2/9/2013 7:00 AM
By Jennifer Hetrick Southeastern Pa. Correspondent

Woodsawing Antiques Collector Hosts Annual Logging Expo

PENNSBURG, Pa. — At the age of 15, John Haines bought his first chainsaw. Three years later, he purchased a yellow two-man saw. A handful of the different styles of antique saws he has collected over the years are now a part of one of three museums on his property in Pennsburg, Pa.

Besides collecting antique logging equipment, Haines and the many longtime friends who help to support and share his passions throughout the years celebrated their sixth annual Logging Exhibition and Workshop on Jan. 26. From the early hours of the morning until mid-afternoon, between 400 and 500 people passed through his home property in Pennsburg, Montgomery County, Pa., to see the antique woodsawing tools, hit-and-miss engines, and powered saws in action.

A certain nostalgia attracted hobbyists and many other visitors to the logging expo held in mid-winter weather. Anyone was invited to come, mostly through word of mouth advertising, and to bring their own antique woodsawing equipment to showcase it at the event. One flyer advertising last year’s logging expo read: “See the antique equipment cut, split, plane and mill wood as our forefathers did.”

Besides sawing lumber, for example, notching wooden fence posts by hand was demonstrated as part of the logging expo. Many old crosscut saws and chainsaws from the 1950s peppered the snowy grass for those who brought their cherished tools out for display.

In the first year of the logging expo, about 25 of Haines’ close friends joined to cut lumber in the cold. Now that the event gets several hundred visitors each year, Haines and others appreciate the unique opportunity all the more. And the free food for guests helps, too.

“Each year, it grows,” Haines said about the logging expo. “The people who come here enjoy the warmth of the outdoor fire, the food, and seeing their friends. And it was a perfect day with a couple inches of snow and this ambiance.”

Not incidentally, Haines is the “H” in the H&K Group, a large construction materials and contracting excavating firm, based in Skippack, Pa., with a specialty in large-scale land clearing in the mid-Atlantic region.

Nevin Hoffman, 24, of Douglass Township, Montgomery County, Pa., brought several antique chainsaws to the expo. His 9-horsepower Mercury Disston DA-211 chainsaw was used to cut through a thick piece of lumber at the event.

Hoffman’s friend and neighbor, Joe Jordan of Washington Township, Berks County, Pa., helped him with operating the antique equipment.

Originally purchased by Chester Hoffman, a relative on Nevin’s father’s side, around 1952 at Fisher’s Sawmill in Hereford Township, Berks County, Pa., the chainsaw was given to Nevin a few years ago by Chester’s son, Charlie Hoffman.

Coincidentally, another man, named Chester Renninger — Nevin’s mother’s great uncle — “had the land-clearing contract for the construction of Route 100 in the area of the Shell Station near Jakes Flea Market in Barto,” Nevin said.

It turns out that Charlie Hoffman as a young man helped Renninger operate this very same chainsaw to clear the roadway for Route 100 in those early days, Nevin said. He recently got the chainsaw back into working condition.

“I always liked small engines,” Hoffman said. “I get a lot of satisfaction out of bringing something back to running condition when it’s been out of operation for 30 years or more. It’s a real challenge, and I really enjoy that.”

Another attendee, Abraham Allebach, traveled about three hours to get to the expo from Gregg Township, Centre County, Pa., to bring his Durham cattle oxen, Buck and Ben, as well as his spring-born Holstein and Brown Swiss crosses, Dick and Dan, to the event to pull lumber around with chains.

He and his wife, Mary, have been operating Windermere Farms for 50 years and breed Percheron draft horses.

This year also marked the first time Haines’ friends Vernon and Judy Wheeler visited from McDonald’s Corners, Ontario, Canada. The Wheeler family owns Wheelers’ Pancake House and Sugar Camp, where they have created not only a restaurant but a maple museum, early farming museum and logging museum.

The family has more than 600 different models of saws from many decades ago, including a diesel chainsaw from 1951.

The Wheelers tap 26,000 trees each year for maple syrup and have the largest pancake house in Canada, Haines said, noting that he met them through an antique truck collector friend who is also from Canada.

The Wheelers’ pancake house sometimes serves 1,000 patrons per weekend, is open all-year-round and uses 4,000 gallons of maple syrup annually.

Because bringing their antique saws across the U.S. border might pose some difficulties, Judy and Vernon hope to bring maple taffy to Haines’ logging expo next year to share a part of their own work in Canada.

Vernon has been a logger since his youth. He said in the family’s logging displays in Canada, they have a black powder splitter from the late 1800s, and even a pit saw (used to cut lumber while one person stood below in a pit).

Haines’ three museums house other antiques — mostly work trucks from the early 1900s, a recently acquired set of carriages from New York City, including a four-seat carriage, all from around the same era as the work trucks, and a few classic racecars. But the museums also houses antique oil, antifreeze and grease cans and all sorts of remnants of the past.

Haines’ larger museum recently became the home to a 50-piece tractor collection purchased from a farming equipment connoisseur in New Jersey.

Haines’ three museums are available to the public each Saturday for anyone who calls in advance to schedule a visit. Contact Arthur Cooper at 484-576-3952.

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