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Wow. That Sucked.

If you tried to visit this site recently, then you probably noticed that it went completely dark for an extended period (thirteen days to be exact). If you live in the northeast, then you know we had a hurricane come ashore here in New Jersey. That’s two years in a row that we’ve taken a direct hit. After the experience I had with hurricane Irene last year, I was better prepared. I had recently installed a 37 KW generator. This was a much better setup than the two small gensets I had last year. I also bought a backup sump pump and cleaned out the daylight drains in the days before the storm. Most of the damage we suffered in Irene was from water. With Sandy it was the wind. During the first few hours of the storm the lights started to flicker and brown out. By 9PM on Sunday evening, we completely lost power. I was concerned about the sumps, so I went to the basement and checked the pits. Both were pretty much dry. Next I went outside to check the daylight drains. These empty out about 800 feet from the house. The wind was blowing so hard that I had a tough time just walking across the front yard. There was alot of debris blowing through the air and I could see shingles and branches flying by. Every once in a while I would get hit by what felt like a tennis ball sized object.

Suprisingly, the drains were pretty dry. It wasn’t raining that hard and so I decided to leave the generator off-line until the next morning. The wind really howled until about three AM. The sky was constantly being lit up by the subtations near the canal as they flood and shorted out. The high tension transmission lines in the distance could also be seen lighting up the sky after one of the lines broke and shorted out. The only good news was that the rain never came as predicted. Things calmed down quite a bit by the next morning. When I went out to start the genset, I immediately noticed that there was some serious wind damage to the neighbors trees.

These pines had been planted twenty four years earlier when the house was built. The wind ripped one out of the ground, pushing it onto the others, which fell like dominos from the weight:

Next I went to check the road to see if it was passable. On the right side three big oak trees had been ripped out of the ground and were laying across the road:

Turn around to the left and several more large oak trees had fallen across the road. These trees had ripped all of the wires down for a span of three poles:

You can see the phone cable and the CATV hardline laying in the road. That hardline is the reason this web site went off line for so long. In the picture below, you can see that the power lines were also broken on both sides of the pole:

Remember those tennis ball sized objects that were pelting me in the dark the night before? Well it was pretty easy to figure out what they were the next morning:

Osage Orange fruits. The trees usually drop these after the leaves are gone in the fall. I was finding these 100 feet from the hedgerow after the storm.

I decided the left side was my best bet for a quick opening of the road. I got the chainsaw and the tractor. After about 20 minutes I had cleared a good path. Right after I finished pushing the limbs out of the road, I got off the tractor to pick up some small debris. When I got back on it, it wouldn’t start. Turns out the fuel solenoid picked a convenient time to give up. I ended up having to tow the tractor back up the hill into the driveway. I couldn’t completely clear the road because the phone lines were pretty badly stretched under the trees. I just cut a swath wide enough to drive through:

So now I have to get the tractor fixed, so I go to call the local John Deere dealer. No cell service. It looks like the local Sprint tower rook a hit as well. It’s only five miles away, I’ll just drive over. Yeah right. That five miles was littered with downed trees and power lines. These first pictures are about 3/4 of a mile down my road. Once again, the power lines had been pulled down for several pole spans:

The five miles to the JD dealer turned out to be closer to 15 with all of the obstacles and detours:

I also realized along the way just how lucky we were. A few poor souls ended up with trees on top of their houses:

And some more photos of just how badly damaged the power infrastructure was:

The end result of this was no power over a very large area for an extended period of time. All businesses were closed. No convenience stores, no banks and no gas stations. I had picked up a transfer tank fron Tractor Supply the day before the storm. This gave me 100 gallons of fuel for the generator. The genset has a six cylinder engine and consumes just over a gallon an hour. On day two I went out in search of fuel. There was none to be had anywhere (including the NJ Turnpike). On day three, a local Sunoco station opened. There were instantly lines that stretched for miles at the gasoline pumps. However, there were no lines at the diesel pumps. Since the stations were running on generator power, they would only accept cash. I managed to get 20 gallons. I did this for the next several days until finally the attendant warned me that the station was about to run out of fuel and wouldn’t be getting a delivery for several days.

