An operating 19th Century sawmill

Many thanks to Cynda Warren Joyce for use of photographs.     

Visit the Ledyard Up-down sawmill to see an operating water-powered sawmill from over 130 years ago.  You’ll hear the rasping of the saw echoing across the millpond as it rips through logs, and you'll feel the building vibrating in rhythm to the motion of the saw.  Volunteers operate the water-powered sawmill to saw local timbers into boards on Saturday afternoons in the spring and fall.

The key feature of the Ledyard sawmill is the historic saw itself.  Unlike the familiar circular sawmill of the present day, the Ledyard sawmill uses a straight saw blade about six feet long that is mounted vertically in a wood frame.  The movement of the saw is reciprocating—the wood saw frame is connected by a wooden arm (the pitman) to a crank on the flywheel and shaft directly below in the lower level of the mill.  As the antique cast iron water turbine in the lower mill level rotates, the saw frame moves up and down – the saw cuts on the downstroke and a wooden carriage with the log moves forward on the upstroke.  The name for this type of sawmill is sash sawmill, for the similarity of the wood sawframe to a window sash that can be moved up and down.

The Ledyard sawmill is the only operational sash sawmill in the United States on its original site with its original saw mechanism that is accessible to visitors.