Destined for the Brush Pile

Ireland drag

1991 photo of the Ireland drag saw showing condition of the wood and the six foot drive shaft.

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Age 13, 8455 Haight Road. Barker, New York 14012

My dad, John Haight, now a 49 year old, back in the summer of 1991 asked Grandpa again as he did when he was younger growing up on the farm, 'Dad, what is that piece of machinery half buried in the dirt behind the corn picker in the old wagon shed?' H. Roger answered and said, 'That's a drag saw that my grandfather, Joshua Haight, and his brothers probably purchased after the turn of the century.' My grandpa, who three years ago went on to heaven to be with Jesus, was born in 1914- And he remembered as a young boy of it being used in a woods four miles south of Barker, powered by an old 'hit & miss' engine. Grandpa said that the last time it was used was in the '40s during the war when a neighbor borrowed it. Grandpa's younger brother, Bob Haight, also remembers it being used when he was very young.

Dad, having already restored and displayed an old Friend engine just a few months earlier, thought it would be nice to give that engine something to do. So we decided to look into that old drag saw. We brought the saw back to our garage and started disassembling it on the floor. It soon looked like pieces of a giant puzzle. As we were working on it, a lever, made of cast iron, broke. At the time we weren't exactly sure how the cast iron piece functioned. Dad had a basic idea how most of the parts served in doing their job, but it really wasn't until he saw one running that everything came together and made sense. Briefly, as we learned later, the function of that lever is to support one end of a six foot drive shaft on which a gear is mounted. The lever lifts the gear to mate to a worm gear. As soon as contact is made, the shaft then rotates and advances the log past the blade to get it ready for another cut.

Getting back to our early experiences, we welded the broken lever but the Babbitt bearing within the lever melted in the process. The shaft was already badly rusted and needed replacing. Because of the rotted wood, the broken lever, and the rusted shaft, Dad's enthusiasm was hampered, although we continued to work on replacing the rotted wood.

The main frame is what was mainly rotted, so we started to rebuild it. We used hemlock freshly cut from a woods south of here. A good neighbor, Carl Peterson of Barker, was very kind and used his planer to plane the wood smooth and to the right thickness. After assembling the main frame, we let it cure in our cellar over the winter. Dad didn't think that the frame would warp since it was bolted together before it had a chance to dry. But the new frame became slightly warped as it dried over the winter. Later that showed to be no real problem for it would all be securely bolted to the skid base which took out most of the warp age. We tried to come up with an easier way of fixing the cast iron piece where the Babbitt melted, but we were stumped. In the next four years the restoration went very slowly. With the plague of a slightly warped main structure hanging in the basement, and the cast iron piece having no bearing surface, our hopes of it ever being restored were diminishing. So for a while the restoration came to a grinding halt. Dad remembers the following year when we were all down at the annual Old Fashioned Farm Festival held in the town of Somerset in Niagara County, talking with Lyle Sticker. Lyle was in charge of overseeing the old machinery at the festival. In asking Dad how he was coming with the old saw, Dad jokingly remarked, 'I think it's time to throw it on the brush pile.' Lyle stopped dead in his tracks, turned and said, 'Don't you dare throw that on any brush pile!' Dad knew better.

About three years later, in 1995, we went to a farm festival in LaGrange, Ohio, where we knew that a saw very similar to ours would be on display. (We would not have known this if we weren't receiving GEM, for it was in this magazine that we saw a picture of an Ireland drag saw there at LaGrange.) There at the fairground we found the drag saw similar to ours. We spent an hour studying and taking pictures and videos of it as we talked to George Norton. George is the vice president of the LaGrange Engine Club, Inc. Many of our questions were answered with the help of John Heath, a collector and restorer of antique Case farm machinery from Sullivan, Ohio and from George, who demonstrated their Ireland drag-saw at the Lorain County Fairgrounds there, in Wellington, Ohio. We came home with more knowledge of the saw than ever before, and a renewed interest in finishing the project. The video proved to be a valuable asset through the winter as we assembled the cast iron parts to the new frame.

One thing still facing us was that cast iron piece. We became acquainted with Bob Jordan of Newfane, New York, and learned how to pour a Babbitt bearing. He taught us how to dam up the piece and get it ready to pour, and lent us his melting pot and some Babbitt. We clamped the iron within the framework, supported the new 6 x 13/16' diameter driveshaft that Dad bought at a local machine shop, and dammed up around the shaft and iron to properly prepare for the pouring. We fixed it with great success and were ready for the next step. Later we painted the main structure first with a white primer and then a red coating that closely resembled the original color red. We replaced some more rotted wooden parts with the help of another good neighbor, Elmer Lyn-danker, also of Barker. Elmer, the .very handy woodworker that he is, took a couple of broken and worn pieces and replaced them until they looked like new. Then we continued painting. That winter we were very busy. We moved most everything into our cellar where it was warm and we could paint. We painted and worked lifting heavy parts and putting them together piece by piece. My cousin Philip Bradley took great interest and helped with the project, too.

When we finally moved it outside about three weeks before our annual event, we still had some problems that needed to be worked out. We worked on them diligently for a long time till we had it nearly complete. One thing we needed was the hand crank that mounted to the stanchion, and with the use of a fiber strap, lifted the saw assembly up and down. Thanks to Lyle Sticker who provided me with a handle (about the only part that was missing from the very beginning), and Pete Lutz who welded it in place, as well as other necessary repairs, our Ireland drag saw was really taking shape.

A lot of minor adjustments were required in those last days before the show. For one, the reciprocating saw assembly that held the metal blade was rubbing against the wooden stanchion. Some time was spent shimming and adjusting until it finally worked well. We were using that old restored Friend motor, but we couldn't get it to fire up and run at a consistent speed. We discovered some problems with the governor and got them straightened out, then it ran just fine. The belt that was attached between the old Friend motor and the saw gave us trouble too. It kept slipping off the pulley. We spent some time working on the drive pulley as it didn't have much of a crown. We ended up wrapping string around the pulley and adding epoxy trying to make it more contour. It didn't work, so we finally epoxies a rubber interfusing to the surface of the pulley. That did the trick and the belt stayed on as the saw did its work. Dad says, 'The show is tomorrow and sometimes you have to make do with the time and material you have.'

The big day was the next morning. With everything ready to go, we hauled it to the Farm Festival, always held on Memorial Day. It was set up and laid there overnight. The next day we went over to the grounds and started up the saw. It worked great and we were impressed as we watched it saw the logs into small pieces. It was a big hit that day. Crowds of people gathered to watch it. Later when it was finished, we threw it on the brush pile just kidding. We stored it in a barn ready for The Old Fashioned Farm Festival on May 25,1997. Dad says that if Grandpa were alive, he would have enjoyed seeing it run once again. We will be sure to be back next year.