This week I've had the privilege and task of researching sawmills. Water powered sawmills, to be exact. This kind:
And I've realized how something like a sawmill can sound terribly boring until you start writing a story where the hero owns and operates a sawmill, and then you become obsessed with sawmills and spend hours and hours researching every aspect of them.
I now know what a sash saw is, and I know what it means to have a five gang saw, as compared to a four or three or two gang saw (which simply means how many blades work together). I also have a better understanding of how the water wheel worked and how it turned a crank inside the building, which pushed a rod up and down, which drove the saw frame up and down quickly, cutting a log that was pushed toward the blades on a carriage, also driven by the water wheel, etc.
I searched for hours to find out the name of one piece of the machine (it's called a pawl, by the way), and I watched several YouTube videos of working sawmills. After watching the videos, I had even more questions, and was so thankful when I finally stumbled across this diagram below. It answered almost all my questions about the workings of a water powered sawmill.
The funny thing is, my hero probably won't spend much time in the sawmill during the course of my book, but I wanted to make sure I knew how this worked, so I could make him sound believable.
If you're interested in seeing an 1830's sawmill in action, click on this great video:
Along with the mechanics of a sawmill, I learned how important these contraptions were for the settlement of our great nation. I also learned a little about their history in Europe and how they were modernized in America.
I love researching. It's fun when you finally find the one missing piece of information you've been searching for.
Your Turn: Ever see a working sawmill? Do you enjoy researching (even if it's for a recipe or a garden, etc.)? What's the most fascinating thing you've ever researched?
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