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Walk behind saw identification.


I saw this old video on youtube under the US National Archives Channel. "Men of the Forest" I believe it was called. There was a tool in the video I hadn't seen before. I'm sure they are around but I don't recall seeing any at my local shows. I was wonder who this particular saw was made by. You could change the position of the blade to do horizontal or vertical cuts.

I have attached the pictures I captured from the video.



Cannot name any US makers of these, but a few Australian companies built them in the 1950's and '60's. Hargan, Mobilco, Dennis to name some. Commonly known as widow makers for obvious reasons.


Using the term widow maker I was able to find more pictures of them. They must have been really dangerous to get that name.


I am glad to see other interest in vintage walk behind brush saws! I watched the video you are referring to several times. When James first walks over to Mr. Hodges camp he sees a worker using a Kut-Kwick Hurricane powered by a Wisconsin AEN. Later on in the video, James is looking through the window display at the local hardware store, admiring a similar machine, the Lowther C-Saw. I have a Lowther C-Saw in my collection as well as some literature on them. I studied the video over and over simply because I have never seen or heard of a Lowther with a Wisconsin AEN for power. Every one I have seen is either powered by a Briggs & Stratton ZZ or a Wisconsin AEH. The $350 model is the Light-weight model with either a direct drive blade or could be ordered with a semi fluid blade drive, see the thread on Mercury activated centrifugal clutches. This model had no power drive (movement). Note the aggressive tooth pulpwood saw blade on the model they purchased. The Deluxe Woodsman's model had a semi fluid blade drive as well as a "Yazoo style" friction power wheel drive as standard equipment. I just so happen to have that model in my collection. Last summer I drove out to Missouri to a good friends house to pick up this elusive man killer, alongside an equally as frightening Jaques Power Saw.



Thanks for the model identification. Forgive my ignorance, what makes these a "widow maker" It seems to me that your fairly far away from the blade. Other then there being no shielding for flying debris, I'm not sure what the safety concerns are.

Are these fairly rare machines to find?


I would classify most walk behind brush saws as rare. I have been fascinated with them for about eight years now. As far as I can find online, I have only ever seen pictures of two existing Kut-Kwick hurricanes, three Jaques power saws (including the one I have), and seven Lowther C-Saw's (including the one I have - with only two other Deluxe Woodsman models left). The Jaques Power Saw company of Denison Texas ended up manufacturing the David Bradley Portable Power Saw to be sold through Sears. The later David Bradley's had a tube frame and always came with a Briggs & Stratton model ZZ engine, whereas the early Jaques Power Saw's had an angle iron frame and a Gladden AB engine. There are other walk behind brush saws out there. The Mall tool company built a really lightweight model with a model 7 chainsaw engine. Solo also built one with one of their chainsaw engines. Montgomery Wards had several smaller models with number series Briggs engines. Superior built what looks like the most heavy duty model with a Novo air cooled engine for power. The Jacobs Wind Electric Company manufactured the Jacobs Wonder Saw which used either a Salsbury 600 or Gladden 75 engine and their famous hydrostatic transmission. It was the Cadillac of brush saws, full hydrostatic drive, and no belts. It had two counter rotating blades powered by a hydraulic motor. I would imagine the counter rotating blades would prevent almost any binding situation. I have contacted family of the Jacobs Wind Electric corporation and so far there are zero known survivors. And of course Ottawa built many walk behind brush saws. In my search, the Ottawa is the most common, then the David Bradley Power Saw, and then the Mall circular saw. The Solo, Superior, Jaques, Lowther and Kut-Kwick models known to still exist can be counted on two hands. I do not think most people value them. Seems like a vast majority of all models were scrapped due to the invention of the popular lightweight handheld chainsaw. Each saw manufacturer listed here likely has had its fair share of lawsuits against them, as it is not hard to imagine the machine jamming, binding or getting thrown from improper use. Just a split second of contact with that blade and thats it...I hope to restore my Jaques Power Saw and Lowther C-Saw within the next few years. I have made a few parts for them already, but are a long ways from being finished. One day I would love to have a lineup of all of the different walk behind brush saws. I think they are just neat. Of the saws I have seen, the bigger, heavier and longer models are definitely of a better design. The Ottawa although heavy does not have as much length from the operator to the center of the saw blade. I would personally feel more comfortable behind a Lowther C-Saw, Kut-Kwick Hurricane or Jacobs Wonder Saw just because of that extra two to three feet of operator distance. The Montgomery Wards LPU's and Mall/Solo walk behind saws are way too lightweight or way too short. Imagine one of those biting off more than it could chew. The machine would get thrown so easily, might throw you off your feet, impale your chest with a handlebar or spin around out of control with that big gnarly blade spinning at top speed. You have to remember a lot of these saws did not have blade brakes. The Lowther Deluxe Woodsmans model is the only model I know of that did. However power is transmitted through a clutch made by Mercury Clutch which actually uses elemental Mercury to activate the clutch. Just reading up on that clutch makes it sound like the blade was very slow to accelerate and decelerate. The asbestos band brake might have been your only safety option...Most of the danger is from felling. I actually have the factory cordwood saw table for my Lowther, it bolts right up to the machine for quick fast easy firewood cutting. I know of collectors with the Jaques and David Bradley power saws who also have the factory cordwood saw tables and enjoy using them. If you are not faint of heart, I'd suggest finding one and getting familiar with how to operate a vintage brush saw. Even after tearing one of these machines apart and seeing how they are made and how they work, I would never walk up to a tree as big as the Hunters or Hodges did in that video.



