Do It Yourself

Making The Cut: How To Make An Improvised Wire Saw From Scraps



young cut off branches small ring | Making The Cut: How To Make An Improvised Wire Saw From Scraps | featured

When you need to cut something down to size, using an improvised wire saw can be a great option. There are two simple methods in making a DIY wire saw and which one you use depends entirely on what type of wire you have.

Learn how to make a wire saw from scraps in this article!

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Wire Saw | Simple & Effective DIY Project for Every Prepper

The hand-held chain saw cuts wood | wire saw

DIY Wire Saw

While a pocket knife can be used to cut small limbs and other items, doing so will quickly dull the blade and make it useless for other purposes, like skinning.

One of the most simple ways to cut up branches, limbs, and even PVC pipes when a power saw or hack saw is not available is by using a wire saw.

These wire saws are widely available and most of them are inexpensive and should be a part of just about any bug out bag or camping kit.

You can buy these nifty tools, but it’s also straightforward to make one yourself out of everyday household items.

What You'll Need:

  • Stiff Wire
  • Supplies
  • Electrical fencing wire, a stripped electrical cord from a wall outlet, metal coat hangers, or chicken wire (not as durable)
  • Two key rings
  • A pair of needle-nosed pliers

Step 1: Prepare the Wire

Make the wire a little over 2 feet long. Put the keyring about halfway down the wire and fold the wire in half. Now start twisting the folded wire.

Step 2: Create a Loop

Once you have twisted the wire to where you only have about 3 inches from the end, you will need to create a loop to hold the second key ring.

You will want to take the other key ring and attach it to the saw by twisting the wire through and around itself.  The second method is used when you have a thinner and more flexible wire-like picture wire.

You use the exact same method but instead of twisting, you use a simple reverse wrap like you would when making primitive cordage.

Using this reverse wrap method will increase the tensile strength of the wire exponentially and even if you don’t use reverse wrapping for this. It is still a vital skill to learn.

Reminder: When using this tool, make sure to be cautious.

This tool can help you in a pinch but it is still improvised and is nowhere near as strong as a store-bought wire saw.

Start out using it in 30-second intervals with a 15-second break in between. If the saw seems like it is holding up, you can begin increasing the cutting time. This will help to keep the wire from overheating and breaking.

Watch this video by Mitchell Green on how to use a wire saw and turn it into a bow saw:

A wire saw will not only make short work of that old hickory stump in your back yard, but it can help to cut limbs and small logs to a more manageable size. Survival is all about your ability to roll with the punches!

Have you ever tried making improvised survival gear before? Share your experience with us in the comments section below!

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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in January 2013, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.


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  1. JJM

    January 28, 2013 at 11:31 AM

    Video does not play. Can you provide a direct link? Think I understand what is meant by ‘reverse wrap’ but not sure.

  2. richard

    January 28, 2013 at 6:30 PM

    would piano wire work as a saw if so how

    • Joe

      January 28, 2013 at 7:13 PM

      Good question richard,
      I honestly don’t know… I know that piano wire does tend to have an inherently high tensile strength, but as far as how it would hold up under friction I haven’t the foggiest…

      If you were to try it I would love to hear your results, or even a video of it!

      with as thin as it is, you may need to try multiple strands, and probably use the reverse wrap method.

      Let me know how it turns out!

  3. terry carter

    January 28, 2013 at 8:59 PM

    while we’re talking musical wire, metal guitar strings have many thicknesses – you could make a whole set of saws – one for every job 😀

  4. Nanook

    January 28, 2013 at 10:17 PM

    Way back in the day when I was in training in the army, one of the things learned was how to use a garot made of “piano wire” because of it’s strength. I imagine your idea of guitar strings would work just as well if not better, if you could actually reverse braid them. For those not knowing what a garot is, think of the mafia movies where the dude wraps a wire around another dudes neck and chokes him down. Rumor has it that it works quite well, but you have to be careful not to get too rambunctious or you end up with a body and a severed head. Messy, Messy, Messy. The diameter of the wire makes it virtually impossible to escape from. Much better than cord. Seriously, I broke down an old piano not too long ago, and I’ve still got the wire. I’m going to try it out for a saw.

  5. Butch

    January 29, 2013 at 8:09 AM

    This article has sparked my interest, like you Joe, I’m one to find uses for items that have been cast aside.
    I have some old guitar strings of various sizes lying around and I’m going to see if they work for the saw!

  6. Willy Chee

    February 2, 2013 at 11:05 PM

    Warning: Do not attempt to take one of these on an airplane or in your luggage. The Feds who check the luggage (TSA) classify these as garrottes and have them displayed as “unusual weapons” on their website!

  7. Cherie Kemp

    February 13, 2013 at 8:12 AM

    I made two of these today after my young colleague showed me one he had bought. I had some twisted wire which I simply plied together. The first one had three pieces of wire and the second has two. What a useful little tool to keep in my ‘woodland bag’ Not sure how long the will last but they cost me nothing to make.

    • Joe

      February 13, 2013 at 8:31 AM

      Exactly Cherle!
      Why buy something when you can make it from scraps for free!, plus odds are if you have any scraps, you have enough to make more than one of these.

  8. Beverly Bird

    February 14, 2013 at 4:54 PM

    Very interesting I have several sets of old guitar strings I just may try this myself thanks for the info

  9. Caleb

    July 3, 2013 at 4:26 PM

    Would barbed wire work

  10. Frank

    November 8, 2014 at 3:38 AM

    These are cheap enough to buy a few, but it’s nice to know they are so easy to make. We don’t realize how common wire is. And people loose and throw out several pounds of wire as they burn through electronic devices, buying and replacing them.

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