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tools from the past6/16
I was at a garage sale today and I saw an old Craftsman/Sears radial arm saw, the saw was in show room condition and the guy was asking $25. I remember doing a lot of work with one of these many years ago.
Nothing like ripping a 2 x10 on a Craftsman radial arm saw with a dull high speed steel blade. Emergency room material.
I have all the latest in CNC technology and it is great, but sometimes an old tool is the perfect tool for certain operations. I’m not a fan of radial arm saws as they can be dangerous if not used properly, but there are many other older tools that still do what they were designed to do long after the modern tools have broken down and they still require skill to use.
I had a long sliver come out of a radial arm saw while ripping, and it stuck in my abdomen. Lucky for me it was winter and had a T-shirt, flannel shirt, and a denim apron on. I remember looking down at it, afraid to pull it. It barely went through the skin, mostly stuck in the clothes.
I remember an old, old Beech 2 head Drum sander that had the babbitt bearings so worn that rags were stuffed into the gaps between the shaft and the bearing housing, and then doused with 30W oil. Hot, oily, smoking rags in a woodshop.......
Or an even older (1912) Round End Tenoner that was used to cut long movable slats for louvers. The automated machine was used for 95% of the work, but slats longer than 20" had to be run through the ancient tenoner that was just cobbled together.
The shutter shop was all 1900's tech, augmented with some air drills and stops provided courtesy of a Rambler's brake light pressure switch or three.
My first day at a new job in 1982 was in a shop that had been run by an old German guy. They had a wildly dangerous collection of old files that were ground to a pattern and clamped as well as possible into a shaper, and spun until they came out. Or the wooden tablesaw that the old guy built, accurate to within 1/2" and a motor that had to be started by hand, by spinning the blade. At the end of the day, I watched as the two employees went around and dutifully unplugged every machine and cord, then all the breakers in the boxes. You did not want to have pay for all that electricity in those wires all night.....
David, your post reminds of folklore here in Peoria. In a turn of the century millwork shop, they had a knife leave a square head cutter in a shaper. It clipped the operator near the waist and went all the way thru. Mandatory safety equipment after that was a 3/4" plywood sandwich shop advertising board worn over the shoulders of the operator with leather straps! I bet operators close by took a break when that fired up the first couple of times!
Nearly every old lumberyard I have ever ben in had a story about when ol' Joe, or Harlan, or Festus, or Goober forgot to use the 5' pipe to crank down the square head bolts that held the slotted knives in place on the molder. When the hapless worker switched it on, the big knife flew out at speed. Depending upon who was telling the tale, it went thru the guy, through his hat, thru the guy nearby, and stuck itself in a large framing timber at the roof of the mill. Never got to see the knife, though.
The sandwich board is a good idea, though. I just happen to have one that says "Kill All The Bankers!" I wear it on Fridays and walk up and down the block in front of 3 banks.
I've got an old Walker Turner drill press. It was used at the Colt factory. You can imagine the setup 20 drill presses all set up side by side one operation. 3 shifts a day for decades.
I got it for $250. Had new jap bearings installed. Replaced the motor with a new Marathon. Its got something like 10" throw. Last time I checked it had .001" runout at full extension. Its better made than my shaper.
My first stationary woodworking tool was a Craftsman RA saw, "commercial model." I went to the store to buy a table saw but the salesman convinced me that a RA saw could do so many more operations. He sold me a drill chuck, molding head, rip and combination blades (positive hook!!!") Man, I was all set to do serious woodworking, even if I didn't have a clue. Worst piece of crap I've ever owned! It almost killed me trying to use the molding head. People told me how great Craftsman tools were. I bought two of their routers. They didn't last through their warrantee period. I kept taking them back. They were stupid enough back then to restart the warrantee period each time you got a replacement. Didn't take long to figure out there had to be better tools. Haven't bought a Craftsman tool since the '70s.
Thanks for all the stories, I am always coming across cool stuff as I read the classified ads everyday and go to all the woodworking auctions. I will have to admit that I have a sickness for auctions, I don’t even need a bid card and I find them entertaining.
Old guys tend to get built in ideas based on limited experiences. Kind of like the car ads that always boast best in Class. What Class? I'm an old guy, so know the effect.
As for craftsman tools, they were always price point driven. Home shop guys bought them and used them every few weekends. Sometimes hardly at all and they lasted a long time. The Sears and Monkeyward tools of the early 50s were actually rebranded national name brands that were pretty good, for the time.
Are you going to the IWF show in Atlanta, August 22-25?
I am a fan of the new SCM stuff, I have a bunch of it and have no complaints.
I would like to go to Atlanta, but it is a long ways away for me as I am in the far Northwest.
Scott, it will take you a couple of hours longer to get there than my travel time. Have you ever gone? I always wanted to go to the Hanover show but never have.