One of the books on my bookshelf is “Life and Tradition on The Moorlands of North-East Yorkshire” by Marie Hartley and Joan Ingilby and contains an interesting photo of a saw-pit being used at Middle Heads in Farndale. I thought today I would have a go at finding it.
I am a bit hesitant about scanning direct from a book but someone seems to have split a copy of the book up and is selling each page separately on eBay. Sacrilege! — but it does mean I can resort to a screen grab of the eBay page, watermark included.
The saw-pit was no trouble finding, and is surprisingly still fairly extant although I note it is not listed in the North York Moors Historic Environment Record (HER).
A whip-saw, a two-handled saw, would be worked by two men, one on top and one below — the ‘underdog‘, who would be an apprentice or worker. The skilled joiner would control the cut from the top. The underdog would be constantly showered by sawdust.
Along the top of each wall, there would be a wood ‘stringer‘ and heavier ‘transomes’, or ‘dogs‘ in naval slang, laid across to support the tree. A plumbline let down into the pit helped guide the bottom sawyer1Hartley, Marie and Joan Ingilby. “Life and Tradition on The Moorlands of North-East Yorkshire”. Page 104. J.M. Dent & Son. 1990. ISBN 1 870071 54 9..
It may seem somewhat surprising that a saw-pit was located at the uppermost farmstead in the dale, but many farms had their own saw-horse which was used when required by the dale’s joiner or wheelwright2Ibid..
It was not only planks that were cut but shaped sections such as plough beams also. Planks were typically laid out on drying shelves for five years before using3Ibid..
- 1Hartley, Marie and Joan Ingilby. “Life and Tradition on The Moorlands of North-East Yorkshire”. Page 104. J.M. Dent & Son. 1990. ISBN 1 870071 54 9.