Imagine this – you’re away from your workshop but you really need to cut some wood planks. Under regular circumstances, you’d likely reach for a saw at this point and have the job done in a minute or two. But, because you are away from your workshop, you don’t have any of your saws on hand. It looks like you may need to improvise a bit.
At that point, you might begin to wonder if you really can cut wood without a saw. While such a feat is possible, you won’t be able to just do it using any tool or any technique. Instead, you’ll need to combine the two together in order to get a reliable method for cutting wood without ever introducing a saw into the equation.
This guide will teach you seven different methods for cutting wood without a saw. As you’ll see, several common tools you have laying around your garage or a woodshop may be able to help you succeed on this front. So long as you maintain proper safety procedures, these alternative sawing methods may one day come in handy for you.
Can You Cut Wood Without a Saw?
Before we go too far, let’s answer the prime question that’s on everyone’s mind – can you cut wood without a saw? The answer here is…yes, you can! But there are some major qualifications you need to take into account before proceeding with such an action.
First among these considerations is the fact that a non-saw based cut will not be as clean and even as a saw-based cut. This is simply because a saw is a precision cutting tool, while all of the methods listed below are simply trying to fill the role in a pinch. With this in mind, any non-saw-based method for cutting wood should not be used for important, detail-based tasks.
Second off, there’s a greater safety risk associated with the use of an alternative tool to cut wood. As you well know, a craftsman should always use the right tools for the job. That still applies here, but you will need to bend the rules just a little to accomplish your goal without a saw in hand. So, be sure to be extra cautious while performing any of the cutting methods described below.
7 Common Ways to Cut Wood Without a Saw
With the basics out of the way, let’s jump into the six methods.
#1: Using an Axe
If you’re stuck in a situation where wood must be cut and you lack a saw, then it may be time to turn to one of the oldest wood-cutting methods around – a good old fashioned axe. This simple, yet effective piece of hardware can help you split apart wood by way of force.
However, an axe can only operate properly in the hands of a user who knows proper usage etiquette.
To start, double-check that your axe head is sharp. If it is not, take some time to sharpen it because a dull axe is pretty much just a heavy wedge. Once you’ve checked your axe’s edge, you can begin to line up your targets.
Axes work best when it comes to splitting large, bulky hunks of wood. In other words, you’ll find it easiest to cut untreated logs with your axe.
Once you have your target prepared, you’ll want to firmly grasp your axe with both hands. One hand should be near the base while the other should be about 2/3 of the way toward the head. While setting your hands, set the head of your axe on the spot where you intend to strike.
With all of this done, you are ready to raise your axe to a manageable height and pull it down towards your target.
You’ll very likely need to make multiple strikes in order for this method to be effective. However, you can speed up that process by cutting into the wood in a V-shaped formation. Then, once you’ve cut almost all the way through that log, you should be able to snap the remaining width by hand.
#2: Using a Hatchet
Some folks see the hatchet as an axe’s little cousin. This is true a certain extent, given their similarity. It would appear that cutting wood without the need for a saw also runs in the family because a hatchet can be very handy on that front.
Naturally, though, you need to know the right technique to safely and efficiently use a hatchet.
This method for cutting wood without a saw resembles the same for an axe, but on a smaller scale. As such, you should start by taking a hatchet in your dominant hand and placing said hand about halfway up its shaft.
Then, secure your targeted piece of wood (but never with your other hand or other parts of your body).
Once that is done, you are ready to swing your hatchet’s sharp edge down at your target wood. As you swing, make a “V” formation in the wood to facilitate a cleaner, more consistent cut.
Eventually, you should chop through enough of your target wood that you can simply split its remaining width over your knee.
#3: Using a Sharp Hunting Knife
If you’re caught outdoors without a saw, there’s a good chance that you might have a sharp hunting knife available to you. This is doubly true if you are out camping and have packed for your outdoor excursion properly.
As you’ll see, a knife can actually make a decent substitute for a saw in a pinch like this.
To start, find a moderately thin piece of wood (such as a mid-sized brand). Secure it in on hand while grasping your chosen knife in the other. Ideally, you should be using a broad, fixed-blade knife to improve your slicing coverage and stability.
With your knife, make a small slice mark where you intend to make your cut.
