Web design in Manchester
A saw pit or sawpit is a pit over which lumber is positioned to be sawed with a long two-handled saw by two men, one standing above the timber and the other below. It was used for producing sawn planks from tree trunks, which could then be cut down into boards, pales, posts, etc. Many towns, villages and country estates had their own saw pits. The greatest user of sawn timber in past centuries was the shipbuilding industry.
Saw Pits were introduced into the Royal Dockyards in the mid 18th century, previously trestles were used and a frame saw employed. The upper sawyer was the 'Topman' who followed the marked line and the 'Underman' who pushed the rib, pit or whip saw and avoided the sawdust. The pits were usually lined with elm wood as this withstood damp and the access was via steps at one end or a ladder. The sawyers were paid by the 100 foot runs with pay related to the difficulty of sawing the wood, oak cutting being the highest paid.
Sawmills may well have been developed in the medieval period, as one was sketched by Villard de Honnecourt in c.1250. There are claims to have been introduced to Madeira following its discovery in c. 1420 and spread widely in Europe in the 16th century.
The 'modern' sawmill was invented or perfected by the Dutchman Cornelis Corneliszoon (1550-1607) who applied a pitman arm onto a windmill, which converted a turning motion into an up-an-down sawing motion. Cornelis took out a patent the sawmill on December 15, 1593 and the pitman on December 6, 1597. Early sawmills adapted the whipsaw to mechanical power, generally driven by a water wheel to speed up the process. The circular motion of the wheel was changed to back-and-forth motion of the saw blade by the pitman rod. A pitman is similar to a crankshaft, but in reverse; for a crankshaft converts back-and-forth motion to circular motion.