To try and further boost my woodworking momentum, I headed off to my monthly woodworking guild meeting last night. In the last newsletter, it indicated the speaker for this meeting, Eric LaVelle, would be a guy who wanted to talk about old woodworking machinery. I was intrigued. Usually our presentations are by people who make something out of wood and they’ll go through the process of making whatever it is they make and show some examples or slides (or both) of their work.
But still, I wasn’t sure. It isn’t that I’m NOT interested in older woodworking tools – I am. I’m the second owner of a 1952 Delta 12” Table Drill Press and some time in the next few weeks I’ll be the owner of a similar year Delta 12” bandsaw. But this lecture was going to focus more on the much larger industrial-sized machines, like 36” Bandsaws and 24” planer matchers that run on linedrive systems. I wasn’t sure if that information would have any impact on my life in the shop.
I’m glad I went, though.
For one thing, restoration of old machinery is restoration of old machinery, whether it is a 250 lb drill press or a 1500 lb 12 foot long iron patternmaker’s lathe. He covered some of the basics of what it takes to find, move, and restore old woodworking machines, mostly made out of cast iron. He talked about the sources he uses to find them (eBay, Craig’s List, government auctions, and estate sales are his main sources). He discussed methods and techniques for moving them (from rolling them on logs to lifting them with a forklift). He went through general restoration challenges (bad bearings, worn shafts, dirt and rust, cracked castings, and broken or missing parts) and how he solved them on his machines.
About half way through the lecture, we were reviewing the extensive list of machines he’s picked up over the years and restored. His goal (almost there) is to be able to run large quantities of wood (15,000 bf or more) for flooring or beadboard or anything else one might mass-machine in such volume. He’d mentioned several planers and jointers of incredible dimensions and sizes (most of them use 20” blades), and something clicked in my head.
When pops passed away earlier this year, his wife had asked me to inventory his tools so she could sell them and receive a fair price for them. I spent several hours cataloging his tools and then even more time researching them as best I could to come up with price ranges of what she might be able to get (best case) and what she should expect to get (average case) and what she should consider the lowest possible price (worst case).
But there was one tool, one machine, that I had no idea what to do with. It was an old 1940’s or 1950’s G.E. planer blade sharpener. As much as I tried, I came up completely empty-handed. So I made a note that I couldn’t find anything on it, but gave it a best-guess price for her.
Last night, however, I thought I might have found one of two things. Either Eric would be able to tell me something more about it, allowing me to price it more accurately, or Eric would have need of a planer blade sharpener that could handle his 20” planer blades (he didn’t seem the kind of guy who would send those out to a professional).
So after the meeting, I went up to him and told him what I knew. The more I told him, the higher his eyebrows crept on his forehead. By the time I’d finished, his eyes were sparkling with interest. He said he absolutely be interested in the machine and wanted to know if I could get more information (the patent numbers, serial numbers, dates, whatever I could find on the ID plate) and maybe some pictures of the machine and send them to him. So we exchanged e-mails and phone numbers and I told him I’d be able to get that info in a few weeks.
He said if the machine could do what he needed (handle the larger planer blades), then he’d gladly pay good money for it. He said if he couldn’t afford it all up front that he’d gladly try to do a payment plan, even.
So what do you know! I believe I might have just sold the one piece of machinery in Pop’s shop that I had the least chance of selling. I’d say that made the entire evening worth it.
I also got asked by the president of the guild to write up an article on a friend of mine – the guy who owns a mill and does custom cabinet work. I like writing (if you can’t tell), and I really can’t think of anything better than writing about woodworking.
Oh, and we got some much-needed rain from about 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM yesterday evening. All in all, I’d say it was a pretty good night.
-- Ethan, http://thekiltedwoodworker.com