Here’s a picture of the lines at a local Shell station. This line was almost two miles long and the station had no gas to sell:

We started cutting back on running the genarator to four hours in the morning and four hours in the evening. At my rate of consumption, the fuel would run out in three days. Over the next few days, I drove around the area looking for diesel. There was none to be found. I was just about to call it quits and move to another location for awhile when I happened to see a heating oil truck on the road. I called my fuel company and asked them to deliver 200 gallons. It was there the next day. This gave me enough of a buffer that I felt like we could hold out for a bit longer.

One week after the storm I saw PSE&G trucks on my road working on the power lines. When I came home later that evening, I noticed that most of my neighbors had power. When I got to my end of the road it was dark. I went out the next morning to see what had been done. To my dismay, the line had been capped about a mile from my house. They did this so they could bring a couple of very large subdivisions on line. It took another week for them to come back and get my power turned back on. In order to do this, they had to string new power lines for the last mile or so of the road. Once the power was restored I had to wait for Verizon and Comcast to come back and run new wires for their services. My internet access was finally restored last night.

In the end, we got by with minor damage to the house and barn. The genarator did well. It’s a pretty nice unit. It has a six cylinder Cummings diesel engine. It has a switching regulator and can put out single and three phase power. Here’s a few pictures:

I need to find an auto transfer switch and install a remote start/kill switch in the house. Another nice thing about this unit is that it’s not turbo charged. It spins at 1800 RPM and is relatively quiet. I might buy a 20′ sea container to house it in permanently.

Oh yeah.. Remember that fuel solenoid? After taking an hour to get to the dealership, I was surprised to find him open… But he didn’t have one in stock.

I ended up breaking the pin off the old solenoid and reinstalling it. The tractor runs fine, but you have to stall it to shut down. It’ll do until the new one arrives.

Anyway. Glad to have the lights restored and glad to be back on-line.

So… Let’s say it’s Sunday afternoon in late October. You’ve just spent two days cleaning up your American Sawmill Machinery 30″ bandsaw. The whole machine is back together and looking very smart.

But wait… Where is the upper guide block? You tear through the entire shop trying to figure out where you squirelled the damn thing away. After an hour of searching, no luck. Now what?

Let’s look at how much a replacement block will cost… $300+ for one block?!? No way. That’s more than the saw cost. So, you start thinking… (this is where things go right down hill). You look at the Carter guides on the Yates American 30″ bandsaw. They are made of cheap pot metal. This stuff is extremely brittle and weak. One of the mounting screws was over-tightened at some point, causing the body to crack. I’ve always dis-liked these things. Everyone I’ve ever seen was broken or had a big chunk out of it.

Surely there must be a better design.

Back to the computer.

The first promising prospect was the Paddock # 20. It has a grooved thrust bearing at the back and a set of bearings in place of the standard guide blocks. The body is cast aluminum. I’ve seen these before and always assumed that they were antique. In reality, they are still in production today (just using the original design/pattern).

Paddock Guides

Price: $265 for the number 10. I assume the number 20 is substantially more. Definitely a better value than the Carter, but still a lot of money for a set of guides.

Then there are the Wright guides. These are the same style as the Carter guides, but the body is also cast iron rather than carboloy. These guides feature two sets of guide blocks (one above and one below the bearing).
Good sturdy assembly. Spare parts are readily available.

Wright No. 1 Guide

Price: $289 for the number 2. Definitely the best value for the money.

Ok. So the Carter guides are out. It’s a toss-up between the Paddock and the Wright (I’d probably lean towards the Wright).
I should just order them, but I’m exceedingly cheap.
I can’t help but think that I should be able to come up with something better for less money.

Back out to the shop. I tear through all the bins and cabinets and piles of scrap metal and come up with a pile of parts:

The pile consists of three bearings, an old block of aluminum scrap, some hex screws, washers, nuts, plug screws and a piece of hardened pin stock.

As with most of these projects, the plan developed as I went along.
First, I wanted the double bearing guides, rather than the typical blocks. I also wanted a thrust bearing that didn’t cause too much friction.
After about an hour and a half of messing around on the old Toolmaster mill, I came up with this body:

You’re looking at the back/left side of the block.

