EXPLORE: Antique sawmill provides holiday weekend ‘fun’

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Alan Rudd is well aware that one of the privileges of living in the 21st century is allowing machines to take the grunt work out of tasks like slicing whole tree trunks down to useable slabs.

But Rudd and a few of his buddies put their heads together and decided the “cool thing to do” would be to labor in the heat of an August day to slice up their own slabs using Rudd’s 90-year-old sawmill powered by his century old steam engine.

“We set this thing up just to play with it,” said Rudd of the antique sawmill and steam engine he purchased about 10 years ago.

Rudd used to power up the machine on regular basis during the winter months, but due to personal circumstances, the antique has sat dormant for two years.

That is until Rudd and his friends came upon a few cedar tree trunks that needed to be sliced down.

“It’s so hard, you know, this pine gums up the blade with its sap,” Rudd said as a team of six guys took turns trying to un-jam the 52-inch circular blade from the massive trunk.

A small crowd of people gathered to watch the process and shoot the breeze about how far modern technology has come and how few people were probably spending their Labor Day weekend sacrificing blood, sweat, and tears for a stack of cedar planks.

An engineer and his son kept the fire billowing in the bowels of the steam engine while Rudd and his friends would man the mill until got stuck…again.

It was hot, it was sticky, and things were not necessarily going as planned, but Rudd was happy.

He jeered back and forth with his friends and they all joked about their glutton for punishment.

At the end of the day, they were going to end up with wood they sliced themselves using 100-year-old technology and some of those logs would still have the original rounded edge from the trunk- a detail Rudd was proud of.

The finished product was something Rudd looked forward to, but in the end he said, they were doing the whole thing “just because.”

Word travels fast in this County and once steam started rising from the 8th Street property that houses the antique saw mill, friends, family, and even complete strangers stopped by to check it out.

It was a chance for Rudd to educate a handful of people on the history of his antique “toy” and a chance for him and his friends to tinker with it themselves. That, Rudd said, was just the way he wanted to spend his holiday weekend.

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