The Folding Saw

A folding saw manufactured by the Folding Sawing Machine Co. is compact and portable for offsite jobs

| June 2012

In the 1980s I was at a tool auction in Macomb, Ill., when an odd-looking saw came up for auction. At the time I did not know much about it, except that it was different. As luck would have it, I won the bid for about $90.

I took the saw home and used it to saw several logs. I have also felled a tree or two with it. When we had Pioneer Day at the school where I taught, my fourth grade class learned and performed many of the crafts and household jobs the way they were done in the late 1800s. I found students as young as age 10 could use the saw to do the same work I did with it.

I have since searched for information on the folding saw. The device is really a “one-man, two-man saw,” meaning one man operates it, but it saws and cuts like a two-man saw.

Manufactured by Folding Sawing Machine Co., Chicago, the folding saw was originally patented in 1882, patent no. 266,650. It was offered in two sizes. The No. 1 was capable of sawing trees and logs up to a diameter of 4 feet; the No. 2, a larger size, could be used to saw trees and logs from 30 inches to 5-1/2 feet in diameter.

Rare catalog tells the story

Considerable information on this saw was found in an 1896 catalog reprinted by the Mid-West Tool Collectors Assn. in February 1981. The catalog included an illustration of the factory in Chicago. It also showed illustrations of the device set up for use in various positions and types of cutting. It included descriptions and parts lists for both models. Finally, it included several testimonials dating from 1887 through 1896.

The No. 1 unit was available with blades measuring 5-1/2, 6 and 6-1/2 feet. The No. 2 had the same options; a 7-foot blade was also available. The teeth came in three patterns: lance, diamond and champion. The No. 1 saw with 5-1/2-foot blade sold for $15 (about $357 today); No. 1 with 6-foot blade, $15.30; and No. 1 with 6-1/2-foot blade, $15.60. With the same blade options, the No. 2 saw was priced at $18, $18.50 and $19; a unit with a 7-foot blade sold for $19.50.