Hull-Oakes Lumber may be the last steam-powered commercial saw mill in the country, and they’re one of the few mills capable of cutting large timbers up to 85 ft. long. The mill has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1996. Large long timbers are still used in railroad trestles, the restoration of historic structures, and for the spars and masts of ships. By coincidence, the day I arrived the mill was cutting an 80-ft. long timber for the restoration of the C.A. Thayer, an early 20th century three-masted schooner used to transport lumber along the West Coast.
In 1934 Ralph Hull went into the sawmill business by leasing a mill which had been closed since the beginning of the Depression. Hull started building a plant on the current site in 1938. Right up until he passed away, in May 2002, he continued to check in on operations, but his grandson, Todd Nystrom, now runs the mill, located about fifteen miles south of Corvallis, OR.
Operation of the Mill
Trucks arrive loaded with logs.
The waggoner, a log-handling machine, grabs the logs before the binders are released, then lifts the logs clear of the truck.
The truck pulls out…
and the waggoner drops the logs over the log brow…
into the log pond.
|Then the truck backs up under the A-frame hoist, the driver releases the trailer…|
|and the trailer is hoisted “piggy back” onto the truck.|
The waggoner operator also doubles as the “pond monkey.” Back in the early 20th century, a pond man walked the logs in the pond, arranging them with a pikepole and stacking them at the log lift. But today, a pond boat quickly shuffles the logs, picking and ordering them at the base of the lift, so the boat operator is often called a “pond bronc.”
|The bark that accumulates in the pond is lifted on a conveyor up to the mill, where it’s transported to the chipper. All debris goes to the chipper.|
Once the logs are ordered and ready to be lifted, the boat operator goes back to off-load another truck of logs.
|The log-lift hoists the logs individually out of the pond…|
|and drops them into a chain-driven conveyor, called the “long transfer,” which transports the logs through…|
|the barker, where the bark is stripped off and conveyed to the chipper.|
The logs continue on the conveyor to the “short transfer,” or log table, where they stack up. The sprocket-and-chain-operated table moves the logs individually to the log cradle (see photo, below) which holds each log in preparation for a short tumble down to the log deck and the log turner.
The log turner lifts, rolls, and shoves each log onto the carriage. The heavy steel arms—operated by steam cylinders—can throw a six-foot diameter, eighty-foot-long log. At the extreme right side of the photograph (below), the next log is held by the cradle.
This 80-ft. log (see photo, right) is carefully rolled and positioned in the carriage prior to making the first cut. All the cutting operations are powered by steam.
Now the log has been rotated to minimize waste. The first cut removes mostly wane—the round and bark-covered edge of the log.
The off-bearer (right side of photo, below) secures the fall-off until the log clears the blade, though large logs require more help. Here the ratchet setter lends a hand, too.
The carriage rides on tracks, like a railroad car. The movement of the carriage is controlled by the sawyer. The sawyer looks at his order board then motions to the rachet setter, who operates the carriage, racheting the log closer or farther from the blade. Hand signals are the only way to communicate with all the thunderous noise. Everyone wears ear protection.
The sawyer and the rachet setter must be sharp and quick, as the carriage moves the log past the blade quickly. Two fingers means the log must be moved out for a two-inch cut; a fist or a connected finger and thumb followed by four fingers means a 14-in. cut. In this way, the rachet setter knows that the carraige must be returned to the log turner so the log can be rotated before the next cut.
The Sawyer controls the movement of the carriage with the wooden-handled lever on the left, while simulataneously controlling log-loading and log-turning with the control on the right. The control on the right also operates the “short transfer” chain conveyor and the log cradle.
|The rachet-setter is seated behind controls that operate the movement of the log on the carriage, and controls that secure the log to the carriage.|
This log now lies flat on a clean cut, ready for another pass through the band mill, which squares the timber in preparation for making a new mast for the C.A. Thayer. The mast is so long that transporting the log required a truck-and-trailor with stearable rear wheels. The finished timber will be transported by barge to the ship restoration project in San Francisco.
|The off-bearer works right beside the blade, as the mill squares up the timber.|
|The off-bearer relies on an assortment of tools to help move both slabs and sawdust away from the headrig.|
|Long timbers become a hands-on operation when they’ve developed a slight bow.|
|Hull-Oakes specializes in cutting long logs and big ones, too, over 6-ft. in diameter.|
|The off-bearer guides the second cut onto the rollers,|
|and helps pivot the slab slightly. Gravity does the rest.|
|The slab is shoved tight against the straight-edge fence of the edger table before going through the edger.|
|The edger cuts wide slabs…|
|into narrower beams and boards.|
|All of the fall off—the bark, the wane and waste—goes into the wood chipper. Some of the resulting material is used to fire the boilers, but most of the chips are shipped to Toledo, a nearby paper company.|
|After cross-cutting for length,|
|timbers and beams are hoisted to a pallet, loaded on a lumber carrier,|
|and stacked for shipment.|
|The over-sized bandsaw blade runs around two wheels in the headrig. The headrig includes the blade, pulleys, and protective housing.|
|The blade is removed for sharpening every two hours. The doors on the blade housing swing open and a carraige moves the blade off the pulleys…|
|then lowers the blade to the ground. The saw filer, with assistance,|
|guides the blade onto a long dolly.|
It only takes two men to position the blade…
in several careful steps…
into the sharpening station.
|The carborundum grinder must be dressed before sharpening each blade, then the saw filer calibrates the machine for the stone, adjusts the travelers, and starts the machine, which…|
Though the saw filer still has to keep an eye on the process.
|The shark-size teeth on this blade are a little larger than those found on most band-saw blades.|
|This old boiler, now used to store water, has the doors removed, revealing the inner tubing.|
|The heat from the fire below circulates through the tubes, boiling the water within the tank.|
|The fires are fueled by a mixture of sawdust, planer dust, and bark,|
|transported on conveyor belts from the mill,|
|and fed into the furnaces. Two boilers supply steam to the steam engines.|
The headrig, carriage, edger, and log-table are powered by steam engines. The main engine, an Ames twin-cylinder, built in 1906 and still operating, powers the headrig and edger. A second steam engine powers the carriage, which is drawn back and forth on its tracks by a cable-and-pulley system.
The steam engines have fewer breakdowns than any other equipment at the mill. The larger engine has two 16-in. cylinders, an 18-in. stroke, and the pulley is 8 ft. in diameter. The engine is 13 ft. long and 10 ft. 5 in. wide.
But it’s an assortment of chains…
and gears that provide the fine tuning power of this mill.
|The operation of the mill is dependent upon the millwrights, who repair everything from hydraulic lines, to steam engines, to boilers.|
|The millwrights have to know every inch of the plant, and how to operate nearly every aspect of the mill.|
(This article originally appeared on GaryMKatz.com)
I was fortunate to receive a link to your article on the historic Hull-Oakes Sawmill in Corvalis Oregon from my friend Bud. What a wonderful piece. The photos and history are great.
I was born and raised in Siskiyou County, McCloud, California. Our timber industry has fallen on hard times I (and the trees grow like weeds). McCloud had a steam powered mill, then electric…now gone.
May I please post the link of the Hull-Oakes Sawmill on the McCloud, California page? It would fill an empty space for a lot of us who grew up there.
Where is this sawmill ?
Name and contact info or town and state.
Google Hull-Oakes Sawmill for directions and contact information. The mill is located south west of Corvallis, OR. Here’s an awesome video from their website: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=idDUEYIyijQ
This mill is not located in Corvallis OR it is located in Bellfountain, OR but is under the postal code of Monroe, OR
Just looked at this post and read it for the first time. I have heard of it many years ago, but have never had the time to go visit.
It warms my heart to see such a great business still around. I will share this with all my fb friends and family as well. They will love this too.
A friend forwarded the internet address for this mill article. I don’t know when this was done but what a wonderful article!!! I grew up around sawmills not far from this one and my dad built/rebuilt a number of small independent ones, including a steam powered one out of Wauconda, Washington. This was in 1947 and it probably isn’t there anymore. I was in grade school at the time and being small I earned my spending money crawling inside the boiler and knocking the mineral scale off of the tubes. OSHA would have us all in jail today but I thought it was a good way to live. No electricity or radio but lots of fish in the beaver ponds and no lack of adventure.
I worked summers at my dad’s mill out of Newport Washington right on through college, Grad school and the first summer of marriage. My new bride and I had a bunk house with an electric plate, small fridge and mice. She made me run the trap line before she would get up, just a city kid.
Dad’s mill has been gone for some time and my bride and I are nearing our 50th anniversary. Dad lived to be 97 and he blamed it on “sawmilling.” I still have many of his tools and do a lot of woodworking, mostly furniture using hand tools he passed on to me.
It was a wonderful life and I’m going to make a trip to the Hull-Oaks mill early this summer just to smell the sawdust and hear the sounds.
Regards and thanks again!
By the way, the “off-bearer” was known as the “tail sawyer” at our mills.
Thank you for the terminology!! I’ve received a few ‘corrections’ and additions–like most industries back then, before we had a Starbucks on every corner of every town, there were regional differences in terminology. Too bad we’ve lost so much of that unique regional character.
What a beautiful piece. I can smell the steam, the wood dust and feel the noise of the machinery. Well done, now that was a band saw blade! I am from UK we don’t see timber this big.
Gary, I found the Hull-Oakes sawmill website very interesting and would like to show it to a group if it is available on vhs or dvd. Could you let me know if it is? Or perhaps give me a contact at Hull-Oakes. Would really appreciate it. We are a hardwood mill in Pa., but of course, have an interest in speciality mill operations anywhere. Thanks, Tony
I just toured the mill last week – September 19th. They have a dvd and a booklet describing the mill’s operation for sale. – charlie
Good Morning Gary, Sadly I only found out about your great Hull-Oakes presentation on line today. I am wondering if you have this available in a published book form as I really like to sit back and enjoy reading material like this in that form.
Our daughters family operates a small Trim & Moulding Co. in Durham Ont. that has been in business for more than 25 years and has 8 full time employees. They have had to go high tech to stay in business and our Grandson and their Son-in-Law are well trained to carry on a small town business that looks after the custom needs of high end home builders in their area.
