by Todd Walker
“One of the hallmarks of the veteran woodsman is the way he contrives to make himself comfortable in camp”. –Warren H. Miller, 1915 (Quote found at Master Woodsman)
I’ve spent almost two years at my semi-permanent shelter sawing wood on a stump braced by my knee or under my knee in a plumbers vise. My goal this year is to add more camp comforts to my shelter. The stump vise I made recently is handy for certain tasks but is just down the slope from my base camp. But a sawbuck situated near my shelter would help increase my productivity and decrease wear and tear on my back and knees.
Though I built a sawbuck from dimensional lumber for my backyard woodpile, what I needed for my shelter in the woods had to be of natural material collected from the landscape… to blend with the landscape.
Plus, my body was in need of a good woodsman workout. Believe me, after sawing a 12″ Beech limb with a bucksaw with only 8 inches of cut clearance, hauling it back to camp, I got my functional fitness in for the day!
Tools and Material
- Base: A large hardwood log – 12 inches or more in diameter by 36 to 48 inches long. Or take advantage of a fallen tree near you site and use it without sawing or bucking a base log.
- Skids: Two skid logs about 12 to 18 inches long – the diameter depends on the height needed for your sawbuck. With a large enough diameter log, skids won’t be needed.
- X Posts: Four 5 to 6 foot hardwood poles used to form two X’s over the base
- Cordage: Enough cordage to tie two square lashings on the X’s members. 1/4 inch sisal rope was used on this project.
- Cutting Tools: Bucksaw, crosscut saw, or chain saw to cut the base log. An ax – cause you never need to be in the woods without one. Knife – see previous sentence. My bucksaw has an 8 inch cut clearance which made cutting the base log very challenging and rewarding to know it can do the stuff.
- Water: Stay hydrated
To slow down the rotting process and elevate the Base as needed, lay the round base on top of two skid logs. I notched a slight “saddle” in the skid logs but I tend to over-engineer stuff. Notching is optional. The skids are used to elevate a smaller diameter base log (10 to 12 inch diameter range) to desired height.
Once the base is situated on flat ground , sharpen the ends of your X posts with your ax. Drive one post into the ground with your ax or heavy maul at a point 4-5 inches from the end of the base log. Now drive another X post into the ground on the opposite side of the base. Try to keep the X posts touching the base log and each other as much as possible. They may separate from each other during the driving process. No worries. The lashing will draw them together.
Safety Tip: If using an ax to drive posts, be sure to keep it sheathed while you hammer the posts with the poll of the ax. By the time your hammering posts, you’ll likely be a little fatigued from sawing and hauling wood. If so, take a break and recoup before swinging an ax like a sledge-hammer.
After pounding your 4 X posts into the ground, lash the post intersections with cordage. The X posts should be touching the base log as this contact gives the sawbuck stability under a load.
Here’s a how-to on square lashing if you need to learn this knot.
The height of your sawbuck depends upon the angle of your X posts. For instance, decrease the interior angle to raise the platform and visa versa. The X posts are not adjustable once in the ground so determine the working height needed before driving the second post of each X brace.
Once the X posts are secured in the ground and lashed, cut the tops of the posts to an even length. Now your ready to saw firewood or make camp furniture on a sturdy platform.
I originally thought I’d need to lash a cross brace between the two X posts as a sway bar. This idea proved unnecessary. The sawbuck held a poplar log 6 inches in diameter by 7 feet long without wobble as I sawed a length off the log.
Check out our video tutorial below:
- To split long logs into rails for this project, click here
- Tutorial on Square Lashing
By the way, the sawbuck makes an additional camp seat. You’ll probably need one after hauling logs!
Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,
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