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STORIES FROM THE ATTIC: Luthier rescues boom log from lake

June 15, 2017
By ANDY FLYNN (aflynn@lakeplacidnews.com) , Lake Placid News

BLUE MOUNTAIN LAKE - A guitar maker in Essex County uses the sunken logs he finds at the bottom of Schroon Lake to make his one-of-a-kind instruments. In some instances, while diving for the wood, he finds a piece of history.

During one trip, he rescued a 35-foot boom log with heavy hardware on each end. It's a piece of history that tells the story of logging in the Adirondacks, especially at springtime when brave men moved softwood logs down swollen rivers from the deep woods to the sawmills downriver. It was the famed Adirondack river drive.

"We're actually looking at two ends of the boom log," said Laura Rice, chief curator at the Adirondack Experience, the Museum on Blue Mountain Lake (formerly the Adirondack Museum). "It's Adirondack red spruce, and you see some very heavy hardware on both ends of these two big chunks of wood. What this hardware would do would be to link this log with another log, then another log, to create sort of a corral for logs that were coming into Schroon Lake, down the Schroon River and on into the Hudson River and mills down in the Glens Falls area."

Article Photos

Photo — Andy Flynn
Two ends of the boom log with attached coupling hardware are seen here at the Adirondack Experience in Blue Mountain Lake.

The boom log, found by luthier Eric Bright of Adirondack, New York, is now in the collection of the Adirondack Experience. He donated it in October 2016.

"This was actually originally one log," Rice said. "It was found about 15 feet below the surface of the water by a diver who makes guitars for a living, and he uses the wood that he finds on the bottom of Schroon Lake to make his guitars."

Eric Bright owns and operates BassRock Guitars. In his written description of the artifact for the museum, he said these spruce logs retrieved from the bottom of the lake are called "sinkers," and they are from the logging days of the 1800s.

"On Friday, July 1st, 2016, my daughter and her husband were helping me scout for logs along the northeast shore of the lake," Bright wrote. "We usually spread out with our masks & snorkels and can usually cover a good stretch of shoreline in an hour or so. On this particular day we were not seeing as many logs as I had hoped. Then, as I was swimming over a slightly deeper swath, I saw something I had never seen before in person - though I immediately knew what it was. There on the bottom was this long, straight log with old, rusted hardware on both ends."

With the help of his SCUBA diver son-in-law, they attached lift bags to each end of the log to raise it from the bottom of the lake.

"It was a long ride back towing that big log, but it sure was exciting seeing it out of the water for the first time in perhaps 150 years," Bright wrote.

Bright cut off about 3 feet of the log at each end, with the hardware intact, and donated the ends to the museum.

"The middle section was prime spruce, so of course it HAD to go to guitars," Bright wrote.

"I really love this because it's a piece of history from a time that is past now," Rice said. "You don't see the big log booms anymore. This really shows you, just by looking at it, by the size and weight of the artifact, just how massive a process this was, how weighty these logs were. And in the right context, it can also show you what hard work it was and what dangerous work it was doing this kind of thing."

There were several kinds of log booms. In this case, booms were used to corral a group of logs and drag them down Schroon Lake, using a steamboat for power, to get them into the rushing waters of the Schroon River at the southern end of the lake so they could continue their journey to the Hudson and the mills at Glens Falls.

There were also sorting booms.

"Every company had a mark, and all those stamping hammers would leave a mark at the ends of the logs so that they'd have to be sorted when they got to the end of their drive," Rice said.

In Glens Falls, for example, logs traveling down the Hudson River would be stopped by the Big Boom and then be sorted before being processed at the mills.

The first log drive in the Adirondacks was in 1813 on the Schroon River.

"I think this is probably a little bit later than that, but it would be kind of cool to think that it's from that earlier period," Rice said.

Even if this boom log isn't from 1813, it's symbolic. This was where the Adirondack log drives began.

 
 

 

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