When backcountry skiing, it's important to assess the snow for avalanche danger. A key method for assessing snowpack stability is digging a snow pit and performing various tests on isolated columns of snow. Cutting out these isolated columns of snow is made much easier with a snow saw. Most commercially available snow saws are made of metal and are quite overkill for the purpose of cutting through the type of snow you would want to ski through. A plastic saw has the potential to be lighter, less likely to cut up your bag, and - if you make it yourself - much cheaper. In order to increase the reach of the saw, I made it so that it can be attached to the handle of my adjustable-length ski pole. You could also just form the wood handle into a grip and use it on its own.
Step 1: Materials and Tools
1) PVC pipe: I used a large pipe because the material had a certain... thickness... that I found appealing
2) Small block of wood: I used some maple I had laying around
3) Small bolt and nut
4) Glue (whatever kind you like to use)
Tools: bandsaw, bench sander, heat gun (although you could easily come up with your own tool substitutions)
Step 2: Cut the Strip of PVC
Cut the PVC pipe to the length you want your saw to be. I did 18". Then, cut the pipe lengthwise with a bandsaw, and then into a strip about 2.5" wide
Step 3: Flatten the PVC
Now you need to flatten the curve out of the PVC strip. For this, I used my heat gun, but you could also use a blowtorch or gas stove or something. Not a blow-dryer though, it won't get the PVC hot enough.
Heat up the PVC, and once it's pliable, press it flat between two pieces of wood. Careful, because the PVC will be very hot.
Step 4: Create the Handle Shank
Measure the diameter of the lower pole, and mill down a block of wood to slightly larger dimensions. You will carve/sand down the piece later to achieve a tight fit. Transfer a mark from the thickness of the PVC to the block for the slot. Cut the slot out with a bandsaw to achieve a snug fit.
Step 5: Shape the Handle
Sand or whittle down the block to round, checking the fit as you to see how it fits in the ski pole.
Step 6: Attach the Handle
Cut out a shank shape from the PVC. Line it up inside the slot and then drill a hole. Use a generous amount of your favorite glue and a small bolt to attach everything together.
Step 7: Shape the Blade
Trace out a pattern for the teeth and tip and then cut out the pattern with a bandsaw. Use a bench sander to shave down the sides of the teeth. Also sand down a sharp edge at the tip so that you can thrust it into the snow and it will cut through. Now go out there and rip some powder (safely).