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Saw Doctor

Kaiwhakatika Kani

Alternative titles for this job

Saw doctors repair and sharpen hand, band and circular saws.


Saw doctors usually earn

$39K-$65K per year

Source: Competenz, 2017

Job opportunities

Job opportunities for saw doctors are good due to the construction boom creating more work in wood processing.


Pay for saw doctors varies depending on experience and employer.

  • Apprentice saw doctors may start on the minimum wage or a little more, with rates increasing as they gain experience and unit standards.
  • Trained saw doctors usually earn up to $65,000 a year.

Source: Competenz, 2017.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Saw doctors may do some or all of the following:

  • examine saws for faults
  • fix saws by welding cracked or broken saws, replacing any broken saw teeth and hammering out lumps and twists
  • sharpen saws by hand or machine and adjust them to the right tension
  • maintain sawmill equipment and machinery
  • complete relevant paper work
  • ensure workshop areas comply with safety standards.

Skills and knowledge

Saw doctors need to have:

  • mechanical and technical skills
  • knowledge of saw repair, sharpening and maintenance
  • knowledge of saw speeds, and wood and metal properties
  • an understanding of safe working practices
  • welding skills.

Working conditions

Saw doctors:

  • usually work regular business hours, but may work shifts if they work for a sawmill
  • work in sawmills, manufacturing or engineering workshops, or for saw and blade-sharpening companies
  • may work in noisy and hazardous conditions
  • may travel locally to visit clients.

What's the job really like?

Gilbert Robinson

Gilbert Robinson

Head Saw Doctor

A lot riding on his shoulders

As head saw doctor at a large sawmill, Gilbert Robinson understands pressure. After all, the quality of the end product and the work of hundreds of other staff depends on his ability to produce sharp saws.

"It's high-pressure work here because it's such a big place. But, by the end of the day, we tend to work our way through it, and things don't look too bad."

More than just sharpening saws

After spending some time as a carpenter, Gilbert got into saw doctoring for the chance to earn while he learnt in a highly specialised trade.

He says he's never looked back. "I've never been tempted to go into another engineering trade. It is a specialised job and there is a lot more to saw doctoring than people realise – it's not just about sharpening saws. To tension a saw and put a background in a saw is a skill that has to be learned by experience, and you need to spend a lot of time doing it to get it right."

Entry requirements

To become a saw doctor you need to complete an apprenticeship and gain a New Zealand Certificate in Saw Doctoring. The training includes block courses at Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology in Rotorua.

Competenz, an industry training organisation, oversees saw doctor apprenticeships.

Secondary education

No specific secondary education is required for this job, but workshop technology, maths and science, particularly physics, are useful.

Personal requirements

Saw doctors need to be:

  • accurate, with an eye for detail
  • patient and methodical
  • practical
  • safety-conscious.

Useful experience

Useful experience for saw doctors includes:

  • general engineering work
  • timber machining
  • work in a sawmill.

Physical requirements

Saw doctors need to have good eyesight (with or without corrective lenses) and good hand-eye co-ordination.

They should not have any breathing problems or allergies that could be affected by sawdust.

Find out more about training

0800 526 1800 - info@competenz.org.nz - www.competenz.org.nz
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

Demand for saw doctors is good due to:

  • a shortage of saw doctors
  • the New Zealand construction boom that has increased the demand for processed wood, meaning more saw doctors are needed to maintain wood processing equipment
  • a change from exporting logs to increasing wood processing within New Zealand
  • an increasing focus on using wood as an environmentally friendly product to reduce New Zealand’s carbon footprint.

However, a downturn in the economy could lower demand for saw doctors.

According to the Census, 270 saw doctors worked in New Zealand in 2018.

Most saw doctors employed in timber processing industry

Most saw doctors are employed by sawmills and timber processing plants. Others work for:

  • large engineering companies
  • tool manufacturers
  • specialist saw and blade-sharpening companies.


  • Andrews, L, administrator, wood manufacturing, Te Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology, Careers New Zealand interview, January 2017.
  • Forest Owners Association, 'Facts and Figures 2015/16 New Zealand Plantation Forest Industry', (www.nzfoa.org.nz).
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
  • Radio New Zealand, ‘New Power Charges will Shred Business, says Paper Mill’, 12 August 2016, (www.radionz.co.nz).
  • Stanley, B, chair, Wood Processors and Manufacturers Association, ‘TV One Q & A Programme Screened Last Sunday’, 26 October, 2016, (www.wpma.org.nz).
  • Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
  • Vandy, M, industry manager, product development and quality assurance, Competenz, Careers New Zealand interview, February 2017.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Saw doctors may progress to set up their own saw doctor business, or become a head saw doctor, overseeing a team of staff. They may also become sawmill supervisors or managers.

Hands in safety glove use a file to sharpen the teeth of a chainsaw

Saw doctors sharpen and repair saws.

Last updated 18 September 2020