SAQA All qualifications and part qualifications registered on the National Qualifications Framework are public property. Thus the only payment that can be made for them is for service and reproduction. It is illegal to sell this material for profit. If the material is reproduced or quoted, the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) should be acknowledged as the source.

Occupational Certificate: Saw Doctor 
104459  Occupational Certificate: Saw Doctor 
Development Quality Partner - FPMSETA (MANUF) 
-   OQSF - Occupational Qualifications Sub-framework 
Occupational Certificate  Field 06 - Manufacturing, Engineering and Technology  Engineering and Related Design 
Undefined  540  Not Applicable  NQF Level 04  Regular-ELOAC 
Passed the End Date -
Status was "Reregistered" 
SAQA 086/21  2021-07-01  2023-12-31 
2024-12-31   2027-12-31  

In all of the tables in this document, both the pre-2009 NQF Level and the NQF Level is shown. In the text (purpose statements, qualification rules, etc), any references to NQF Levels are to the pre-2009 levels unless specifically stated otherwise.  

This qualification does not replace any other qualification and is not replaced by any other qualification. 

The purpose of this qualification is to prepare a learner to operate as a Saw Doctor.

A Saw Doctor refurbishes, sharpens and maintains saw blades, tooling and tool room equipment and calibrates cutting equipment to ensure optimum cut quality.

A qualified learner will be able to:
  • Repair, sharpen, fit, and maintain cutting tooling.
  • Calibrate, maintain and operate cutting tool servicing machinery and equipment.
  • Set up cutting equipment.

    The Saw Doctor trade is a technical competence applicable to and required by the forestry industry but it is also very useful to the meat-processing subsector within general manufacturing. The development of a formal qualification, as opposed to the current inadequate skills programmes, will be critical to improve the skills base and performance of various economic sectors that produce various timber products for both local and export markets. The industry has identified a variety of critical and scarce skills needed to address the increasing skills shortages and their impact on the industry. Saw Doctor and related skills are scare and in high demand, and the sector is currently relying on an increasingly smaller pool of experts to service the industry.

    The qualification will draw learners from the current pool of employees that individual companies have trained in-house as well as new employees interested to secure jobs within the industry. The current employees will receive the critically important theoretical training and benefit from a more structured practical and workplace training. A more trained workforce will enhance productivity, reduce wastage and incidences. It will also improve the quality of the service provided by Saw Doctors. The qualification will ensure, job sustainability and employability of qualified learners within a very competitive market.

    The majority of qualified Saw Doctors are aging and there is a need to attract school leavers to continue the expertise. This represents the reality of the past and provides significant possibilities to transform the work environment. This transformation is legacy-related as the majority of qualified Saw Doctors are White males. It is, however, also related to the restoration of formalised quality standards within a previously ignored highly technical scarce skill occupation. The Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) of the skills embedded in the qualification will reward those proficient and capable with a qualification that will ensure a wider scope of employment opportunities in the sectors specified.

    The Saw Doctor as a trade embodies a progression of accumulated skills and expertise, thereby opening career pathing opportunities and possible articulation. This highlights the need for part- qualifications: which would ensure a combination of knowledge and employable skills covering functional areas such as Saw Filer; Saw Setter; Profile Grinder; Saw Maintainer and Benchman. This trade as the exit qualification should address the needs of new entrants in the labour market in the same way as it would capacitate current employees already performing the function to aspire to higher job opportunities.

    Qualified learners will progress to management qualifications or cross-sectoral qualifications as specified in the articulation section. In a sector, which holds the promise of economic growth, the qualified saw doctor will bring much-needed skills to the industry. It also has the potential of entrepreneurial opportunities to consult, train and import international services and product into a burgeoning market.

    Provision is also being made for proficiencies recognised by industry as employment opportunities in this occupation. These are:
  • Saw Filer.
  • Benchman.
  • Head Saw Doctor.

    During the development of this occupational qualification, the above mentioned proficiencies were provided for as part-qualifications. 

    Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL):

    RPL for access to the external integrated summative assessment:
    Accredited providers and approved workplaces must apply the internal assessment criteria specified in the related curriculum document to establish and confirm prior learning. Accredited providers and workplaces must confirm prior learning by issuing a statement of result or certifying a work experience record.

    RPL for access to the qualification:
    Accredited providers and approved workplaces may recognise prior learning against the relevant access requirements.

    Entry Requirements:
    The entry requirement for this qualification is:
  • Level 1 with Mathematics. 


    This qualification comprises compulsory Knowledge, Practical Skills and Work Experience Modules at Level 2, 3 and 4 totalling 540 Credits.