Originally started out with a 1929 – 36 in. 440 volt Tanowitz Bandsaw that was used as an online rip saw but eventually it could not keep up to the new moulders. They mill all scrap to usable square dimension and glue up for special balusters etc. It takes one full time employee to make this a profitable part of their business, rather than high percent raw material loss.
I applaud your obvious fine effort to keep the woodworking trades professional and profitable. Hope you can answer my question and can order video if that is all that is available. Thanks, Joe, Ontario Canada
Sorry, I haven’t published this article in any form other than online. I hope to return to the mill this summer and add some video to the story.
There’s a book which includes this particular mill in it:
“Modeling a Steam Powered Sawmill, Hull Oakes, McLean & Sturgeon’s Sawmills” but I only found it on E-Bay, not at my local library.
Very interesting article about the Hull-Oakes Sawmill.
A question about the saw blade….
What is the function of the “scallops” opposite the shark teeth?
Do these engage some kind of mating roller in the over-arm and lower guide?
The ‘teeth’ on the back of the blade seem to be used only by the sharpening system, which registers and automatically advances the blade to the precise location for sharpening each tooth.
The teeth in the backside of the saw are usually called sliver teeth. They are there in case a broken piece of wood or a sliver hits the saw as the carriage is being brought back to make another cut. Insted of the saw possibly being pushed off the wheel the sliver tooth will cut through it. These teeth are effective and alot easier to maintain than the swagged tooth on the front side.From my knowledge as a sawfiler , I haven’t seen them used as a means to locate the blade during sharpening.
The Weyerhaeuser mill I was at in Klamath Falls Oregon had a full set of teeth on both sides of the band and the rig cut both directions. Our rigs were steam shotguns, those were the longest cylinders and rods I have ever seen – we could take a 25 foot section if I remember correctly.
Loved this article Gary – and what a fantastic treasure of woodworking “Americana” you have displayed here…a road trip may be in store!!
Alec Milstein, Venice, Ca.
what an awesome telling of a really cool story. If I ever get back to Oregon, I would love to tour this mill. Thanks again for telling a story of the great work we are capable of doing in this country.
Nice article, interesting story, but the claim to the last steam-powered mill in the US is off. Southern Maryland has several Amish run steam-powered sawmills. Those are large commercial sawmills.
I searched online for thirty minutes and couldn’t find a steam powered mill still in operation in Maryland, let alone a commercial mill run by the Amish. Please send me more information. I’d love to visit those mills, too! I’ll be out there next week. I also changed the text of the article and it now reads “what may be one of the last”. I’m so sorry for making such a ‘claim.’ Please send me information on the other commercial steam-powered mills you know of. Thanks,
WOW! What a cool place to visit. Thanks for sharing your trip.
What Make/brand of camera do you use? I’ve not invested into the digital beyond point and shoot.
I first visited that mill in 2006, I think, and wrote the story and published it on my website in 2007. Fine Homebuilding also published a version of that story: http://www.finehomebuilding.com/how-to/article/steam-powered-sawmill.aspx. We decided to re-publish the article on TiC because of recent interest in the story. But back then, I think I was using a Fuji digital camera, one of the first good 35m versions. Then I returned to the mill a year or so later with a Canon 1D. I’ve since sold that and moved up to a Canon 5D, which I’d love to take back to Hull-Oakes. It’s very dark in there and there are also shafts of daylight coming in from the front of the mill. So lighting is really difficult. I had a tough time and had to do a lot of work on the photos in Photoshop to make them presentable, but with the 5D I know I could take superb pictures even in that hostile environment–and video, too. But that equipment isn’t for everyone. I’ve been hooked on photography for years and rationalize the expense because of all the articles the cameras help me photograph.
Great article. I live approx. 35 miles from Corvalis.I didn’t even know this mill existed. I grew up in Cottage Grove a major logging town south of Corvalis. My Dad worked in many sawmills and also set chokers. I remember him talking about it often. But, at the time, I didn’t have any idea, how dangerous setting chokers was, until I started watching that reality show “AxeMen”.
Thanks again for the great article.
Really cool stuff, Gary! I love the picture of the saw filer overseeing the sharpening process.
I’ve enjoyed sawmills since I saw a water wheel powered mill at Old Sturbridge Village when I was a little kid. Please do a video follow up when you get back to the mill. I would love to see that blade in action and the guys coaxing the logs to adjust for bows.
Wow… Loved the article… My shop is full or wood working machinery dating back to 1910 but this just puts everything into perspective.
Great story, where is the Discovery Channel when you need them?
Very nice article!
Brought back memories of a fully operational steam powered mill museum my wife and I visited 15 years ago on a trip to Nova Scotia – the Southerland Steam Mill. Two floors with all the cutting/shaping tools belt driven off of a working steam engine. At the time, everything was fully functional, and once a month a crew would show up, fire up the boiler and manufacture trim off of the original templates.
The ground floor was the working saw mill. Lumber stacked above the boiler to dry, the next floor had all the cutting /shaping tools. It’s amazing to see the thought that went into building the place, right up to barrels on the roof that were filled with water from the boiler tank below to keep the roof shingles wet to avoid fires!
Couple of links for you:
Great article. The language of the mill was probably the most fascinating. I think there are several challenging final Jeopardy questions there ie ‘What are pond monkeys best at?’
This is easily the most entertaining article I’ve read in a long time. Very informative. I especially liked this particular caption: “The shark-size teeth on this blade are a little larger than those found on most band-saw blades.”
Ironically, the movie “Sometimes a Great Notion” has been on cable TV this month. Great cast and I watch it whenever I can. More articles like this, Gary!
Spectacular article! Here’s a link to some great photos about the CA Thayer restoration:
My bus to work takes me right past this boat. One of these days I’ll hop off and see how the project is going.
Thanks so much for including the link to the restoration of the CA Thayer. That really ties in so well with this story. Awesome to see that magnificent ship rebuilt!
GREAT article, in depth with such vivid pictures that you feel like you’ve worked in the mill. or could with information presented ! Thanks for exploring and sharing.
YouTube clip of Hull-Oakes
A wonderful article on a sawmill our business, Dunn Lumber Co., Seattle, WA. has ordered timbers from. One very minor correction: you state that in 1934 Mr. Hull leased the mill that had been “closed since the depression.” In fact the country was in the depth of the depression that lasted throughout the 1930’s. So it was an amazing feat of optimism for Mr. Hull to decide to go into business in that year and a testament to his business skills that he prospered!
Thanks for the great story!
Thanks for a great correction, Rob. You’re right. I should have said “closed since the beginning of the depression”! It was a heck of a time to stick your neck out. I was particularly impressed by the ‘family’ connections at the mill–how many family members worked there over the years, and not just the families of the owners. That business is a wonderful example of the way life used to be, when people grew up and never moved far from home, worked for the same companies, until the companies themselves became extensions of the ‘family.’
That is a big band saw!! So cool Gary -Thanks for the pictures and info.
Great story. There is something captivating about old machines and systems. I love taking tours (some not so legal) of old factories and mills.
Most people who visit this old sawmill consider it to be little more than an interesting holdover from the past. In fact, we may be looking at the future as many manufacturing facilities go back to steam power when oil becomes too expensive. Although the mill doesn’t power itself with the scrap it produces (it’s used to make paper and particle board) it has done so in the past. In effect, the product provides the energy needed to process it.
From what I learned at Hull-Oakes, they power the main milling operation with steam generated from sawdust, bark, and waste. The other parts of the mill are not powered by steam.
Gary you are correct about the Hull – Oaks mill, the generation of steam in the boiler is from burning the scrap wood that is not pulp chip material. The mill does use electrical power for the machines down stream of the edger. As an OSHA inspector I visited/ inspected that site3-4 times from one end to the other. The Hull-Oakes management and employees are great people, You mentioned the Bull Edger being upgraded to remote controls. One of your photos in the above section has a shot of the edgerman ( in a green sweatshirt) getting a large cant lined up to go into the edger, if you look to the left of his knee there are a number of handles sticking out of the edger, that was the old manual set works where the edgerman had to step in between the cant and edger and set the edger saws to the cut they wanted. much safer now with remote setworks. chris
Great article. It’s a shame that more great engineering and history is no longer available. Sometimes the price for progress is too dear.
When I was much younger I worked a small hardwood mill in PA. It was hard work but I loved it. I can still smell the different scents of the logs we cut. The beauty of the grain of the boards was unique to each log. I design and build furniture now and I’m still fascinated by the beauty of wood. For me it’s nice to know where it all starts.
Great article Gary – I loved your use of the photos, really well done and informative.
I think Mike Rowe (Dirty Jobs) needs to take a trip to Hull-Oakes! :)
I was there about 1998 or before. We parked along the road and stood totally fascinated watching the off-loading of the logs and the “pond bronc” putting all the logs into order with the pond boat that looks like a minature tugboat. We did not try to go near the mill, not wanting to be in the way of their progress.
Thanks for a great article and look forward to the update.
Wonderful memories brought back. In the mid to late 40’s I spend a few years on the farm in WV with my granddad and grandmother. Granddad’s brother had a steam powered mill and I spent a great deal of time ‘helping’ there. On Sundays, I would help ‘Uncle Charlie’ sharpen the 4′ round saw blade by hand. It too was a family operation and I remember in the winter time he would arrive early and have the boiler heated for us to stand by while waiting for the school bus.
As of a few years ago, there was still a steam powered mill in operation out the road about two miles.
I worked for Weyerhauser for thirty years in Klamath Falls Or as a lumber grader and sorter operator. This site brings back lots of memories good and bad. We had double cut headrigs and a sash gang that cut the “cants” into 4/4 lumber. At one time it was the largest pine mill in the world. It closed in 1992 for lack of trees thanks to the spotted owl scam. Was wondering who Howard Wiles is and where he worked and when. Thanks for the story it was great
Thanks for a great documentation! One thing I don’t understand is why these men don’t wear hardhats, protective eyeglasses, or in most pictures no gloves. This appears to be dangerous work!
