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Lane #1 Circular Saw

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.

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 its 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 identical Lane # 1 was advertised online. It included an intact set works, the last critical metal part needed to rebuild the saw. Within a week it was purchased, and a team went to retrieve it from snowy woods in Springfield, Vermont.

Lane #1 Sawbox retrieved from VT.

Then, only one major part needed to be replaced before the saw could be reassembled, 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. 

A new 18.5ft. set beam (based on the dimensions of the weathered original) was cut from a larger southern yellow pine timber once part of the Groton (CT) pier acquired by Mystic Seaport for the Mayflower II restoration in its shipyard.

With the set beam complete, volunteers Andy Quigley, Nate Rosebrooks, and George French began to reassemble the old iron parts of the saw, carefully cleaning and aligning them to ensure smooth saw operation. A 48” circular saw blade was procured and reset with meticulously prepared new teeth.

To complete the saw reconstruction, badly deteriorated and dismantled logways had to be replaced. These wooden tracks allow operators to roll logs directly from the mill yard to the saw. With oak and pine logs donated by Friends of Chamberlin Mill, this project was completed in 2022.

First log on newly constructed logways.

The saw was then reconnected to the Studebaker engine that had been its earlier power source. It was time to saw boards again, though now for public education and enjoyment.

See below to watch a video clip of the first lumber sawn in the revitalized Mill, or click here.

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