Sawing Lumber in India – Lost Art Press



Image from ‘Ackerbau der Morgenländer’ (Agriculture of the Orientals) – 1772

“ The Indian carpenter knows no other tools than the plane, chisel, wimble, a hammer, and a kind of hatchet. The earth serves him for a shop-board, and his foot for a hold-fast; but he is a month in performing what one workman will do in three days.”

“ The sawyer places his wood between two joists fixed in the ground ; and, sitting carefully on a little bench, employs three days, with one saw, to make a plank which would cost our people an hour’s work.”

Robert Mudie
The Picture of India: Geographical, Historical & Descriptive, Volume 2 – 1830


Image from ‘Suite de douze métiers de l’Inde’ by Imam Bakhsh (1837-1839)

In Goojrat and Bombay, sawyer’s work is computed by the guz of 32 inches, and of the breadth of 10 inches; a single cut of the saw, is accounted double the actual measurement: this practise agrees with European usages, and is said to be assigned to compensate the labour of setting up the timber in a proper position for cutting: timber varying from 5 to 12 inches in breadth, is estimated as though it were all of the breadth of 10 inches, the length taken into calculation as usual: in all timber of a large size, the breadth at the largest cut, is accounted the breadth for the whole work. If a piece of timber is sawed by the same people into many pieces, they only count the first cut over twice, but if a piece of timber is cut by two sets of sawyers, they have each the privilege of counting the first cut twice.

Thomas Best Jervis
The Expediency and Facility of Establishing the Metrological and Monetary Systems Throughout India – 1836

French Postcard – A gang of sawyers in India c.1900


Three images of woodworking in India from the British Museum.

to be continued…

—Jeff Burks

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