Workshop of the World

stories of industry in & around Philadelphia

Henry Disston's Saw Works
67-69 Laurel Street, Philadelphia, PA.

Freedley, Philadelphia and its Manufactures (1867), p. 356-358.

Which have been previously mentioned as probably the largest in the world, are certainly the most extensive in the United States. All the operations incidental to the manufacture of Saws of all kinds are carried on here (including the Steel making,) on a scale of unsurpassed magnitude, and not only Saws, but all the minor constituent parts and adjuncts, from a saw screw to a saw file. It is the most complete and comprehensive establishment of tile kind, and its organization attests the executive abilities and fertile genius of its originator and manager.

The buildings, 67 and 69 Laurel street, cover two hundred and fifty thousand square feet of ground, and comprise a Rolling Mill, two hundred and forty by seventy five feet; a warehouse for the reception of raw stock, one hundred and twenty by seventy feet; a Machine Shop and main Saw Factory, two hundred by one hundred feet, three stories in height; a Wood working Department, seventy-five by forty feet, four stories high; a Blacksniith's, Hardening and File Shop, and Brass Foundry, two hundred by one hundred feet, and sundry other buildings of less dimensions. In the Lumber Department, a stock of three hundred thousand feet of Beech and Apple wood for Saw Handles, is at all times in process of seasoning. On the north side of Haydock street there is another building fifty by two hundred and fifty feet, three stories high, in which Butcher Knives and Trowels and Reaping Knives, etc., are made.

These works are no less remarkable for the wonderful efficiency of their tools and machines, than for their extent. To illustrate:

To toothe five dozen Wood-Saws in an hour, is rapid work for the best mechanic in the world; Mr. Disston has machinery by which one man can toothe thirty dozen in the same time. He can tooth perfectly a sixty inch circular saw in two minutes, which by the old process would require the labor of one man two hours. The tempering process, which is patented, is most complete, and saves at least one third the labor ordinarily required, or in other words, sixty men can do as much work as one hundred formerly did. The apparatus for grinding is novel, inasmuch as it includes machinery that will grind both sides of a saw at one operation, and long as well as short saws. We believe that the machines in the Grinding Department are the only ones of the kind in the world. Mr. Disston has also a new process for stiffening saw blades, or in other words, refining the grain after tempering, by repeated blows of a steam hammer. In the Rolling Mill, there are forty melting holes and three sets of Rolls the largest being capable of turning out a saw-plate sixty-four inches in diameter. This mill gives Mr. Disston the ability to fill an order for any saw of extraordinary size in a few days that would otherwise have required months.

It will readily be perceived that this facility of production and economy of labor necessarily give the proprietor of these works great advantages, reducing the cost of manufacturing Saws to its minimum, and we are Dot therefore surprised to learn that, though at least three million dollars' worth of Saws are annually required in the United States, Mr. Disston supplies fully one fourth of the whole amount. His Works consume three hundred tons of coal a month, and furnish employment to four hundred men. For an account of Mr. Disston's inventions, see Bishop's History of Anterican Manufactures.

Disston in Tacony