It’s not much to look at. In fact when we found this item, we were only sort of impressed. It’s a neat item but we had no real understanding of what it is. We actually thought it was a pipe cutter until we did a little digging. The more I learn about this little tool, the more I love it. I didn’t know that something like this was not only historical but a part of our local history.
We’ve all heard of Presto logs – they sell them in grocery stores. Presto logs are great for campfires and fire places. We buy them when we go camping because they are convenient and take up less space than logs and kindling. Even better, there’s a good chance we can buy them as we travel. If you pick up the right kind of pressed logs, they will serve as heat, light and cooking fuel (you have to watch out because some have additives and glue that make them toxic for cooking).
The first bit of information we discovered about this device was this ad here. How cool to have an ad show up from Spokane. I didn’t think much of it. We’re used to Google giving us local information so we sometimes miss the significance. This ad is from 1966 and shows a variety of products. We no longer need a presto log cutter since many of them come pre-scored for breaking into kindling. That’s what this was for. By cutting your presto log into disks, it would catch fire faster allowing you to create a roaring fire in less time. It also burned up your log faster making you have to purchase even more logs.
So how does this all tie into our local history. Well it all started in 1930 in Lewiston, Idaho. Robert T Bowling worked as an engineer for Potlatch Forest Industries. He realized that they could gather all the sawdust and pack it into logs using heat and pressure. It didn’t take long before Potlatch was manufacturing Pres-to-logs. This allowed the company to waste less – who knew. The idea took off and soon Pres-to-logs were an every day product.
By the later 1940’s there were Pres-to-logs being manufactured in Lewiston, Potlatch and Coeur d’Alene (seven days a week to keep up with the demand). Other timber companies jumped on board with making Pres-to-logs (from California, Oregon and Western Washington). This was a big sustainable movement and quite profitable.
By the mid 1950’s there were companies around the world making Pres-to-logs. New designs were created so that there was a little competition (some not as great as the original). Eventually the manufacturing of Presto logs left Lewiston (to be replaced by Energy Logs in 1986).
You don’t see Presto Log cutters anymore but that doesn’t mean they won’t have a place in your home. What a great conversation piece! A token of a green movement before the movement even began. It’s a beacon of creating less waste and using more of what we do have. It’s a perfect World’s End mascot – a symbol of reuse and repurpose. It can be yours for just $15. Stop by World’s End and check it out.