The Sawmill

A sawmill is a valuable piece of equipment on a farm and in any rural area where woodlands can provide timber for sawing. Rough cut boards provide lumber for farm and rural buildings..... or the rough lumber can be dried and planed smooth for fine furniture and cabinetry.
Click on thumbnail photos for a larger view

A Red Maple table made from lumber cut from our woodland

The sawmill can also provide income in rural areas by providing ties and timbers for railroads and mines as well as rough boards for the local market. Some large mills buy quality rough cut hardwood boards for the furniture industry from small home operations, called "peckerwood" mills.

Our first sawmill was a Belsaw M14 sawmill which we found in disrepair on a farm in Northern New Jersey. It took major rebuilding to make it work, but it made lumber for us. Belsaw was bought by Foley in 1977 and the Belsaw circular sawmills were still made in the 90s but are now discontinued.
Our present mill is an Ireland #6. It is big enough to be used in commercial operations but small enough for two men to operate. With a crew of 3 or 4 men the Ireland #6 mill can easily put out 10,000 board feet of lumber in a day. The Ireland Corporation of Norwich, New York ceased making sawmills in the 1940s, but the Ireland Corporation continued until the 1980s. The Cotton-Hanlin Corporation supplied parts for Ireland mills, and then they sold the parts business to Collins Mill in Cayuta. New parts were still produced on demand at a foundry in Pennsyvania until a few years ago when the foundry burned, but I have been told by Derek Collins that his father Tim Collins still has all the plans and molds for Ireland parts.

Belsaw-The "One Man Sawmill"

The Belsaw Company offered the farmer an inexpensive light small basic mill on which the log carriage was pushed by hand. The Belsaw brochure explained how the farmer could saw and sell lumber and use the profits to buy a manual winch to move the log carriage and how later he then could use his increased earnings to buy an automatic power feed. More profits could then be used to buy all the Belsaw labor saving extras to make the mill a profitable enterprise. Although it was small and light, the Belsaw was capable of sawing large logs but at a slower rate than the larger heavier mills. It had the advantage of being able to saw small otherwise wasted trees and turn them into much needed cash for the rural landowner.

Belsaw blade slices a Spruce log
Look at my dark beard! No gray!
Nice boards as Grandpa Martin and Uncle Bill give it a try
the Belsaw is small but effective

The Ireland #6 is a heavy duty high capacity mill

Ireland Foundary

Ireland Mills were made in Norwich,NY
I have an Ireland #6

Saw Blade
A 46 inch circular saw blade runs at 500 RPM
It has 32 inserted teeth
Each tooth is replaceable but can be sharpened
A "shank" holds in an "inserted tooth"
Sawyer view
View from the "Head Sawyer's" platform
The "Head Sawyer" operates the mill and decides on each cut
Operating lever
The "stick" operates the carriage forward and back
The stick is the control that moves the log into the blade
Four headblocks with sharp "dogs" hold the log
As they move forward the log is advanced closer to the blade for each cut
The scoreboard allows the Sawyer to set the log for each cut
The marks allow boards of varying thickness to be cut plus allowing for the "kerf" of the blade
The log carriage wheels run on track
The track must be aligned perfectly past the blade
The mill tracks are 45 feet long
The cable drum winds the steel cable
The cable moves the log carriage forward and back
Log deck
A log deck for rolling the logs onto the carriage
The deck is made of steel railroad rails
Poplar (Aspen) logs loaded on the deck
The deck is filled with logs before sawing
sawing log
The log is first squared into a "cant"
This log already has three sides cut and a first pass on this face
A Ford Commander 6000 tractor powers the mill
This old Ford runs well but has no forward gears
The PTO (Power Take Off) from the Ford turns the main shaft (arbor)
The arbor turns the blade and powers the receder
(Hydraulics power a motor that runs the cable drum
The Ford provides the hydraulic power
power receder
The power receder speeds up sawing by moving the headblocks with live power
Taper levers
The taperlevers
Levers allow the headblocks to be staggered for tapered logs
The rollers help roll away the cut lumber
The "Tail Sawyer" removes cut boards
truck frame
The mill was mounted on a truck frame by a past owner
He had used the truck engine to drive it on the road
sawdust pile
Sawdust piles up, a major byproduct
The sawdust chain moves it away from the blade
hemlock and poplar
Hemlock and Poplar boards pile up
Slab mess
After a few hours sawing
No Tail Sawyer and the slabs and lumber pile up
Slab management is a major job
Firewood is the only use for slabwood
cut slabs
Slabwood is cut into firewood

Return to Messineo Homepage