Axe, Buck Saw and Knife within a BOB

The relationship between an Axe, Buck Saw and knife within a BOB.

By Budda

What do you carry in a BOB? An axe, a collapsible bucksaw or a large knife and how do they relate to one another in their use. I’ll first state, that I don�t claim to be an expert in cutting trees with an axe. I have cut trees for 15 years with a chainsaw and am still not an expert. (Ex-sperts after all, are drips under pressure). I have developed a talent for using a chainsaw though and have learnt a thing or two over the years.

You may not need all three items depending on the environment that you�re in. Very little use for either three, in the middle of a sandy desert and machetes are the main item of choice, for use with in a jungle. I may also find that it�s not worth dropping large branches when camping. The more work you do, the more calories are used. When on a limited calorie intake, its possible to starve by simply using more calories than you replace.

They�re usually easier ways of breaking branches than with a tool. For example; using leverage between two trees or letting the fire burn a branch in two pieces, or simply snapping a dry branch over a rock, rather than spend time trying to cut it. These can also be safer methods as well, to avoid flying pieces of timber to the face.

To cut a tree down is usually performed in order to supply large amounts of firewood in colder climates. This wont be a detailed how to cut a tree article, just how an axe a saw work in conjunction with one another. Firstly you cut the front wedge in the direction of where you want the trunk to fall, with the axe. The tree usually decides this, not you. As many may think. The way it grows, the wind direction, how many branches place weight on one side, the lean, what�s in the way of it falling, etc, etc.

The back cut can be the tricky bit. If done with an axe, there is less control of the cut and the rate of fall. By using a saw, more control is established. You�re not cutting a large wedge, just a small line to split the trunk. A saw also cuts in smaller increments. When the split is about to appear, it�s simply a matter of a slight shove and letting the weight of the tree do the rest, while you are well out of the way.

Most books also show cutting the back cut as a level cut. I always use a slight angle. I was once cutting a large tree off a double laned road that had dropped during a storm. The only part left was a trunk, 8 feet tall and between 3.5 to 4 foot diameter. I did everything to the letter, but sensed something was wrong and stepped away to grab some wedges in order to support the back cut, just to be on the safe side. As I stepped away the stump twisted 180 degrees and landed where I was standing. Not due to the cuts but the way the tree had grown and the pressure from the twist in the trunk from 500 years of growth. Something that big can fall in any direction from a mistake in the cut but not twist an entire 180 degrees on its axis. You simply have to be a few inches off with either the front wedge or back cut for anything unexpected to happen. You can�t always fix a cut half way through a job to avoid the consequences.

By doing the back cut at a slight angle, there is less chance of the tree twisting. As it needs to push against itself due to the cut. I wont go into how to adjust that angle with a bow saw. I usually alter the grip on a chainsaw slightly to achieve the correct method. I’d have to show someone in person and wouldn�t attempt to explain how to do it in an article.

After a tree has been dropped, the axe is once again used to limb the tree. To remove any branches that may get in the way. The saw is then used to cut the trunk into sections. An axe can do this as well but your cutting 4-inch sections out of a limb to make a cut. Where as with a saw you�re making a 1/8th or less slice through the branch. Less effort, less wastage of material and a safer practice. Safety is always paramount, especially in a bug out situation or wilderness environment where help can be hours or days away, let alone in the middle of a city if an artery has been severed or a major crush injury occurs.

Once the tree has been sectioned, an axe is used to split the lengths into usable pieces of firewood. This is also easier when the end cuts of the sections are level from using a saw. The inner core is dryer and you don�t need a piece of timber to burn for 4 hours when a split limb will burn down faster to make a cooking fire etc.

Where does a large knife come into play? Once again by having control of the task in hand. By using an axe to cut smaller branches for shelter building or making tools etc the head is end heavy. You have less control of the swing. By using a knife that is designed for chopping. By this I don�t mean a Rambo knife made from 440 stainless that is brittle but a blade differentially tempered from some variety of tool steel. You can gain further control of the task and tool being used. By using the tip of the blade you have more leverage, but using the start of the blade edge near the handle, called the Ricasso, you have more control of lighter cuts. The sweet spot of a blade is where the power comes from. You find this by simply using it and seeing where the blade cuts best. Approximately 2/3rds of the way along the blade.

A large knife comes into its own when chopping down smaller diameter trees for a ridge pole and supports for a lean-to and then collecting leafy branches to clad the exterior. Making tools such as spears, bows or even furniture can be made easier by using a large knife blade over a head heavy axe. Having said all that, most BOBs are designed for 72 hours and all that is needed are smaller chopping tools, enough to bring in timber for a cooking fire. The longer you plan on being self supporting, the easier and more comfortable it becomes if the tools are on hand to help do this.