This blog post was originally produced for Trakke Bags' 'Built to Last' series which you can read more of on their journal here.
In December 2010, I moved into a small rented barn set in 20 acres of woodland in the Sussex countryside. My girlfriend, now wife, Emma and I had lived in many places and grown increasingly interested in outdoor adventures, nature and finding a way of incorporating a more outdoor lifestyle with our work as designers and illustrators. The barn afforded us a cosy space in which to work and a source of inspiration on our doorstep, but we were unprepared for the realities of rural life and were unsuspecting of the new path we had taken.
We had moved during one of the coldest UK winters in recent memory. Our landlords lived on the same plot of land and had already stocked up on firewood the previous year to help get us through that first winter. But with no other heating than a wood stove in the barn it soon became clear that a basic understanding of forestry, and how to gather and process firewood from the woodland around us would be essential. I was able to learn much in that first year from our landlords about trees, woodland management and the tools of the woodsman. When they moved the following year leaving us to look after ourselves and the land I was ready, although somewhat apprehensive to put my new skills into practice.
Unable to afford a chainsaw and the training required to use one, I purchased this two man cross cut saw on eBay which I successfully won for the princely sum of 99p. It measures 4ft in length and has two handles; the front auxiliary handle can be removed and secured next to the main handle allowing the saw to be used by one person or two. When the saw arrived it required a lot of rust removal, maintenance and sharpening. Under the layers of rust I found a maker’s stamp and the date of production which was 1959. It’s fascinating to think of who might of used this saw; before mechanised tools a saw like this would of been the most efficient tool available to the amateur forester for felling trees and processing them for firewood and timber. Along with an axe as a companion I’d like to think this saw has seen a lot of hard work and has survived many scrapes in the woods. For that first year, we used just this saw, an axe and a splitting maul to harvest a whole winter's worth of firewood.
Having grown quite attached to the saw I decided that to really give the it a new lease of life I would restore the handles, so I set about making a new pair from field maple using the old ones as templates. Full restoration complete, the saw is now a permanent fixture on our woodland workshops. Using the saw requires patience and good communication when sawing with a partner, but warming yourself by a fire of logs cut using just your own energy warms the heart and mind as well as the body and is worth the effort.
Even though I now use a chainsaw to do the bulk of our forestry and firewood processing, it's nice to sometimes return to this 2 man saw and do it the old fashioned way. With its new handle, plus regular sharpening and maintenance, I'm sure it will provide many more years of service.