Then, place the blade of your knife in that groove and begin to make a sawing motion. This motion should be slow and controlled because even a sharp knife can slip under these circumstances.
So long as your knife is sharp enough, you should be able to cut through your target branch enough to snap it off after a certain point.
#4: Using a Machete
Some outdoorsman prefer to bring along a more sizable piece of cutting equipment with them when they go camping. If you’re one of those folks, you may find your reliable machete to be able to service your need to cut wood in a saw-less situation.
This method requires increased attention to safety, though, given the razor-sharp edge on most machetes.
To start, you’ll want to find a medium-to-large size piece of wood to cut. This could include a log, though your task will take a while if you choose that route. With your target wood chosen, you’ll want to cut a small divot on the surface of your target wood at the point you wish to cut it.
This can be done by taking your machete in your dominant hand and applying just a bit of pressure while the blade’s edge is on the wood.
With this divot made, you can rest the sharp edge of your machete in the crevasse and begin to make a sawing motion. As best as possible, you should make long, slow passes through the wood, rather than fast, short passes. This may require you or an assistant to hold your target wood chunk in place to prevent is movement.
Over time, this sawing should divide your wood down to a point that it can be snapped in half by hand with ease.
#5: Using a Chisel and Hammer
Next up is a method some would consider unconventional. But in fact, the use of a chisel and hammer to split wood is a technique that has been used by woodworkers for centuries. Though this method takes some practice, you’ll find this to be one of the most reliable non-saw methods for cutting through treated wood planks.
To start, you’ll want to take a chisel in your non-dominant hand and a hammer (ideally a broad rubber mallet) in your dominant hand.
Then, you’ll want to align the head of your chisel against the surface of your workpiece at approximately a 20-degree angle. In this configuration, the chisel’s beveled edge should be facing up and its flat side should face down.
With your chisel remaining in place, you should then begin to swing your mallet to strike the chisel. This motion should feel like pounding a nail or a stake at an angle. Progressively, you’ll see sizable wood chunks ejected from your target wood plank.
If done with care, this method can even be used to make a relatively clean cut comparable to that of a rip saw.
#6: Using a Router
Though the situation would be rare indeed, you might one day find yourself in a spot where you have a router on hand but not a saw. In that case, you may actually be able to use your router to make a successful cut that measures up to what a saw is capable of.
Just be careful while performing such a router-based cut because you will technically be using the power tool outside of its intended use.
To start, you’ll want to grab whichever router bit in your collection is sharpest and provides the greatest cut depth. Equip your router with this chosen bit. Then, prepare your target piece of wood (ideally something flat and broad) by securing it.
In a pinch, this can be done by having an assistant hold the wood target in place manually.
From there, you’ll want to turn on the wood router and hold it firmly in hand. Then, you should make a single pass over your wood target in a straight line. If the results are satisfactory, continue making more passes until you cut all the way through that piece of lumber.
Alternatively, you can use this method to cut through three-quarters of the target’s width before breaking the rest over your knee.
#7: Using a Drill
While you might not expect it, a drill can also be used to cut apart wood in a pinch. While this diverts from the primary purpose of a drill significantly, a skilled craftsman should be able to accomplish the following technique with ease.
However, this method is best suited for use with mid-sized pieces of wood and not logs, at all.
To start off, you’ll want to grab the best wood drill bit you have available. At the same time, be sure to grab the bit with the largest gauge possible to make your job quicker. Equip your drill with the chosen bit.
After doing so, use a pencil or chalk to mark a straight line down your target wood where you’d like your slice to end up.
Once you’ve done this, you can fire up your drill and begin to drill through your wood at the top-most point on that marked line. In this way, you should continue drilling overlapping holes into your wood until it is effectively split apart.
If you run into trouble getting your holes to overlap, consider using an auger bit or a brad point bit. These are better suited to this type of boring process.
As it turns out, you really can cut wood without a saw in hand.
In fact, as long as you have some common tools like an axe, a drill, or a chisel nearby, you can make a serviceable cut in a piece of wood without any saw at all.
However, there’s no denying that a saw is still the best, most suitable tool for any wood-cutting job. As such, if you can delay your current task until a saw becomes available, you’ll find your time and effort better applied in its use.
But if that’s not an option, one of the methods described above should help you get the job done.