Dirgster, In Oregon unless the employees are
exposed to an over head hazard a hard hat is not required by OR OSHA and the same with the other items, however if the company is experiencing recordable injuries in those areas then they could be required. Their are companies such a Weyerhaeuser who require hard hats and many areas safety glasses as a criteria of employment. I worked the last 20 years for OR OSHA after 22 years with Weyco in logging and plywood. Chris
Very interesting. I never realized where the timber comes from that I buy at HD or Lowe’s. I really appreciate the skill and family connection linked to the old, old machinery. And it works so very well.
Great article Gary, I love this stuff. Would you notice if I was a stowaway during your next visit :)?
You’re welcome to join me. In fact, I’ll be going up there sometime near the end of July, either just before the 17th or just after the 19th. I’ll keep you posted. And anyone else that might like to join a tour is also welcome.
When I saw a similar, but smaller band saw many years ago; I was led to believe that the logs were sawed as they traveled both directions on the carriage. That would explain the “shark teeth” on both edges of the band. This is not “fact”, just speculation.
Nope. In this case the ‘teeth’ on the back of the bandsaw serve only one purpose–registering the blade for the sharpening system. The saw cuts in only one direction.
Gary, If you ever find yourself in Northwest PA I’m sure you would find the “double cut” Head rig at Endeavor Lumber in Endeavor, PA very interesting. The bands have teeth on both sides giving the ability to cut as the log carriage travels each way. Your pictures took me back to my teen years of working at Endeavor as the old mill(destroyed by fire in ’73) & cleaning fly ash from underneath the boilers very similar to the ones shown here. jeff…
This band is a single cut with sliver teeth. The sliver teeth are for chewing through stray bits of wood that might get dragged through the saw when the log is pulled back for it’s next cut, if the sliver teeth were not there the saw would heat up and potentially cause alot of damage to the blade itself or the machinery or even the workers who work around it. The sharpening operation does not use the sliver teeth, the saw grinder feeds the tooth being sharpened through the grinder as it grinds up the back of the tooth and then pulls away to let the stone sharpen the face and gullet. I’ve done hundreds of these bands both double and single cut.
What you saw was a “double cut” band saw in operation, that actually does cut in both directions. In the case of the double cut band, the shark tooth design is almost exactly the same on both edges of the blade. Gary is right, of course in that Hull-Oakes is a “single cut” blade that cuts in one direction. Sometimes less sophisticated sinlge cut bands have a smooth (non-wavey) edge.
Thanks for the clarification.
By the way….Why haven’t we done a Roadshow with Ward Lumber? :)
My son and I and our wives toured this mill last December and thanks to our guide, Don Oakes, came away with a profound appreciation for an industry that was once nearly ubiquitous in the Northwest. What a great experience!
The book, “Tumult on the Mountains” details the West Virginia lumber industry. It has many pictures of the interiors of mills using double bands that sawed on both directions of the carriage….
I used to work there from 2004 until 2008. I started on the green chain end then moved to the planer side, and after that I was the pond monkey for a while.
I sent along a comment earlier but saw a comment and answer that may need some clarification.
The teeth on the off-side (back) of the band actually have two functions. On ones this large they do register for sharpening, which is not always the case on a small band. At least it wasn’t years ago.
The second use: on the carriage return ithelps prevent the blade from being wrapped around the sawyer’s cage by a splinter that pops after the previous cut. Early on they used the flat back band blades and found when even a small splinter stuck out it could catch the back of the blade and pull it off of the wheels. As I recall these were actually referred to as “splinter teeth.”
I grew up in Albany. We would often spend hours down by the river watching the logging trucks come in and dump their loads down The slide into the Willamette. They didn;t use any little unloader. The truck would park at the very edge where the nearly vertical logs of the chute reached the edge of the bank. The truck driver would remove the chains that held the log(s) on the rig and then release the blocks on the river side. There was a cable anchored near the edge of the slide and it lay across the path of the truck. When ready, the cable was pulled up by a huge hoist on the other side of the truck and the logs would be slid off and onto the drop. Often the load would consist of ONE log – often 6 or 8 feet in diameter. What a SPLASH ! A man or men walking on the logs in the river would form and secure them into a raft. When it was completed, a tug would take it down river. I understand some of these rafts were towed all the way to Japan.
Every logger wore boots with LONG sharp spikes. Every bar and restaurant in the area had a supply of little pine boards – about 4 x 8 by 3/4 inch – near the front door. When a logger cam in, he didn’t need to remove his boots to protect the floor – he merely stomped onto one for each foot and the little blocks protected the floor. When he left, the blocks were dumped back to await the next logger.
That was very interesting_Thank You.
There is a steam powered saw mill in Port Alberni,B.C.,but it only runs in the summer time,as a tourist attraction.not a commercial business any more.
One small niggle_ the machine handling the logs is a Wagner_the name of the company that builds them.
I, too think that used to be a double cut saw.
Oh – and I remember that the usual wage
was about 25 cents an hour !
A bit of information from someone that grew up in the logging capital of the world, Coos Bay, Oregon. During
summer vacations, while in college, I worked in mills and log dumps in Coos Bay, Springfield and Eugene.
In the picture near the beginning, and long before the loader seen dumping logs, the dump was performed by the dump operator hooking to the “A” frame cable that was attached to a donkey motor and then was placed under the load and attached to a cable that was affixed to the brow log. The donkey was then fired up, the cable pulled up to make a nearly straight line between the top of the “A” frame and the brow log. This allowed the logs to roll off easily into the water where the pond man would use his pike pole to put them in place. Often this was in a raft that was then pulled by a tug boat to the mill slip where the logs would be raised to the head rig to be sawn.
At that time there was no log bronc as shown in the pictures. The log bronc was invented by Fred Nelson of Coos Bay in about 1956 as he was a pond man working for what had been the largest lumber company in the world at that time, the Coos Bay Lumber Company, Coos Bay Lumber had their own railroad, and several ocean going ships to deliver their lumber. At that time Coos Bay was the 4th largest tonnage shipping port in the world because of the lumber the shipper and its weight. Back to Fred Nelson, he has several different versions of his log bronc and was expermenting with various motors and positions for the motor. The motor was near the center of the boat and had to be able to run while being turned 360 degrees. This allowed the bronc to push in any direction. Fred had all the patents and shortly after I worked there with him, quit being a pond man and became a full time inventor and saleman for the “Nelsen Log Bronc”.
My grandfather, while an engineer with Coos Bay Lumber, invented an early computer for which he won a national invention contest and $1000 prize money. Coos Bay lumber got his patent for him. The device was hooked to the head rig and measured the cuts, time to cut, return of the carriage and load time as well as blade changing time. I still have the invention at my house. The workers refused to work with it claiming that the stock holders, being mostly Easterners, would not understand why there was so much time not actually cutting. So his invention was never used and I was told that it was donated to a forestry school. I also met my first Black coworker while on the water, a fellow pond man with Fred Nelson and Jack Boweran by the name of Jim Boles. Because the pond men had all been in that line of work for tens of years in the salt spray, sun, rain and Coos Bay wind I was near the end of the summer when the wind quit blowing one day when shirts were removed and I discovered which of the pond men weilding the pike poles was black. All great guys and super workers.
Excellent. I am in Hillsboro and every summer we head down to Brooks, Oregon for their Annual Steam Up. They have a small steam powered mill there that uses a big steam powered circular saw that people get to watch in operation. The whole park is facinating with restored heavy machinery and musiums.
Thank you for a wonderful pictorial record it makes the racksaw driven by a single cylinder tractor I worked at Avoncroft Museum, Bromsgrove, England look like a toy.My largest timbers were 40ft Pitch Pine spars for the windmill I worked for 15 years.
What a fantastic article. I grew up in Aberdeen, Wash., and remember all the great mills that lined the water front, extending from Hoquiam to Junction City. Some huge and some small, but all making that familiar sound of the head rigs chewing away their cuts on the “big timber”. I remember as a young lad, standing along the roadside, watching the log trucks heading for town with a three log load or just a single log. Now the mills and the three log loads are gone, but their pilings still dot the water front, and pictures such as these, gives us the reminder of the “good old days” of the big timber.
17344 W. Julia Drive
Hauser Lake, Idaho
Wow, what an article – beautiful photos and each step in production so well explained.
The only saw mill I had seen before this was in Upper Canada Village in Ontario, Canada. It has been rebuilt, supposedly as it was in the late 19th century. I remember the noise and the smell.
Having looked at your presentation, the first thing I would think about is danger. There must have been terrible accidents from time to time.
My dad was among his many trades, a mill wright. This wonderful picture story gives me a vision of what being a mill wright entails. I always considered the task of positioning and aligning large equipment, but had no concept of the tasks of operation and maintainance. Many thanks. Hope to visit the site in the future. Is there a “contact” web site to make such an arrangement. Many thanks for a great piece of journalism.
my dad was among his many trades, a mill wright. This wonderful picture story gives me a vision of what being a mill wright entails. I always considered the task of positioning and aligning large equipment, but had no concept of the tasks of operation and maintainance. Many thanks. Hope to visit the site in the future. Is there a “contact” web site to make such an arrangement. Many thanks for a great piece of journalism.
Have enjoyed your roadshows here in the Seattle, WA area.
I really enjoyed the article about the Hull-Oakes mill as it re-kindled thoughts about my growing up.
Aa a kid, I grew up in a Washington logging town not far from Aberdeen, WA where we had seven sawmills and shingle mills operating. My father, uncles and cousins all worked in the mills or the woods. When I graduated high school, to earn money for college, I worked at the largest mill in town on the head rig as a millwright’s helper and cleaned the boilers on weekends in preparation for re-bricking. The mill used the bark and sawdust for hog fuel to power the boilers and produce steam to drive generators and for the dry kilns. The mill had converted from steam to electricity after WWII. Later, I worked at the mill on the green chain and pulled the dry chain while continuing my education. By the 1960’s the mill didn’t cut anything longer than 24 feet but millions of board feet of clear fir cut into 2 foot squares were shipped by boat from the mill dock to Japan.
The mill is still there and when I go back to visit family the smells of the mill carry me back to those times over forty years ago.
The upside of those experiences is my enjoyment of woodworking and building custom mantles and bookcases, often using my dad’s and grandfathers hand tools.
