What is a Bone Saw?

Mary McMahon

A bone saw is a type of saw which has been designed to cut through bone. There are a number of different styles of bone saw available, along with bone cutters such as snips and shears. Saws for cutting through bone are sold through manufacturers of surgical and autopsy equipment for use in health professions, and through restaurant suppliers for use in cooking and butchery.

A bone saw can be used for butchering cuts of meat.
A bone saw can be used for butchering cuts of meat.

When it comes to saws for use in surgery, there are a number of designs for a surgeon to choose from, depending on what type of procedure is being performed. The Stryker saw, for example, is an oscillating saw which will easily cut through bone, but will not damage the skin. A Gigli saw consists of wire strands that are used to cut bone, while a sternal saw is similar to a jigsaw, and is used to cut open the sternum to gain access to the chest cavity.

A bone saw may be used during an amputation.
A bone saw may be used during an amputation.

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Small hand saws are also available for cutting bone. In all cases, a bone saw used in surgery is designed to be sterilized between uses. These saws are very tough, with hard edges which hold their sharpness, as surgeons want to work with sharp tools to ensure crisp, even cuts which will minimize damage to the patient. Whether a bone saw is being used in an amputation or a craniotomy, it is important to avoid damage caused by the saw, and to select a saw which will be appropriate for the job.

Bone saws have surgical applications.
Bone saws have surgical applications.

While using a bone saw in surgery or in autopsy, full face protection must be worn. Face protection includes a mask which covers the mask and nose along with eye protection. This prevents people from inhaling bone dust or incurring eye damage as a result of flying bone chips. Masks are usually worn anyway in these settings to avoid cross contamination, but eye protection is not always standard and it is important to make sure that it is supplied for safety.

A bone saw may be used during an autopsy.
A bone saw may be used during an autopsy.

In the world of butchery and cooking, a bone saw is simply a sturdy saw which can be used to cut through bone when butchering cuts and preparing meat for cooking. In this case, the ability to clean the saw well between uses to prevent cross-contamination is desired, but the saw does not have to withstand the tough chemicals and autoclaves used in medicine. Home cooks may opt to keep a set of bone shears for tasks such as cutting through the breastbones of chickens, but they usually do not need bone saws because their meat has been appropriately butchered beforehand.

Bone saws may be used to cut the sternum during open heart procedures, making recovery especially challenging.
Bone saws may be used to cut the sternum during open heart procedures, making recovery especially challenging.
Masks should be worn when using a bone saw in surgery.
Masks should be worn when using a bone saw in surgery.

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Discussion Comments


Another kind of person who might need a bone saw is a hunter. Or maybe folk who grow their own cattle for the carcass.

In fact you can get a special deer bone saw that has been designed to be used in the field, so that you can cut up the deer into manageable chunks without puncturing the colon. It can also help later on while you're butchering the carcass for the freezer.

It's a little more expensive to get the bone saw that's made particularly for hunting but I personally think it's worth the extra cost. You can get them at most hunting stores, just ask the clerk to help you out.


@pleonasm - Actually, and unfortunately, it's going to become more and more common for people in the modern age to have to have amputations for a couple of reasons.

The first and most scary is that bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics. I had a friend who had to have surgery to drain an infection just the other day because she had a resistant strain. Luckily, she hasn't had to have an amputation, but if people keep abusing antibiotics the way they do we could be headed that way.

The second reason is that soldiers in the battle field have better and better protection against explosive weapons. But that means instead of just flat out dying when they step on a mine or get shot at, instead they are maimed and often the doctors have to cut away parts of their limbs because there's no way to repair them.

The surgical bone saw is still seeing plenty of use, unfortunately. We can be grateful, however, at how far artificial limbs have come.


That's supposed to be the origin of the name Bones in Star Trek. It was once common to refer to doctors as "Saw Bones" because of the work they were so often called on to do. Particularly during times of war. Back before the age of antibiotics, any little cut at all could become infected and if the infection spread then a limb could become gangrenous.

Of course, then there was nothing to do but cut off the limb. It was a sad fact of life that that was the main task of the doctor and that was why he was often known for his bone cutting saw, rather than for any kind of healing power.

There are a lot of problems with the modern age, but being able to cure infections with a few pills is most definitely not one of them. I wouldn't trade those pills for anything.

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