How to saw a log

We had an old log at the back of our garden. Old logWhile it added an element of charm, I thought I’d enjoy it more on my verandah, as a table! And so I began to enquire about ‘Sawmen in the Nchalo area.’  It would be an easy job no doubt. Just one log. Switch on the machine and slice it up like piece of paper.

I was given a number for a Sawmen by the name of Jofrey. I called him and he said he’d be there at 6am the next day. He gave me a daily rate and we agreed. He’d bring his friend too, Luca.

It was going to be another scorcher. We were in our 3rd week of temperatures reaching the mid forties. The rains were late and Al Nino was in full force; sucking the countryside dry of all moisture. Plants drooped, baked alive by the soil and the trees seemed to bend as  the relentless ‘Midday Sun’ leaned all it’s weight on tired branches.

Wood art

They arrived at 6am sharp. Between them, they both carried a long saw and a small bag of tools. But no machine.


Luca and Jofrey



“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.”
― Phil Jackson

Very quickly, I was reminded that machinery is not a given thing, especially in Malawi. Here, they do things the old way. Sawing up an old log would take days.  I watched them in awe, sweat dripping down my face as I pressed the ‘shoot’ button on my camera while standing still.


Big push

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” – Mahatma Gandhi

At work

Nail it






“Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece.” – Vladimir Nabokov



“What a caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.” – Richard Back

Luca (2)


4 days later, I had 8 hardwood planks. I paid them and invited them back for another job. They accepted gladly, seemingly unfazed by the scorching sun. This month they’d be able to pay rent and school fees on time. And I would have a beautiful table.



“All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost: the old that is strong does not wither, deep roots are not reached by frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, a light from the shadows shall spring, renewed shall be blade that was broken, the crownless again shall be king.” – J. R.R. Tolkien



22 replies »

  1. Reblogged this on MJF Images and commented:
    I can count on one hand the number of re-blogs I’ve done. But this reminded me of the kind of travel photography I really have been missing lately. And of course it reminded me of that wonderful country Malawi.

  2. Fantastic B&W work you did there, and I’m jealous of the opportunity to shoot like that. I knew when you said sawmen that there would be no motor, and why he needed a friend. Last but not least, I loved the full Tolkien quote there.

    • Thank you so much 🙂 Photographing these 2 sawmen at work was such a privilege for me. They are still here, working away and making beautiful furniture! No rain yet!

    • Thank you Jeff! They are still at work – making the most beautiful furniture! I will definitely do a follow up post of the end product 🙂 Thank you for reading!