As an engineer and American History hobbyist, I find this fantastic and heart warming. This is what the American culture is all about; hard work and endurance. I just want to know one thing….. Where do they get spare parts?
What a wonderfully interesting article. The photos and dialogue were also very interesting. I would love to actually see it in person, but that’s not happening. I’m a life long woodworker and have always been fascinated with the processes of getting the lumber from the forest to the lumber yard. One of our nieces was married to a Sawyer here in SW Lower MI> for many years. It takes a special person to do that job and do it well. Thanks for sharing, it was great.
As an engineer and long-time member of the Society of Industrial Archaelogy, I found the story and pix of the saw mill just great. These stories of American industries aren’t just about rusty iron and cold steel–they are about the people who built and ran them, and their energy and creativity. It’s important for all of us to know about and to remember our industrial heritage.
Gary, Thanks for the memories brought back from 55 years ago when I worked my way up from the green chain to pond monkey in a Dayville, Oregon mill (long gone!). The first few weeks until I got my balance, I was always working soaking wet but worse were the jeers and laughter from my fellow millhands. The pictures, descriptions, and comments were all first class. This retired teacher gives you an A+!
Gary, thanks for a wonderful article! As a mechanical engineer (and a woodworker) I was fascinated by all the equipment.
Your article really made me think about what we value in life. This mill embodies the principles of “use it up, wear it out, make it do – or do without”. Sometimes we’re in such a hurry to move on to the newest and shiniest things, we forget that there is value in the “old ways”.
A great story and an excellent reflection of the past. Having grown up around small circle saw mills in Colorado I am facinated at the size and capabilities of the large mills. Makes me sad that a great industry has nearly died- the loss to our economy and the loss of a sustained forest progam is very troubling.
Thank you for the enlightenment. In this “throw-away” culture we live in it’s refreshing to see machinery from 1906 still in productive use. It just goes to show what diligent maintenance and proper blade sharpening will do. I will save your wonderful article and show it to others.
Thanks so much for this presentation. I’m a homeschooling mom and my daughter is learning about sawmills. What a treat to be able to make it real rather than theoretical. This was wonderful and just what we needed to really understand the workings of the mill. I have a new respect for all of the work that goes into preparing this natural resource for our use. Thanks again!
Thanks for a wonderful presentation. This harkens me back to the years of 1948 through the fall of 1950 when I worked for Harold Hollenbeck who had a mill at Trout Lake, Washington. I did not work inside of the mill, but I knew what the whole operation was all about. This operation was not too different than where I worked except this mill could not handle the long timbers. Thanks again for a job well done.
This is something that all the older folks would like to see and read again and many would have some great stories to add to this very interesting e-mail from their past. I have never seen or read anything like this before, pass this on to all your e-mail buddies,family and friends. Dave H.
I found this presentation very uplifting. As a retired educator having taught both art and history i feel that these types of presentations are essential to preserving the history of this great country of ours. After retiring I took up wood carving as a hobby and way to make a few extra bucks. I am going to pass this on to all of the woodcarvers and history buffs on my e-mail list.
My grandfather Joseph was a woods worker in washington state in the late 1800’s, early 1900’s. He worked in the spokane area. I do have some pictures of some of the crews and mill. My father Frank was a farmer, small business man and an owner of a three bench corley mill in Michigan. As a young boy in the late 40’s early 50’s my three brothers and I worked in this mill. It was hard work and two of us were called to serve in the military,so dad sold the mill and the farm in the fifties. Two of the five of us brothers are deceased or long since retired.
I enjoyed the program and have never forgotten the operation of a mill. I retired in 1993 and nosed around a wood mizer portable mill to buy some slabwood and started to pile lumber and slabs for this owner because he was handicapped and got a part time summer job. He gave me wood and lumber to build a small tool storage building and asked me to run the mill for him after we sawed about 40,000 bd. ft of lumber and I retired from that job. My old Navy buddy who I served with in the SeaBees sent this to me and I will treasure it and share it with others.
I loved reading and looking through this article. It’s wonderful to see something like this done the old fashioned way. The mill and its staff have my hearty admiration.
Awesome, do they do tours? I need to take my kids to see this awesome mill next time I am home. It looks like a green operation to me using their wood waste to heat the boiler. Very cool.
I toured this mill and took a number of photos. This mill is a throwback to the past and I love the history.
After college, I worked in the Weyerhaeuser sawmill in Springfield, Oregon. They had a 10 foot bandmill for the large logs but everything was pretty much computerized at the time. The smells, the flow through the mill, and skill sets required by the various machine operators will also be remembered. Thanks for sharing the Hull-Oakes story.
Before WWII, my dad, Francis Jerrett, and his brothers, Jim, and Deane, worked in similar mills in Oregon’s Dilley – Forest Grove – Covallis area. Dad was a logger and pony-sawyer (skilled labor).
During the Great Depression, Dad gave all but $2.50 of his mill earnings to his parents to use for the family. He and his best friend, “Slim” Mulvey, each chipped-in $2.50, to buy a tree from a farmer. The two teen-age boys used a two-man saw to cut down the $5-tree; then, using only hand tools (and no person or 911 to turn to for help if one of the boys was injured) cut the tree into cord wood, cleaned the land, loaded the wood, took it out and sold the cord wood – a whole tree – for $10. Each boy got $5, for his work. Each boy gave his family $2.50, saved $2.50 to buy another $5-tree from a farmer, cut it down, chopped into cord wood, and sold it for $10 .. . saved $2.50 …
I remember vacations. We drove on Washington and Oregon’s old coastal highways and roads where we saw old coastal artillery, a wrecked ship, lumber mills and shake mills, homes with the trappings of many kids dropped in yards around the shake mills and kids in the areas … fence-less yards. Nineteen sixty-seven, 1967, Dad remarked how many people lost their jobs, how many families were no longer there. … the loss of lumber and shake mills … only one shake mill was still running … the loss of people, families, jobs, knowledge of “how-to” do basic work that he saw as culturally necessary knowledge … Oh! How he greived that year.
… the two-man saw the boys used to cut the $5 trees rests in my home … Thank you for the wonderful story.
I grew up in Youbou on Vancouver Island, B.C. Canada. Our town housed one of the largest sawmills in the British Commonwealth, owned at the time by B.C. Forest Products Ltd. Our mill was able to cut up to approximately 6′-6″ diameter logs normally up to 40′ long. We had an A and B mill, a planer mill, a veneer plant and a 40′ high by 100′ wide by 1/2 mile long overhead craneway. These pictures bring back a lot of memories for me as my father was the chargehand electrician for many years and I worked part time in the mill while in high school and post secondary school. Our mill was a bit more mechanized but basically it had similar workings including a steam driven carriage for the “head saw”. This series of photos and descriptions of the mill workings is a treasure and should be in a museum for posterity. May I suggest sending it to the forestry museum in Duncan, B.C.? It is very closely reminiscent of all that I remember in Youbou. Well done to those who developed it.
My dad worked in the woods and then in sawmills and planer mills all his working life. He started in Alsea, Oregon driving log truck in the 40’s. By the time I can remember he was working in a planer mill in Junction City, Oregon for his brother-in-law, Don Shelton. He worked for Alsea Lumber for an number of years in the 50’s and 60’s before the reduction in mills forced a move to Colorado. He finished his career in Payson, Arizona as the Planer “boss”. These pictures provoke wonderful memories of my childhood and visiting daddy at the mill! Thank you for the trip down memory lane and a more gentle time.
This is just fantastic as I used to work in saw mills in my early days / I was also a logger for 35 yrs in nsw.
Great site! Thanks to Grant Cunningham for the link. One of the last steam powered mills in the east was torn down to make way for the Georgia Dome in Atlanta about 20 years ago. I used to go there to pick up bundles of survey stakes. I loved to stop by and watch the mill run. I hope the pieces survive, though seeing them cold just wouldn’t be the same.
Thanks for a wonderful presentation. It brought back memories of my first job out of High School. In 1949 I was a “Pond Jockey” for a shingle mill here in the Northwest. With corked shoes I snagged the logs, pulled them into the mill, cut to length and split them to shingle bolt size. The Weaver then put them in his machine/saw and cut the shingles. It was good exercise for an 18 year old and has stood me well and I feel I could still do it at 80.
Great presentation.I purchased the the old Car-Win cedar mill in Forks Wa. It cut old growth cedar and exported it all over the world. Before I dismantled the mill I took hundreds of photos and of course recognize many of the same equipment as was in your presentation. I restored the straddle buggy and take it for a short ride now and then. This mill was not steam operated but it took so much power that when it started all the light in Forks dimmed. This mill also had planers and they sold a finished cedar product. Thanks again Respectfully Bill Sperry
I toured the mill last fall and still have short videos of the headrig cutting huge timbers on my cell phone. This was an absolute treat. Nice to have keepsakes around.
It is great to see a wonderful mill like this still in operation. I have a large circle saw 64inch in front of my house powered by a steam engine.. It has an atlas engine with a 10 inch bore and 14 inch stroke.. It has a Corinth/American saw which can handle about 18 feet. The headblocks are adjustable, so something a little larger could be set up for. The boiler is horizontal and has 92 3 inch flues 14 ft one inch long in it. The great area is five by nine feet. We fire it on slabs and railroad ties. The engine is an Atlas manufactured in Indianapolis Indiana. The flywheel is about five feet in diameter and 14 inches wide. It drives a 10 inch flat belt which goes to the husk and an edger. Sawdust is carried out by a drag chain. I have a machine shop next door in which all the lumber except the poles was sawed on this mill. I and my friend Don Schwenk went to the Corinth American Sawmill company in MIssissippi to buy this mill brand new. Mr. Schwenk passed away a few years after setting up this mill. He had always wanted one. He also owned a 120 horsepower Nichols Sheppard engine, a A.D. Baker engine and a Minneapolis engine,and his fathers engine a M. Rumley engine built here in La Porte Indian. The baker engine was his favorite. Mr. Baker had invented a very modern valve gear for the engine, and was sought after by many railroads to put his steam efficient valve gear on their engines. I new have a two cylinder upright westinghouse single acting engine to be used for the swing cut off saw, and a two cylinder water pump engine. We also have a twin cylinder pumping engine one injector,and a manual pump for water in the boiler. You just cant beat the smells and sounds of a saw mill running cutting oak and steaming steam cylinder oil in the air. It’s history, its wonderful to experience. My hat goes off to you guys there for keeping your mill operating. I guess I am showing my age. I was lucky enough to run all the steam locomotives at Cedar Point in Sandusky Ohio for two summers. I pulled five cars four trips an hour and hauled three hundred and fifty passengers on every trip. The second year I not only ran the engines, but fired, took on water, and shovelled the coal into the tenders every morning by hand by myself. We had the old waste stuffed journals and I oiled them all every morning. I also started the fires, blew out the flews with a steam hose to knock out the excess soot. My friend Don was one of the last to shock wheat and oats and corn here so he could thresh it with his old advance rumley separator. I now own a advance/rumley corn shredder 12 roll, and a birdsell cloverhuller, both machines are of wood, and over 100 years old. Come to Indiana in the fall to our threshing show. Its called the Northern Indiana Historical Power Association. I was one of the founders about 25 to 30 years ago. By the way the boiler on our mill formerly heated the New York Central track pan in Chesterton Indiana, and was hauled over to this area on a wagon drawn by horses. Best Regards, Rich Lidke I have a video of our mill on here made by a friend.
