Circular Saw Reconstruction

At the heart of Chamberlin Mill’s operation for many decades was an 1873 Lane # 1 circular saw. “Lane’s Patent Improved Lever Set Single Circular Saw-Mill, with Patent Friction Feed”, first patented in 1861, represented a significant design advance in circular saws, allowing a reduction in the number of people required to advance a log along its track from three to one, and significantly increasing lumber production rate. Manufactured by Lane, Pitkin and Brock (later Lane Manufacturing Company) of Montpelier, VT, this saw became widely used throughout the United States, with sales to destinations as far away as Russia and the Amazon. 

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Page from the 1868 Lane, Pitkin, and Brock Catalog.

When the saw operation at Chamberlin Mill ceased in the late 1960s, the Mill remained dormant for over four decades. Major iron parts of the saw, including all of the so-called uprights, were stolen in the late 1990s, leaving a bare saw carriage and arbor in place. The important set beam on which the uprights were mounted also remained on site, but exposed to the elements outside the building.    


One of the first acknowledged tasks for Chamberlin Mill, Inc. when it was given the property by The Nature Conservancy in early 2014 was to locate parts to reassemble the saw. This hunt went on for almost five years, with donated parts emerging from a half dozen different sawmills. Various individuals came forward with parts to donate, and then, in late 2018, an ad for an identical Lane # 1 in Springfield, VT appeared on line. This included an intact set works, the last critical metal part needed to rebuild the saw. Andy Quigley sprang into action, immediately buying the saw, and within four days, together with volunteers George French and Nate Rosebrooks, retrieved two loads of parts from their snowy Vermont site.  


Then, only one major part needed to be replaced, the long set beam to which all the cast iron uprights are attached. While the original set beam remained as a pattern for a new one, after almost twenty years of exposure to the elements, it was too deteriorated for use. 

Nate Rosebrooks, who in retirement has been a regular volunteer in the machine repair shop at historic Mystic Seaport, was able through the Seaport connection to secure a timber large enough and strong enough for Chamberlin’s needs. The 18.5' old southern yellow pine set beam was cut from a larger timber, originally part of the Groton Pier built in the 1890s; the remainder of the larger timber has been used in restoration of Mayflower II, a project of the Mystic Seaport shipyard.

George French, the third member of this volunteer team, is in charge of saw maintenance for Hull Forest Products, a large regional lumber producer, and has spent most of his adult life in the lumber industry. Together, the three volunteers bring a high level of knowledge and craftsmanship to the task of rebuilding Chamberlin Mill’s historic circular saw. 

Once completed, the saw will be connected to the rebuilt Studebaker engine that once gave it power, and begin to produce lumber again, though this time for public education and enjoyment.

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Delivering new set beam.

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