Mendocino County
Philo

PhiloThis small community on Highway 128 between Boonville and Navarro, still has an operating saw mill. As the visitor to our pages can see, the saw mill has played an important part in the life of the Wild Coast. Although much diminished in relative importance lumber is still an important part of the economy of Mendocino County.

In the earliest days of the lumbering industry, in the 1840s, the mill was usually water powered and housed a muley saw.  This was a single vertical blade propelled up and down by a wooden beam attached to a crank on a water wheel.  Steam quickly replaced water as the power source and gang sash saws replaced the less efficient muley saws.  The gang sash saws had multiple vertical blades running up and down inside of side guides.  Vertical saws were replaced first by single circular saws and then in 1861 by double circular saws cutting in opposite directions and fed by a cable powered carriage.

The enormous girth of the logs that were being fed into the mills made it very difficult for the circular saws to make the first cut, limited as they were by the hub in their center.  As a result the head rig or first saw that met the logs was frequently a sash saw even after the introduction of the double circular saw.  In 1869 David Evans introduced the Evans Third Saw.  This circular saw was positioned horizontally in front of the double saw and reduced the size of the log by cutting a slab off of the top before the log reached the main saws.  This helped a great deal but even then the mills kept muley saws and sash saws in operation for a long period of time to deal with the very largest of the logs that they received from the giant trees being cut in the forests of the area.

In 1885 the band saw was invented and for the first time virtually any log that the mills received could be dealt with efficiently.  At about the same time the carriage that fed the log into the saws was significalntly upgraded by replacing the cable drive with steam.  By 1892 nine mills in Mendocino County were using fourteen bandsaws and lumber production was increased dramatically.

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