Thankyou for a wonderful journey through the operations of an old Steam driven sawmill.
I’ve always wanted to tour such a mill but the oppurtunity never arose.
Now through this slide show I feel I’ve had one of my dreams come true.
Thank you, and I hope the mill still keeps going for generations to come.
Truely awe inspiring!
If at all possible, young children age 10-16 should see this process to become aware of the hard ardous work necessary to obtain wood down to paper. We are honing in on becoming more green and appreciative of nature but a hands on visible look would be worth a thousand words. I am very impressed and enjoyed reading about the process of a tree. Hat’s off to men who really go to work and are tired at the end of the day. Congrats.
My Grandfather started a sawmill in Clearfield PA in the early 1900’s. It only featured a 36 inch circular blade and don’t remember what powered it at that time. Later, my father and his brother took over the operation around 1945. In 1953 my cousin and myself both started working on the mill and in the woods of central PA cutting timber and running the backend of the mill. We would take the lumber off the edger and stack it and cut all the slabs and edgings to either fire wood size or slabs for firing the brick yard kilms. We sold the sawdust also. This story really brought back the memories from that time. The mill burned down in 1958 and wasn’t replaced as it was no longer economically viable. We supplied a lot of ties to the railroad and prime oak for hardwood flooring. We also subblied ash blanks to be turned into handles and baseball bats. We also custom cut lumber for many special projects including homes and other buildings which required special timbers. It was quite an experience.
One of the stories my father told me about my grandfather was that when he was young, he lived in a logging camp. On Saturdays, the logging camps would get together and each camp would have a camp champion to box bare knuckle. My grandfather was champion for a number of years and according to Dad, wan never defeated.
Thanks for bringing back some old memories. I still have scars from some of them.
A very enjoyable and informative presentation. I learned quite a bit with each picture. I love history information like this and hopefully it will stay around for many years for others to see and learn from. It’s hard work and the end result is beautiful.
Thanks so much for the great “E-Tour” through this fantastic exhibit of history and our wonderful lumber industry. Few people know what truly goes on to get a “2×4” to the lumber yard. ( Much understated, but you know what I mean ) I was directed here from being on the “Lumberjocks” site, a wonderful woodworking community who enjoy wood to it’s fullest. I sure am glad that I have taken the tour and being from California, plan on coming up north to take the physical tour so I can see, hear and smell the complete process. I hope that will be o.k…..!
Thank you again for taking the time to put this wonderful presentation up online !
I was sent this by a friend who knows my interest in steam power. But I found the whole mill operation absolutely fascinating. An operation like this is a one of a kind thing and deserves to be kept in use as long as possible.
I noticed that they say the steam engines have less trouble than anything else they could use. That’s not surprising, since steam engines are simple, rugged and have a long history of dependability. Unfortunately boilers are maintenance intensive by comparison.
I’ve enjoyed reading this more than anything I’ve seen for a long time. Thanks for all the work to put this together.
I grew up with this mill. My dad worked there until he died in 1974. I spent my summers during high school with Hull family across the road from the mill.
This place is too historical to lose!!! I can`t wait to see it in person!!
Field trip to San Francisco when in sixth grade spent the night on The C.A.Thayer and did all the stuff that was done on the ship back when it was in operation. Spent the night. Great photos of mill. It should not be closed down.
Great Presentation. I started working for Long-Bell Lumber Company in Weed, California in 1949 and transferred to their mill in Gardiner, Oregon in 1953 after a free tour of Korea, compliments of the US Army. Long-Bell was bought out by International Paper Company in the late 50’s I believe. I graded lumber after it was dried in the kilns for a few years and then changed to the river crew, where I fed logs into the mill in a steel cable hoist, up to the head rig. I sometimes worked as an off bearer behind the head rig, but finally transferred to the log dump. I ran the cantilever dump, lifting the entire loads off of the trucks and dumping them into the river where they were sorted and graded to be formed into rafts and stored until needed by the mill. Then the truck trailers were loaded back onto the trucks, so they could return to the woods for another load. IP built a paper mill next to the saw mill and plywood plant, and used the slabs from squaring up the logs to chip into pieces to digest into paper pulp. The logs had to be barked before they could use them, so they were cold decked and not dumped into the river anymore. The old cantilever dump was sold to a shipyard across the river in Reedsport to lift boats onto the drydock. IP cut all of their timber and shipped it to China. This closed the mill, plywood plant and eventually the paper mill that couldn’t afford to buy chips and have them shipped in. Leaving Gardiner like so many other lumber towns in the Pacific Northwest.
In the 40’s I worked as a “pond monkey” for a jippo mill operator in Oregon. I walked and sorted the logs before sending them into the mill.
Great presentation. Thanks for that. But, it sort of made me mad as I sat and thought about it. We live in a country where the ones who are rewarded most handsomely are those who produce absolutely nothing of value. Here, we have workers who actually work, yet more and more of their country is owned by the bankers, lawyers and speculators, those who have produced little of value for our country. Long live sawmill workers.
Are tours conducted at the mill?
I don’t think they have formal tours. I just called them up and asked if I could visit and they said yes. While I was there, one of the employees took me on a tour. Same thing the second time I went.
Really cool stuff. You should make a video and get this on a program like This Old House.
steve sheldon, country lawyer
What a great story and my hat is off to those that have spent their life working at this mill. I moved from N.H. to Missoula,Mt. in 1979 and I worked as an Electrical Engineer at the paper mill in Frenchtown,MT. when we were building it. Last year they closed the mill at Frenchtown and the Lumber mill at Bonner,Mt. which I shed a tear for. It is appalling that we now send our logs over to China to get made into different products and when they are finished they are shipped back to the U.S. in various forms of furniture,lumber,plywood,etc.,etc.. I have seen this when I drove Truck picking up loads from the docks in Ca.,Ga.,Fl. etc., etc.. Ironically I have even been sent to deliver loads and pick them up at the papermill plant in Frenchtown,Mt.. It’s sad that nobody cares about what is happening to our country and everything is being outsourced to China and other countries! I can remember everything coming from Japan when I was growing up and now our country is suffering from loss of jobs because our politicians,bankers and government has sold us short. Then we have to watch these environmental groups that won’t even compromise and let the loggers cut trees burned by fires, clean up the floor of the different forests so we won’t have so many fires. Now we know that these groups have been lying about what is really going on and they did this so they could get government-taxpayer money over all these years for their special programs. Our government and politicians are letting this happen. Forest fires destroy more trees than a logger can cut in a hundred years. Trees can be grown and harvested just like crops of wheat,barley etc., etc.,etc.. I’m going to make a visit to this mill next summer and savor and enjoy what they do for us and appreciate their hard work.Maybe we can turn this around and start producing in our own country again soon.
I was born in Fort Jones, CA but grew up in McCloud, CA. The McCloud River Lumber Co ran the whole shebang. The woods, the mill, made boxes, doors and the town. The mill saws could handle giant sugar pine logs cut from the slopes of Mt. Shasta and beyond. The evolution from trains to trucks, from 8/4 hand signals to computers is progress but this video brought back some fond memories. One never forgets the smell and whistles of a company owned lumber town. And a previous comment was true: the workers don’t make the money; but it is a labor of love.
I’ve had the privelege of working with the folks at Hull-Oakes, since 1984. Blessed to have followed my Dad into forest products, and to have spent some time in old sawmills both as a laborer, and as a safety professional. The sounds, the feel of the wood, the aroma of freshly sawn timber, and the satisfaction of surviving yet another damn difficult day hard-at-it, are unforgetable memories. But the best part of it all – and the single most endearing aspect of Hull-Oakes, is the folks who work there and live that life-style as close as you can find to how it was. Every person you meet there is as fine & respectful as you’ll ever meet. They welcome you with a handshake and a smile, and always have the time to sit & chat. All that old technology, and the effort they put into maintaining their historic designation is impressive to say the least. But the one thing that really “makes” this outfit, which is missing in all those photos (unless you know & have spent just a little bit of time with them)…; is the people. As good as you’ll find anywhere.
a) There is actually a full color and sound 25 min DVD of this same mill in operation with narrative. It is by Green Frog Productions, Ltd. titled ‘The Last Steam Operated Sawmill’ done in 2000. It is very well done, tracking a log through the process just as your photo essay does. I bought my copy from ebay for about $10, but you could also try http://www.greenfrog.com.
b) As a young boy in ’40s-’50s, I was often taken by my grandfather down to the sawmill in Neopit, Wi. This was on the Menominee Indian Reservation in NE Wisconsin which had some of the last remaining old-growth timber left of the great forests that once covered most of that state.
The mill was unusual in that it was built by the US government to provide an industry for the tribe, so the main mill building was of cast concrete, sturdy enough that it still operates today. Back then, it was still powered by a big steam engine, and the sights, sounds, smells and overall action of all the saw carriage, jacks, moving chains and workers was immensely fascinating for a 7 year old. (And still is for a 68 year old!)
