Reciprocating saw marks on house floorboards on Michael Korns, Sr. farm, Somerset County, PA.

Reciprocating saw marks on house floorboards

This enlarged section of a photograph shows the underside of the floorboards in the house on the Michael Korns, Sr. farm in Southampton Township, Somerset County, PA. These floorboards extend under a supporting wall near the center of the house, so they are original to the time of the construction of the house.

Note that the saw marks on the right are curved, while in the center they are straight lines angled to the left, and at the right they are straight lines angled to the right. The varying shape and slope of these marks is, in my opinion, NOT consistent with the markings that would be produced by a circular saw.

I am not an expert, but I believe that the marks are consistent with a reciprocating saw mill. The curved marks are consistent with the unavoidable blade velocity change as it reverses direction, or possibly with a carriage velocity change. Reciprocating saw mills were driven by a pitman arm, as shown in this animation on another website. As a result, the velocity of the blade would be constantly changing, which may explain the observed angle variations of the saw marks.

I do not know when saw teeth that cut in both directions of travel were invented, but the change in slope of the angled lines from left to right may be consistent with the reversing direction of motion of the blade, as the log moves, or with possibly with a rocking action of the blade. Here is a video of what looks like a fairly primitive antique Berks County, PA water powered reciprocating sawmill, with a blade that appears to possibly have a slight rocking motion. This sawmill is an original mill, circa 1810, and it looks like maybe they are trying to be gentle with it while still putting on a demonstration. Here is a video video of reproduction of a fairly sophisticated 1860's-vintage water powered reciprocating sawmill in Nova Scotia. It seems to have a slow feed rate, possibly intermittent, and a rapid reverse rate.

The first U.S. development of the circular saw is attributed to Massachusetts Shaker Tabitha Babbitt circa 1810/1813. Presumably, the widespread use of the circular saw would have been delayed for a period of time after its American invention. So, the obvious presence of circular saw marks on this wood that is definitely original to the house (passing under a load-bearing wall) would have suggested a construction date somewhat later than the initial circular saw development date. That is not the case.

Since these board appear to exhibit reciprocating saw marks, it is at least plausible that this house could have been built before 1824; i.e. during the lifetime of Michael Korns, Senior. However, I have read that reciprocating saws remained in use well after the invention of the circular saw, so the presence of reciprocating saw marks is not proof-positive that the house was built during Michael Korn's lifetime.

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