Tuesday 8 February 2011

Medieval toolchest: The two-handed saw

One of the items in my medieval toolchest is a large two-handed saw. In many medieval miniatures of building sites this typical saw can be seen, e.g. in 'Noah Building the Ark' (actually a house) in the Bedford Book of Hours (Paris, MS 18850, f 125 verso)(see detail of the miniature on the left) It loosely resembles a two-handed cutlass. It has a long straight handle and a round guard between the blade and the handle. The saw is long and has a length between 70-150 centimeters. The teeth of the saw are usually shown pointed forward, indicating that it is used on the push. Also the position of the men using the saw suggests a push action. The saw is typically used for cutting planks or beams to length.

My two-handed saw is 90 cm long and was made by Dennis Riley, a re-enactment blacksmith specialising in tools (daegrad.co.uk). The saw needed some extra sharpening and setting; the marks of the sawset (the light indents on alternating teeth) can be seen on the picture on the right.

Below you see the saw being used in the Historic Open Air Museum in Eindhoven, the Netherlands by another re-enanactor. He had great difficulty using the saw on the push as he had first fixed the boards to the attic beam with nails and could not use his full muscle power to wield the saw.


  1. I ran across your blog by accident and found it very interesting. I am a amateur woodworker from Taiwan. :)

    The rake angle on your saw looks very gentle. Do you think it will be easier for him if the saw is pulled instead of pushed?