I lived near Placerville, CA. during the 30s, there were many steam powered mills then. Not many had bandsaws, most used circular saws, one mounted above the other which permitted them to cut large logs. The circular saw blades had removable teeth, occasionaly a tooth would come off and go through the roof of the mill. Most lumber was not planned, homes were built with rough lumber. A two by four was acually that size and had lots of splinters, must have been tough being a carpenter in those days.
I worked as a log setter in a small mill in Riddle Or. when I was 16, in 1951. I was a timber faller for some time. All the logs shown in these pictures are douglas fir. I fell thousands of them, some even larger than any pictured. I got out of the woods in 1964. I worked as a furniture salesman for 30 years. I met Mrs hull at Blackledge furniture in Corvallis Or. I was out to her home several times and sold her a lot of things over the years.The family was all wonderful.She had a large log house built over by Bend Or. One of the store decorators furnished it for her. Small world.
I see you call the machine that removes the bark a BARKER. In the saw mills and wood products plants I have worked in it is usually called a DEBARKER. Barker would to me imply to place the bark onto the log.
I worked in and around the woods industry since 1963 in the Coos Bay Or area then 1990 to 2010 Cottage Grove to Albany, Or. as an Or-OSHA inspector, most of the workers I was around just call it “the barker”. Other areas may use different terms.
I think you have the time of Mr. Hulls death wrong, it must have been 1992,it was some time before I retired in 1996. Harold hammersley.
I worked in sawmills(Bandsaw mill such as the sawmill Pictured located in Hilis, CA from age 18 years of age until I was 24. The teeth on the back of the bandsaw also served to cut pieces of the log that may spring out after the sawyer went through the cut. It cut them off as the carriage was coming back to keep the saw from going inside and cutting into the log which could pull the saw of the pully’s. We referred to the teeth as splinter teeth. I was the person that rode the carriage and was called a ratchett setter. Pictures bring back many memories from 1957-into 1964
My dad work for the Kerr Lumber co. here in western NC back in the early 1900’s. He not only worked in the saw mill but was the engineer of the train that hauled the logs out of the forest. I was born at that time but he used to tell us about it. My mother would talk about it also. While sawing the trees down a saw kicked back and cut daddy’s throat but they were able to save him. He died in 1966. I have part of one of the boards found in an old barn that was torn down several years ago. Nothing like the smell of fresh cut wood and the beauty of a finished object made of wood. In his later years daddy made a lot of furniture and even made a violin that now hangs in my sister’s house. Wonderful memories.
What a great, great presentation, but just as interesting have been all the follow up comments, so many by people in my age bracket, i.e. pushing past the mid-80’s. Incredible memories, and I saw most of the large mills in CA when I was a woods rat cruising timber.
I am surprised to see that there is still at least one log pond around. Once the big handling equipment that LeTourneau, Cat and Euclid built came on the scene, most mills turned to log yards, sorting on land instead of water.
I’ll always remember one much smaller steam powered mill along a road in Arkansas. Beyond the head rig the conveyor system could handle only small dimension stuff. If they were cutting an RR tie or a large square, once it was to dimension the sawyer would bring back the carriage at full speed, the dogs would be lifted, and when the carriage came to a stop the timber would shoot back out of the mill, fall some 20 feet, and land in the pond with a gigantic splash. Could give you quite a start if you were driving by and not expecting it
Great photos. I used to work in a lumber yard back in Ames, Iowa for several years. I spent a lot of time in the sawshop; everybody at the lumber yard used to call me “Sawman”.
I received your presentation from friends in Central Oregon this morning and how great it is.
I have read every one of the comments and much to my suprise there are none from Anacortes, WA, where we had two huge sawmills, a pulp mill, a plywood mill, and a dozen shingle mills, plus numerous individual shake cutters. Wood and fish was our life blood on this island. I grew up hanging out at our local shinglemill on Similk bay at Summit Park, and knew every hand there. IT was all steam, as all our mills were. I worked at the EK Woods (later WAlton) mill in 1951 in the planer mill. My dad worked in the logging industry before me. Years later as an engineer and business owner, I converted two steam mills to Hydraulic. The first at Johnsondale, CA a complete company owned town and mill and the second was a smaller mill at Davenport, CA.
I could relate lots of stories but won’t use up all your band width here as the prior comments have pretty well covered the history of the industry.
I did live in the Bloedel-Donovon Owners house in Bellingham, Washington in 1959 that over looked their mill. It was built like a tank with unplaned 4×4 and 4×12 in the floors visible from the basement. Thanks for sharing this wonderful piece of history. I have driven by this mill you showcased many times. Bill Forrest retired.
I’ve been to Hull-Oakes only on a Sunday, when it was closed up tight. The lovely old log trucks were out though and made for great photographs.
The sawmill is going to be open to the public for a tour on May 18, as a part of Historic Preservation Month. A great opportunity.
Hi, I was very much interested in this Steam Powerd Saw Mill. I grew up in the Wauconda Area Graduated from Republic High schoo in 1943 , As a kid I used to help a
friend of the family cut railroad ties I used to use a sort of knife like article and cut the bark off of the ties that he cut. Made a dollar a day then after a stint in the Army after being discharged in 1948 I worked in a steam powered saw mill in Tonasket, Washington for quite some time so I really enjoyed this article Thanks again for bringing back fond memories Bill Fischer
Wonderful piece. I visited Hull Oakes a few years ago and found it fascinating. Now I am involved in a writing project involving specific elements of Oregon history and would like to use this story as a resource, with permission. Particularly when I’m working with occupations and life styles in the Monroe and Corvallis area.
You’re welcome to use this story as a resource.
When I got out of the Navy in 79 my new bride lived in Corvallis.
We moved from Georgia to Philomath Oregon where there was I believe 5 sawmills within the city limits or very close to it.
I went for a millwright position at Pedee lumber company, which had already been filled.
The owner did me a favor since we were both navy men from the black gang (boiler rooms) he put me on as the off bearer by the big bandmill.
I soon began to wonder if he really did me a favor or not, when you work in one of these old mills where most all of the work was manually done, there was know slowing down and you generally had more than one job at a time.
No cry babies need apply, there’s the door!
If you worked in one of these mills and lasted, you were a real man.
Thanks for the memories. I am in the process of setting up a small mill in the back of my place, not to really make money but to enjoy the sounds and smells of logs being milled.
Some guys want bass boats, I prefer a sawmill.
Kudos to Gary Katz on this fine article about the Hull-Oakes Lumber Co. Sawmill in Monroe, Oregon. While you did mention placement of the mill on the National Register of Historic Places, you didn’t mention that the mill has been fully documented by the Historic American Engineering Record. There also has been one book written about the mill, its processes and history. Here is the citation:
1998 “Hull-Oakes Lumber Company’s Steam-Powered Sawmill:
A Case Study in Industrial Archaeology.” Anthropology
Northwest Number 10. Department of Anthropology,
Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon.
The book is available through the university’s anthropology department.
Keep up the good work.
25124 Alpine Road
Monroe, OR 97456
What an excellent documentary of the mill and the timber industry. It brings back a flood of memories as my entire family has been involved in the industry in one way or another for over 100 years.
My Great Grandfather started in the business going to work for Holly Pulp & Paper Co. in Oregon City at the turn of the 20th century. The company would later become Publishers Paper Co. and then Blue Heron Co. Sadly, the mill was recently forced into bankruptcy when it was unable to compete with the Chinese for raw materials.
My Grandfather started a career in the woods in Alsea maintaining a steam donkey for the logging operations. He later moved to the Hull-Oaks mill in maintenance to work on the steam engines there. To know the toughness of these folks, my Grandfather talked of the times that he would walk from Alsea to Corvallis for food provisions for the family. That is an uphill walk back of some 22 miles carrying a load of groceries!
During the depression, another group took the risks and constructed a plywood mill in Albany. This was the Malarkey brothers and the mill was named M&M Plywood. My Father, being out of work in the 1930’s, signed on as a millwright. This mill used steam power for the lathe while the balance of the machinery was electric. The electric power came from two steam turbine generators that had sufficient generation capacity to run the entire city of Albany in an emergency. The steam was also used in the dryers to dry the veneer. The lathe was the largest in the Northwest peeling up to 144″ veneer in width. At times the peeler blocks were so large in diameter that they would be chucked off center and rocked back and forth to cut down one side and then re-chucked to clear the floor. The other unique item of the mill was it’s electronic press. This was a giant microwave and could press thickness up to 7″. During World War II, these thick panels of plywood were used for the carrier decks on our aircraft carriers.
I started my career in wood products at this mill; learning to run every machine station there was while going to college, studying in the field of accounting. Later, as a CPA working for a national accounting firm in Portland, I would return to this mill to audit the books as an independent accountant. Sadly, this mill too is gone; lost to the Spotted Owl controversy that closed down logging operations for so many mills.
One of my major clients turned out to be Publishers Paper Co. and I spent many hours there performing audits and tax preparation work. Later, I would leave public accounting and take various accounting positions with Publishers. I later moved on to other wood produicts companies finally retiring. I still build from wood and will until I die.
Back to Hull-Oaks. In my early years I would pass through the mill many times on my way to hunt for deer in the hills west of the mill and later on, to ride motorcycles all over those hills. If you knew the old dirt log roads well enough you could ride all the way to the Oregon Coast. The guys at the mill were always friendly and would wave as you went by or stop you on your way out from hunting to inquire of your luck. The sound of the screaming saws, the steam engine, debarker and the mill overall was a symphony of pure pleasure.
Finally, being politically incorrect, as most timber folks are, I will note that the favored term for the articulated arm on the carriage that turns the log is the Nigger. See “Terms of the Trade”, Random Lengths, edited by William Dean and David S. Evans.
Thanks for a great story of real America.
I was a personal friend to Ralph Hull. He wanted the mill to continue after his death and his genius was in acquiring timber ownership to leave as a continueing raw material supply. The mill does not run exclusively on Ralph Hull timber but I sincerely doubt if it could still operate without the private timber holding. Ralph also built a heart wing addition to Good Samaritan Hospital in Corvallis, Or. Ralph was a Good Samaritan.
