David Shearer

David Shearer and an 1880 Bartley sawmill during restoration. Courtesy of Wm. S. Strayer, R. D. 1, Dillsburg, Pennsylvania 17019.

Wm. S. Strayer

Content Tools

R.D.1, Dillsburg, Pennsylvania 17019.

Mr. Percy Beck, a retired machinist and certified welder, probably works as much or more than when he was earning his family living.

The past year he has completely rebuilt his 1908 Ellis Keystone thresher, then painted and lettered it as it was when new. It now stands in the Beck Shop and is a very attractive showpiece.

While this kept him busy at home, he found time to travel to Mr. David Shearer's sawmill where he had two projects to complete. The first was an 1880 Bartley sawmill which he assisted Mr. Shearer salvage from a briar patch in Western Pennsylvania. All the wooden parts were completely rotted away and the metal husk, engine and saw were in a deplorable condition requiring many newly machined parts and new babbitt bearings. The mill is now completed and painted ready to operate for the new owners The Ladies Auxiliary of the Williams Grove Steam Engine Association.

After they were through with the Bartley, Mr. Shearer decided to rebuild his 'bread and butter' sawmill and after hours of discussion with Mr. Beck, it was decided to build a steel-framed Frick mill to Shearer's specifications which included 4' x 12' beams for the husk frame and 5' beams for the ways with 4' pipe cross members welded into position. The husk was built several feet wider than the original which meant extending all the shafting with extra bearings. This is a great advantage for a one man operation as the operator can saw a large log or several small ones and by stacking the lumber on the husk can remove the entire pile at one time.

Anyone who has ever operated a Frick mill with the antifriction bearings and belt feed, knows of their habit of carriage creeping. This one does not creep and the cure was so simple, it is unbelievable.

The welding and some other innovations make this the most rugged and free running portable mill the writer has ever watched operate.

Last winter when yours truly began restoring a 91/2' x 10' Frick portable engine, Mr. Beck came to my rescue by machining a new balanced valve and rod assembly as well as a new stuffing box and packing gland.

These parts were first cast from the original Frick patterns then machined according to the original blueprints. We later decided to convert the engine to a cut-away showpiece by placing plexo-glass windows on the steam chest and cylinder head to show the public just what occurs in a steam engine while it is in operation.

We are planning to turn the engine with a small gasoline engine. The entire outfit is to be mounted on a trailer on which I am now working.

It is surprising just how much work is required for these old showpieces and I sometimes wonder if the public appreciates it.