Charles Scott Harkey
February 29, 2004
Conducted by Joe Liles
The mill had a gasoline engine. Diesel hadn’t come out then. I had a four cylinder Minneapolis Moline engine. It had six inch pistons in it. It had the power! It had a balance wheel which was a steel wheel that you put on bearings. It weighed probably 700-800 pounds. When you had that thing turned up, you had to have a break to stop it. You could cut the motor off, and it would keep turning for five minutes. You would have a big 2 X 6 piece of sweet gum, and you would step down on it and put a break on it. That wheel would give you more power. My balance wheel was about 36 inches in diameter. It looked just like a railroad wheel, like under a railroad engine. We had a shaft through it, and it had bearings on both sides.
When I first got it, the man had these old timey Babbitt bearings. You made these bearings yourself. They were made out of a high grade of lead. You would pour the melted lead into a mold that was right on the shaft. This would make a kind of sleeve that came in two parts, a top and a bottom, that would go around the shaft. You would pour the bottom half first and dress it out with a file so that it would fit the shaft real good. Next, when you poured the top half, you would have a shim made of tin on either side of the mold so the lead wouldn’t run out. Now, there was this thing you did when you made this bearing that would make the shaft so it wouldn’t run hot. Before you put the mold on the shaft and before you poured the lead in, you would wrap a piece of cord two or three times around the shaft. When you poured the lead in, it would not go where this cord was. When you took the mold apart and removed the cord, it made a groove on the inside of the sleeve that acted as an oil ring. You would pour in your oil in and it would be distributed around the shaft so that it would spin smooth in there.
It wasn’t long after I got my first sawmill when they came out with ball bearings. That was when I put my mill on ball bearings instead of the old Babbitt bearings. This way, the shaft rolled a whole lot easier.
That balance wheel shaft had a pulley on one side. I had a 50 foot endless driving belt on that pulley, and that belt turned the saw blade. My saw blade was 52 inches. Now, the longer your driving belt, the more power you would get. I believed in using an endless belt because, otherwise, you would have to lace your belt together. If that lacing would ever come loose while the engine was running, you could have a dangerous situation on your hands!
First, the log cutters would cut down the trees, cut ‘em into logs, and we would then use snaking horses to snake ‘em up in a pile. Then we had a log cart to come pick ‘em up and take ‘em to the mill and drop ‘em off. The logs would be from eight to sixteen feet long. A lot of times somebody would want something eighteen, maybe twenty feet. I didn’t like to cut anything over eighteen feet. You couldn’t make a production cutting long stuff like that because my carriage was sixteen feet long and you had to have those long logs on there exactly right to get ‘em by the saw.