Thanks Chris, great work collecting all that info.

dont know why, but doing a search for Power Saw didn't refind this thread.
didn't try Swing Saw, maybe that will work.

anyway, for some local to me info, do a google search for

Dennis Power Saw

it finds several other forum threads of good info,
the city of Joondalup (a northern suburb of Perth) have a pdf file of an
interview with a Mr Dennis. this is good as it gets for history, great reading.

about Widow Maker,

a now retired foreman of where i work, a steel workshop, was telling me once about
when he was young, there was a big investigation into a power saw death.
a team of guys went out to cut wood, one didnt return to the vehicle when he should have.
found dead with a chunk of blade in chest.
or some scenario like that.
the blade had shattered half way thru a tree.
should never happen,
the blade pieces were tested for defects, etc etc
also all the rest of the machine was studied for defects etc etc,
after much time and effort to prove somebody was at fault when making the power saw,
could not find any fault.
so they then went back and looked at the tree.


what he was doing was preparing to cut a tree down by slicing off a major side branch.
when trees fork, sometimes the v area is a bit uneven, but nothing that cant be cut.
but this tree might have been the cause of the blade break,
so they cut the fork out of the tree and carefully cut it open,
to find a rabbit trap embedded there.

obviously someone had hung a trap in the fork of the tree 30 or 40 years before,
but never returned to get it. maybe there was more than one?
i expect if i tried i could find a newspaper article about it.
in case you dont understand, every farm had a couple dozen rabbit traps
which were used regularly to control the vermin,
and also catch them for skin and meat use and sale.
(one of the things i miss about living in town, not having roo and rabbit meat,
they can be bought, but for me thats cheating,
roos and rabbits are something you have to kill for yourself.
they used to be poor mans food, but not anymore.)
trapping is a slow way to control rabbits, but cheaper than bullets,
only need a bit of paper,
hey heres a youtube
and little damage is done to the flesh, usually just an injured or broken leg or foot.
usually they are set at dusk, and the rabbits collected just after dawn.
these traps are a flat spring powered pair of jaws attached to a foot long peg
of quarter inch steel by a foot or more of steel chain.
so they are easy to hang over anything by hanging the peg on one side, trap on the other.

i have no idea what part of the trap the saw got to first,
wouldn't matter, all of it serious steel, the saw and its operator died.

why was this story being told to us 'young-uns' ?
we was talking about how come another local guy was missing half a leg:

not many years ago he was doing farm work locally,
helping a farmer cut up a rather large log with a power saw,
the farmer was using the saw, he asked the young bloke to stand on one end of the log
to stop the blade jamming.
or something like that,
his story is that soon after he got got up there,
there was a huge bang and the next thing he remembers
is running for his life across the paddock.
he was a strong and fit young man, so made good progress,
soon began to realise one leg wasn't working right,
he was more hopping than running,
so he looked down to see if he had caught a piece of branch or something,
and nearly fainted at the bloody mess of a half cut off leg.
which needed to be amputated.

he now has an artificial leg, and not many people know,
he gets around and still works as hard as anybody else.

but he will tell you straight when it comes to workplace safety,
the safety comes before the work.

note that while i know him personally as an acquaintance,
this story is told to me by the same foreman,
who has also worked with him.
i have very probably got some details mixed up,
but the basic facts are sad history.

another local machinery collector has his dad's power saw in his collection,
it cuts back towards the operator, opposite to the one in the old movie.
i think that might be the case for most Aussie made power saws?
after using it the first time,
his dad got to work on it, and hung a heavy piece of pipe off the axle
with several bits of heavy chain,
to catch the shin breaking chips and chunks it would throw back.
he tells me these machines are not allowed to be shown at shows with the blade mounted.
and certainly never to be demonstrated.
so it doesnt come out of his shed often, a pity, it is a very nice machine.

our local club also has a member with a reciprocating vintage saw, a crosscut saw
which he regularly sets up and cuts firewood at shows.
an older flywheeler engine, good to watch it all working.

the closest i have been to a working power saw is at a farm after collecting sheep poo
for the garden 20 years ago, on the way out i saw the farmer cutting up firewood.
he was using a big but not huge power saw, maybe 30 inch blade,
with the blade and arm fixed somehow, with a pivoting table next to it.
he was cutting up old split timber fence posts, and making short work of it.
very impressive.
the saw was driven by a twin cylinder Wisconsin, running nice, easy work for it.

just like the guys in the movie,
when im cutting firewood with a chainsaw,
i wish i had that big power saw,
for a sawbench like that, a whole lot easier and quicker than a chainsaw.
but maybe it would take longer to sharpen the blade.
and the noise would certainly get the neighbours complaining.

actually i mainly wish i didnt have to cut wood at all....
and am trying hard to keep all my fingers and toes.

maybe if our saws cut away like the American ones,
the guy i know would still have all his leg.
whichever way they go, there is danger.
cutting back, they can fly up when jamming,
if you are cutting up high, that could result in a flip.
if the saw cuts away, when it jams, if it doesnt stop,
it should dig into the dirt fairly safely,
what if it grips the ground and then its pushing the machine backwards,
could knock you down and cut you in half going over.
when cutting sideways, rotational direction only determines if it goes left or right,
either way you could cut you legs off if you didnt stay with the handles.

the blade is not the only moving part,
other bits of the motor and belting can do serious injury in an emergency drama.

and thats all without asking google to find any more actual incidents.
who needs tv thrillers when we can all have nightmares about real life?

bye Rod.

wyalusing jim

I have 2 of these brush cutters, and I'm wondering what they might be worth. one is a jaques, with a Jacobs engine I think. the other is self propelled, shaft driven blade with an aeh on it, but I don't remember the manufacturer. any ideas on value for these as working machines?



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They were called swing saws here, but not common. Widow maker was their name here too. That name was also given to a dead tree with lots of over head branches, so it was difficult to know which way it would come down. A blade shattered here 50 years ago, one bloke lost an arm, another ended up with severe head injuries. They were dangerous things when they let go.