The 6 Best Bow Saws (A Complete Guide)

Last Updated on September 5, 2023 by Barry Gray

Each modern bow saw is a metal-framed crosscut saw with large sharp teeth on a hardened steel blade. The earliest patent was from the Swedish company Sandvikens Jernwerk and dated back to the 1920s. As the product was first called, the Swedish Saw was designed to cut trees and branches of 6-inches in diameter.

Modern Bow Saws are very popular and have changed little from the original Swedish design. The tubular metal frames have evolved into foldable compact, lightweight frames that are a staple tool on any outdoor adventure. The intended application will determine the best type of bow saw to buy. 

The use of bow saws can be traced back to ancient Greece and China and most likely evolved from the hunting bow. Stretching a cord tight between the two ends of a supple piece of wood was useful for hunting bows, fire drills, and other ingenious tools with which the ancients made life easier.

cutting with bow saw

Join me to discover the most popular bow saws on the market today and consider what you should consider before buying a bow saw.

What Is The Best Bow Saw To Buy?

Bow saws come in a range of blade lengths from 12-inches to 36-inches with modern ergonomics integrated into the tried and tested basic design. The modern bow saw is used from a small pruning version to a compact foldable lightweight camping tool to the full-size bow saw for cutting down trees and branches in the lumber industry.

The hassle and injury risk associated with power saws make the bow saw a popular tool for smaller trimming and cutting jobs. If used correctly, the bow saw is efficient at cutting branches up to 12 inches in diameter with ease. No smell of gasoline or loud noise from a power saw is required for these jobs.

Let’s look at some of the top brands for bow saws in the market today, what they have to offer in their range.

1. Bahco Bow Saws – Most Ergonomic

The Swedish company Bahco was founded by a metallurgist famed for perfecting the process of hardening steel fish hooks. The product logo still features the fish hook for which Bahco gained prominence.  The Bahco ERGO range of hand tools is designed to make their hand tools with a secure grip, prevent avoidable injuries, and make demanding work easier.

The Bahco Ergo 10 range of bow saws is designed for ease of use with ergonomic design and top-quality blades. Many of the Bahco models have received critical acclaim for being lightweight, easy to use with the best blade tensioning system in this class of hand saws.

The Bahco range is distributed via all the big box stores and online buying portals, and the iconic 133-year old brand is recognized as one of the top three in hand saw industry.

2. The Truper Bow Saws – Best Value For Money

The Truper range of bow saws is highly rated, and the brand is in the top three for bow saws. The Truper bow saws are designed with a sturdy yet lightweight frame and are fitted with a knuckle guard to protect your hand. A quality blade tensioning system ensures that the blades can be easily changed and tensioned correctly.

The Truper bow saws are only fitted with green wood blades and thus only suitable for use in the garden for cutting green logs and trees.

The Truper Tool brand is well respected for supplying big box stores like Lowe’s, Ace Hardware, and Home Depot. The brand hails from Latin America, where the product has a proven track record in the Amazon and other jungles in South America.

The Truper 21-inch model 30255 has been rated as the best value for money bow saws for the cutting of greenwood.

3. The 12-Inch Irwin ProTouch Combi Bow Saw

Irwin Tools is an iconic brand name for the manufacture of top-quality woodwork tools. Although they do not have an extensive range of bow saws, the ProTouch Combi bow saw is an ideal tool for cutting wood and metal. The saw is supplied with four teeth per inch lumber saw blade and 24 teeth per inch metal hacksaw blade.

The sturdy frame is fitted with a ProTouch handle with a knuckle guard and a rubber sleeve on the front elbow of the frame for two-handed operation. The general purpose compact design and dual blade functionality make this saw an excellent choice.

4. The Sven Saw – Best Compact Bow Saw

The bow saw has its design roots firmly based in Sweden and has become known as the Sven Saw. Manufactured in Minnesota, U.S.A., the 60-year old Sven Saw brand has become synonymous with campers, backpackers, and hunters. The simple 3-piece design is all metal and folds into a compact and safe to carry.

The Sven Saw comes with a 15-inch blade of Swedish steel and weighs only 11 ounces (312g). The 21-inch Sven saw it weighs 14 ounces (397g). Replacement blades are also available online.

The Sven Saw is not cheap but is rated as the best compact bow saw.

5. The Pro-Grade 31913 Bow Saw/Hack Saw

The 12-inch Pro-Grade 31913 bow saw is a price competitor to the 12-inch Irwin ProTouch Combi bow saw, and yet, is more expensive than the more famous Irwin branded product.

