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The shell of the building comes from Rafz and was built onto the Untermühle grain mill. The sawmill gets the power from a water wheel.

Icon Museumsplan Nr. 691 Säge aus Rafz ZH


The shell of the building comes from Rafz and was built onto the Untermühle grain mill, probably around 1841. It is a timber frame construction on a foundation of quarrystone. The drive power comes from an overshot water wheel: water flows in a flume to the top of the wheel, falls into the wooden buckets at the front and rotates the wheel.

End product

The single-blade vertical saw mechanism comes from Canton Zürich as well, from Elgg. It dates from the late 19th century. The power is transmitted to the saw blade through a chain of giant gears and drive belts. The toothed blade cuts into the log. Sawing a fivemetre-long board takes a quarter of an hour – modern sawmills turn out several boards at a time, in mere seconds. In its final years the building served as a garage and then had to make way for new construction in 1976.

Im Freilichtmuseum Ballenberg wird regelmässig das Handwerk Sägen gezeigt.

The path to the machine

Mechanical saws are known in the countryside since the waning middle ages, in the 15th century. Yet wood was often hewn by hand until the 19th century: with big carpenter’s adzes and axes, with handsaws and hatchets. Transport to and from the sawmill was often arduous or impossible. In the 19th century, the age of industrialisation, mechanical sawmills came into their own. Especially the type of single saw shown here was found in many regions.

Swiss Open-Air Museum

Museumsstrasse 100
CH-3858 Hofstetten bei Brienz

+41 33 952 10 30

Opening hours

11 April to 27 October 2024
10 am to 5 pm daily

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