The slot in the center is for the thrust bearing. The slot at the bottom is a recess for the nuts on the hex screws. The round hole bored at the top is for the mounting stud (threaded hole is for the hex plug screw that tightens against the mounting stud. The threaded hole at the center is for the hex plug screw that pushed the hardened pin stock against the center race of the bearing.

Some other views of the block below:

Right. It’s literally a block. Nothing pretty about it.

Now let’s put it together and see how it looks:
First an explanation of the mounting of the thrust bearing. I took a piece of hardened pin stock and ground it to fit into the center of the bearing. I left a slight shoulder on it so it would press aganst the center race. The bearing is placed in the slot with a washer to the left and the pin stock is pushed through. This is followed by the hex plug screw, which presses against the pin; locking the center race of the bearing against the washer and the shoulder of the pin.

Here’s an exploded view of the thrust bearing assembly:

A close-up of the pin. The thrust bearing is the wider of the three (left):

And, a number of views of the assembled guide unit:

Not bad, but will it work? The block is definitely sturdy.
To adjust for a wider blade, you just add two bearings and longer hex screws.
The bottom corners could be rounded off.
Next step is to test it on the saw.

Should be interesting.

Oh.. And now that I’ve spent all this time and effort on the replacement, you can bet that the missing guide will turn up out of nowhere.

Update: When I got home from work today I went out to the shop and mounted the new guides on the bandsaw. The short of it is that they fit and work great.

So, let’s summarize: The parts were basically free since they were just laying around the shop. It took about two hours of machine time (most of which was planning). I got a very sturdy set of guides with easily replaced components. Looks like success to me.

I’m already looking at improvements on the design. I think I can reduce the height of the block by 25% by moving the mounting stud lower. This means I’ll need to use a thicker piece of aluminum. A benefit of doing this is that I can use a much larger thrust bearing. This will also add some rigidity to the entire mechanism. This will very likely end up being a cast part. It looks like a pretty straightforward pattern and it’ll reduce the number of machine operations required to go from raw materials to a finished part.

Here are the drawings of the current vs. the improved design:

Bandsaw Guides

And finally, the video of the guides in operation can be seen here:

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After the “No Quadrant? No Problem!” article went up, I got a bunch of requests for the rough castings.

My original patterns were pretty basic and after cranking out four sets of the quadrants for the Wadkin PK, I decided I should refine the pattern to help reduce the number of machine operations required to go from a rough casting to finished quadrant.

Here are some pictures of the original pattern (these are actually rough castings since the pattern is still at the foundry):

I purposely made these patterns heavy. I added material where I commonly see the quadrants broken. I also wanted to add a little more material to the machined surfaces so I had some wiggle room in the finishing process.

I also have to admit that I was somewhat hurried in my approach to the original pattern. I had finally gotten my hands on a complete quadrant and just wanted to copy it. I did a rough tracing of the original quadrant and cut it out of a block of cedar. Unfortunately this approach made the machining process much more complicated. Nearly every surface on the rough casting had to be machined to produce the finished product (more so on the left side than the right). Obviously a very time consuming process.

Behold the improved pattern (lots of pictures, the article continues below):

These patterns are aluminum. I did this primarily for durability. Browsing through the photos, it’s pretty easy to see that this design is far more refined. I’ve reduced the number of machinig operations by five on the left side of the quadrant, and by four on the right side. More impotantly, these were the most difficult operations in the process. And finally most important is that it keeps me from having to put the rotary table on the Toolmaster. That thing weighs 250 pounds and is awkward and bulky.

Of course, this all means that I’ll have to take greater care in the finishing operations as there is alot less room for mistakes. It also means that most of the work is simple surfacing operations. The most complex operation will be boring the holes for the mounting pins and making the preset pin for the left guage.
Here’s a picture of the original set of fences from one of my Wadkin PK’s. Looking at these, it’s easy to see that the improved patterns more closely resemble the originals:

Wadkin PK Quadrant (original)

These patterns are still far from perfect, and I’ll undoubtedly make further refinements as I go. I’ll also be going back to look at the patterns for the Tannewitz, Oliver and Northfield quadrants. There’s definitely plenty of room for improvement there.