The robust tubular frame is fitted with a well-designed and comfortable grip with a knuckle protector guard. The saw is supplied standard with two blades. The hacksaw blade is ideal for cutting plastic or metal, and the bow saw blade is designed for cutting greenwood.

6. The Agawa Boreal Bow Saw Range – Easiest To Assemble

The Agawa Canyon Boreal bow saw comes in a 15-inch, 21-inch, and 24-inch blade length and is designed to fold away into a compact to-carry pouch. The light but strong aluminum-framed bow saw makes it the ideal partner for camping, hiking, and outdoor adventures.

The design of the three-hinged trapezium-shaped frame enables you to cut wood of a large diameter. The blade is safely folded into the frame when the bow saw is not in use, protecting both the saw blade and you from harm.

The Agawa Boreal features an automatic blade tensioning system, not requiring you to touch the blade when opening or closing it.

What To Consider When Buying A Bow Saw

When considering the purchase of a bow saw, decide what it will be used for. Will the primary purpose of the bow saw be for gardening and pruning of green and dry trees and branches? Or will the bow saw be used on camping trips and outdoor adventures? Or is a versatile bow saw required that can cut both wood and steel?

The Bahco and Truper brand bow saws are designed as gardening and lumber worker tools. The traditional design and range of blade lengths make these brands ideal for all jobs, big and small.

The Sven Saw and The Agawa Boreal Bow Saw are foldable, compact, lightweight, yet strong and sharp enough to serve as excellent tools for campers and hikers.

The Inch Irwin ProTouch Combi Bow Saw and the Pro-Grade 31913 Bow Saw/Hack Saw are more suitable to the mobile handyman, requiring compact versatility and enabling the user to cut wood or steel with one tool.

What Length Of Bow Saw To Get

Shorter blades are ideal for small cuts. The 12-inch and 15-inch blades are ideal for bow saws whether the compactness of the saw is essential. Getting the saw into tight spaces where long blades will not be able to function. For cutting small green or dry branches when pruning the fruit trees or cutting up dry kindling for the campfire.

Bigger cuts require longer blades where the stroke length of the blade will assist in cutting through an 8 to 12-inch log quickly.

Simple Yet Efficient Blade Tensioning Of Bow Saw Blades

The bow saw blade tensioning system must be simple to operate and assist the user in getting the blade taught enough to prevent buckling during the power stroke. As blades loosen up due to wear and tear on the hinge points, the tensioning system must easily adjust blade tension back to optimal.

Protecting The Blade Of A Bow Saw

The heat-treated steel teeth of the bow saw blade can retain their sharp edge for many years of the blade is correctly cared for after use. The blade should be carefully wiped off after cutting green lumber as the plant juices can cause the steel to rust. A light application of thin oil (WD40) will prevent rust and keep the blade lasting longer.

The foldup design of some bow saws also cleverly hides the blade from harm when not in use. Some bow saws are purchased with a plastic protective sleeve that fits over the blade and protects the blade’s teeth from damage.

The Handle And Knuckle Guard Design Of The Bow Saw

The handle design is an essential factor in helping the user transfer power from the arm to the blade in a fluid motion, back and forth. Most bow saw blades are designed to cut on the push and pull stroke, and having a good grip on the bow saw is critically important.

Applying power strokes during the cutting process exposes the knuckles and fingers of the user to potential contact with the bark or other branches in the area of the cut. The bow saw handle must have a knuckle guard to protect the user from harm.

Spare Blades For Your Bow Saw

The frame and handle of the bow saw, serve the blade and the user. If the blade is not tensioned correctly, it may buckle and snap during use. It is wise to carry a spare blade in the toolbox or on an adventure in case of a blade failure.

Blades are designed for cutting green wood or dry wood, and you can limit your risk by having one blade for each purpose. 


The time-tested design of the bow saw makes it an excellent hand saw to have in your workshop or as part of your camping equipment. The bow saw is light and compact and can get through cutting an 8-inch diameter green log in less than a minute. Even hard and dry wood is no match for a quality bow saw.

Bow saw designs exist for traditional lumber works and pruning and also for the general-purpose maintenance toolbox. Compact and foldable designs are popular with hikers and campers. Brands such as Bahco, Truper, and Irwin are well known for the quality of their cutting blade tools.

Newer brands such as the Sven Saw and Agawa Boreal are highly regarded by outdoor camping and hiking enthusiasts. A good analysis of what you intend to use the bow saw for will assist in making the right choice.

Photo of author

Barry Gray

Hi, I’m Barry. I’ve loved woodworking and bringing things back to life for more years than I care to remember. I hope my passion for tools comes across loud and clear in everything you read here on The Tool Square.

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