I received this e-mail recently ……….
I saw the web page on steam saws at mendorailhistory.com and wanted to know if you can pass this email and attached photo along to your saw expert.
I was metal detecting on part of the old Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC and found this b;ade buried about a foot deep. What it left of the blade is 36 inches long. There is a doubler plate on both sides of the tab and they are riveted with two rivets on the blade end. There is a hole about 2 inches from the end of the tab that will accept a bolt or pin. I would like to know what make/model of equipment this came from and a manufacture date range for this equipment.
Here’s the pic that came with the e-mail ……… (Click to see full size)
Saw blade found in woods
As the CPA on the block I hadn’t a clue. So, I put out an all points bulletin to the members asking for help. Aside from the usual smart alec replies there was a view that this might be the blade from a bow saw. I looked up “Bow saws on Wiki”………………….
“…….. A bow saw is a type of frame saw. Its thin blade is held in tension by a frame. In English and American vocabulary it denotes a toothed blade suspended between two long narrow handles called “cheeks” that are supported and separated by a thin stretcher in the center of the handles, making a wide H shape (the cheeks form the uprights of the H, the stretcher the crossbar of the H). The blade is kept in tension with a turnbuckle or a twisted cord that runs parallel to the blade between the two cheeks but on the opposite side of the stretcher. If a cord is used, the cord is twisted with a toggle attached to one loop of the cord, adding tension. The toggle hits the stretcher, which keeps the cord from untwisting.”
In addition to the pics below I found a drawing showing how one might make one:
How to make a Bow Saw
There were quite a few pics illustrating bow saws.
This one shows a blade not too different from that found
Fine wood working Bow saw
Home made Bow Saw
Modern Bow Saw
These two photos show a Bow saw being used:
Traditional Bow Saw in use
Steel Bow saw
If you have a view/idea please let me have your tuppence worth.
The first dragsaws were reciprocating power saws using a six foot steel crosscut saws to buck logs to length. Dragsaws were the forerunners of the modern chainsaw. They were the first powered saws used in the logging operation. The earliest models were powered by steam from a donkey engine. Whilst I can;t be sure it looks like the one in this picture is steam powered.
Drag saw working
If you check the website you’ll find we have a nice page on dragsaws – check it out here.
The first dragsaws were reciprocating power saws using a six foot steel crosscut saws to buck logs to length. Dragsaws were the forerunners of the modern chainsaw. They were the first powered saws used in the logging operation. The earliest models were powered by steam from a donkey engine. The model in the picture below is gasoline powered and is atypical of those used from the 1920’s through the 1940’s and by some diehards until the 1950’s.
In theory they were portable. Hank Simonson used one in his youth . He said that portable only meant portable if you were very strong and fit as they weighed some 300 pounds. They were very reliable and very rugged and were significantly more efficient than cutting (bucking) by hand.
This is a new pic of a dragsaw in operation that I have uncovered. Click on the pic to read the text,
Today club member Steve Worthen and I trundled over the hill from the fog and cool of Fort Bragg to the sunny and hot in Willits. Our destination was Roots of Motive Power annual steam up. We had a great time sniffing at all the working steam fed machines and oohing and ahhing at the steam locos. Great stuff.
One thing I did not expect to see there was a working dragsaw. But I did as the pics below attest.
Description of working dragsaw at Roots of Motive Power 2012 Steam-up
Dragsaw in process of cutting a log
Before the days of dragsaws and chain saws the crosscut saw was used for the final cut in felling a tree and bucking (cutting into lengths) the fallen trunk. Keeping the crosscut saws sharp was the work of the Filer. Whilst the Filer’s job was very skilled and he was relatively well paid it is not a job you hear much about.
The Saw Filer often had building like a bunkhouse which provided him room to lay out the many saws he serviced. The space made it easy for the logger to locate his own saw that had been sharpened for him by the Filer. The Filer had a workbench where he sharpened the saws and adjusted the cutting edges. Each of the loggers had at least two saws, one in use while the other was being sharpened. At the end of each day the logger would leave the used saw with the Filer. In the morning he would pick up a sharpened one for that day’s use.
The Filer in his work room
The loggers were expected to sharpen their own axes. Cross cut saws were about 6 ft. in length with handles on both ends. These two man saws required coordinated pushing and pulling between the two men, thus each team had two saws with one being used till the noon break and the other the remainder of the day. These two men formed a team; once each man found a good partner, who had a good cutting stroke rhythm, they would continue to work together. Loggers (or Sawyers as they were also known) who had poor partners were not very productive and were always looking for a better partner, since they were paid by the board feet they cut.
Sometimes the Filer had a log inside so he could test his work. The saw hanging on the wall is a one-man crosscut saw used to trim timbers for bridges and trestles. It is sharpened just like the two man saws.
Filer’s workbench made from a piece of a trestle