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1918 Lumber Era.

The Sawmill Operation during the Winegar era.

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In 1918 arriving from Mercer, WI by train at 11:00 AM you would hear a large variety of sounds emanating from the Sawmill complex which included; the thump of Log Carriages, the whine of saws and the splashing of logs into the Hot Pond. All of this was accompanied by the smell of steam from the Boiler House and Logging Railroad Engines, plus wood-smoke and above all, the pungent aroma of freshly sawn lumber. This sound and smell was coming from, in and  around an unimpressive structure that may have been dusty with an unkept appearance.

The Vilas County Lumber Co. Sawmill.

The following descriptions are only the very basics of the a Sawmill’s operation*. These descriptions only explore the "Sawmill". The Sawmill is only one structure of the many Sawmill Complex structures. The following Sawmill summary of the factory manufacturing shall be referred to as the Sawmill. We will refer to the Vilas County Lumber Co. as VCLCo.

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Due to the vibration inherent to Sawmill operation wood post and beam construction was the best choice because of its resiliency which caused less wear and tear on all the Sawmill equipment. With such vibration it was not uncommon for a Sawmill worker to go around the Sawmill once a week hammering wedges which tightened the flame to keep the Sawmill frame sturdy. 

The first story probably had a 11 to 12 foot ceiling with a dirt floor, leaky steam pipes, line shafts, pulleys, and clutches running wide belts to drive the second floor sawing equipment. The whole first story was filled with whirling belts and rotating drive mechanisms. It is hoped for the safety of the “Oilier“ he only had to go down there at lunch time to lubricate bearings when the equipment was not running.

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Click the above drawing for details on the operation of the VCLCo Log Deck.

Log Storage - In the Hot Pond. Water storage has two purposes: First, it helps to clean the Logs of dirt and stones; Second, it is much easier to move a floating log. In Winegar the water would freeze in the winter, closing the Sawmill. To overcome this problem, exhaust steam was piped into the pond from the Boiler House.

Jack Ladder - To elevate logs, an endless chain conveyor with dogs conveyed logs inside a “V” shaped inclined trough from the Hot Pond to the Sawmill second floor Log Deck.

Log Kicker - Kicks logs from the center of the Log deck to one of the Band Saws. The right hand side probably cut longer Boards, Beams and RR Cross Ties. With, the left hand Band Saw cutting the standard 16 foot length boards.

Saw Carriage - Is the mechanism that holds the logs as they were cut by one of the Band Saws.

Band Saw - The blades of Band Saws are thinner than Circular Saw blades which cold produce at least one more board per log.

Live Rolls - These are powered rolls conveying boards from one operation to another.

Edger Saw - This saw removed any waviness from boards to edge boards into standard widths.

Trimmer Saw - This saw cut boards to standard lengths and cut off defective ends.

Waste Disposal & Lath Mill - A persistent problem with any Sawmill was the disposal of waste. The very first Sawmills would just dump waste in a nearby stream to float away. The VCLCo was a “modern” Sawmill and used waste in the auxiliary Lath Mill and to fuel the Boiler House. Excess waste was burnt in their modern Refuse Burner. Refuse Burners were used by Sawmills into the 1970’s!

Hog - The VCLCo used numerous such machines to grind waste wood to be conveyed as fuel for the Boiler House or sent to the Refuse Burner.

Sash-Gang (rip) Saw - saws Slabs and cull lumber too large for Lath Mill into sizes that can be cut by the Lath Mill.

Lath Mill - cuts appropriate size wood into ½ʺ x 1½ʺ Lath.

Lath Binder & Trimmer Saw - binds and saws rough lengths of lath to a length of 48¾ʺ.

The burning of wood at the VCLCo may be considered wasteful and caused air pollution, due respect to these concerns about such waste today, this was far less wasteful than today’s Sawmills. For example, today’s Sawmills are run on electricity, and lath is no longer used in the construction of buildings!


  • Sawdust is considered the most expensive product manufactured in a Sawmill. There is no customer for sawdust!

  • When a Time Machine is available, Jack’s first trip would be back to the VCLCo in 1918!

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