    Knowledge Modules:
  • Basic Principles of Health, Safety and Quality, Level 2, 4 Credits.
  • Cutting tooling and blades, Level 2, 25 Credits.
  • Basic Business Principles, Level 3, 7 Credits.
  • Occupational health, safety and environment, Level 3, 3 Credits.
  • Cutting techniques for wood and other materials, Level 4, 30 Credits.
  • Cutting tool servicing machinery and equipment, Level 4, 35 Credits.
  • Introduction to Saw Doctor Working Environment, Level 4, 19 Credits.
    Total number of credits for Knowledge Modules: 123.

    Practical Skill Modules:
  • Diagnose, repair and maintain cutting tooling, Level 2, 65 Credits.
  • Remove and replace cutting tooling, Level 2, 20 Credits.
  • Transport, storage and record-keeping of various cutting tools in a saw shop, Level 3, 20 Credits.
  • Install blades and cutting tools in various cutting machinery and equipment, Level 3, 42 Credits.
  • Set up different cutting equipment, Level 3, 40 Credits.
  • Perform routine and preventative maintenance on saw shop machines and tools, Level 4, 65 Credits.
    Total number of credits for Practical Skill Modules: 252.

    Work Experience Modules:
  • Cutting tools preparation, installation, transport and storage processes and procedures, Level 2, 65 Credits.
  • Blade change processes and set up, Level 3, 50 Credits.
  • Cutting tool servicing machinery and equipment preparation and operational processes, Level 4, 50 Credits.
    Total number of credits for Work Experience Modules: 165. 

    1. Prepare, maintain and set up cutting tools and equipment for efficient saw mill operations.
    2. Maintain and operate the cutting tool and blades servicing machinery and equipment to produce a sharpened balance tool. 

    Associated Assessment Criteria for Exit Level Outcome 1:
  • Diagnose blades and cutting tools for faults and care for and maintain them to keep them ready for operations as sharp, balanced cutting tools.
  • Remove and replace cutting tools and blades in compliance with normal industry practice to ensure operational readiness.
  • Transport and store cutting tools, and keep their records to maintain proper inventory and operational efficiency.

    Associated Assessment Criteria for Exit Level Outcome 2:
  • Perform routine maintenance and preventative maintenance to keep tool servicing machinery and equipment operational for longer and ready for daily operations.
  • Replace blades and cutting tools in various cutting machinery and equipment to keep in functioning operational position.
  • Correctly undertake procedures for fault-finding and trouble-shooting in relation to dysfunctional cutting tools for repair and normal operational functioning.

    Integrated Assessment:

    Integrated Formative Assessment:
    The skills development provider will use the curriculum to guide them on the stipulated internal assessment criteria and weighting. They will also apply the scope of practical skills and applied knowledge as stipulated by the internal assessment criteria. This formative assessment leads to entrance into the integrated external summative assessment.

    Integrated Summative Assessment:
    An external integrated summative assessment, conducted through the relevant Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) Assessment Quality Partner is required for the issuing of this qualification. The external integrated summative assessment will focus on the Exit Level Outcomes and Associated Assessment Criteria.

    In order to qualify for an external assessment, learners must provide proof of completion of all required modules by means of statements of results and work experience records including the Foundational Learning Competence. 

    The purpose of this international comparability is to facilitate the development of a meaningful learning path and its associated curriculum incorporating knowledge, practical and work experience modules which will ensure compatibility, comparability, and compliance with existing international qualification specifications. It also enables the development of curriculum to be contextualised within existing international best practices. The desktop research undertaken indicates that the integrated and comprehensive focus of the development of a full trade qualification and part-occupational qualifications for Saw Doctor have similar qualifications or programmes in the following countries:
  • Australia/New Zealand.
  • Canada.
  • African countries: Swaziland; Kenya; Zambia.

    Australia/New Zealand:
    The Australian and New Zealand qualification authority offers a qualification called Saw Maker and Repairer: Specialisation: Saw Sharpener Level 4. Entry into this apprenticeship qualification is New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) skills Level 3 and their requirements are: Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) certificate 111 and at least two years of on-the-job training. At least three years of relevant experience may substitute for the formal qualifications listed above.

    The curriculum focuses on an integrated structure which provides a sequence of elements designed to develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes of the apprentice in a manner which enables him/her to advance in relation to the competency requirements of the occupation. The curriculum content consists of 31 topic areas, set out in the section: "Strategy to achieve course aims." To be awarded the certificate, competency must be achieved in relation to twenty-six (26) units of competency, of which, ten (10) are core units of competency and sixteen (16) are units of competency from the electives.

    The certificates are much more detailed in respect of various types of saws and tools required but such details do not appear too different to the overall composition of the draft South African qualification.

