A century-old Aultman and Taylor sawmill once owned by the Ross family is still going strong at an Illinois show.
Left: John Ross (in the foreground) and a helper turn a log so the flat side is down, allowing sawmill workers to make future cuts square. Massive logs are a chore to maneuver. “I refer to those as ‘test logs,’” John says with a smile. “They don’t test the mill; they test us.” Center: The sawmill blade works its way through the log in a matter of seconds, leaving a large slab of lumber that can be cut into smaller boards. Right: John takes time to oil the sawmill’s moving parts and remove sawdust while tractors or steamers are being changed.
A stack of freshly cut lumber waits to be loaded onto a wagon for delivery. Most of the lumber processed at the Sycamore sawmill goes to the owners of the land where the trees were grown.
John Ross aligns a log so it can be locked into place for the first cut, which will remove bark from one side while making a square cut. Once the log is in place and secured, the load is lighter. “Playing with the stick ain’t much work,” John says, referring to the large lever that puts the log into place before it moves into the blade and back.
This giant blade cuts through logs and full tree trunks like they were toothpicks, turning them into lumber of various sizes ready for use.