Workshop tool manufacturers for belt-driven shop tools

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Forum topic by illusionfieldsfarm posted 04-07-2014 05:41 PM 2613 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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7 posts in 1520 days

04-07-2014 05:41 PM

Topic tags/keywords: plane jointer tablesaw traditional shaping question

I’m putting together plans for a workshop to build my new home. We are trying to move our life basically off-grid so electric power for the tools won’t work. We live close to an Amish community here and the woodworker friends of mine there use gas or diesel powered setups. One very intriguing setup has a gas motor on the 2nd floor of a shop with a long belt running from the motor down to a shaft that runs along the floor to the workbench. This shaft has a belt around it at the bench going to another shaft on the bench itself where there are belt pulleys running his various tools (table saw, jointer, etc). This is something I’d like to start planning but I’m having trouble sourcing the actual tools themselves. I will start by saying I know very little about these tools besides their basic operation but this is what I think I will need for major tools:

Lumber mill: already taking care of that with a WoodMizer mill with its own motor
Table saw: cutting to size
Planer: smoothing/sizing of rough-cut lumber
Jointer: smoothing and some shaping
Shaper(?): As I understand this is basically a glorified router used to cut moldings and tongue and groove profiles for trim and flooring.

What manufacturers should I be looking at for these? I looked at Grizzly’s site but they all seem to come with their own electric power plant and it would be silly to get one with the electric motor just to take that off to refit it. Additionally, they seem to be nearly all made in China and would thus be less likely to customize to a non-motored (and thus cheaper) unit.

Any thoughts from you seasoned vets would be greatly appreciated.

11 replies so far

View Rob's profile


704 posts in 3064 days

#1 posted 04-07-2014 06:02 PM

Have you asked your Amish woodworker friends where they get their tools?

-- Ask an expert or be the expert -

View illusionfieldsfarm's profile


7 posts in 1520 days

#2 posted 04-07-2014 06:14 PM

From the ones I’ve talked to so far they tend to get them from each other (somebody’s dad or granddad getting another similar tool or getting out of the trade) or at auction. The tool brands vary but I’ve not made note of the brands used. At the time I was shown them I didn’t think to actually make notes since I wasn’t considering this project then. I absolutely intend to consult with them all much further as this project goes forward. They are an amazing group of men that bend over backwards to be helpful. I figured, however, it would be prudent to get the input of some “English” folks so I can make a better decision based on a broader knowledge base.

View Hopdevil's profile


219 posts in 3079 days

#3 posted 04-07-2014 06:26 PM

I live in Amish country (Lancaster County, PA).
The local fire companies have ‘mud sales’ which are fund raising auctions held outdoors in the spring, hence the mud. I have seen air powered as well as belt driven woodworking tools auctioned off at several of those I have attended. The auctions are amazing by the way, usually 4-5 auctions going on simultaneously – quilts at one, food at another, hand tools at another, power tools, buggies, horses, etc. The season here is in full swing though some of the larger ones have already happened. Good luck in your search!

-- Buzz ---- Of all the things I have ever lost, I miss my mind the most.

View Loren's profile


10371 posts in 3641 days

#4 posted 04-07-2014 06:28 PM

You’re looking at a jack shaft system.

Somebody on may have a jack shaft to sell.

Machines made before the 1930s or so were often designed
to be run with jack shaft systems. I think it works
best with flat, wide leather belts, but perhaps the
new link v-belts could be used nowadays. Of course
the leather belts can be assembled on the shaft
without taking everything apart.

Again, some machine collectors on may be
able to sell you machinery they own that’s configurable
for a jack shaft. Old shapers will be among the easiest
since they were designed for flat belts anyway.

I think you may find it challenging to procure a tilting-arbor
table saw that can run on a jack shaft without considerable
modification. Old heavy-duty tilt-top table saws can
be run on jack shafts easily though and they sell for
scrap metal prices.

View ChefHDAN's profile


1062 posts in 2842 days

#5 posted 04-07-2014 06:34 PM

I have to ask the question… why not a diesel/propane electric generator, and use modern tools, is there much difference to run a belt with gas vs running a generator with gas???