Not only are the folks at Hull-Oakes fine and respectful, they are intelligent as well. There are no computer-operated machines in the mill; every operator is working with the computer in his or her head. Furthermore, every log cut is to meet a specific order, which can vary from one log to many, and from small to large as the photos showed. It is an unusual and remarkable place. Thanks for a great photographic record.
I just read this online and I wanted to tell you that I grew up around Hull-Oaks. My grandpa worked there for years until he finally retired. Even today if you ask around the mill if they knew Barney, they would. Also my uncle still works up there has since he was 18 years old. My father worked there off and on when I was growing up. I really enjoyed reading what you wrote. I hope you get a chance to go back out there and do another article.
I throughly engoyed this entire article. I am an old fan of steam power in every application and am fortunate to live only one (1) mile from a steam traction engine museum here in Portland, Tn. The museum also contains over 180 gasoline, diesel and kerosine powered tractors on steel and rubber tracks or wheels. One of the main attractions at the yearly “Days Gone By” celebration is the “00 Frick left hand sawmill”. They belt up many different tractors and Traction Engines to it to cut the mostly popular and oak logs. It was donated to the Celebration and most effectively powered by the owner of several Keck-Gonnerman engines. They can bee seen, heard, and smelt working away every October on the first week-end. Right off of state rd. 109, just turn by the Police-Firehall, cross over the RR tracks, and you are right beside it. Come see us, and Remember,……. “Steam ain’t clean but it sure is fun”.
thanx gary to john langer of seattle Did you know why Fir was cut to Cube 2ft Long or?? Beautiful job on this site thanks Wayne
Mr. Gary Katz
I would like to thank you for your work and photos on the Hull-Oakes mill. I have read all of the replies and as I think back on my families lumber yard I start to well up and remember the good old days in Carnelian Bay, Lake Tahoe of late 50’s and 60’s. As a young man I had one of the best childhoods growing up there, I wish every kid could have had that growing up and this world would be a better place. As your story goes we didn’t do it for the money, we did for the love of it and for our family as it kept us together. My father worked for Diamond Match Lumber Co. and in 1957 he had a heart attack that took us to the lake and that’s when our father bought the yard. He past away at 47yrs.old in 1961, too young. However the memories that your story stirred, when we would cut the pine and redwood boards, oh the fragrance, working late in the night to get the orders out for next day deliveries. As you can see I have started a small lumber company just because I love it, certainly not for the money. Can you tell me if Hull-Oakes mill has someone there that I can contact to visit them? Once again, thank you for preserving the past.
“Woody” The Urban 1 Forester
Found your site thru the net. That is a cool machine and history too. My husband has managed to line up a Coutts 2 head rig. I have contacted All Blades Canada and they have gave a place in Ont to get the blade to be pounded and order the bits. My question is is there a place in western Canada that we can get the blade pounded and order bits.
I used to live in Mendocino County, Calfiornia, back in the ’80s. The timber industry used to be huge there. I knew a young man who, while working in a mill, got hit by a piece of the band saw blade when it hit a spike. Yes, someone spiked logs in protest of certain logging practices. In researching to write about that incident, I came across your site and found the info very helpful and fascinating as well. I’d forgotten some of the terminology and learned some new things about milling. thanks!
This is a great article. Video of those saws in operation would have been amazing. A great story of a successful American family-owned and operated business.
I have been in the reclaimed lumber bus. for about 27 years. Our source of material comming from buildings of the Industrial rev. (large beams Long leaf Pine, the King George wood for ship building.) Great 6 &7 story cotton mills were constructed of these(plank beam construction). Later after most of the Pine was depleted, in 1920’s railways brought Douglas fir to southern states to build mills because compare to steel structures Lumber costing approx. a nickle a Board Ft. Long leaf Yellow pine growing in the costal plains of the south was the strongest beams of span & Doug fir 2nd. I noticed they had a hand sign to sawer to tell what size of cut. That was developed in the south found in the book The Fasinating Lumber business.
I’m looking for written and photographic information on the ten foot steam driven veneer lathe used at Associated Plywood which later became U.S. Plywood in Eugene, Oregon. Does anyone have photographs, videos, or documentation of any kind on the lathe?
My dad was head lathe man on the log deck for 32 years.
Great job Gary!
But I am sad. I was there Friday and loaded some beautiful timbers from there on my truck.
I should have asked for a tour
30 years ago I spent 25 months working at this mill. The guy who describes the screaming motors and overwhelming noise and vibration all around you as a symphony of pure pleasure obviously has NO clue of what it is really like to come out alive at the end of the day. Pure Terror and broken backs. Smashed legs and feet. 5 whistles plus brought us all running to see a man with his arm almost ripped off and almost eaten by that edger. Bill Oakes gave first-aid, probably saving his life. Offbearing that band saw was a near death experience every day! As for those back teeth ,I once saw them cut several feet and 4 inches deep in a log because the setter hit the wrong lever while backing up. Didn’t quite pull the blade off, but was an awful sound. Later, they did lose a band which almost decapitated Ralph K while cutting it out. I was laughed at for diving for safety. My brother was stuffed onto that band saw table by an unaware timber sawyer, almost breaking his legs and inches from those shark teeth. As carrier driver which was one of the best jobs, I had a choice between one carrier with only a hand brake and one 1920s vintage carrier that smoked so bad it would make me sick. Admittedly this was later remedied with some better machines. They are all still there lined up like a museum. I had never seen one of the pond boats out of the water until recently. It is being repaired for current use. Undoubtedly the ugliest boat ever built. So stare in wonder, I still do. But like war, unless you have lived it you can’t know. It ain’t for sissies like the kid that wanted to wear several large rings while pulling green chain. By the way any logs over 45′ had to be cut half way while the carriage is unhooked and carefully and Prayerfully backed up to re-dog and finish the cut. I once saw two 12″x24″x 54′ long timbers cut out of the same log. Amazing sight!
May I post this on our Midwest Saw Filers page on Facebook?
Very nice article.
Please feel free to post a link to the article, Ralph!
In 1954 I worked in a mill in Winston Oregon. It was hard work and it was hard times.
Thanks for the extensive article about the Hull-Oaks Sawmill. I was re-reading an article about the mill in one of my old issues of Invention and Technology, Spring, 1997. I Googled the mill and came upon your article.
I teach engineering and art in two middle schools in Oregon and hope to someday show your photos to my 350 students.
Thanks again for your extensive work about the mill.
I’ve worked the woods and in the mills running saws and edgers. It was hard and dirty work, but I loved the smells of the fresh cut woods and their resins aroma. My library is filled with history’s of various logging and mill operations in the northwest and I would love to make an addition to it with a D.V.D. history of your dynamic and still functioning operation if it is available. Thank you for this wonderful web site. This should be on the history channel as it is so vital to what we are and how we started out. Port Gamble. Washington was our first steam mill developed by Pope and Talbot after President Lincoln gave them 15,500 acres of timber in Washington State. I’m sorry that the mill was removed as it could have been a museum of sorts. The beautiful town Port Gamble however still stands in all it’s well kept glory for visitors to relish.
A lot of this stuff is the same as it was when I went to work for Coos Bay Lbr Co in the 40s. The thing that impressed me the most was the work ethic of the personnel. It, too, was 40’s-style. Wouldn’t expect anyone today to get up off their butts and push on a cant. If I didn’t remember all too well, I might get up off my butt and run down there some day.
What wonderful photos!! The story is great.
From an old logger lady who worked in a logging camp
starting in 1950. Then transferred to Weyerhaeuser in 1964. My husband worked in a small sawmill in North Bend, WA.
Am looking for any more info about the mill. If you could e-mail me please. I am an HO railroad builder and would love to model this mill and adjacent buildings and town if there is one nearby. Thanks George Bartholomaeus
My father, LeRoy Eubanks, worked in this mill after WWII, from roughly 1946 to 1951. (He was married to my mother, Pauline Kyle, from Alpine.) They are no longer living. Oh how I wish I could show him this photo essay and ask him what roll he played. I know he worked in the office but maybe started out in the mill? Are there records of those that worked at the Mill in years past? My cousin’s husband Tom Holster may also have worked there. You’ve brought back so many memories. Job well done. Thank you, Paula Eubanks Smith
In 1951 we moved to Shelly, BC, north of Prince George, BC. I was 9 years. The mill had burned down and dad rebuilt it. The planer was there and the 2 boilers survived. They bought used equipment from a mill in central Oregon by Interstate 5. Our carriage gun was shot. We could cut 30 ft logs. The gang saw was powered by its own steam engine as was the whole planer mill. We bought the EQ from Cottage Grove, OR. I have an aerial picture from 1957 era. Thank you. A great story. Brings great memories.
Great presentation. These mills used to be all up and down the Pacific northwest. Is the carriage drive a “shotgun” feed, or is it pulled by a cable? Shotgun was the old term for a long cylinder that connected directly to the carriage. They called it a shotgun because the steam pressure could be built up by the sawyer, and he could literally shoot the carriage back. Some of the old timers tell stories of getting a green setter on the carriage and knocking him off his seat with a quick blast to the back end. Of course, if they weren’t 100% on their timing, they would bottom out the cylinder and blow the packing out, and risk scalding the poor setter.
I was raised around & worked in the mills most of my life. Lived in Coos Bay Or. and worked for Weyerhaeuser 19 years. Did everything but run the Headrig. Unfortunaly, the mill site is now a casino now. But still think I could walk around and show people where every bit of equipment was.
Hate to see the lumber industry go to hell. Progress? Don’t think so.
When I was a kid my dad showed me your mill. More carriage then I have ever seen. Interesting to say the least.
Wow . . . I would love to hear the operation . . . to smell the results of cuts . . . This is the mix of industry and nature . . . pretty cool. Thanks for sharing the photographs.
My grandfather was a sawyer . . . he talked about working at a saw mill in Mississippi . . . of course not of this magnitude . . .
There are three saw mills – pole mills in the town where I live. I love the finished products moving out on trucks And I enjoy watching the process. There are four foresters in the congregation I pastor that also help to re-forest the land. Through some methods of management, these foresters have perfected, there is timber plenty to supply the demand and stay ahead of the curve.
