The First Tool of Christmas


Bow saw + pizza peel + apron = ready for anything

Some of my best memories of Christmas past involve the cutting down of Christmas trees.  My husband and I would go out to an incredibly beautiful Washington County Christmas tree farm with deep snow and long views. Jeff could never remember to bring his gloves, so there would always be lots of shouting along with the sawing. I'd always want the biggest possible tree, so we'd have the ritual argument about what exactly our ceiling height was. Our dog Lulu, now departed, who was half Husky and never happier than in winter, would tear delightedly through the snow. And the key tool for this lovely moment was a Swedish bow saw. They'd hand you one when you arrived.

We were first introduced to this tool soon after we bought our first house. The woods were pushing the house into the street and my husband wanted to push back. So our friend Gerald, wise in the ways of the garden, said, "Swedish bow saw."

I never engaged in the kind of property clearing my husband did, but I was soon doing other things that required a saw, including cutting down saplings for tee-pees for my pole beans. So I picked up the bow saw and loved it. It's light, flexible, easy to use. The blades are cheap and easy to replace. But the teeth on those blades are really sharp. They just seem to rip into living wood, giving a 117-pound person like me the pleasant illusion of being a lumber jack.

The bow saw will make a beautiful, clean cut for pruning, and it will make quick work of offending plants chosen by the previous owner of your house. It will allow you to saw at weird angles and in weird places.

I've only gotten in trouble with my bow saw when I've been too ambitious and decided to take down a tree that's too big for the tool–say, one with a six-inch diameter–and wound up with the blade wedged in the wood. And that may be a problem of technique as much as a problem with the saw.

We didn't cut down our Christmas tree ourselves this year. My husband was madly finishing a book against a deadline. But even a bought tree needs to have its bottom branches trimmed up.

"Do you know where the bow saw is?" my husband said in that way long-time spouses have of implying a million things at once, like I use his tools too often and often don't put them back where anybody can find them because I am a disorderly person and it is a serious character flaw.

"In the garage, on the shelves to your left when you first walk in," I said, letting him know with that bit of information that despite a general tendency towards disorder, I do take care of the really important tools and ought not to have my character impugned when I possess a towering sense of honor that would never allow me to misplace something as crucial to the running of the household as the Swedish bow saw.

Fortunately, the bow saw was found.  The branches were cut, the lights and ornaments were hung, and the Christmas tree is beautiful.


  1. Love the story. Love my bow saw, (another handy dandy saw is a folding saw. It can get into even tighter places). I have taken down some good sized trees with the mighty bow saw. Mainly because I was too impatient to wait for husband and chain saw and it was a tiny bit of spouse wars. I also like to feel like a lumberjack and always find myself humming the Monty Python song when welding the bow saw.

  2. Great read! I love my Bow Saw too, and have a partner who is equally accusitory about missing tools and Tape measures (we must have at least 30!). He still doesn’t get it that the tool he’s looking for is right where He Left It, HA! Happy Holidaze… Patrick

  3. The caption under the photo reads: “Bow saw + pizza peel + apron = ready for anything”

    As I was reading your post I kept waiting to find out about the “pizza peel + apron” aspect but it never materialized. And now I feel something’s missing.

    Merry Christmas to you!

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