By Norris Chambers



            When you depend on wood as the only household fuel you need a lot of it. We had plenty of wood but it was in the pasture and required extensive preparation before shedding its glowing warmth for the comfort and well-being of the country residents. As soon as we were old enough to start stirring comfortably Clifton and I became official “wood boys”. Our first duties were to dig through the wood pile and retrieve any small chips, twigs or anything that might serve as a fuel for starting a fire. These little pieces needed to be small and tender enough to burn quickly and get larger chunks ignited. Another of our early duties was to carry sticks of “stove wood” to the kitchen wood box. The sticks had been sawn or cut from either small limbs or the split parts of larger trees and had been formed to the correct length for use in the cook stove. The room heater or fireplace required longer and larger portions, also formed to fit.

            A few old timers used kerosene for heat. Some folks claimed that food tasted better when cooked on a wood fire. I always doubted this, but it’s hard to argue with someone who thinks one thing tastes better than another. I always liked to argue, but there were a few subjects that arguing about was completely useless. We let those who liked wood-cooked food best eat it and we ate it also because we had plenty of wood and it was free!

            In the fall neighbors sometimes helped each other cut trees. As Clifton and I grew older and larger we used our trusty old mule, Jack, and dragged the logs to an area that was accessible to a wagon. We also piled dead wood in the area. The dead wood was used for building a quick, hot fire. It was preferred for use in the cook stoves. Green wood burned slower and produced heat for a longer period.

            After the logs were moved to the woodpile near the house they had to be cut into proper lengths for the places where they would be burned. If two strong backs and a cross cut saw were available. The logs were placed on a platform of some sort and sawn into the required dimensions. In most cases an experienced axe wielder chopped them at the proper places to provide the required lengths.

            As Clifton and I aged and became stronger and smarter we began to think of a power saw. Since there were so many old Model T Fords in our junk yard we naturally looked there for the power for our wood saw. We picked an old touring model with a good engine and easily removed the body. We cut about two or three feet out of the frame and drive shaft and shortened the steering shaft. This formed what was generally known as a “strip down” after a proper seat and a location for the gasoline tank was provided

            We welded a six inch wide belt pulley to an old rear wheel hub. When we were ready to saw we placed a large block under the rear axle housing and removed the back wheel, replacing it with the belt hub. A long, wide flat belt was then installed between the strip down and a regular wood saw frame.

            A wood saw frame was a simple steel frame with a shaft across the top center. A flat pulley for a belt was on one side and the big circular saw blade on the other. A hinged platform was in front and the log to be sawed was pushed into the blade in position for the desired length. When it reached the blade it was quickly sawed through and fell to the ground. The worker operating the platform moved the log down the required distance and sawed another piece, etc.

            Our device worked well except for one thing, the old Model T engine soon overheated. We corrected this problem by connecting a 55 gallon barrel instead of the engine radiator. The engine could run all day and the barrel of water never got hot enough to boil.

            Was there any fun connected with this operation? Clifton and I thought it was quite interesting when we sawed a dead log in which a large snake had apparently bedded down. Clifton’s brother, Clyde, was moving and stacking the wood as we sawed it and when he picked up this portion he was shocked to find blood running down the front of his overalls. We were a little shocked too until we saw what had happened, then we had to laugh because we thought it was funny. Clyde didn’t see any humor in it.