The Prazi Beam Cutter and Three Excuses to Use One
As a carpenter there are a handful of saws that I use on a routine basis: circular saw, chop saw, table saw, jig saw, et-cetera. So whenever I come across something like the Prazi Beam Cutter on a job site it’s like a gift from on high: a rare opportunity to play with a new toy so Medieval in appearance and genius in design that all in attendance gather round to whistle admiringly and observe its handiwork.
We were recently tasked with trying to figure out how to cleanly cut some 10-inch thick, reclaimed hand-hewn timbers for installation in a new home. The boss showed up that day with a nondescript cardboard box, and with much ceremony presented it to us as we sipped our morning coffee. The first thing that occurred to me when he opened the box was, “That’s pretty cool. But where’s the rest of it?” By itself it doesn’t appear to be much more than the business end of a small chainsaw. But when mounted to the arbor of a 7 ¼-inch circular saw, a wicked wood-eating hybrid is born that would make even a lumberjack blush with enthusiasm.
Some Things to Consider
Before we get into reasons to consider using and/or buying this tool, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, the particular model we were using won’t work with just any run-of-the-mill circular saw, so make sure you purchase the model that will work with yours. The Prazi PR-7000 is specifically designed for use with a worm drive motor, but the PR-2700 will fit most standard 7 ¼-inch circular saws. On that note, I tend to prefer worm drive circular saws anyway. They’re a little heavier and can kick back harder than standard saws, but their mass coupled with their more powerful motor has always rewarded me with straighter, more reliable cuts. Second, tools like the Prazi Beam Cutter give even the pros a little bit of pause. Any time you’re working with such a large exposed blade (or chain), you are increasing your odds for things like saw kickback and simply losing track of where all that blade has disappeared to behind your cutting surface. Whenever you’re working with this sort of tool it’s always best to have a partner with you to let you know if you’re getting too close to cutting into something you’d rather not be cutting into.
Excuse #1: Working with Timbers and Beams
As the name implies, a beam cutter is purpose-built for cutting oversized lumber such as timbers, beams, and railroad ties. You might ask, “Couldn’t I just use my chainsaw instead?” Sure, you could. But if you are looking to make a particularly clean or straight cut in a large piece of lumber, your circular saw’s fence will go a long way towards helping you accomplish that end, and keep you safer in the process.
Excuse #2: Working with Oversized Dimensional Lumber
The effective cutting depth of a typical 7 ¼ inch circular saw is about 2 ½ inches. This means that in order to cut through dimensional lumber 4x4 and greater (think fence and deck posts), you will have to make at least two cuts: for a 4x4, one cut on each of two opposing sides, and for a 6x6, one cut on each of its four sides. Even when you take careful measurements and square your cut line around your post, variations in the wood can result in an ugly or “off” cut. The beam cutter has an effective cutting depth of 12 inches, so you’ll only have to make one cut.
Excuse #3: “Gang Cutting” Standard Dimensional Lumber
Say you’re framing a room where you’ll need forty 2x4 studs, all at the same size. You could measure and cut each one individually, but many times in these types of situations the pros will resort to a shortcut known as “gang cutting.” Gang cutting involves horizontally stacking all of the boards you need to cut, flushing up* the ends, and snapping a chalk line at your desired length. This method requires only two measurements (one on each end, for your chalk line) instead of forty, and is far less time consuming than having to measure and cut forty individual boards. It is worth noting here that with the Prazi Beam Cutter your circular saw will bevel to 45 degrees just as it would if you were using a standard circular saw blade. This means you’ll also be able to easily gang cut rafters as well (whether you’re framing a shed, a doghouse, or even your own house).
*Lining up so all of the board ends are even with one another.
Why I Love It
It’s difficult not to get the butterflies over a tool that makes cutting massive hunks of lumber easier and cleaner. On first use, the genius of its design, versatility, and ease of operation seals the deal. Although you’re not going to want to use it for all of your cutting needs, if you’re working with big lumber the Prazi Beam Cutter is the way to go.