Best Saw For Cutting Sleepers

Best Saw For Cutting Sleepers

Sleepers were traditionally used for laying railways but now, these long, thick pieces of timber are often used for landscaping and DIY purposes. The problem is that they can be so large and heavy that cutting them is quite the challenge. Owing to their depth and length, you need a saw that has a large enough capacity.

If you’ve seen our guide on the different types of saw, then you’ll know that there are plenty of options but not many of these are suited to such a demanding task. In this guide, we’ll be looking at the best saw for cutting sleepers to make the job safer and easier.

Raised Bed Created Using Sleepers
Raised Bed Created Using Sleepers

The Challenges With Sleepers

Oak Sleepers
Oak Sleepers

Due to their large scale, if you are cutting a lot of sleepers in one go, then using a hand saw is not the best option as you will tire quickly and there is a high risk of injury and inaccuracy.

Therefore, a powered saw is the best option to create repeated, accurate cuts safely.

Cutting railway sleepers comes with a multitude of challenges and this reiterates the importance of finding the correct type of saw.

Weight

The weight of a sleeper will vary depending on the material from which it is made. Pine sleepers are generally the lightest but these can still weigh up to 60kg while an oak sleeper might weigh in excess of 80kg. If you are using sleepers made from tropical hardwoods such as Australian Jarrah or African Azobe then you might expect them to weigh up to 100kg. Handling something this heavy can be tricky, not to mention dangerous when not done properly.

Length

Sleepers are very long pieces of timber and the average length is 2.6 metres; that’s about eight and a half feet. However, it is possible to purchase slightly smaller or longer lengths depending on your needs. In any case, finding a suitable surface to lay the sleeper while cutting is essential.

Depth

The average depth of a railway sleeper is 250mm and so cutting through the material with a small saw would pose a lot of problems and in some cases, not even be possible. For this reason, you need to have a large capacity saw that is up for the challenge.

Types Of Saw That Can Cut Sleepers

Owing to the large size of the sleeper, it is important to choose the correct type of saw. The following are all suitable.

Mitre Saws

The best type of mitre saw for cutting sleepers is a sliding mitre saw. This allows for extra cutting distance and so will mean that you can cut through the entire sleeper in one go. You do, however, have to keep in mind that a mitre saw is one of the more expensive options. If you’re going to choose to invest, we would suggest only doing so if you’ll make use of the saw after you’ve cut your sleepers.

Hand Saws

The benefit of using a hand saw for cutting sleepers is that these tools are incredibly sharp and sturdy so offer a safe and efficient way to cut the wood. These saws feature large, jagged teeth and provide an aggressive cut for this dense material. Depending on how you are cutting the sleeper, you may need either a rip saw or a crosscut saw.

The downside of using a hand saw is that these are not powered tools, so you will need to exert a lot more physical effort. If you’re cutting a lot of sleepers then this might not be the most appropriate option.

Circular Saws

For the most part, a circular saw won’t have the capacity to cut all the way through the sleeper. This means that you will need to turn the material over to achieve the full cut and in many cases, you might even have to finish the cut off with a hand saw. Of course, there are some circular saws that have a larger cutting capacity and might be more suitable. Using these will provide you with much greater accuracy and speed.

Tips For Cutting Sleepers

If you have never cut sleepers before, you must keep in mind that it can be a dangerous undertaking when not done correctly. Take a look at some of our top tips for cutting sleepers to ensure the best and most safe outcome.

  • While a lot of people suggest cutting a sleeper with a chainsaw or reciprocating saw, this is not something that we would recommend. This is because the results can often be inaccurate and messy not to mention this method is far more dangerous.
  • Always work from a plan to limit the amount of cutting you need to do as well as prevent too much waste.
  • For the best results when cutting, aim to make slow, straight cuts to achieve greater accuracy.
  • Make sure to wear protective clothing and work in a well-ventilated area as cutting sleepers can be a very messy task.
  • When moving sleepers to be cut, it is a good idea to work with another person. Owing to their heavy weight, attempting to move or flip them alone can be dangerous.

Recommended Saws

If you’re looking for a good saw to cut railway sleepers then you’ll need to familiarise yourself with some of the best on the market. But rather than spending hours trawling the internet, we’ve put together a list of some of our most highly recommended saws.

This sliding mitre saw is ideal for cutting through sleepers thanks to its high cutting capacity of 312mm. It’s designed for larger projects and so will come in handy for other things as well such as cutting decking and flooring. We also love that this is such a lightweight piece of equipment and comes with a handle, making it perfect for people working in different locations. The Bosch sliding mitre saw rotates 360º giving you even greater versatility and is driven by a powerful motor that turns the blade at 5500 rpm for superior cutting. It is also beautifully easy to use thanks to a soft start function and it comes with some other handy features such as dust extraction. So, while this might be something of an investment, it’s certainly a worthwhile one!

Pro's

Con's

An affordable option for those who don’t mind putting a little elbow grease into their project is this Heavy-duty hand saw from Stanley. Featuring 7 teeth per inch, it is perfectly designed to handle hard work with ease. What’s more, the precisely ground teeth offer a sharp and efficient cut. The Stanley hand saw is super lightweight and yet incredibly robust. The blade is made from hardened steel so it won’t falter under the pressure of cutting through several sleepers. And since you will be spending more energy cutting, the soft grip handle is a nice addition.

Pro's

Con's

We talked earlier about the importance of having a large cutting depth when using a circular saw for cutting sleepers and that’s exactly what you get with this product.

Designed for slightly larger projects, the Bosch circular saw can cut to a depth of 70mm. Yes, this will still require you to flip the stock halfway through but it will do more work than some other, smaller circular saws.

This saw also benefits from being incredibly robust so is perfect for cutting hardwood sleepers. What’s more, running at 5500 rpm, it’s a powerful little machine.

But all of these features aside, Bosch advertises this saw as an entry-level tool and it is ideal for people just getting to grips with this type of equipment thanks to its flexibility and ergonomic design.

This sliding mitre saw is ideal for cutting through sleepers thanks to its high cutting capacity of 312mm. It’s designed for larger projects and so will come in handy for other things as well such as cutting decking and flooring. We also love that this is such a lightweight piece of equipment and comes with a handle, making it perfect for people working in different locations. The Bosch sliding mitre saw rotates 360º giving you even greater versatility and is driven by a powerful motor that turns the blade at 5500 rpm for superior cutting. It is also beautifully easy to use thanks to a soft start function and it comes with some other handy features such as dust extraction. So, while this might be something of an investment, it’s certainly a worthwhile one!

Pro's

Con's

Conclusion

Sleepers are often used in the garden and for other DIY projects but owing to their large size and depth, it is vital that you choose a saw that can handle the challenge. Hand saws and sliding mitre saws are among some of the best choices but you might also opt for a circular saw provided that it has a more significant cutting depth.

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