Tripp Up-and-Down Sawmill
"Pit saws" were the earliest form of lumber cutting. A log was dragged over a pit or hauled up on a platform. Two men, one in the pit and another on top of the log, pushed and pulled the saw up and down. The first sawmills merely replaced human power with wind or steam to push the blade up and down.
Built in 1855, by British immigrant Reverend Henry Tripp in Tipton, Michigan, the Tripp Up-and-Down Sawmill, still used up-and-down sawing, but benefitted from several improvements. It used a "muley" saw rather than earlier "frame" or sash saws. The muley saws heavy iron blade was faster and stronger than frame saws, which needed a wooden frame around the blade to keep it from twisting and breaking.
A 20-horsepower steam engine powered the saw upstairs. As logs were cut, they produced scrap wood and sawdust. To keep the steam engine running, workers sent those scraps and sawdust down through a chute which fed the boiler powering the steam engine.
By 1850, sawmills using a circular cutting blade were common in Michigan and other lumbering areas in the United States. They often replaced the less efficient "up-and-down" sawmills. In the up-and-down mills, the blade cuts only on the down stroke, whereas a spinning circular blade saws constantly. The Tripp mill can cut a 16-foot log in about 6 minutes. By comparison, the circular saw rips through the same size log in about 15 seconds.
Tripp Up-and-Down Sawmill was an important part of the community for many years. Willis J. Tripp, the grandson of Reverend Henry Tripp, closed the mill in 1916. He could not compete when railroads made it easy to move lumber cheaply throughout the region.
The Tripp Up-and-Down Sawmill was moved to Greenfield Village in 1932 and was used for early construction
of the village and museum.
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