Instance of Human Effort.—Six Days’ Sawing

A Pair of sawyers, in the yard of Messrs. Paul, and Co., timber-merchants, Broad-street, Golden-square, executed the following quantity of labour in sixty working-hours, in six days, beginning about eight, a.m., on Monday, the 25th, and ending about four, p.m., on the following Saturday, the 30th of January, in the present year.

They sawed through an area of 3068 square feet of American Pine, along a line whose total length was 1726 feet. In doing this, they raised the saw 124,272 times, and as this tool weighed 30 lbs., they lifted an actual weight of 3,728,160 lbs. But this amount of labour was not more than one-third the actual exertion expended; for to overcome the friction, in pulling up the saw through the kerf, and forcing it down again through the wood, at least two thirds more was necessary; the total labour, therefore, was equal to lifting 11,184,480 lbs. to the height of the stroke, and as this was four feet, there was 44,737,020 lbs.= 19,958 tons. 18 cwt. raised one foot high, in 60 hours, which is 12,427 lbs. = 5 tons, 11 cwt. raised one foot high, per minute, by the two men, and 2 tons, 15½ cwt, per man, 1 foot high per minute.

To estimate accurately this remarkable week’s work, it should be known that there was no preparation whatever on the part either of the sawyers or their employers. On the Saturday preceding, the men, being upbraided for having done little, boasted they would earn 6l. in the week ensuing. One of their masters merely observed such an amount had never been earned yet, and promised them a gallon of ale if they did it.

The lot of work had been previously marked out,—it was by no means favourable to the men, either in kind or size, and was to be cut both into planks and boards,—they lined the pieces of timber and got them on and off the pit,—they shifted the transom,— and sharpened the saw,—in short they did everything just as usual, and had no assistance whatever; they worked no extra hours, and took no unusual stimulus, drinking three pints of porter each, per day.

The work was witnessed, as it proceeded, by workmen and others in the yard, and was certified, by these eye witnesses, as having been done. It was also measured by a third party, between the men and Messrs. Paul and Co., and the latter paid 6l. 2s. 7d. to the men for the week’s work. Four pounds is considered, in general, a good week’s earnings, for a pair of sawyers, in London, on similar work. More than 4l. 10s. per week is seldom got by the best hands, on the best work.

The top-sawyer, William Thompson, is a native of Birmingham; he was weighed after the work, and drew 11 stone, 13 lbs.—his height is 5 ft. 8½ in. He completed his thirty-fifth year in a fortnight after. The pit-man, Daniel Hughes, was born at Winchester; he weighed, at the same time, 12 stone, 3 lbs. and measured 5 ft. 9½ in. He was forty-six years old on the Friday during the job: both are married and have families. Thompson was a little distressed on the Saturday. Hughes was as fresh as when he began.

This feat having been noticed in the newspapers, and turning out, upon inquiry, to be true, it was thought worth the trouble to ascertain all the particulars, from authentic sources; we applied, therefore, to Messrs. Paul and Co., who introduced us to the men, and enabled us to make the preceding statement.—Ed.

Magazine of Popular Science, and Journal of the Useful Arts, Volume 1 – London, 1836

—Jeff Burks

Filed under: Historical Images

Show more