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Saw Readied
Andy Quigley, left, and George French dismantle 19th century Lane #1 saw in Vermont, readying it for shipment to Connecticut’s Chamberlin Mill.  Saw box and pulleys. Courtesy photos.

1870 saw
WOODSTOCK — This winter a group of expert volunteers has begun working in earnest to resurrect the 19th century circular saw that for many years produced lumber at Woodstock’s historic Chamberlin Mill.
Andy Quigley, George French, and Nate Rosebrooks bring solid experience to this task.  Quigley, a member of Pomfret School’s Facilities Mechanical Department, owns and operates Timberworks Sawmill in Pomfret. His saw, almost identical to the one found at Chamberlin Mill, is one he rebuilt years ago from a “heap of parts.”  French is in charge of saw maintenance at Hull Forest Products in Pomfret, and has worked most of his adult life in the lumber industry.  He grew up near Chamberlin Mill. Rosebrooks, retired founder of Putnam’s Fluid Coating Technology, Inc., brings a multitude of welcome skills and connections to the task.
For a number of years this group, spearheaded by Quigley, has carefully stored important parts of the Mill’s original saw, and searched for replacement parts they would need.  Several years ago, a generous donor, Jim Tumel, an acquaintance of a Chamberlin Mill, Inc. board member, made a quantity of parts available to the restoration effort. 
Then, in November, 2018, while making a daily internet check for remaining parts,  Quigley spied an identical 1870 vintage Lane #1 saw for sale. He sprang into action immediately and within four days began retrieving parts of the saw from a snowy Vermont woods.   Using Rosebrooks’ truck and trailer,  Quigley, French and Rosebrooks, hauled two more loads of parts to Connecticut.  All necessary metal parts for rebuilding the saw were finally in place.
All that was needed was a replacement “set beam” to which all the metal parts attach.  While the original beam still exists, it had been exposed to the elements and was too deteriorated for use.  Such a beam, however, is not an everyday find.  Here Rosebrooks’ connections came into play.
In his retirement, Rosebrooks has volunteered regularly in the machine repair shop at Mystic Seaport, working on projects connected to the Morgan, its great whaling ship, refurbishing with others the 1928 Studebaker engine that provided power to the Chamberlin Mill saw in its late years of operation and, more recently, helping to support  the Seaport’s restoration work on Mayflower II for Plimoth Plantation.  Through this last connection, he secured a timber large enough and strong enough for Chamberlin Mill’s set beam. This timber had originally been part of the Groton Pier built in the 1890s.  After the pier was dismantled in 1980, this timber was shipped to a Virginia dealer. It was brought back north in connection with the Mayflower II restoration.  The remainder of the original timber will be used for the Mayflower II.   
With all metal parts available and the new set beam on hand Chamberlin Mill, Inc., the non-profit steward for the historic Woodstock sawmill, hopes to bring the saw back to life within a year.  Once rebuilt, it will be reconnected to the rebuilt Studebaker engine that once gave it power, and begin to produce lumber again, though this time for public education and enjoyment.
Chamberlin Mill is one of the last surviving sawmills in Connecticut that was once powered by water.  Following “The Great Flood” of 1936, with its lower dam and penstock compromised, the Chamberlins kept the saw operating by using a powerful and steady Studebaker engine, connected directly to the saw’s arbor shaft.  This allowed them to operate their Mill for another three decades.  The surviving mill structure dates to around 1900, though the site has been used for grist mill and sawmill operations since the 1700s. Chamberlin Mill is listed on the State Register of Historic Places.
Visitors will have an opportunity to observe the saw under reconstruction and to learn about the process of its rebuilding at an event at 1 p.m. May 4, with rain date of May 5.  Further information about this event is available on Chamberlin Mill’s website:


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