-- I've decided 1 mistake is really 2 opportunities to learn.. learn how to fix it... and learn how to not repeat it

View Rob's profile


704 posts in 3064 days

#6 posted 04-07-2014 06:44 PM

Sounds like a great group of guys. I hope some others here are able to help, but either way please keep us updated as you find out more.

If you can’t find any tool makers that will sell their tools without the motors, I guess you could always buy a tool with a motor and sell the motor. I see electric motors on Craigslist all the time. If you end up going completely off the electric grid, be sure to keep one motor and wire it up as a generator to power your computer so you can still visit LumberJocks!

ChefHDAN that’s a good question. It may vary from community to community, but I get the impression that they want to limit adoption of electric machinery because it would be easy to start using more and more electrical and electronic devices, to the point that they cannot sustain themselves without allowing the intrusion of utility lines.

-- Ask an expert or be the expert -

View illusionfieldsfarm's profile


7 posts in 1520 days

#7 posted 04-07-2014 06:45 PM

ChefHDAN, outstanding question for which I do not have an equally outstanding answer, lol. Not sharing the community exclusion of electricity that the Amish tend to, I can’t much fall back on that one. I can tell you that we, as a family, are trying to de-electrify as much as possible for many reasons and feel that ‘slipping in’ electric options where a non-electric option exists invites us to expand that idea back to a fully-electric house.

i.e., “Well, we have electricity for X why can’t we use it for Y?”

There are some things we’ve identified where you simply can’t do away with it. My work is primarily online, for example. Not having found a belt-driven router I think we’re stuck with it for that. :)

It’s a personal goal rather than a religious, spiritual, or political one.

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2964 days

#8 posted 04-07-2014 07:45 PM

As an engineer I must admit that now I am really curious as to why someone wants to eliminate electricity from their lives. All of the reasons I can think of, like going green, or reducing carbon footprint, or whatever it seems to me that electricity would be the least offensive. Even wind power or or solar power ultimately wind up just being alternate ways to generate electricity.

As far as the tilting arbor table saw question that Loren raised, that would be fairly easily done with a flex shaft drive but it could get expensive.

All above suggestions are good and it would be great if you can find some old line shaft equipment. It will be very heavy and will require a large shop space, probably.

One other alternate might be to buy older 3 phase electric machines because they are usually less expensive because few people have 3 phase power. Then just remove the motors and replace them with a jack shaft drive.

View bigblockyeti's profile


5111 posts in 1714 days

#9 posted 04-07-2014 09:17 PM

Crescent is one such manufacturer, I’ve seen a few with very old three phase motors running flat leather belts and even at that, the electric motor looked like a conversion from the original line shaft power. Not too long ago I saw a planer (can’t remember the make) on CL for $400 that was set up to be driven by line shaft. Quite a while ago I saw a tilting arbor tablesaw where the driving shaft was long and came in from the back side of the saw and drove the arbor through a set of bevel gears. The arbor tilted on the same axis as the input shaft requiring a substantial lock when setting the tilt angle to keep the torque from the input shaft from tilting the arbor inadvertently. Again, I have no idea on the make. I would check youtube for “line shaft woodshop” and see what comes up.

View joeyinsouthaustin's profile


1294 posts in 2065 days

#10 posted 04-07-2014 09:17 PM

Go all the way!!! If you have kids or a well trained large dog.

P.S.- Contact barn sellers in the midwest. Never done it, but I have seen many outfits that liquidate the contents before the barns sell for wood… think Antique Archeology. Many tools were “jack shafted” off of tractors in the midwest.

-- Who is John Galt?

View Shawn Masterson's profile

Shawn Masterson

1325 posts in 1941 days

#11 posted 04-07-2014 09:23 PM

Yeah I would have to agree with a diesel generator. there are lots of surplus 30k generators, that are 3phz capable and more economic to run. Some thing like this would run the whole block at an idle for less than 10k, and who knows how much you could have wraped up in a line shaft system. Realistically 15k-20k should do you just fine.

I know its been posted here before, but here is the steam powered box factory

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