Gordon’s Sawmill

Local History BY RON PATCH

 

The first check Gordon wrote for his sawmill addressed to his brother for $1.00.  Photo Provided
The first check Gordon wrote for his sawmill addressed to his brother for $1.00.
Photo Provided

 

The reverse side of Gordon’s check to his brother. “The first check I ever wrote after starting my mill. To my brother for helping me set my mill up. – Gordon O. Gates.  Photo Provided
The reverse side of Gordon’s check to his brother. “The first check I ever wrote after starting my mill. To my brother for helping me set my mill up. – Gordon O. Gates.
Photo Provided

 

Below is another story Gordon Gates wrote about his sawmill. Gordon uses the letter “M” when describing his price for lumber. M equals 1,000 board feet. Older residents will remember Bill Orcutt. Bill’s wife, Marjorie, was my history teacher at the old Chester High School. The Orcutt family has done more for Chester than anyone else in the last 100 years. The photos with this article are the first check Gordon wrote. Boy, have we witnessed changes.

“Grade sawing any hard or soft wood was very interesting to me after I knew there was such a thing. In the old days the furnature companys mostly bought it two sizes and worked it from there. They bought 1 1/8” and 2 1/8” round edge lumber. You’d take off a slab and a board + then 2 1/8” to the midel of the log, turn it over and do the same to finish it up. You could saw a lot of logs that way in a day. Log run they called it.

Then a set of grading rules came along + the factoryes wanted to specify a grade they could get the most out ove and not so much waist.

The first grade sawing was like my Dad always did it.  He d saw into a log till he hit a bunch of knots then turn over + do the same thing. He might end up with 4” cant left, hed turn it down flat + saw off a bunch of bds on both sides. The midel theyd saw into palet stock or skids or anything they could get rid of.

After I was taught about what grade realy was it changed my outlook on grade sawing. I started to realize how much in value you change the worth of the lumber out of a log + new your grade + how to get it.

I was doing a lot of custom sawing by the M, and a lot of it was good hardwood. Most of it was for William Orcutt (Bill) Bill realy new his grading rules, hed ben to grading school. He used to rool logs for me by the hour + watch me saw. He new I was trying to get the best looking lumber out of each one, but he realized I dident no how much a money difference jumping a board up a grade made. So he graduly taught me what governed the grade on a board. In other words how to grade lumber.

I was blessed with a nack of knowing by looking at a log where the defects were going to be. And about how far in after I sawed a slab cut so I could see the grain on the sawed face. A clear face will show a swerell in the grain just before you get to a defect.

The sharper the swerrel the closer you are to the defect. If you had seen as many sawed faces go by as I had by then you’d notice them quick. I started to try to get the best grade posible out of every cut.

One week when Bill paid me for the weeks sawing I noticed something rong with the check, it was way to much. I questioned him about it. He said it slowes up your production sawing to get the best grade, you roll some logs over 7 or 8 times instead of 4 that all takes time + cuts production, but Orcutt is making more money. Iv raised you from $12.00 per M to $18.00 and that aint hardly enough.

I told Dad about it and he was some pleased. All he said was, you don’t necesserly have to go to college to get ahead in this buisness, all you have to do is have the ambition to try to get better.

Preston H. Brown was bying a lot of Bills lumber and hed watched me saw a lot. One day he asked me, If Id like to saw some mapel for him. He said he could buy some real good mapel logs but theyd be expensive. He said he new the grade was in them + Iv been watching you, you realy no how to get it out. Iv been around mills for the last 45 years more or less, in Main + Northern Vt + Canada and Iv never seen it done any better. Boy did that make me some proud. I was going to custom saw for P.H. Brown, Id hurd a lot about him, he was highly respected + a National Hardwood grader.

After Id sawed his mapel for a week I made him out a bill.  He looked at it + said, do you have another bill head handy? He tore the bill up + threw it in the sawdust pit. Now make me out one for $24.00 per M.

I was getting double my $12.00 just because I new my grade + was willing to go for it.

Another thing I learned if the edger man and the clipper man works with you, you can show them how to jump the grade by splitting some up grade off a wide board or cliping off a defect + throwing it in the wood pile.

I done a lot of sawing where Richard Coolage was grader. He was a National man to. He gave me a lot of pointers about clipping for grade. He used to say, that “God Damed Gates”, he can squeze every nickel out of a hardwood log even when it’s a cull.”

This week’s old saying is from Ben Franklin. “He that is good at making excuses is seldom good at anything else.”

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