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Keystone Saw Works - H. Disston & Sons, Inc. - Phila., PA


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The Largest Saws in the World, from Crucible, June 1920

Henry Disston & Sons, Inc., make Two Huge Circular Saws 108 Inches in Diameter to be used in cutting the Big Trees of the Pacific Coast.

In the making of large Circular Saws, Henry Disston & Sons, Inc. have had much experience. As long ago as 1876 they made one 100 inches in diameter for exhibition purposes. 

Some years after, they made another 100-inch saw for cutting stone, each tooth of which was studded with a black diamond to give the necessary cutting edge.

But when it was suggested that they make Circular saws 108 inches in diameter to be used in cutting shingle bolts, most people laughed and thought the idea crazy.

The strain would be too great, no mandrel could hold a saw with a surface so large could not run straight and true. 

But even as Marconi accomplished his idea of the wireless telegraph, after all the world mocked, so has the Disston firm done what seemed impossible.

Henry Disston & Sons, Inc. recently completed the two Largest Circular Saws ever made.  These saws are now in use at the Coats Shingle Mill at Hoquiam, Washington, for cutting shingle bolts from the large trees of that section.

Each of the new saws measures 108 inches (9 feet) in diameter, and in the rim are inserted 190 teeth.  One may gain some idea of so tremendous a saw by comparing it with a 54-inch saw, which is large as we ordinarily think of the term. 

The 54 inch saw requires for its making an ingot of steel weighing approximately 180 pounds, and its weight when finished is about 125 pounds. 

The 108 inch saw started out as an ingot weighing 1140 pounds, and after reheating, rolling and trimming, the remaining weight was about 795 pounds.  In size, the 108-inch saw is four times as large as the 54-inch saw.

The turning out of a huge saw is a difficult process when one realizes that the ingot must be not only fashioned into a huge plate exactly straight and true, but also that the steel must be uniform in quality throughout the entire surface.  Such are the facilities and improvements at the Disston Works that the standard machinery was used throughout.  All that was needed in addition was extra man power as "holders-up" during the smithing process.

These saws, after being thoroughly tested at the factory, were crated and loaded on a box car (an "automobile car" was required to carry them) for their long journey to the West Coast.

On April 10th, 1920, the 108-inch saws began their first run in the Coats Shingle Mill at Hoquiam, Washington.  There was a large gathering of lumber and shingle men from that section present to witness the installation of the saws.  Many came to say "I told you so," but all departed marveling at the swiftness and accuracy of the saws.

Usually a special saw is built to fit machinery. But as these saws departed from the common place in size, so they did in requirements.  Special machinery was necessary to carry them.  To fully appreciate one of these immense saws, one must see it in action; starting off slowly, the speed gradually increasing, the humming attaining a higher and higher pitch, until full speed is reached.

The serrated edge, traveling at a speed of 130 miles an hour, cut through those big Coast logs with an ease and rapidity that astonished experienced mill men.  With an ordinary saw the shingle weavers frequently had to wait for bolts to accumulate, but with the installation of these saws the crews in the cutting and packing departments were fairly swamped.

The day was indeed a significant one for the shingle industry and for the House of Disston. To quote from a speech by Mr. D. W. Jenkins, Manager of the Disston's West Coast branch: “With these saws a success, they will revolutionize shingle manufacturing. 

Smaller saws, of course, will cut the largest logs, but the objection to them has been that they cannot sever them completely, but do it in sections.  This necessitates a great loss of time and means a waste of considerable timber. The larger saws cut without splitting.”

The mill-men’s party, after watching the saws in action, attended a banquet in the evening at the Hotel Gray-port, in Hoquiam, as the guests of Henry Disston & Sons, Inc. 

Every toast at the banquet referred either directly or indirectly to saws – which is natural considering the fact that the party was one of the largest gatherings of representative mill and shingle men seen in that section of the West Coast for some time.

D. W. Jenkins, Seattle, introduced E. C. Miller, the toastmaster.  Those who responded to toasts were: Mayor Ralph L. Philbrick, of Hoquiam; J. A. Lewis, of the Coats Shingle Company; J. S. Williams, of the Shingle Manufacturers; B. L. Grondal, of the University of Washington; Thorpe Babcock, of the Northwestern Lumber Company; J. W. Clark, editor of the Aberdeen Post; Roland H. Hartley, of Everett, candidate for nomination for Governor, and Lloyd Spencer, of the Seattle Engineering School.  The visiting mill-men spent Sunday touring the Grays Harbor country and returned by way of Seattle Sunday evening.

It is doubtful if any feat of recent years in the saw industry has attracted as much attention as did the successful building of these giant saws. 

The Associated Press report for the day contained an account of their successful installation.  The Fox, Gaumont and Pathe moving picture news service each had a camera man present and these pictures were shown in all parts of the country.  Many of the lumber magazines carried an account of the event and a photograph of the saws.

It was indeed a memorable day for the house of Disston and for the shingle industry.


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