May 5, 2001
How much wood could a chop saw cut if a chop saw could chop wood?
Faced with the fact that I have 32 face cords of 16" wood that has to be cut in half, I decided to cut to the chase and build a cheap chop saw. If you recall, the January 27th issue of the journal featured a very nice chop saw designed by Bob Schneider. I wish I had the talent and the tools to build some of the handy devices for cordwood, but unfortunately that's not my forte´.
BEFORE READING ANY FURTHER -- The following information is for "interesting reading material" purposes only. Chain saws are a very dangerous tool. Do not attempt to use a chain saw without fully reading the owner's manual and following their safety precautions. Any attempts that you make to build a chop saw are at your own risk.
Here's a photo of the saw in action. Note the block at the end of the bench. The log is butted up against the block before cutting. This makes for an accurate 8" cut every time.
Before building the chop saw, there were certain requirements that needed to be met:
- Ability to cut 16" logs in half quickly
- Ability to cut 8' long cedar posts into 8" widths
- Saw lots of wood without having to inhale two-cycle engine exhaust fumes
- Keep the cost low
- Do all the above, safely
I started by building a suitable workbench to comfortably cut the wood. The workbench is about 6' long. Bolted to the top of the workbench are two parallel, 2 x 4's spaced just enough to hold round logs without the base of the wood touching the bench.
Next, the most important piece the chain saw. I elected to purchase a $50, Remington electric chains saw. At first I was a bit leery if the chain saw had the necessary power to cut through the wood, but so far it has held up just fine. (Note: the wood that's being cut is cedar and red pine. Both are soft woods. Hard woods could cause a problem for this saw.)
While I was eying this saw at the local Menard's, I got an idea of how to pivot the saw. The Remington chain bar has a hole near the end of the bar. (The chop saws that I have seen up to this point, all pivot from the housing of the saw -- I'm not sure at this point how well the bar will hold up, but so far so good.) By enlarging the hole just slightly, a stove bolt could be passed through the bar making for a pivot point.
The extra large washers located next to the bar act to help stabilized the bar, making for an accurate cut. A few drops of oil are added occasionally to keep the pivot point from binding.
After determining the pivot point, I went to work building a bracket to hold the bar of the saw. Two right angle irons did the trick along with a 3" stove bolt, four washers and two spacers. The washers and the spacers keep the bar steady, preventing too much sway in the bar. The height of the pivot point is somewhat critical as to how low the chain cuts. You don't want the chain cutting into your bench, but you also want it to completely cut through the log. Remember the 2x4's? The 2 x 4's lift the log approximately an inch off of the surface of the bench. This gives you a bit of room to cut through the log without cutting into the bench.
I bolted the brackets to the chain saw bar and then measured 8" from the end of the right hand edge of the bench. (The 8" is the length of log I need for the double cordwood wall.) I then bolted the brackets to the bench and remeasured. (I had to move the brackets a couple of time until I got as close as I could to cutting the 16" logs in half to make two usable logs.)
Now that the saw has been bolted to the bench, there are two other pieces to add. The first being a block of wood (2 x 4) to provide a stop for the log. This way, every log gets cut to 8". The second piece is another block of wood that helps stabilize the log. While cutting the log, it sometimes has a tendency to vibrate a bit forward. This block stops the log from moving.
When operating the saw, I cut the log slowly not applying any force other than the gravity of the saw. I hold the saw with my right hand, while holding the log end with my left hand. (The two 2 x 4's help to put a vice grip on the wood.) My body is to the left of the saw and out of harms way if the saw bucks. At some point, I may try to clamp the wood with some other kind of vice, but for now I'll leave things the way they are.
The results have been positive with a few exceptions. I have had a couple of pieces of wood that have given me grief. It's usually a knot in the wood that bucks the saw. (Some of which was probably my fault too for not paying close attention to the chain tension on the saw.) As I stated above, my body is located to the left of the saw and out of the line of fire! (A better way of clamping down the wood may be required.)
I definitely like the fact that the chain saw is electric. I have another chain saw that is gas powered, and I don't like the fumes that it creates. I would never use a gas powered saw in a enclosed area. The electric chain saw has held up so far, but maybe a more industrial strength electric saw might be better.
AGAIN, this is just an experiment at this point. It is a dangerous tool and I don't want anyone trying this and getting hurt. The intent of this article is strictly informational.