    Forestry and lumber milling remains one of Canada's priority industries for export, particularly in British Columbia. The industry experienced a downturn in the past five years but is rebounding and experiencing a revitalisation of the industry. Canada lists 222 saw mills as viable entities. The Ministry of Forests and Range and various associations ensure standardised delivery and certification of their lumber milling curriculum. The certificate issued is called Saw Doctor Level: 4.

    The Canadian Saw Doctor curriculum is implemented as a 4-year apprenticeship and is based on a similar approach to the three Part-qualifications as developed under the draft South African (SA) curriculum. Theirs is comprised of three certified shorter courses: Saw Filer (1 year); Benchman (1 year); Saw Fitter (2 years). Consecutive delivery of each of the courses leading to the 2-year fitter's course is not clear. Various topics in each of the certified courses include: Structure and Characteristics of Wood, Fundamentals of Wood Machining, Saws and Sawing, Band Sawing, Maintenance and Management of Tooling Machinery.

    Broadly assessed, the curriculum appears to cover the same topics and/or modules addressed in the draft South Africa curriculum.

    African Countries: Swaziland; Kenya; Zambia:
    In Swaziland, the National Forest Industries Training Centre ensures standardised implementation of the 4-year apprenticeship programme, which consists of a 1-year theory certificate course and three years of industrial practical training. The subjects include: Introduction to Computers; Wood Technology Fundamentals; Wood Machining Tools Technology; Circular Saw Maintenance Technology; Band Saw/Frame Saw Maintenance Technology; Resource Management; National and Strategic Studies; Entrepreneurship Skills Development.

    The above content and delivery are formalised in the following qualifications: Journeyman Class 1 Saw Doctor and National Certificate in Saw Doctoring. Providers of this training attended some sessions of our curriculum development with the hope of updating their curriculum.

    Saw doctor training is relatively new in Kenya, and the Kenyan Forestry Training Institute has only recently been given a modern saw mill by the Kenya Forest Service and has developed a single course with a number of topic elements pertaining to the development of Saw Doctoring, which is in its infancy of implementation. The areas covered are similar to our draft curriculum but limited in terms of depth and scope.

    Zambia is impacted negatively by the indiscriminate harvesting of its forests. The country only offers a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Wood Science and Technology, the entry requirements of which are purely academic.

    This qualification is comparable to those listed above in best practice and standards. The only observable differences are entry requirements and extent of details in the presentation of related topics in the curriculum. All countries are emphatic about the importance of practical training and on-the-job training for purposes of acquiring workplace experience. 

    This qualification offers horizontal and vertical articulation opportunities.

    Horizontal Articulation:
    This qualification articulates horizontally with the following qualification:
  • Occupational Certificate: Forestry and Related Industries Safety Health and Environment Officer National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Level 4.

    Vertical Articulation:
    This qualification articulates vertically with the following qualification:
  • National Certificate: Generic Management, NQF Level 5. 



    Qualifying for external assessment:
    In order to qualify for an external assessment, learners must provide proof of completion of all required modules by means of statements of results and work experience records including the Foundational Learning Competence.

    Additional legal or physical entry requirements:

    Criteria for the accreditation of providers:
    Accreditation of providers will be done against the criteria as reflected in the relevant curriculum on the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) website.

    The curriculum title and code is: Saw Doctor: 652403-000-00-00.

    Encompassed Trades:
    This qualification encompasses the following trades as recorded on the NLRD:
  • Saw Doctoring - Furniture (Cape) 60846 Trade.
  • Saw Doctoring - Furniture (Nat) 60930 Trade.

    Assessment Quality Partner (AQP).
    National Artisan Moderating Body (NAMB).

    Derived qualifications registered as part qualifications:
  • 652403-000-00-01, Saw Filer , Level 2 , 239 Credits.
  • 652403-000-00-00-02, Benchman,, Level 3, 276 Credits.
  • 652403-000-00-00-03, Head Saw Doctor , Level 4, 213 Credits. 


    This information shows the current accreditations (i.e. those not past their accreditation end dates), and is the most complete record available to SAQA as of today. Some Primary or Delegated Quality Assurance Functionaries have a lag in their recording systems for provider accreditation, in turn leading to a lag in notifying SAQA of all the providers that they have accredited to offer qualifications and unit standards, as well as any extensions to accreditation end dates. The relevant Primary or Delegated Quality Assurance Functionary should be notified if a record appears to be missing from here.

    All qualifications and part qualifications registered on the National Qualifications Framework are public property. Thus the only payment that can be made for them is for service and reproduction. It is illegal to sell this material for profit. If the material is reproduced or quoted, the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) should be acknowledged as the source.