700-pound saw blade added to museum collection

Artifact was once used at the Camas mill

The Two Rivers Heritage Museum’s newest artifact weights 700 pounds, is 9 feet wide and has 168 sharp teeth.

This isn’t some prehistoric beast. It’s an artifact representative of the heritage of the Camas paper mill.

The round saw blade was used in the paper mill’s wood mill, which was installed in 1949 on the edge of the Columbia River at the lower west end of what was then the Crown Zellerbach paper mill.

“In the wood mill a 50-ton Berger crane was used to pick up bundles of logs from log rafts in the river,” said Dick Lindstrom, museum tool curator and paper mill retiree who worked there 36 years. “Once on the deck, the logs were divided into ‘small side’ and ‘large side.’ Logs that were too big in diameter to fit into the chipper were sent to the large side to be cut to correct length to fit into the debarker by this large cut-off saw.”

After the bark was removed, the logs went to the band mill where the band saw ripped the logs down to the size that would fit into the chipper.

The chipped wood was sent to the digesters and the resulting pulp was used to make paper.

“This saw blade is a very historic piece of equipment,” said Camas-Washougal Historical Society President Jim Cobb. “The wood mill was a part of the paper mill for years. Many former employees and locals either worked at the wood mill or have memories of it.”

Cobb recalls days fishing on the Columbia River slough and having a great vantage point to watch the giant crane and wood mill in action.

“That big crane would reach down and grab a whole bundle of logs,” he said. “At times they would send the crane claws underwater to pick up the sinker logs that collected along the river bottom.”

The saw blade was salvaged by Bill Bjerke, a retired mill employee, when the wood mill was decommissioned.

Bjerke said at that time, he and mill officials agreed the piece would be donated to the museum.

“That was their wish, and my wish, too. I kept it until the time was right,” Bjerke said. “It’s probably the only one that’s still in existence.”

Moving the blade into place outside of the museum’s Carriage House took planning, the right equipment and a handful of volunteers.

Lindstrom lead the effort to transport and mount the blade for the museum and was helped by Excavator Rental Services of Camas. ERS donated the forklift to set the blade up. Richard Murray and Terry Craig of ERS got the job done on June 3, under the watchful eyes of Cobb and museum maintenance director, Walt Eby. Pete Ackerman, with Tidland Group, machined the large nut and washer used in the center of the blade to mount it.

According to Cobb, the museum is in search of historic images of the old wood mill. A local artist, Travis London, son of museum volunteer Brad London, has offered to paint a mural on the blade that depicts the historic wood mill.

“We need photos that can help inspire the painting and truly represent the place and what went on there,” said Cobb.

The saw blade can be viewed at the museum located at 1 Durgan St., in Washougal. It is open Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For more information, visit www.2rhm.com, or call 835-8742.