What is a Two-Person Saw? Definition and Applications of the Crosscut Saw

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While exploring the world of saws, I stumbled upon a unique type: the two-person saw. It looked different compared to more common saws, so it’s functionality is a question for me. If you also encounter this saw, I’ll share what I’ve learned and clear up any confusion you might have. 

What is a Two-Man Saw?

A two-person or a two-man saw is a gargantuan hand saw with two handles, located at each extreme of a lengthy curved metal blade for cutting down trees. This type of saw is designed for use by two people at each end, hence, the name.

men using two person saw

A two-man saw also cuts down large tree trunks to length. It does what most saws in the market can’t. This saw can cut through a tree trunk in minutes. 


Two-man saws were notable amongst ancient Romans and the Chinese but weren’t common in other places. They became more popular in Europe in the mid-15th century. 

They came to America two centuries after but weren’t typical until the late 19th century when they replaced axes for cutting trees. 

Types of Two-Man Saws

There are many variations of two-man saws, particularly in Japan, but they are only known two types – felling saws and bucking/crosscut saws [1]. Both saws are for different applications.

cutting tree with two person saw

As the name suggests, felling saws fell trees. They have narrow blades, enabling the insertion of wedges. 

On the other hand, bucking saws cut felled trees into firewood. They have a wider and thicker blade to give them more cutting strength, unlike felling saws. Bucking saws are crosscut saws because they cut across the tree’s grain.

Characteristics of Two-Man Saws

Teeth Per Inch (TPI)

Two-man saws typically have 1 – 2 teeth per inch, boasting the fewest number of teeth per inch among saws. However, each tooth is wide with hollow gullets, allowing for more aggressive and faster cutting of materials. These saws are particularly suited for felling trees.

cross cut saw teeth

Note that two-man saws usually leave a rough finish because of the cutting style. Since they are for felling trees, the finish may not be essential.

Cutting Stroke

Looking at the shape of the teeth on this saw, you’ll observe that it is neither backward nor forward. Instead, the teeth face straight down. It is designed to saw on the push and pull stroke for quicker cutting.


The saw usually consist of large blades. The size ranges from 1m – 3m in length. The edge is lengthier than regular saw blades.

using a two person saw to cut lumber

The reason is to ease the cutting down of large trees. The blade must be twice the tree’s diameter you want to cut at the minimum for a better sawing experience.

How to Use a Two-Man Saw

Two-man saws leverage the strength of two men placed at opposite ends. Each person working on cutting depended on the other to maintain a specified speed and rhythm without bending the saw. If the opposite happens, the tree wouldn’t be cut as expected.

The sawyers would alternate pulling the tool through the tree. If the saw begins to bind, the sawyers insert a wedge behind the blade to keep the kerf open. Sawyers would keep alternating until the tree is cut.

Safety Precautions

It’s tough to find two-man saws in workshops or hardware stores due to the emergence of saws like chainsaws, electric saws, hacksaws, etc. If you want this ancient cutting tool, you can purchase them on Amazon.

person wearing protective gear

While using this saw, we advise you to follow these safety precautions.

  1. You and your partner should wear safety glasses and gloves before starting.
  2. Keep your hands firmly on the saw. 
  3. The blade’s teeth must not point down on anything except wood. 
  4. Be focused on the job during cutting.


Why is it called a misery whip?

The two-man crosscut saw is called a “misery whip” because they are energy-draining and time-consuming. Crosscut saws got such a name in the US.

What is the difference between a crosscut saw and a rip saw?

The difference between a crosscut saw and a rip saw is the teeth. Although both saws have their teeth bent away from the blade, the teeth on crosscut saws are angled with a beveled edge. That makes them perfect for cutting across the wood grain.


Two-person saws are efficient saws, even though they go way back. However, you might find them stressful to use, given that they require two people. For this reason, many woodworkers have opted for other saw types.

If you’re still keen on using a two-man saw for some reason, follow the safety precautions to keep your working environment safe and you’re work precise.  

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Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

2 thoughts on “What is a Two-Person Saw? Definition and Applications of the Crosscut Saw

  1. I have inherited a crosscut saw & don’t know what to do with it. Thanks for the informative article.

  2. I’m glad you found the article helpful. Inheriting a crosscut saw sounds like a wonderful opportunity to explore woodworking. Hope you enjoy your new tool!

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