Sandstone Heritage Trust - News

HTN 137 - Old American Edger Saw Restored - by Andy Selfe

15th September 2006

Members of the public are fascinated to watch the old Edger Saw working at the show
Road train arrives at a show with the exhibit, and support vehicle, a 1928 Fargo
Old American Edger Saw Restored

When the farm next door was sold for development recently, the elderly owner, Mr F von Solms-Baruth walked around with the buyer pointing at various pieces of old machinery, saying, "Zees ees for Mistair Selfee". The farm had been home to his business called Top Poles, and amongst the equipment was a reciprocating Edger Saw. Unfortunately he couldn't remember what make it was, but he described it as 'Old American'. Several years ago I had helped him with a forklift to lift it out of its concrete pit where it had been standing waist-deep in water. He also pointed out three carriages for clamping logs to, which run on rails, set up next to the saw. The reason he thought of me was he had previously given me a Lister AHK and a rare Shanks 2CA vertical diesel engine, which I had restored and given him large colour photographs of them. A good investment, it seems!
The old sawmill being pulled down
I knew I didn't have the facilities to restore the saw or display it, but I did also have a Daimler Benz M 202 B 2-cylinder vertical Diesel engine, which was popular with the sawmilling industry, also waiting for an opportunity like this. The chance came when I met up with Keith Wetmore of Somerset Timbers, just over the mountain. He was keen to get involved in a restoration project and jumped at the idea of mounting the saw, engine and trolley on a 4-wheel drop-centre road trailer he has. I was more than happy to give all of this and a heap of suitable pulleys and bearings to Keith to make his project possible.
Waiting for an opportunity: The crankcase of the Edger Saw after lying waist-deep in water for many years. The tower on which the frame saw is attached stands behind it. Chuffing Daimler-Benz engine, whirling laminated wooden connecting rod, and straight reciprocating saw blade all make an attractive exhibit at any show!

I had been sent a video of the recent Steam Rally at Rangiora in New Zealand, at which the Hawkins family had demonstrated their abilities as vintage sawmillers. This we studied in depth, looking for ideas. They operate exclusively with steam, using four or five engines to haul, load and saw logs into planks. They also have a crane which we could see would be necessary for handling the logs. The video showed how they hook their logs, with a chain only slightly longer than the logs and a butcher's type hook at each end, which they hook into each end of the log, and they lift the chain in the middle.

With just five weeks to go before the West Cape Tractor & Engine Club Show at the beginning of September, Keith and his mechanic, Tim Delport, got stuck in. I had told them there were four weeks to go. Luckily, it turned out, because they needed five to complete the project! The engine and saw were mounted in the lower part of the trailer and rails for the trolley were built between the platforms at both ends. Behind the engine and saw runs the line shafting, with an over-centre clutch on one set of pulleys. There is a flat-belt pulley on the line shafting which can be driven from an outside source. I scratched out an old hand winch from my junk for them to use with the gallows-type crane which they made and mounted between the log supply platform at one end of the trailer and the saw trolley.

As a result of the crankcase of the saw's immersion in water for all those years, that part of the machine had to be stripped completely, cleaned, de-rusted and have new bearings fitted, and the variable speed drive inside the crankcase for the carriage had to be opened and repaired. The saw frame moves up and down using wooden vee blocks in cast iron guides, these were in good order, and are adjustable to take up slack. Only a paint-job was needed on the engine, luckily, for this show. It will be opened and restored internally and painted the correct colour in due course.

Keith's Carpenters had also been busy, making a new laminated Pitman arm copied from the original, which acts as a connecting rod between the crank wheel and the frame for the saw blade. They had also risen to the occasion by making wooden bannister rails for the steps up onto the trailer, decking and other attractive details! As this is to be an advertising project for the firm, the signwriters were busy as well!

I had only seen the project at a very early stage, so I knew vaguely what to expect, but the finished project was beyond my wildest imagination! To watch the saw slowly working through the log, producing an accurate, well-finished plank, or as they were doing later in the show, square beams, was an education. The starting procedure of the old engine, hand cranked with glowing fuses in their holders, then the happy chuffing of the engine and the rotating crank wheel, whirring wooden connecting rod and flashing steel blade, as the whole trailer bounces merrily..... Talk about a crowd-puller!