THE OLD AND THE NEW

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Carrying out sawed lumber. Koletta on the engine. The Durward Stein-metz Mill, La Forge, Wisconsin.
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Stacking the 1957 crop of maple boards. Durward Steinmetz Mill, La Forge, Wisconsin.
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The Log Turner in action. Durward Steinmetz, La Forge, Wisconsin.
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Bringing logs to the mill. Durward Steinmetz, La Forge, Wisconsin.
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The 20 hp. Minnie pulling the Steinmetz Saw Mill.
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Loading logs on a truck with the fork lift. Steinmetz Mill, La Forge, Wisconsin.

La Forge, Wisconsin

THIS LITTLE STORY IS supposed to be an explanation of the old
‘Steam Engine’ and the new ‘Hydraulic Fork Lift’
working together in my sawmill, but a few lines of history of our
little mill may be of interest to some, so, we will start at the
beginning.

When we started sawing in 1946, my experience amounted to a few
hours spent watching other small mills run. My equipment consisted
of my Case 40 which I kept for steaming tobacco beds, a 1926 model
S International truck, and an old Frick Mill which had been so
rotted down and so many parts missing, that it had taken my spare
time for two years to rebuild it.

None of our troubles were serious, and the mill cut accurate
lumber right from the start. Each year I added equipment, and made
improvements. First I put in an edger and built a shed over the
mill. Next a concrete foundation under the mill kept it always in
line. Rollers to carry slabs and sawed lumber to the end of the
mill saved time and labor. Each year some of the logs were too
heavy to turn with cant hooks, so I built a simple log turner,
using a hydraulic pump which is driven by power from the mill and
two double acting hydraulic cylinders.

The little engine was doing very well, but it was overloaded. My
wife, Koletta, was fireman, and I thought that I was giving her a
hot, dirty job. What I didn’t realize until later was that the
steam bug had bitten her and she was enjoying every minute of it.
We drove the steamer out and put in a gas motor. We gave up the
inimitable sounds and smells of a wood-burning steam engine, for
the roar and speed of modern power.

The gas motor did very well, as gas motors go. It required
little space and little attention. It was more expensive to
operate. There is always cheap fuel available around a saw mill for
a steamer. The slab piles grew faster than ever. Chips and scraps
too small for the slab pile accumulated, and had to be hauled away.
There was a saving in labor, but the work was not as
interesting.

We had made a mistake, but I didn’t want to put the little
engine back in. In 1955 I declared that I was going back to steam
power. That fall I bought a 24 hp. Minneapolis from an old man who
wanted to quit steaming tobacco beds. We put it to work in the mill
right away. Except for a while when it was out for repairs, it has
done all the sawing since then. We are back to steam power to stay
this time. We hope.

There has always been a great amount of heavy lifting and
carrying around a small mill. We are always short of help. A
fork-lift looked like the answer. They had come into use near here
only recently, even in larger mills. Factory built the cost is
prohibitive, and most of them are either heavy and clumsy, or of
the small wheel type, which I cannot keep going in soft ground. In
December, 1956 a machinist friend of mine said he had time to help
build one. I borrowed some ideas from other lifts I had seen,
designed the rest the way I thought it should be, and made a scale
model to work by. I bought a truck to build it on and started
collecting steel and parts. About the only important parts that we
didn’t make ourselves were the hydraulic pump and control
valves and two of the 3 hydraulic cylinders. It took about two
months to build. There were so many things to change on the truck
besides building the lift. It is completely changed to travel the
other way. Steering wheel, foot pedals, gear shift and seat face
the drive wheels. The back was cut out of the cab and replaced with
a Plexi glass windshield. The forward and reverse speeds were
exchanged. The hydraulic pump is driven by the front end of the
crankshaft, so the hydraulic system is alive any time the motor is
running. It handles about 800 board feet of green hardwood lumber
easily. Total lifting height is about twelve and one half feet from
the ground to the bottom or the load. Wheelbase is nine feet and
one inch so it can be maneuvered in tight places.

It saves many steps and much time. Lumber is piled close to the
end of the mill in piles four feet wide and a convenient height.
Edgings ‘stickers’ are put between the layers of boards so
drying can start without re-piling. These small piles are carried
out on the forks and stacked three or four high until enough has
accumulated for a semi-trailer load. They are moved again with the
fork lift to a convenient place to take out the stickers and do any
necessary trimming of the boards. The stickers are put in a rack to
be carried back to the mill by the fork lift for re-use. The
packages of lumber are lifted onto the semi-trailer. Four by fours
of cull lumber are put between packages of lumber, so the forks can
be withdrawn. Slabs are piled in a rack near the mill. When a
bundle about four feet in diameter has accumulated, a single number
ten wire is bound tightly around the middle and the bundle carried
out with the lift. They could be handled in smaller bunches without
binding, but a much neater pile can be made, and the bundles can be
lifted again for hauling if desired. The forks can be pushed under
logs that lay on the; ground or pushed between logs if the pile is
high. Two big logs or three or four small ones are an average load
to carry to the mill. It also works well for loading logs onto a
truck if the ground is reasonably near level. I haven’t used it
for loading logs in railroad cars yet, but it would work very
well.

A few more words about the 24 hp. ‘Minnie’. Number 8673.
It was the last new one to come into Vernon County. Levi Allen was
a Minneapolis dealer. On July 30th, 1927 he took delivery of this
engine for his own use. Steam power was a long way down the road to
the land of memories; so, the price was cut by Minneapolis
Threshing Machine Co. It was a hard working engine in its’
younger years. Sawing lumber, threshing, shredding corn, and
steaming tobacco beds kept it hot most of the time. He run his
machinery at top speed, and worked his engines and his men hard.
After a few years of such work, Levi Allen was killed in one of his
saw mills powered by another 24 hp. Minneapolis. Number 8673 was
sold to one of his men and did nothing but steam tobacco beds until
1955. I have it restored mechanically but not in appearance. It
runs quietly, has good power and is a very easy steamer. I have
used it some for steaming tobacco beds and threshing, but the 20
hp. Advance and 40 Case will do most of that. They are a great
team. The old engine does its share of work and makes our share
more interesting. The new fork lift does most of the lifting and
carrying.

When you get steam and sawdust both in your blood, you at least
know what you are going to be doing part of next year. It’s the
little details that keep it interesting. No two days are alike. The
six o’clock whistle doesn’t mean-quit for today. It means-
Time to start getting ready for tomorrow.

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment