At this year’s O’Reilly Foo Camp in Sebastopol, CA, a bunch of us took a field trip to Sturgeon’s Mill, a hundred year old steam-powered lumber mill that’s about five minutes from the O’Reilly offices. The mill was closed in 1964, but is now being restored and is open for scheduled demonstrations (see upcoming dates on their website).


The visit was a real treat. The mill is situated in a small valley of looming redwoods, lush undergrowth, and rocky creek beds. There was a real sense of excitement when the steam whistle blew, the mill chugged to life, and the sawyers went to work. The mill is powered by an Atlas Steam Boiler and Engine for the main saw (the “headrig”) and a Soule twin-cylinder engine to power the 4-gang edger.


A working 1924 Dorris lumber truck.


Besides the impressive mechanics of the mill itself, the grounds around it are strewn with the rusty ejecta of all manner of steam-powered cutters, movers, lifters, and the tools that kept them in business. Above is a 1905 Willamette Steam Donkey, a machine replacement for actual donkeys and mules (and lesser tractors).

Sturgeon’s Mill

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy person’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.