excellent for cutting tree branches/trunks with an 8” diameter.

Frame color of light red is good. It stands out on the ground with the tree branches and leaves.

The included blade is carbon steel, with induction hardened teeth. The peg and raker teeth is ideal for cutting soft and wet wood. The rakers, themselves, look good as they are shorter than the cutting teeth by about ~0.03” which is optimal for soft springy wood. It’s a good blade.

Overall impressions were good for this saw. The frame feels solid which is important given the 36” length. Given the scarcity of long bow saws, it was a delight to find this locally in store for a cheap price. Even better was the availability of 36” blades in store.

Irwin Combination Saw 12” (218HP300)

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Name: Irwin Combination Saw 12”
Model #: 218HP300
Store: Home Depot
Price: $9.98
Blades: Peg, Hacksaw
Center Throat: 6½”

This combination bow saw and hacksaw is commonly found in store or online.

  • Bow saw came with both a cross cutting wood blade and a hacksaw blade
  • Hand guard is plastic and removable
  • Tensioning is by a handle lever
  • Blade is secured by a bolt and wing nut

The dark blue and yellow colors instantly stands out on the store shelves. However, it may not be as obvious on the ground in the woods on a overcast day.

Nonetheless, this is a heavy duty mini bow saw. The frame feels strong and durable, with no flexing. When inspecting it in store, it felt heavier than a standard 24” bow saw.

The handle lever and opposite end of the frame have a durable rubberized grip.

Unfortunately, the yellow hand guard is made of plastic that moves and flexes easily. Fortunately, it can be removed by releasing the handle lever.

Center depth is 6½”, which is shorter than the average 12” bow saw. However, the frame is more rectangular and seems to offer a longer stroke length for cutting logs with a 6” diameter. It seems likes a good compromise which may make it more efficient for cutting smaller diameter logs.

The included wood blade, has a peg tooth pattern with a little extra spacing (gullet) every four teeth. It looks more suited for dry hardwood.

Overall initial impressions were good for this saw. The heavy duty frame, with a more rectangular shape looks like it will cut more efficiently for logs with a diameter less than 6”.

Yardworks Bow Saw 21” (57-7490-6)

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Name: Yardworks Bow Saw 21”
Model #: 57-7490-6
Store: Canadian Tire
Price: $16.99 (often on sale for less than $10)
Blades: Peg & Raker
Center Throat: 6¾”

Yardworks is available only at Canadian Tires. It’s probably a store brand.

  • Bow saw came with a cross cutting wood blade
  • Hand guard is a thick plastic
  • Tensioning is by a bar and wing nut
  • Blade is secured by a bolt and wing nut

As per the norm at Canadian Tire, the retail price is inflated. However, it often goes on sale for less than $10.

There are two designs, the older model with a handle lever tensioner, and this newer model with a plastic hand guard and bolt tensioner at the end.

The hand guard is very nice. It’s a thick plastic with rubberized grip. In addition, it is removable via two screws.

Colors of green and yellow is attractive, but blends in to well with the ground in the woods.

Frame is good. Nothing special but it feels solid. However, the center depth is 6¾”, which seems short. On the other hand, the 21” frame size is nice. Small enough to be portable but long enough to be efficient at cutting.

Unfortunately, the tension system, though functional, is poor. The saw blade is connected to a rod, which goes through a hole in the frame. Tensioning is done by rotating the wing nut at the end to pull the rod and tighten the blade. However, the bolt and wing nut connected to blade and rod should be loosened first.

Tightening the rod wing nut, requires too much force. Gloves should be warn to have a comfortable grip. In addition, the included washer tends to buckle and bend when the blade is tensioned. Once the blade is tensioned, the saw works well.

The included raker blade is made of cold rolled steel. A quick test was performed and it cut through a 6” diameter tree branch with relative ease as the saw did all the work. However, the rakers were poor as they were too long in length. Some of them are longer than the cutting teeth. They need to be shorter than the cutting teeth by at least 0.008”.

Overall initial impressions were fair. The handle is great and the frame is solid. Frame size of 21” is also a nice compromise between portability and cutting efficiency. Only issue is the tensioning system that is functional but difficult without gloves. Moreover, as result of the system, there is an extra wing nut and washer that could be lost. The blade itself will get the job done; but, a better source should be found for replacement blades.

Other Bow Saws at a Glance

The following were some bow saws found locally in store but not purchased.

Fiskars Bow Saw 24” (370300-5001)

Found this in Home Depot for $15.99. Frame was lightweight and felt weak. Expensive for a light duty frame.

Sven-Saw 15” (15UL-3), 21” (21UL-2)

Folding saws with Swedish blades. Found the 15” model for $31.75, and the 21” model for $33.75 at MEC. They were very nice, but was not looking for a folding frame. In addition, for those prices, a couple of bow saw could be purchased.

Task Tools Bow Saw 36” (T22304)

Found this in a TSC store. Don’t remember the exact price but it was ~$20. The frame was lousy, as it felt flimsy and weak. Moreover, the model in store was warped and bent even though the original packaging was untouched. Rivets to secure the blade were loose and popping out. Blade also looked cheap, had a rough tooth profile, and was flimsy in the frame. Looks like the saw will break after a couple of uses.

Trailblazer Sawvivor 15”

Found this in Home Hardware for $29.99. A collapsible saw that unfolds to a nice rectangular bow saw. Uses a 15” blade which is an uncommon size to find. A longer bow saw blade, though, could be cut down to size. Nonetheless, was not looking for a collapsible bow saw.

Trailblazer Take Down Bucksaw 18”

Found this in Home Hardware for $29.99. A bucksaw that can be disassembled and stored in an 18” tube. Uses a custom 15” blade with modified ends to fit the slots of the frame. Storing everything into the frames longest tube is nice, but was not looking for a take down bucksaw. Also it looks to have a few parts that could easily be lost while assembling.

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