A finished buzzsaw using white ash for the saw and grape vine for the handles

Activity #1 of 3: Making Buzzsaws

You can always skip the background info below and go right to the video tutorial. And you can find more How To videos on our YouTube channel.

Buzzsaws – or whirligigs – is a broad term that encompasses an assortment of things that spin in order to make a noise. There are examples in the archaeological record going back to at least 2500 years ago in North America. The one we’ll make is similar to the button whirligigs you can buy down in the Appalachians (these are made out of thread or a strip of leather slipped through an old button). We’ll keep it wild and use materials you can find out in the woods to make ours.

 

Materials

  • Two sticks >3″ long for the handles
  • Wood disk for the saw, experiment with different sizes and species (really any size will work)
  • ~2′ of cordage (or rope)

Tools

  • Drill
  • Scissors

The finished buzzsaws (or whirligigs), all made from materials found in a beaver pond

Steps
  1. Drill two holes in the middle of the disk, about 1/2″ apart, but the closer the better
  2. Drill two holes through each of the handles, about the same distance apart you drilled the holes in step #1
  3. Slide the cordage through the holes making a big loop, and tie off in a square knot.

Operating the saw

  1. Hold the handles with the saw in the middle and spin the saw around so the cordage gets twisted up
  2. Pull the handles outward making the cordage taut; the saw will spin the opposite direction you wound it up in
  3. Loosen the grip and then pull taut again and the saw will reverse directions. The action is similar to a yo-yo and requires the right tension and timing. Good luck!

It takes a couple minutes to get the hang of it, but once you do it’s rather simple.

And if you’re like me, you do better with visuals, so here’s my instructional video on how to make your own buzzsaw. You can find more How To videos on the Crow’s Path YouTube channel.

A quick video on how to harvest twigs (like boxelder, lilac, white ash) to make parachutists. And a brief side trip to check the trail camera for flying squirrels.

More on the topic

Digging all this natural history content?

Become a monthly supporter on Patreon.

Be sure to check the archives for back issues.
And shoot me an email if you have an idea for a future blog post, newsletter issue, or podcast episode!

Support Crow’s Path

Subscribe to the Newsletter

STAY CONNECTED, LEARN NATURAL HISTORY