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