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Turns out she was the PK’s older, less refined sister……

Buying on e-bay can be  challenging. This is especially true when buying on the other side of the ocean.
One day back in January, I was doing my usual roundup of Wadkin machines on e-bay when I stumbled upon this saw:

The listing said “Wadkin Circular saw”

I thought I was looking at a first generation PK. The right extension table was off the saw. The overhead crown guard was there. It had a protractor, a tilting fence and a small swivel fence. The opening bid was low.

I contacted the seller:

Hi. I’m calling about the Wadkin saw you’re selling…
Sorry. That’s not mine. I’m selling it for the guy next door. I don’t know anything about it.
How can I reach him?
You want me to go next door and see if he’s there?

The owner came on a few minutes later
Have you got the extension table?
Have you got the quadrant?
What’s a quadrant?
ahh.. the split miter fence?
Right. No. I don’t think so…

The saw was located in Chesterfield, Derbyshire. Not the best location for pickup, but I did have 20 ft of floor space left in the container. I decided to put a snipe in on it. A few days later I got the notice from e-bay that I owned the saw. I called the owner and told him I’d be in England in a week’s time, and made arrangements to go out and see him.

I had business in the city of London and then out at Witham. I also wanted to go out to Felixstowe to see the items I had accumulated. Finally, I wanted to make a visit to my son who is stationed at one of the RAF bases. I decided to rent a car. I had to take a cab from the city center out to Barking to pickup the car. When I arrived at the rental facility, they kindly informed me that my car had not arrived. Even worse, they didn’t expect it for several hours. They finally told me that they found another car and it would be there shortly. When it did arrive, I was stunned to see that it was a giant Mercedes sedan. Now I had never driven in the UK (or any place where they drive on the left side of the road). I had really hoped for a compact car to make this experience easier. There are two things about driving in England that will raise your blood pressure. The first is the roundabout. Now we have traffic circles in the US. The problem is that we go around them counter-clockwise. In the UK, they go clockwise. Two more things you’ll learn pretty quickly; If you hesitate entering or exiting a roundabout, the other drivers will let you know how bad you’re driving; And.. some hand signals are universal. The second item that will raise your blood pressure is when you’re driving in the countryside at night and you encounter a car coming at you from the opposite direction on a very narrow road.; As soon as you see the headlights, you think “hey that car is on the wrong side of the road and so am I”…. every fiber of your being wants you to veer to the right side of the road. You have to physically fight all your instincts to avoid doing so and causing a collision.

I finally made it up to Chesterfield in the late evening. The owner of the pattern shop (Kevin) lived nearby and was able to meet me. The first thing I noticed when I entered the building was that it was empty; except that is for my saw and a huge double disc sander. Kevin was retiring after decades in the business and had liquidated all of his machines and tools. He showed me to the saw and I immediately realized that this was no PK. To start with, it had a huge belt drive motor hanging off the back. Second, it had a tilting table. When I cranked the table up, I was amazed to see a big gearbox inside the saw. I got a flashlight and looked at the badge. PL-105. Now I’ve heard of a PJ and a PK, but never a PL. I really, really dislike tilt top saws. But.. I already bought the saw. Oh well. I turned my attention to the double disc sander. The machine was badged Metalclad. It had tilting tables, full guarding and a bunch of spare sanding disks:

I asked how much. He gave me a price that was well below what I paid for the PL. I agreed and told him I’d have my trucking company come by to collect in a week’s time. Before I left, Kevin showed me some photos of his shop and some of his projects. Of special note was a pattern he made for the replacement of some iron gates at St. James Palace. He described the entire process in detail and showed me photos of the patterns and the finished product:

Finally, Kevin asked me if I wanted to meet his neighbor (the guy who had acted as our go between on e-bay and the phone). As we walked around the building, I noticed this sign on the building:

As soon as we opened the door there was an incredible clatter. Dave Hewitt, the owner was running an air powered peening hammer. There was another guy in the corner polishing a piece of metal on a buffer and there was a gas powered forge burning. It took a few minutes for Dave to finish what he was doing, but once he did, I got the full tour of the operation. The piece of metal he had been working was a breast plate for a suit of armour. On shelves around the room were helmets, pauldrons, gauntlets and breast/back plates. Some were finished, some a work in progress. Dave described some of his customers and even told me about films where his work appeared. This was a very impressive operation and I’m glad to have had the opportunity to see Dave at work. Here’s a photo of Dave working his magic on piece of metal:

And here’s a finished piece of work from the White Rose Armoury:

If you’re interested in finding out more about Dave or his operation, use the contact info below:

Contact White Rose Armoury
By Telephone – (44) 01246 475782 – ask to speak to Dave Hewitt

By Email at area59@verginmedia.com

By visiting the workshop at the following address
(prior appointment recommended)

White Rose Armoury, Unit 59,
Clocktower Business Centre,
Works Road, Hollingwood
Chesterfield, Derbyshire,
United Kingdom
S43 2PE


I had the saw and the disc sander collected and moved to Felixstowe. It took another four months to accumulate enough machinery to finish out the container and have it shipped to the US. It arrived at the end of May and it’s taken me until now (August) to look at the machines in any detail. Here are some pictures of the saw in it’s present state and some observations on it’s features and functionality:

From the front, she looks pretty much like a first generation PK:

The dust conductor and cover plate look like the PK (although this saw had the cover plate replaced with a formed piece of sheet steel)


Here’s where we see the real difference. The original motor appears to have been mounted to a c-face. It’s now been replaced with a belt drive motor hung off of make-shift brackets. The overarm crown guard was mounted to the side of the saw rather than the normal bump-out at the right rear corner of the table:

The rear of the saw is very similar to the PK with the same brass trunnion guides:

The right extension table was located and sent along with the saw. It has the scale inscribed (continued from the main table) up to 24″. Included with the saw was this small swivel fence. The locking handle has the wings broken off and the lock-knob has been replaced with a nut:

The main rip fence is very nice. Very much like that found on the PK. It tilts and has a micro adjustment:

The protractor gauge is very heavy. It fits into a straight slot on the table:

The protractor has two holes for stop bars (one on either end). The sliding table has a cast iron handle at the front left corner:

The crown guard is solid brass. It includes a special 45 degree overhead riving knife:

The serial number 105 is inscribed at the front edge of the main table. The right hand protractor slot has a filler strip held in by recessed screws. The letters G, H & H are inscribed in the filler strip:

The badge with the Model PL, Serial 105 and test number 4818. The driving pulley speed field has been left blank. Note the old Wadkin & Co badge:



Like the PK, this saw has solid brass trunnion guides inscribed with the tilt angle to be read out on the corresponding pointer:


The lock for the rolling table is missing the handle that withdraws the pin:

The rolling table rides on bearings that are captive in brass retainers:



Although there was no quadrant with the saw, the table is inscribed with the scale. It is also has threaded holes for the right/center locking screw and the swivel/arc hand-nut. I put a quadrant from an older PK on the table. The right screw and the arc line up with the holes in the table. The table is not bored for the quick-stop pin holes:


The PK quadrant aligns perfectly with the scale inscribed in the table:

The threaded center pin is screwed in and the arc aligns with the threaded hole in the table:


The table is bored with counter-sunk holes to accept wood filler strips on the edge of the rolling and main  tables:


The saw arbour is driven by a gearbox inside the body of the saw. The gearbox has a 2:1  ratio:


The saw blade is raised and lowered as the entire gearbox assembly is rotated via a worm-gear attached to the handwheel at the front of the saw:


The table is tilted by a jack lever/worm gear attached to the handwheel at the right side of the saw:


All in all a very well built saw. It’s unfortunate that it has a tilting top. I’d be very interested to see some literature and get some opinions as to where this saw appeared in Wadkin’s line-up. I’ve seen pictures of a PJ. It was very different in appearance, but had some similar features to the PL. They may have been produced at the same time. I would guess that’s the case given that all of the parts for the PL (fence, protractor, swivel fence, etc) have a casting mark of PJ followed by a number.

Here’s a picture of a PJ that came up for sale last year in PQ Canada. Note the similarities in the fence, hand-wheel arrangements, trunnions and table lock. I Understand that this is a double arbour saw.:

Wadkin PJ Dual Arbour Saw

Wadkin PJ Dual Arbour Saw

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So let’s say you went out and bought yourself a really nice Wadkin PK dimension saw.

