Saw Mill Characters

Content Tools

R. D. 4, Savannah, Missouri

AS LIKE VERY MUCH to read the articles that other men write I thought I would put in my nickels worth. I will give it the name of Saw Mill Characters I have met.

First the one who probably had a college degree as he could tell you at the first glance and feet of travel at the rim, tension and everything else. Like the feet and speed of every belt and pounds of pull it would deliver or what strain any size of shaft would stand. He had a new outfit and mostly sawed soft wood. One old mill man I knew always had a name for every kind of a mill man, such as if the man frequently adjusted the guide, he called his a guide pin sawyar. If he frequently changed teeth he was a New Tooth Sawyer. So we will call this man a New Tooth Sawyer.

Well a fellow brought him a large frozen black oak to be sawed. Was he surprised when he found he could not saw it, at least until he got an old mill man to straighten him out.

Then there were two other men. One we will call uncle George and the other uncle Hutch. Both men were from the Old School. One had missed the school house entirely, the other had a little book learning and both knew their saws. The one that missed the road to the school house claimed he was born in a saw pit and cut his teeth on a cant hook but just the same could saw good lumber. He could not measure up the feet he sawed but could guess within a few feet. It wan always so many hundred or thousand, which ever it happened to be, and 85 ft. I remember once he sawed a lot of bridge lumber for the county. He said it was 30 thousand and 85 ft. The Highway Engineer measured it up and the sawyer was so near correct the Engineer never changed the figures and never knew the difference for a long time.

The other old fellow we call uncle George had a swedge that looked like the one Columbus had and an old file and old claw hammer but when he had finished filing and swedging his old saw would sing straight through any log. I used to help him some, set ratchets. He would always say 'set it at 12 and two of them little marks the other side' or 'set it at 15 and one of them little marks this side' Meaning, of course, of an inch. It was always right.

Another funny one was a very good mill man whose saw got so it wobbled and would not run a straight line regardless of how it was filed. Well, a fellow told him there was no need to send it off but to take it up the country about 20 miles to an old mill man and he would straighten it out for him. So the man said out of curiosity he thought he would. After arriving at the old fellows place he had a very strong desire to turn around and go home. He thought maybe he would just buy a new saw anyway and he would see what the old fellow would do to it.

The old man told him to bring the saw out to the wood pile. He looked around and picked out a chunk of wood with a square end had an old hammer with a piece of lath for a handle. Then he picked and picked and sighted turned the saw over a half dozen times or more and picked some more here and there on it. Finally the old fellows face lit up and he said, 'I think she will be all right now.' The man thought he would hate to pay him for what he did but hated to hurt his feelings so he asked him, 'What do I owe you?' The old fellow said, 'Not a penny, glad to help you out'. So the man thought, I am just out the trip. So he took the saw home. Next morning before crating it to send away he thought, I will just try it for curiosity. He put it on the mandrel, got up steam, started it up to full speed and could not tell it was running by looking at it edgewise. He thought, it does run nice, maybe I should try it. He rolled on a big oak and she came out straight on the line. So he said, 'I am going back and make that old man take some pay or kick his pants.'

All the old fellows I knew could run a 54 inch, 10 gauge solid tooth saw in frozen timber without any trouble. You. don't find them every day in the week, yet some could hardly write their name. They were good old fellows who learned the hard way and they were always glad to help anyone without pay.

Let's hear from some more saw mill men.