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Make an Improvised Wire Saw for Wilderness Survival?

March 31, 2013

This post is a perfect example of why it’s so important to try out wilderness survival skills in the comfort of your own back yard rather than wait until you’re in a life and death situation to find out that something doesn’t work.  I recently watched a survival show in which one of the participants showed how you could take a piece of snare wire and twist it into a wire saw to use in a survival situation.  Seemed like a great idea, and I thought it had a pretty good likelihood of working.  I have, after all, seen a plumber use a piece of nylon twine to cut PVC pipe, and this seems like kind of the same idea.  So, I did an internet search on how to do this and I only found one short video on the subject and, even though it did kind of work, I can’t say that the results looked all that impressive.  Strange, I thought, usually when a skill this awesome presents itself there will be a lot of posts, discussions, and videos about it.  Well maybe this truly is a new skill, I thought.  I’m going to see how it works.  So I took a roll of snare wire and a couple of short sticks, and this is what I did: Pictured below: snare wire 01 snare wire

First I cut a piece of wire that was about two and a half times as long as I wanted the finished saw to be.  Then I cut a couple of short sticks for the handles.  Pictured below: wire and handles 02 wire and sticks

Next I twisted the ends of the wire together to make a loop.  Pictured below: wire ends joined into loop 03 wire into loop

I then took my sticks and stuck them up into opposite ends of the loop.  Pictured below:  sticks inside of wire loop

04 sticks in wire loop

After a bit of twisting I had a nice tightly wrapped wire saw blade with a wooden handle on each end.  Pictured below: finished saw

05 wire twisted into saw

I took my new wire saw and went to work on a green sapling that was about two inches in diameter.  At first it seemed to bite right in, but as soon as I got past the bark it felt like the blade was just rubbing back and forth rather than cutting in.  After about five minutes of sawing, I had cut about three sixteenths of an inch deep.  At this point the wire broke right in the middle.  It was very warm to the touch.  A lot of friction; not much cutting.  Pictured below: top,cut in sapling made by improvised wire saw; bottom, broken saw

06 first cut

07 broken saw

I thought maybe I had picked a particularly tough tree, so I got out my store bought wire saw and went to work.  In about eight minutes I had cut through the sapling.  Pictured below: top, store bought wire saw; bottom, cut sapling 08 real wire saw

10 finished cut

Maybe somebody out there can tell me how to do this.  I’d love to hear from you, but pleased don’t offer advise unless you have done it yourself.  There’s to much false information on the internet because somebody reads how somebody else did something, assumes that it works, and then passes it on as gospel.  I try to never post anything about a survival skill that I haven’t done or experienced myself and this article is a good example of how that turns out sometimes.  So, until I can make this work myself, I am not recommending that you rely on it as something that you can use in a survival situation.  My recommendation is to carry a pocket knife or a multi-tool with a saw blade, and use your snare wire for setting traps.

From → Tools, Modern

  1. Just discovered your blog and this interesting experiment. I certainly see the value in a DIY wire saw and have been thinking about it after reading your article. I don’t have any “snare” wire yet but I did have a thought on perhaps improving the results of this DYI project, that is, try adding sand between strokes of the saw to see if the sand/wire combination would provide enough grit to improve performance. Another option is to try metal shielded wire and sand. The braided shielding may provide enough of an increase in surface area to trap more of the finer grit to help remove more wood per stroke? Just my $0.02.

    • Good points Bob. I was just trying to use what I thought I’d have with me in a survival situation and sand definitely meets that criteria so I’ll try it again with sand. Fact is I always keep a wire saw in my little survival kit anyway, but its always good to have options. Hank

  2. Jeff permalink

    Thank you. It’s about time I found a responsible source for ideas to try. The posters who haven’t tried the ideas they post as “true” aren’t holding themselves accountable and it’s a shame. Lives are on the line, so I thank you for encouraging trial & error in a safe environment before trusting items to work.
    I save my drier lint in a can for camping. I’m thinking lint, paraffin, and petroleum jelly to make fire starter candles. I’ll try a few ways and share my findings, good and bad. News papers, as delivered, rolled up, dipped in paraffin worked well in my scout days, but that takes a lot of something I can’t seem to find without buying candles to melt.

  3. janet permalink

    You can buy paraffin blocks in the grocery store where canning goods are stocked.

  4. Why could you not get a good, strong twine and create a natural epoxy with sap (pref pine) charcoal and maybe some scat…. then affix something like sand, shell, or even small shards/filings of stuff like sandstone and then it would kind of be like a natural sand paper, but on a ‘wire’ ?

    • Chris,
      I have heard that some native Americans would dip a wet rawhide thong into sand and then use the thong kind of like we use a wire saw. Never tried it personally so I don’t know if it would work or not. You should try out the method that you mentioned and see if it works. In survival, the only skills that really count are the ones that you have put into practice. I’d like to hear if your idea works. Thanks for reading,

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