This is the holy grail of table saws (unless you own a Whitney No. 77 Variety saw with a rolling table). Your friends will be so impressed. You take a whole bunch of pictures of the difficult removal and really creative rigging/transport . The saw is now safely at home. You go straight out to your favorite woodworking discussion forum and write a detailed description of the whole process from the search all the way through to the job of getting it unloaded in your shop.

First reply… You suck! (this is supposed to be a compliment. No. Really. It is. Yeah. I’m not buying it either)
Next reply… Nice saw.
And so on, and so on.

Finally someone asks “Hey did you get a quadrant with that saw?”

Huh? What’s a quadrant?

This is the part where someone will inevitably give you a long drawn out description of the missing item complete with “colour glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was” (say “Thank you Arlo”)

Your heart sinks.

You run out to the shop and tear through all the parts. There’s a really nice fence, maybe a protractor gauge (just maybe. These are pretty rare too), original guards, but that quadrant gauge is nowhere to be found.

Damn! I hate it when that happens.

Your dreams of the greatest restoration ever have been torpedoed and are sinking like the Lusitania

Now what?

You could just work with the protractor. The truth is that for almost anything you want to do on the saw, it’ll work fine.

What? You didn’t get a protractor either?

That really does suck. (and not in a positive sense)

You could search endlessly for one off another saw (and believe me, it will seem like an endless search). And… if you do find one that is for sale, get ready to sell a kidney. These things are rare and anyone that has one will know what it’s worth (and will want double that).

OK, wait… Before you start checking the going price for a kidney on the black market, there might just be another way.

You could find yourself a nice piece of cedar or mahogany, and make a pattern for a replacement gauge. Take that pattern over to your local foundry and have them make you a new piece of iron (or two if you want a split gauge)

Sorry, I don’t have a picture of the pattern as it’s out at the foundry.

Now you can take that rough casting and throw it up on your Cincinnati Toolmaster mill. Peel the rough exterior away and get it down to nice butterey cast iron. Square it up, face it off, and before you know it something that closely resembles the original split gauge will emerge from that lump of metal. ( If you want to see the face being milled on the quadrant, click on the link in the right side column under “featured video” ).

The hardest part of making the quadrant was boring the mounting holes. I made a nice jig out of steel plate to get easy alignment. That coupled with the DRO made for a very accurate fit.

I’m going to have a bit of trouble duplicating the left pin stop (sitting in front of the gauge in the last picture). This is a spring loaded pin that allows for quick stop adjustment. It’s got a cast knob that I also made a pattern for and sent it out to the foundry. For the time being, I’m just using a regular pin through the hole. Truth be told, this works fine. This gauge is a bit heavier than the original, but it is also more durable. It’s far less likely to break if dropped or otherwise abused. I’m going to make a handful more of these gauges because you never know when you’re going to get a nice PK with no quadrant.

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The Rarest of the Rare

There’s a hole in my neighborhood down which of late I cannot help but fall -Elbow

Some machines are hard to find. Even impossible.

As scarce as hen’s teeth, as scarce as the truth or as scarce as butter (if you live in Norway)

I spent the better part of the past ten years turning over stones looking for a Whitney scraping machine. I’ve never been able to find a picture of one, let alone the real thing.

Whitney Scraping Machine

Nearly as hard to find was the Whitney sliding table variety saw. In the early days of my affliction, I saw a drawing of a No.77 with a rolling table. I was so intrigued by the style and graceful lines of the saw that ended up on a Whitney binge. I bought every Whitney saw that I could find, ending up with a 50+ collection of these beautiful saws. I finally found a No. 177 with a rolling table in a sample shop at a North Carolina furniture factory. It sold for a tiny fraction of what I would have paid for it. Next a No. 77 with a rolling table came up on e-bay. It was in a pattern shop in eastern Massachusetts. I dug up contact info on the seller and drove through the snow for five hours to meet the owner. I made a deal with him right on the spot. I also ended up with a very nice 26″ American Sawmill Machinery bandsaw. Finally, I came across a stunning example of a very late No. 177 with a rolling table.

