Circular saws were invented in the late 18th century, but were not widely adopted until the 19th century. Steam-powered sawmills ranged in size from portable models requiring two men to large factories employing hundreds of workers. The museum’s mill is typical of a medium-sized facility capable of sawing 12,000 to 15,000 board feet of lumber daily. Mills of this size became common in Pennsylvania following the end of the Civil War. The mill is a two-story structure housing sawing equipment above and steam-powered drive engines below. Logs are moved from the mill pond to the log deck using the jack ladder. Logs are rolled onto the saw carriage, “dogged” in-place, and then run through the head saw, edger saw, and cut-off or “tail” saw. Boards would be stacked in high piles using the elevated lumber ramps in the mill yard to dry and cure for six months to a year.
Take a look behind the barricades on the upper and lower levels of our sawmill. This footage was taken by Russ Greenman at the 2019 Bark Peelers’ Festival.