“What’s the big wooden frame next to the carpenter’s shop for?” Or another question often asked at the Ozark Medieval Fortress is “Did they have heavy metal saws in the Middle Ages?” You bet they had saws and, again, we have to say “Good job” to the Roman empire. The Romans gave us the sophisticated steel that they used not only for their legendary swords and spears, but they also made good steel saws. Also, they developed the hand brace (drill) and auger popular through the World War II era. The heavy saws were used to “rip” (cut lengthwise) logs into boards. The heavy wooden frame so visible at the Ozark Medieval Fortress is an authentic recreation of the elevated frames often built for the use of the heavy saws. Because they were often used over a dug out pit to make room for the man below, they are most commonly called “pit saws”.
Pit saws were used extensively in the Americas. They were state of the art until the introduction of the circular saw blade by the British in the 1800’s. During the Middle Ages in the 1200’s, Europe also saw the introduction of the windmill. In most places they were only used for grinding grain. In Northern Europe, particularly Holland, they were also used to power pit saws. The Dutch are smart and ended up with a surplus of boards, which they used to build ships. Clever. As a result, at the end of the Middle Ages, with the coming of the Age of Discovery, they had a big fleet and ended up with a world empire, largely because of the power of the windmill combined with the power of the pit saw!
At the Ozark Medieval Fortress, the pit saw frame was built by our carpenters and the boards they cut will be used in the castle projects. Pictured we see Juan and Si in action with the pit saw.