Destined for the Brush Pile

By Staff
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Cast iron lever in preparation to pouring.
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1991 photo of the Ireland drag saw showing condition of the wood and the six foot drive shaft.
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Lever with newly poured bearing.
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My cousin Philip Bradley mans the saw as my mom, Cathy Haight, oversees.
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Here I am, David Haight, operating the saw.

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.

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