Witte Drag Saw Restoration
A project 60 years in the making
Don Shively's restored Witte drag saw.
Editor’s note: The following article is Don Shively’s account of restoring a Witte drag saw written by Leroy Peters.
My story begins about 60 years ago when I watched my neighbor sawing logs for firewood with a Witte drag saw.
Of course, at that time, all we had was a two man hand operated crosscut saw, and sawing wood with a gas engine looked quite appealing to a young man such as myself.
About 20 years ago, I was visiting that neighbor and they asked me if I would like to have that antique gas engine and drag saw. Of course, I couldn’t answer yes soon enough!
A project begins
The drag saw sat in my barn for 20 years, during which time I restored a sawmill to saw logs into lumber. After that project was finished, my wife, like all practical wives, suggested that this little Witte saw would be much easier to work on and not be as much work as that massive lumber sawmill. So, like a good husband, I took her advice and began the Witte drag saw restoration.
When I originally took it home, the wood handles were missing or rotted beyond repair. There was no magneto on the engine, the gas tank was missing and the engine was in a total state of disrepair. The piston, however, was not locked up, so I was very fortunate.
The first thing I did was clean out all the corrosion that was in the water tank. It was quite full of various unknown, corroded material (gunk). Then I restored the wood handles to make the engine easier to handle.
The next thing was to come up with some kind of ignition system since the magneto was totally missing. There was no way of knowing what kind of magneto it needed, so I devised a set of points that were laying around from an older automobile. I also used the automobile’s coil and battery for the ignition. To time it, I found a tip in an instruction manual that instructed to separate the top triangular portion of the water tank from the main tank and lay a straight edge across the top corners of the water tank to a mark on the flywheel. This is where the engine is supposed to fire.
I took the head off the engine, ground the valves and put two new valve springs in it that were very badly needed. I had to find springs that were as similar as possible. Then I put it all back together.
I had to build a new wooden connecting rod for the reciprocating part of the mechanism that drives the saw blade as well as sharpen the saw blade we had managed to find. The mechanism to hold the log while it is being sawed – the winch with the hook that is embedded in the log to hold the saw to the log – was also rebuilt.
The saw did not have a tree falling attachment by the time I got it, but originally it did have one. Some of the hardware to mount it was still on the handles so I painted it and mounted the hardware back on the arms. Of course, we will never use the tree falling attachment since we don’t have the remainder of the parts.