Chugging Along: A Steam-Powered Sawmill Still Makes Its Mark

[Rural Heritage TV] has video of a private tour of a working, two-story, steam-powered sawmill at Lake Itasca, Minnesota. This is believed to be one of the only working steam-powered band-sawmills in the country with a shotgun (or reciprocating) feed carriage. The carriage moves back and forth with a log while a monstrous 44-foot long bandsaw cuts pieces off on every stroke. There’s even a log turning mechanism, because if there’s one thing that never changes, it’s that time is money.

There is great footage of the whole thing in action, and also a serious tour of just how much work was needed to keep such a tool running. For example, in its heyday a machine like this would be swapping bands out for maintenance and sharpening every few hours.

Viewers unfamiliar with such machinery may notice the lack of rims or guard rails on the bandsaw and other belts and pulleys. How do bands stay centered on spinning wheels without falling off? The crowned pulley was the steam era’s solution, providing a means for belts to self-center without any need for rims or other additions.

This tour of the sawmill is a nifty peek at a technology that, at one point, ruled the roost. Watch it in action in the video, just under the page break. If that leaves you hungry to know more, there’s a second video that goes into added detail about saw sharpening and more.

One last tip: if you’re hungry to know more about the history of the steam engine, The Perfectionists is absolutely a book you should read because it goes into fascinating detail about that, and more.

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Bringing Da Vinci’s Saw Mill To Life

DaVinci’s notebook — the real one, not the band — was full of wonderous inventions, though many were not actually built and probably weren’t even practical with the materials available at the time (or even now). [How To Make Everything] took one of the Master’s drawings from 1478 of a sawmill and tried to replicate it. How did he do? You can see for yourself in the video below.

There are five different pieces involved. A support structure holds a water wheel and a saw. There’s a crank mechanism to drive the saw and a sled to move the wood through the machine. It sounds simple enough, although we were impressed and amused that he made his own nails to be authentic. No Home Depot back in the 1470s, after all.

Watching him produce, for example, castle joints, makes us think, “Hey, we could do that!” But, of course, we probably can’t, at least not by hand. We must admit we are pretty dependent on CNC tools and 3D printing, but we admire the woodwork, nevertheless. There’s some pretty cool metal working, too.

We thought the waterwheel would be the easy part, but it turned out to be a bit of a problem. Things worked, but it was slower than you would think. We’ve seen sawmills put together before. Da Vinci worked for money, and there was always money in weapons so he did design a lot of them, too.

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Hackaday Links: March 5, 2017

Statistically, more celebrities died in 2016 than would be expected. 2017 is turning out to be a little better, but we did recently lose the great [Bill Paxton]. Game over, man. Game over. A few years ago, [Benheck] built his own pinball machine. It’s Bill Paxton Pinball. A great build, and worth revisiting, just like another viewing of Aliens and Apollo 13.

Some of the most popular 3D-printable objects are [flowalistik]’s low-poly Pokemon series. They’re great models, even though he missed the most obvious Pokemon. Of [flowalistik]’s low-poly Pokemon models, the Bulbasaur is a crowd favorite. Because this model is constructed from flat planes joined at an angle, it’s possible to make a huge low-poly Bulbasaur on a laser cutter or a CNC router. Go home Bulbasaur, you’re drunk. We are eagerly awaiting details on how this grass and poison-type tank was made.

For the last few months, [Matthew Cremona] has been building a huge bandsaw mill in his backyard. It’s built for cutting logs into lumber, and this thing is massive. He’s been posting build log videos for the last few months, but this week he’s finally gotten to where we want him to be: he’s cutting gigantic logs. In the coming weeks, he’s going to be cutting a maple crotch that’s 60 inches (1.5 meters) across.

It’s still a bit early, but here are the details for the 2017 Open Hardware Summit. It’s October 5th in Downtown Denver. If you want to speak at OHS, here you go. If you want to sponsor OHS, here you go. Tickets are over on Eventbrite.

What happens when you give away a new Raspberry Pi Zero W to the fifth caller? This. In other news, Adafruit somehow acquired a real New York City payphone. I’ve heard they were replacing these with WiFi hotspots, which means there are a ton of payphones in a warehouse somewhere? Can anyone hook us up?