Monday, December 20, 2010

Ron Brese's New Blog

My friend Ron Brese has launched his new blog today. I'm really pleased that he finally decided to start one. Ron is a wealth of info on tool making and furniture making.

Here is the url:

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Allure Of Old Iron

When I started this blog I wasn't quite sure where it would lead. I first thought I'd use it to announce new products and services for my oud-related ventures. A lazy way to update the website, if you will. It quickly morphed into a sort of "research" medium for exploring everything from music and vintage photography to planemaking and French workbench construction.

Since I began another blog over at Benchcrafted, this blog had suffered a bit. And I apologize. I'm doing some interesting things that I'd like to share, but the past few months have been a bit slow regarding new personal work. And frankly, some of what I'm doing is quite boring. A 10' Shaker dining table in cherry, another iteration of this carved piece, some more benches. I'm actually not a fan of blogs unless they have something useful to offer. So that may explain the gap in posting. Nobody wants to read about what I had for breakfast.

So onto the topic at hand. Old Woodworking Machines. They've always held a great appeal. Especially when machine manufacturers put some style into the castings. Back before the bottom line ruled the design process.

I recently picked up a Powermatic 1200, 20" drill press. This is one machine I've been searching for for quite some time. I'd needed a new drill press, a real drill press if you will, and after some research on new options, I decided to throw my hands up and just buy a Chinese Jet from the local Menards. I was never happy with it, and I figured it would fill the bill until something more substantial showed up.

The PM 1200 showed up on Craigslist, and I was the first one to call. I offered the man (who had bought the machine at auction, without realizing how huge it was) half of what he was asking, and after I came up a bit we shook hands and hoisted the press into the back of my pickup, all 500 pounds of it. I drove home with a glint in my eye and a feeling of great satisfaction. This machine is about 40 years old. Just a bit older than me.

It was all downhill from there.

I've never had so much fun getting greasy and dirty on a Sunday afternoon.

Right now I'm about midway through the restore. It's highly satisfying work. So far it's mostly been about stripping and painting. The press was brushed with at least three post-factory colors, and the meathead who applied it didn't seem to think that moving parts ever needed adjustment, just paint over everything. It was a mess. But slowly it's coming together.

There is a bittersweet aspect to this restore though. Powermatic is not the American company they once were. Indeed, almost none of the old guard machinery manufacturers produce machines on American soil. I don't know what the future holds for American manufacturing, but I do know that my efforts to bring this American machine back to hopefully better-than-new condition will be greatly rewarded by the thought of future generations enjoying a piece of American manufacturing history. As is often said, we are not owners of these tools, just custodians for a time. I hope the next owner gets as much enjoyment out of this machine as I do.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Nostalgia For The Work- Final Part

Here's the last of the nostalgic photos. Enjoy!

Woodworking school for black young women

Vocational school for boys, New York
Furniture shop, late 19th c. Note that two leg vises have no sliding handles on the screw.
Woodcarving, really crisp and fine work.
Boys' woodworking class
April, 1901
Boys' school. Nice chute board and plane on the bench in the foreground.
Prison woodshop. Note these leg vises are missing their handles too. Makes sense here...

Small furniture shop.


The Stanley display at the World's Fair., early 20thc.

For those interested, I obtained most of these images from the following sites:

David Rumsey Visual Collections

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Reading Room

New York Public Library Digital Gallery

Hope you've enjoyed these vintage images. I had a great time assembling them.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

For Sale: Leg vise from my Roubo bench

 Last year I installed a Glide Leg Vise on my Roubo bench. This replaced the original leg vise I built from a vise screw kit I purchased from Joe at Big Wood Vise.

Since then, the vise has sat in a rare empty spot in the corner of my shop. I actually have two of these vises, but the other one is part of my sliding leg vise, and I'll be keeping that one.

I'd feel a lot better if this excellent vise was being enjoyed by someone in their own bench.

The entire vise is made of Ash. The chop is 3-1/8" thick, 7-1/2" wide, and 26-7/8" long. The parallel guide is about 22" long, including the chop thickness, and is joined to the chop with three 3/8" drawbored pegs. The handle is not stock. I turned it from ash to match the vise. The original (which went AWOL some time ago) was too long for my tastes and wasn't made of ash.

The inside face of the chop is lined with thick leather. Also included are two polyethylene guide bushings. The loose one you'll have to mortise into the front of the bench's leg. This provides extra stability when operating the vise. It's not necessary though.

The two-piece ebony garter (which contrasts nicely with the screws's figured ash hub) fastens to the chop with stainless-steel cap screws. The vise has a couple coats of oil varnish and is in excellent condition. There are a couple "witness marks" here and there to add some character. This is a massive vise that would be perfect for any Roubo bench, and is ready to install. Price is $210 plus shipping (weight will be about 20 pounds). One other thing. Big Wood Vise isn't producing these screws at the moment, so if you'd like an ash vise screw (with an awesome vise attached), now's your chance. If you'd like the vise, drop me an email. First one gets it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Nostalgia For The Work- Part 3 - Vocational Schools, Internment Camps and More

Lady woodturner, California 1940's

Woodturning school outfitted with rows of Oliver lathes.
Foot-powered scrollsaw
Shot of workers outside a small shop
Young man from the same shop working on a machine.
Late 19th/early 20th. c. boys school. Nice benches and vices!
Boys school
Nice clothes. When even young boys dressed with class. No sagging pants in this room.
And even nice caps too.....
Tow Japanese boys selecting their tools from the tool shop at the Amanche relocation camp, Colorado.
Rebuilding San Francisco after the great 1906 earthquake.
Woodworking School for Blacks.

Shop class. Good thing they phased this out of schools....

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Nostalgia For The Work- Part 2 - Woodworkers of the Near and Far East

These images are all from the late 19th and early 20th century.

Woodturners in Damascus

Door shop, Damascus

Turning furniture legs. Damascus
More woodturners in Damascus

Woodworking Shop. Nazareth