This was a very interesting article. I am a wood turner and it is very interesting to see the processing of log to lumber. Thank you for such a rich and historical article.
My grandfather ran a sawmill in a LITTLE town called Zimmerman,La. .I grew up there for the first 6 years of my life and learned to swim in the mill pond. When the mill closed, 2 years after the death of my grandfather, It became deserted and falling down. Fortunately a group of people who’s relatives grew up there and worked in the mill took an interest in the town. They thought it would be a great place to live and raise their children. They moved in and rebuilt the homes, grocery store, school house and church. It is now a wonderful place to visit and stir up allot of old memories. Whenever I go home to New Orleans I always make a point of stopping at the mill. It remains the MILL in my heart.
I looked at your mill from the air a few years back while doing some mapping in the area, and have wanted to get a closeup look on the ground. I am wondering if it’s ok to stop buy and get a few
pictures a little closer up? Thanks, Tom H
Thanks for the story & pics. I retired in 1992 .Spent many yrs. as a millwright or building mills in Mt.,Wa.,Ore.,Cal.,NM & Ariz. My 1st. was a offbearer in a jippo circular mill in 1948.My last in a computer operated mill in Ca. Great times as a millwright but glad that’s behind me. Also worked in steam powered mills,great in the winter. Thanks again. Leo
I worked in the mill before going into aviation in 1963. Ralph Hull was my mom’s brother and Chester Oakes was my dad. I enjoyed many things about working in the mill and did almost every job there from pond monkey to car loader. One thing I did not like was when an ambulance came up the road because it meant a friend or relative had a serious accident. My cousin, Bill Oakes, is shown running the boilers. He is now retired but does guided tours of the mill a couple days each week.
What a great Tour on the net. Thanks for this tour.
I worked in a small mill in Trout Creek, MT as a Filler, given a general instruction on filling for a day or two. I had watched for some time. I am very mechanical minded. I did it all, leveled, benched, tensioned, fitted, welded ETC. They were 19 gauge band, Box saw blades. I loved the job. Our Journeyman Filler was impressed. I was 47 at the time, 1980. Never seen a mill let along worked in one. I was from Eastern MT. NO TREES there. I had a problem with my swedge on time and the filler, couldn’t figure it out. I did finally after a few days and sleeping on it. I did the chipper blades amoung other millwright things. I didn’t like the debarker, boring!!
I was wondering how you did the “bench, leveling, tension, so on with those blades on the head rig. Are there still that size logs in OR? Thanks for all the great pics.
I see my Uncle Sid posted above. I’m the granddaughter of Chester Oakes and great grand-niece of Ralph Hull. I grew up within a mile of the Hull-Oakes sawmill. The steam whistle calling end-of-shift was one of my favorite sounds growing up. I live in another state now, but just seeing your beautiful pictures and the familiar faces in them has brought back so many memories.
This is fascinating! When I was small, a city kid, our father loved to take quick trips exploring our new state, New Mexico. Never knew where we’d end up. He was always stopping at ANYTHING that was different and unusual. Once I was going crazy wanting to just get out and run when he spyed a funny looking, open ended bldg with lots of soft looking dust piled around it. It looked like some wind storm was blowing it all around in the valley but there was no wind strong enough to do that. We took off running and found ourselves in a small family owned sawmill; and, they were running the machines making an awful, echoing racket. They were surprised to find a family of 5 kids watching them…I’m sure quite worried we’d get into danger…But they took us around, explaining the whole process to us. Not such a big mill, but it was an experience I never forgot. So often we are in such a big city hurry we forget to notice and appreciate the basic lifestyles and businesses that have made our country so proud and powerful. It is never wasted time to just “stop and smell…the sawdust”. I still love that scent of life! Thanks for the article!
What a wonderful story and tour of an American enterprise…Hull Oaks Lumber Co.
Got this from a good friend, Steve Lovell we worked together
over the years but in different environments……heavy manufacturing. As soon as I started viewing this and reading the stories I immediately thought about my last employer, ATLAS Machining and Welding Inc in Northampton PA and the man and wife that started that Company….Harold & Pat Keeney…another story about Yankee ingenuity, hard work and determination… let me add another Pennsylvania Harwood Business, located in Oxford, PA and the man that made that company happen Rick Hearne ( steel guitar and fellow Dobro® player). Company name Hearne Hardwoods. I must mention one last person…a “worker of wood” and a friend, Raymond Fairchild, Luthier…who lives in South Whitehall PA and builds wonderful guitars…Dobros®…mandolins….Hawaiian guitars to name a few.
All of these people are gifted….hard working and determined to do it right….and good examples for the rest of us.
Reading this story and thinking about these people I mentioned here, helps me strengthen my belief in the good and greatness of America.
As a (relatively) young amateur woodworker, I really enjoyed the article. Most people from my generation have no idea that places like this still exist, and don’t know what it takes to get wood, paper, or much of anything from raw material to finished goods.
Equally or possibly more important than the article is the comments section, there are so many wonderful shared pieces of insight and knowledge from an older generation that won’t be around to tell these stories forever.
I appreciate the great read, please steward this collected information carefully.
Kind regards to all,
Really great article.
Thanks a bunch !
I really liked the article on the mill! It reminde me of working at J&J Cedar Mill in Bridgewater, Maine, were I worked for 7 long months as a tailer (August 2013 – March 2014). We did about 20,000 bft a day (finished product – white cedar has much rot in it) with about 10 people in the mill. I would sort all of the wood that came off of the edger and either send it to the resaw or throw it down to the chipper. I could run the resaw but I hurt my wrist/arm badly doing it. Sawmills are some of the most dangerous places to work. High gear, all the time. 10 hour days. Cold and really dusty. I once had a slab suddenly shoot out of the edger, in a blurr, and graze my neck….a few more inches and it would have crushed my neck!! I thanked the Lord for protecting me that day!! Another time, a basketball sized piece flew out of the twin saw about 50+ feet away and hit me in the stomach, knocking me to the ground.
So guess what: I went back to carpentry. In some sort of strange way, it seems safer and I don’t have to drive 40 miles each way in an Northern Maine winter. But I am thankful that I had a job and I learned much. There are many men working hard, long hours, to give you a usable piece of wood. Thanks for article!
Plain In Maine
A great article – where can I buy the DVD online?? Back in the 1970’s bought my timber from Hibberds at Biddestone near Chippenham in the UK… They were not as big as Hull Oakes, but had a large Crossley single cylinder hot bulb diesel engine powering all the machinery by flat belts running in underground channels.. My stepson lives in Seythenex, Haute Savoie, France – just down the road is a water powered saw mill still in use – like many sawyers, Lucien, is missing a number of fingers – now in his 70’s he is still working… Another mile upstream is another bigger, and abandoned sawmill – the water wheel is long gone, but the replacement turbine and all equipment was still in situ last time I looked…
Just came across this terrific article. I live in British Columbia and worked in a number of coast sawmills from the 60’s on. We had a number of very large log mills then, many being self contained steam powered mills. Local terminology on the head rig was head sawyer, tail sawyer, and the fellow on the log carriage was called the hot rodder. The steam cylinder carriage drives were called gunshot carriages. Many carriages had a twin cylinder steam engine geared to a cable drum that operated the reciprocating motion of the carriage. These were brutal units. Almost every mill had at least one reciprocating gang saw that shook the ground, particularly as many mills were built on fill. Great article. Thanks
I loaded several loads to Hull-Oakes before I retired, was nice to see the process, great pictures! Thanks for posting.
My family mill, IP Miller, shared the mill pond with Hull-Oakes. My grandparents, Lloyd & Alene Miller, lived up the canyon. I grew up in Monroe. My grandpa was superintendent of IP Miller. Our mill was eventually sold to Weyerhauser in the 1980’s. I remember as a kid riding on the carriers, the log trucks and the head rig. I liked going to the wigwam. The best thing about the mill were the people that worked there and the community we lived in. I really miss those days!
Thanks for taking the time to share this fantastic article and information on your company.
Regards Gordon Black President Logs End Inc.
What’s the size of the wheel and what are the rpm’s?
Excellent article and excellent photos. I am currently working on a digital archives regarding the life and career of Ralph Hull for Oregon State University Archives, Ralph Hull Foundation, and Hull-Oakes Lumber Co. May we have permission from you (or THISis Carpentry?) to add this article to our collection?
You have my permission, and that includes THISisCarpentry.com! One day I hope to get back up there and shoot video!! Then all that would be missing is the smell of hot wet Douglas fir and hydraulic oil. Wish I could capture that, too.
They shure dont make em like that anymore. True craftmanship!!
So little of early American sawmill history is un-documented.
This is great to see. Back then, the focus was on work & cranking out boards, not photo-ops.
So much of our infrastructure was built with these machines. Glad to see the Hull-Oakes mill still at it!
When I was an apprentice in the early seventies the sawmill next to our workshop at Mareeba in north-east Australia had a bandsaw about the same size as this one. It was used to do the first cuts on every log that went through the mill. The logs were all well seasoned Australian hardwoods. Very hard. They sat in the yard for many months dependent on weather and demand for timber. They were never much longer than the jinker that brought them in but I clearly remember one log that was wider than the truck (8ft. 6in) and took two trucks a couple of days to bring the whole log from the forest 20 miles away.
The saw was driven by a 300 hp variable speed ac electric motor which we once had to rewind. The saw sharpening was done by a similar machine to the one in your photos. The teeth tips were flame hardened after grinding, also automated.
The log carriage was similar, cable drawn on rails, but automated and controlled by the saw operator, one control station. One day the saw broke while running at full speed. This very sharp piece of spring steel went flying around the shed like a wild thing. Only hit one man and left him with half a dozen serious cuts across his back and legs but he was back at work a couple of weeks later. A heavy steel cage was built around the control station the next day.
Nobody wore any hearing or eye protection, noise level, painful. Mill closed in the late 1980s.
I did read this article many years ago, and keep going back to it.
I am a long retired Sawdoctor NZ ( Saw Filer in the USA) a third generation specializing in big band and Circular saws ,
I did try to email the saw mill direct , I have a number of big bandsaw hand setters and sawagers most well over 100 yrs old and wondered if they would be interested .. but all my emails bounce.
Maybe they read this