Although the precursors of modern band saws go back a long way, it wasn’t until the days of big band music that the saw was actually called a “band” saw. Big bands started around 1910 and by the 1930s were in full swing, as was the production of big band saws such as the Yates American 36 inch Snowflake.
The American Yates snowflake is perhaps the most iconic piece of woodworking equipment ever made and is modeled after older saws that were little used in the Middle Ages. These old saws were often water-powered and unreliable, but they allowed Michelangelo to build some of his most famous designs in wood before carving them in stone. These old saws are believed to be derived from earlier models used by the Romans, as ample evidence of them has been excavated from British ruins dating back to the time of King Arthur, which would place them at the end of the l Roman era or early Anglo -Saxon periods.
And the Romans most certainly copied their saws from even older models that were in use at the dawn of human history. In fact, many famous historians believe that Noah used a primitive form of a bandsaw to build the ark, and although there is disagreement among experts as to how it worked, most have come to believe. that it was propelled by camels.
But the Yates American represents the pinnacle of band saw design and construction and, as such, was the saw of choice for all of the most famous big band leaders such as Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw. .
In his prime, Duke Ellington actually owned two American Yates which he used to make all of the instruments in his rhythm section. He sometimes loaned one of his saws to other artists, especially Bing Crosby, who liked to use the saw himself to relieve stress when touring with his band. One of these saws was eventually sold to the Beatles, who made it their official bandsaw in 1964. It was used to build the acoustic guitar played by Paul McCartney when he sang “Yesterday” on The Ed Sullivan Show. The saw was also used to make Ringo’s wands.
What most people didn’t know was that two of George Harrison’s front teeth were knocked out when he fell from a stage in Germany at the age of 19. He didn’t have a lot of money at the time, so he had two wooden tooth implants. Over the years this American Yates Y30 has been used to build several sets of teeth for George.
The filming of the movie “A Hard Day’s Night” was delayed for several months as it was determined that George had termites. Paul and John insisted that George’s head be fumigated, but he refused. So Paul and John put George up in a tent while he slept and fumigated him overnight. It turned out to be hard work indeed. This is how they found a title for their film. George was never the same after that and never really forgave Paul and John for what they had done. He insisted that the Beatles get rid of American Yates and so, in order to keep the peace in the band, they traded him for a new Powermatic. Soon after, the band broke up and we never heard from Yates American again. And what happened, you ask, to the Powermatic? Well this saw is in my store where it is used almost every day, and I can honestly say I never use it without thinking about its history and the history of the band saw.
Sam Byrnes is a resident of the Gentry area and a contributor to the Eagle Observer. He can be contacted by email at [email protected] The opinions expressed are those of the author.