One of the more important aspects of pioneer settlement and pioneer life in Canada was how they made use of everything they had in order to make a life for themselves. Imagine arriving at a completely unusual, unfamiliar place with nothing and being surrounded by thousands of acres of forests. For pioneers, this was only one of the problems that they had to overcome in order to prosper in Canada. Before they could begin to farm, pioneers had to cut down many trees so they could plant crops. It was a very labour intensive task to clear the land but with innovation, creativity, and hard work, the pioneers learned of easier techniques and instruments to clear the land more efficiently.
One particular artifact that we have here in our collection is a very useful tool for early farmers in the area is a crosscut saw. Crosscut saws have been used around the world since the 15th century but have evolved over time to accommodate different types of trees, changes in metallurgy technology, and experiences. A crosscut saw is a general term for any saw blade cutting wood against the wood grain. They can have small teeth close together for things like woodworking, or they can have large teeth for course work like log bucking (cutting a tree into logs). The cutting edge of each tooth is angled in an alternating pattern which allows each tooth to act like a knife edge and slice through the wood. Many saw tooth patterns have 4 cutters and adjacent to the cutters there is generally a raker which does the actual removal of the wood that is being cut. The raker follows the cutters scraping the bottom of the kerf, and as it scrapes, a strip of wood is shaved away.
Since arrival to Glengarry in the late 1700’s and throughout most of the 1800’s, wood remained the staple item of building and survival. They found use for everything in those days, so all the wood they had chopped down to clear space for crops would be used for anything and everything. Many of their farming tools were made of wood, their log cabin homes, kitchen utensils, fences, barrels, furniture, toys, shovels, and the list goes on. Even with the advancement of the chainsaw just after WWII, crosscut saws are still in wide use around the world today.
*Tip from an antique saw collector: if you want to get twice the heat out of your firewood, cut it up with a crosscut.