Whitney No. 177 Variety Saw with Rolling Table

I now own three of the four Whitney sliding table saws know to exit. I’ve cooled my Whitney table saw buying quite a bit, but still actively search them out, always hoping to find another with a rolling table.

One very rare machine that I never thought I’d get to own is a Whitney Jointer. These are the rarest of the rare. I saw my first Whitney jointer after it was discovered in eastern Massachusetts. It was an older babbit machine that had purportedly been part of the Whitney pattern shop at the foundry in Winchendon. The machine was eventually sold to a collector in Tennessee. I had an opportunity to see it in person while it was in storage. It has wonderful lines and an intriguing double wedge design.

Whitney 16

Whitney 16

I’ll do a complete write-up on this machine at some point, but for now.. on with the article….

Back in 2007 I went to an auction at a pattern shop in Pottstown, PA. In that shop was a Wadkin WL pattern mill. I was amazed by the quality, workmanship and attention to detail of this fine machine. Also included in this sale was a cabinet full of tooling for the mill. I really wanted to buy the machine, but hedged at the last-minute. This was mostly because the auctioneer was an unsavory character, but also because I already owned an Oliver No. 103. I regretted that decision for the next four and a half years. I searched high and low for another mill. I chased leads in the UK, Australia and South Africa. None of them panned out. Late last summer I came across another mill in Southern Wisconsin. This machine was complete with two tooling cabinets and a number of hard to find spares ans accessories. I had to bid over the phone, but ended up buying the mill for the lofty sum of $950 (including all tooling and accessories). As soon as the bidding was closed, I jumped im my truck and drove 14 hours to pickup the mill. I was mostly concerned about the tooling growing legs and disappearing. I arrived at early the next morning and met the scrap guy arrange removal. As soon as I entered the building, I was stunned to see two additional Wadkin mills. The scrapper told me that he had purchased them before the auction. Amazingly, the scrap guy only wanted what he paid for the machines. I ended up making a deal to get the two remaining machines and the use of his forklift for removal for $1500.

Back in 2005 I ran across a Wadkin PK sliding table saw on e-bay. As far as fit & finish goes, these saws are the best of the best. The saw was located in Canada and had a very steep price on it. I pursued it for some time, but couldn’t get the seller to agree to a price I was willing to pay. I searched tirelessly for one for the next six years. Finally in 2011, I decided that I had to start looking outside north america. I was pretty quickly able to find a beautiful saw with a large right extension table and an extended table to the left of the blade. The entire saw is almost 8′ wide. I bought the saw for less than a quarter of what was being asked for the canadian saw.

Wadkin PK Dimension Saw with large rolling table extension

I then started the long process getting the saw exported to the States. It finally arrived three months later, but was well worth the wait. I gained enough experience in the process to set myself up as an importer. As with everything else, Wadkin PK’s started falling from the sky. I ended up buying two more in England and one in Texas. I’ve got a few more in the pipeline. I doubt that I’ll get anywhere near the number of Whitney saws, but who really knows what you’re going to do until you end up in that situation?

I’d be remiss if I didn’t Show a picture of Jack Forsberg’s Wadkin PK. He takes restoration to a whole new level. His saw is another great example of how these machines turn up out of nowhere. When Gibbard furniture went into receivership, they hired a small-time auction company to liquidate the assets. There were many Wadkin, Whitney and other industrial machines in that place. All sold for a pittance. I didn’t hear about the sale until after the fact. Good thing for Jack. I would have bought the entire shop.

So… the point of the article? These machines are out there. If you’re vigilant, willing to wait and put in the work, whatever it is, it will come in spades. Be prepared to drive long distances, sleep in your truck and drive a harder bargain than the seller. In the mean time, if you come across a Whitney scraping machine… call me first.

