Bostwick’s Giant Riding Saw Machine


A simple method of quickly cross-cutting a log has long been required by those who have to do with unsawn timber. The time and trouble involved by the employment of two sawyers is a serious item in lumbering expenses, and even where a circular saw is available the log has perhaps to be removed from some distance to be placed upon the bench. The ingenious invention illustrated herewith essays to get over these timber-dealing difficulties, and after practically testing its merits we are able to say that it effectively does all that is claimed for it.

The merit of this contrivance mainly consists in the fact that every particle of power in the body of the operator is brought to bear on the work. The feet, hands, back, and even the weight of the man is brought to bear on the saw, whilst the operator sits in the saddle, with his feet upon the treadles and hands upon the lever, in a perfectly easy and natural position. The saw is driven by motions of the body so easy and natural that they are hardly felt, certainly not more than riding a horse. The principles of leverage employed in its operation afford a perfect application of power and the force is applied just “where it will be the most use.” Every “foot-pound” of power produces a foot-pound of good honest work.

The machine will saw logs of any size, the saw blade being five and a-half feet long and having a three and a-half foot stroke, back and forth, and cutting both ways. By means of the adjustable seat, the machine can be altered to suit any sized person, whether large or small, so as to be perfectly easy to operate, but it always maintains the same length of stroke. It is claimed for this invention that one person can easily and rapidly work it without stopping to rest, and that one man can saw more logs or wood in a day than two men can by the old way with the latest improved cross-cut saw. Several thousand machines now in use in America give perfect and entire satisfaction. The machine is made of the best seasoned ash, strongly put up and bound together with wrought-iron bolts and braces. It is therefore unlikely to break or get out of order.

One of the main reasons why sawing is done so easily with this sawing machine is that there is no side draught on the operator, the work being straight before him. The old way of pulling the saw out by his side is very trying, it being continually a great strain on the back; the operator has frequently to stop, stand up, and straighten to rest. Moreover, when two men saw logs in the old-fashioned way in the forest, they have to stop at each log to clear away the bushes, and cut down, perhaps, several saplings, before they can have room for two men to work. Then again they are often obliged to stand or kneel in mud, snow or water.

With this sawing machine the operator is always in a comfortable position, and requires no other person to help him, having only to work from one side of a log. With this machine logs can be cut in any position, whether they lie on level ground or on hillside; whilst the machine is so simple that any person of ordinary intelligence can understand and work it. The main charm about this new “sawyer” is that its cost is trifling considering the benefits derived; something like five guineas pays for this wooden hobby horse complete. Messrs. Churchill and Co.. of Wilson-street, Finsbury, E.C., are the importers and will readily supply further particulars.

The Cabinet Maker – (London) June 1st, 1881

– Jeff Burks

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12 Responses to Bostwick’s Giant Riding Saw Machine

  1. Ahhh, the days before OSHA and repetitive motion injuries were invented. Looking at this contraption with my mechanics’ eye I can see a lot of parts replacement for this machine. All those pivot points, constantly in motion, with the weight of the operator would make those pin/bolt bores egg shaped in no time. I’ve always liked seeing old machines like this. Like evolution, the strong survive, the weak don’t last and the very weak never see the sales floor. Unless, of course, it’s a modern box store filled with tool shaped objects. Keep posting these little nuggets of history, Mr. Burks. They make for nice mini-courses in woodworking history.

  2. Lin Niqiu says:

    I don’t see how the saw as depicted in the etching could ever function.

    These links provide some help for understand the mechanical movements, but not much.

  3. These must have sold well as i see them often at tool auctions. How could you not want one?

  4. This invention will be even better after we put an engine on it. And if we put it on wheels, we could easily move it around too. This thing has great possibilities! I wonder if it will do rip cuts as well? Have a nice day in the woods! Antti

  5. Might work in the great plains but good luck setting that guy up in the mountains. I expect this is what comes of having a beard but no mustache, a bizarre practice that can lead to no good at all.

  6. tsstahl says:

    So much for letting the saw do the work.

  7. Jennie says
    I question this blog. Send it to Forest Products and OSHA or write a disclaimer. Would you advise someone to oil up a survivor and head for the woods? Will it fell a tree? If it does, how do you get off it in time. Look at the stump!
    Look at the blade heading for the ground.
    I am looking for the author, exact reference and exact language of the following:

    “Just because people are dead doesn’t mean thet were dumb.”

    I believe either David or Chris Pye wrote this.
    The above blog throws this quote into question.
    I would be pleased to send the first Commentator
    in the United States who provides the auther, exact quote
    and exact reference will receive a copy of my DVD, Make a Chair from a Tree, or
    the book, Alexander and Follansbee , Make a Joint Stool from a Tree,
    if either are desired and it is OK with Chris

  8. Matt Danger says:


    It was David Pye..

    “Because people are dead, it does not follow that they were stupid.” – David Pye, author, “The Nature and Art of Workmanship.”

    – Matt ONeill

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