Beam Cutters – Shiver Me Timbers!
They are something to behold. At first view they look like a B-movie scream queen’s* worst nightmare. You expect the anonymous villain to be waiting behind the door with the circular saw and beam cutter, just waiting for the helpless dupe to come in the room. Of course, he can’t chase them far… extension cords tend to snag on corners.
So then, what do you do with a beam cutter?
The obvious thing is to cut wood beams, and it can cut up to 12″ deep. We see them used quite often by people building log homes. It’s like using a chainsaw, except the chainsaw has a foot which can be adjusted to allow angle cuts that stay true. This allows for rafter cut-outs to adjust the pitch of a roof that stay uniform, for example. It is much less labor intensive than some of the old ways of doing this.
Another great use for this tool is the landscaping industry. Prazi states that you can use this tool to cut railroad ties in the field. How much easier would that make building a tie wall? I know my dad could have used one. He built about six railroad tie gardens (going so far as terracing a good 60 feet of their yard) before this tool was invented. That would have saved me a lot of work as one of his young helpers, too.
There was another time when I was on a construction crew that specialized in rebuilding after fires. We were sent out to rebuild a wooden pedestrian bridge at a state park. The structural beams, and even the planks, were so big that we had to use an 8-1/4″ worm drive circular saw and make the maximum cut on all four sides, and then use a reciprocating saw with a long blade to cut the remaining inch in the middle. Needless to say, things would have gone quite a bit quicker with the beam cutter.
We’ve also seen some other unique uses for them. One that stands out was a historical shipyard bought a PR-7000 (this is the beam cutter to use if you have a worm-drive saw, if you have a standard circular saw you’ll want to look at the PR-2000) to cut timbers to repair a damaged mast. That was another moment when I realized, no matter how many different uses I have seen for a tool there will always be others of which I had never even thought about.
There are other options, for example, getting a larger saw like Makita’s 5402NA 16-5/16″ circular saw. Even with that saw you still would need to make two passes to get through a 8, 10 or 12″ beam. Only having used the 5402NA once, I wasn’t comfortable with the saw, as the big blade makes a very large “danger zone.” I felt like I needed to stand with my leg back pretty far to be sure I wasn’t going to injure myself. That is not to say that the large circular saw is more dangerous, but I felt less able to work with the tool safely. That may seem like a little thing, but when you are working in less than ideal locations, being comfortable with your tools is important.
Other options are a regular chain saw, a reciprocating saw, a hand saw or multiple passes with other circular saws. Those choices make you sacrifice either time or accuracy, sometimes both.
I have been impressed with this tool design since I first saw it, and as I see new ways of using the beam cutter, I think my appreciation will only grow. Hopefully, this post will help some people who didn’t even know the tool existed find something to make their projects go better.
*No B-Movie scream queens were harmed during the posting of this blog, and I sincerely hope none will be because of the contents.