The owwm

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Pierre Benite Shaper

I found this shaper through a craigslist advert in Belaire, Texas last summer. I purchased the machine sight-unseen as part of a package deal with a Wadkin PK sliding table saw. I had both machines shipped via common carrier from Texas to New Jersey. The total freight bill for both machines was $402 (inclusive of insurance). I couldn’t work out a delivery schedule with the carrier so I decided to pick both machines up at the terminal in Edison, NJ. I noticed that the forklift operator was having a difficult time moving the skid with the shaper off the dock. When he finally got it on the forks and brought it over to load, the reason for his trouble was apparent. The skid had been reduced to matchsticks and was only being held in place by the remaining slats and the strapping over the top of the shaper. Upon close inspection, it appeared that the only damage to the machine was to the fan-cover of the motor.  We removed the shaper from the skid and strapped it to the trailer. The Wadkin saw had also had a rough trip, but the skid was still intact and there was no visible damage to the saw. The shaper is a substantial machine with an extremely heavy cast iron base and very heavy table. The spindle cartridge is also extremely heavy with substantial bearings at both ends of the spindle. The bearings run in an oil bath. The spindle is 2″ in diameter and 7″ capacity under the cap nut. The spindle is a slotted “french” type arrangement with a retaining cap, screw and nut. The machine is three speed, adjusted by moving the flat belt on a stepped pulley on the motor. The tension on the belt is relieved by moving a handle on the side of the machine. This slides the motor up an incline to loosen the belt and allow speed changes. The shaper is also equipped with a foot brake and spindle lock. The original fence is missing, although the mounting bolts and dovetail blocks/nuts are still mounted on the table. The original fence would have been the european style split type fence. This is the same type of fence used on the early Wadkin spindle moulders. The shaper was manufactured in France and exported to Quebec. How it ended up in Texas is a bit of a mystery. The shaper came with an indexable carbide planing/jointing head. The spindle is 2″ in diameter. The spindle is raised and lowered via a handwheel. The handwheel is geared to a jack screw that moves the spindle cartridge in in dovetailed machine ways. The hub of the handwheel is fitted with an incremented scale and associated pointer to provide accurate measurement of movement. This is the first French made machine I’ve ever come across. Everything about it is impressive. The French spindle is a bit of a concern, but at 2″ diameter, I wouldn’t have much of an issue turning it down to 1-1/4″ and threading it for a regular nut. For now, I’ve got the shaper stashed in the carriage house. I’ll get it out and mess around with it after the weather breaks. Looks like it’ll be an interesting machine.

The owwm


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I found this Wadkin EP shaper on e-bay this morning. Interestingly, the table appears to have been rotated 90 degrees counter clockwise. This basically moves the operator position to the right side of the shaper. I’m trying to figure out why you’d do this.

The shaper on the left is the machine in question. The shaper on the right is the same model from the 1936 Wadkin catalogue. This setup looks like it would be pretty uncomfortable to use (no overhang, handwheel/spinner at gut/groin level).

The owwm

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I’m starting to experiment with pushing content from the Blackberry. The WordPress BB app is very basic, but really easy to use. The picture below was taken with the blackberry. Much better quality than I expected. I’m hoping to get alot more use out of this and should be able to update the site alot more frequently. After spending the better part of the last two days upgrading this site, I decided I better take the time to pull some firewood together. It’s been a very mild winter with almost no snow and temperatures reaching 50 degrees a few days a week. I was still getting by with firewood from last season (hoping to have enough to get through this month). It turned markedly colder this week and is actually begining to feel like February in New Jersey (we didn’t break freezing today; hopefully not a sign of things to come). I managed to scrape enough wood together to keep us going for another week. It looks like we’ll be back up to 50 degrees again by the end of the week.

My little JD 790

The owwm

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I’m afraid the upgrade from Textpattern to WordPress has left the site looking a bit like a ransom note. I’m not sure whether I’ll be going through the old posts and correcting errors or if I’ll just let them be. It looks like the content is all there, just not as pretty as I’d like it to be. Unfortunately, the WordPress import tool doesn’t handle article images or block quotes very well (features that I used extensively on Textpattern). Going back and adding these features to the existing articles will be pretty time consuming. The good news is that the new site has some pretty good features including the ability to post via e-mail. This feature alone was worth the upgrade as it will give me the ability to send content directly from my Blackberry. Feel free to leave comments on the new design. You can also sign up for alerts via e-mail or follow the site with RSS.

The owwm

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