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Man's creation can cut it

Winger, Minn. If you're going to go ice fishing, you've got to get to the fish, which is hard with all the ice. It's a problem Wayne Benbo, 57, knows well. Benbo, who lives four miles west of Winger, and his buddy enjoy wintertime angling, but ge...

Wayne Benbo

Winger, Minn.

If you're going to go ice fishing, you've got to get to the fish, which is hard with all the ice.

It's a problem Wayne Benbo, 57, knows well.

Benbo, who lives four miles west of Winger, and his buddy enjoy wintertime angling, but getting through the ice is a problem. An ice chisel is a lot of work and a chainsaw sometimes doesn't want to start or the bar may freeze.

So Benbo, whose nickname is - appropriately enough - "Fish," started developing a better way to cut through ice. He said it took "at least two months" of trial and error to design his saw about 18 to 20 years ago.

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"It took just about a winter," he said.

Since then, he's sold thousands of the blue-bladed tools.

"People have copied it, but couldn't get it to cut and ended up buying mine," he said.

The saws start as a slab of AR235 steel, out of which the basic shape of the blade is cut with a laser. Benbo, a former truck driver, has someone shape the blade, but he sharpens and turns each tooth of the blade and affixes the wooden handle.

Once the tool is made, its operation is pretty simple. Aim the pointed tip of the saw at a 45-degree angle and break a hole into the ice. Then stand the saw straight up and, holding it by the wooden handle, saw into the ice. Rotate the handle to turn the path of the cut.

Benbo's saws come in 42-and 28-inch sizes. He also made a larger version - 60 inches to the best of his recollection. He said most of those went to Alaska, and he no longer makes them.

Besides saws, he's designed a multipronged fishing spear and makes the products under the business name Fish's Sporting Toys. He creates the products at the shop by his home - which, by the way, is where he also keeps his pickup, complete with a personalized license plate reading "ICESAW."

"It's a good product and he stands behind it," said Tom Maslow, general manager of Cannon Tackle Supply based in Dennison, Minn. Cannon is a distributor for Benbo's 42-inch saw.

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Benbo's saws aren't free. Cannon suggests a retail price of $119.99 for the 42-incher. Of course, you get what you pay for. Benbo said the 42-inchers can cut a 2½-by-4-foot hole through 10 inches of ice and have the chunk out of the hole and on the surface in 2½ minutes.

He estimated that he sells 550 to 600 saws annually. One year he sold more than 1,000.

"I don't know how many thousands of them are out there," he said.

Is Benbo proud of the saw he designed?

"Oh, yeah, especially when it works so well and people brag about it."

For more information about Benbo's ice saws or the fishing spear he designed, call (218) 945-3699 or e-mail wbenbo@gvtel.com .

Readers can reach Forum reporter Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734

Related Topics: AGRICULTURE
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