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Cottage Shack Articles: The A-Team at the Coldwater Museum (Part 2) – Oct. 1, 2021

My name is Clay and I am one of the original members of the A-team at Coldwater Canadiana Heritage Museum (CCHM). The A-Team is a group of dedicated volunteers who use their particular skills and experience to improve various aspects of the museum. One any given Wednesday you will see anywhere from six to twelve of us working on up to three different projects. These might, for example, include erecting a pole barn, restoring a buggy, installing a new roof, replacing old boards on a barn, adding signage, creating a kid-friendly playhouse, maintaining a steam-powered tractor. The list of to-dos at the museum is endless.

Although there is a lot yet that needs doing or that we wish to accomplish, a truly amazing transformation is taking place at CCHM and we are proud to have a part in it. You can too! Earlier this month in Part 1 of the story of the A-Team, I wrote about how a friend and I began volunteering at the museum on Wednesday mornings and by year two we had expanded to a crew of four. I also shared some details about the early restoration and refurbishment projects that we tackled. We continued our commitment into the following year and took on two challenging projects; the buzz saw and the dog walker. Here is a brief description of what was accomplished:

The Buzz Saw

It is a large saw mounted on a horse drawn sled that was used to convert downed trees into shorter pieces to be split for firewood. A log is placed on the carriage about the size of a part bench and as it is slid forward the overhanging log is cut by the massive circular blade. The early versions such as the one we are about to restore are belt driven by a tractor. Others on display at CCHM are motorized.

Our buzz saw was so rotten that the entire chassis and even the runners had to be replaced. We clearly needed to hatch a plan before driving in on this project. We took various pictures at different angles and mounted them around the workshop. We collaborated and formed a plan and subsequently sources the materials. Volunteer Bob – he is a scavenger – provided the makings for the new 9-foot runners from a couple of beams taken from a barn demolished years earlier at a golf course in Cambridge.

Then began the careful disassembly of all the rotten framework, keeping as many pieces as possible as templates. Next came the forming and fitting of the saw. It was then that we were forced to learn some new skills including mortice and tenon carpentry and how to drill square holes. Things went surprisingly well which prompted us to remark, “I love it when plans come together.” We said it so many times that we decided to call ourselves the A-Team and I potty the foo’ who gives us a hard time about that! This is how we became the A-Team at CCHM.

Today the buzz saw is stored under cover, but now the carriage is in need of repair. Another project to add to the list! Just so we don’t get too full of ourselves there is one small piece left over from the original. There is a prize for anyone who can figure out where it goes.

The Dog Walker

Near the end of our 3rd year, before time to close the museum for the season, the A-team was asked to assess some items in need of repair that were taking up space in the schoolhouse. They included a large octagonal turntable, some gears, a treadle wheel and several wooden shafts of various shapes and sizes. After some head scratching by the rest of us, Bob explained, “These are the parts to make up a dog walker that was donated to the museum by Joe King.” “You can’t be serious!” said we. “Yes, I am and I’m not joking,” he quipped.

It took some serious Googling to find out how a mechanical dog walker works – not a hire who walks dogs – before we were able to do all the fixes and add a fresh coat of paint.

It wasn’t until a few years later that, much to the relief of our school-marm Miss Patti, we removed all the components and sun-assemblies from the schoolhouse and created a permanent home for the dog walker in a unique structure – designed by volunteer Richard – that we built next to the original homestead. It was through the genius of volunteer Jay – he’s a millwright – that we succeeded at mechanizing it. We could not convince Richard’s dog Sass to walk on the turntable.

The dog walker is now on permanent display at CCHM. An electric motor turns the table and its gears drive the treadle which in turn works the arm up and down to operate a water pump. Dog walkers were also commonly used to work butter churns. Talk about a modern convenience of the time!

Stay tuned for Part 3, Building Fences.

See the original article and others at The Cottage Shack magazine

If you are retired – or not – and want to spend one day a week with a group of really great guys doing some remarkable historical preservation works, give me a call at (705) 209-1087. Or email me at