Local News

May 28, 2014

Do you know what this is?


This past week's artifact from the Nelson Pioneer Farm is a foot-powered scroll saw.

Some people ventured a guess at the artifact's identity.

Dorothy Vos wrote via email: “The artifact in today’s shopper is a foot powered coping saw.”

Pat Ancell also wrote via email: “This is a pedal-powered scroll saw. The operator sits in the seat and pedals to power the fine saw blade. My grandfather John A. Stitely, my father Mike Stitely and my brother John Stitely all made beautiful, lacey woodwork with one of these saws.”

Nelson Pioneer Farm Curator Kelly Halbert did some research on the artifact. She wrote: “W. F. & John Barnes Foot Powered Scroll Saw

The foot powered scroll saw that stands in the woodshop in the Nelson’s barn was manufactured about 1876 by W.F & John Barnes Co. of Rockford Illinois. The Barnes company specialized in hand and foot powered machinery for the small business and home wood worker. Barnes Co. marketed their foot power machinery as a way to compete with the impersonal, large, steam powered factories . It was less expensive and more convenient than hauling the wood to a mill to be processed

This tool was designed so the worker could sit in the tractor seat and pedal – just like a bicycle – to drive the belt that operated the scroll saw. During the late 19th Century – at the height of Victorian indulgence - buildings, furniture, objects of any sort were decorated with flourishes and swooping swirls. The scroll saw with its small blade was the perfect tool to make the intricate cuts to create these designs.

Barnes Co. also made a treadle scroll saw, an example to this is also on display in the farm’s woodshop. Both machines were popular and manufactured up until electricity took over as the power source.

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