An icon with a tail
Yes, I do the overwhelming amount of my work with hand tools. But, as most of you already know, they’re are some power tools in my cramped little shop. They are not the type of gleaming machines that cost thousands of dollars. The one thing that they all have in common is age. Most of the “ironware” in my possession is old, old and simple. Consider my bandsaw. Classic Delta 14″, cast-iron everything and built for the War Department in 1942. It was given to me by a neighbor who was closing up his shop and was ready to take it to the dump, as the trunnion was cracked. I said “whoa”, I’ll give that old “girl” a home. A little brazing and the saw is still used on a daily basis, original motor and all. I like old stuff, even old stuff with cords.
Recently an acquaintance of mine said that he had a Powermatic 45 that he wanted to be rid of. Said that it ran and was a 110V, step pulley model. He had bought it at auction and told me that it needed a little work. The price was very attractive. It was time to give another “veteran” a home.
The 1950’s and 60’s saw the manufacture of some truly iconic power tools, many of which were consumed by public and private school systems during the period, in an attempt to give every young American male an introduction into the “Industrial Arts”. In other words, the program was designed to provide American Industry with workers who had a basic skill set and could be quickly trained for specific jobs in the manufacturing sector. Of course, the 1980’s and 90’s brought the phenomena of globalization which rendered most such programs unnecessary and a surplus of excellent machinery became available to the individual user. That said, the overwhelming majority of the equipment has received less than perfect care during the “academic” part of its existence.
I didn’t really need another lathe. I have two and am on the verge of building another treadle lathe. But there are several iconic lathes that I’ve always “lusted” after. Let me drop a few names here. It’s worth taking a little time to do an image search or, perhaps, a visit to http://www.owwm.com. Check out the Craftsman 12×54 HD wood lathe (built by Atlas Press), the Powermatic 90, the Walker Turner, the Oliver or the Yates American (way cool!) or the old Deltas, to name a few. All of these babies were built when cast iron was king and they’re all driven between the bearings. No cantilevered designs here. All are known for their smooth delivery of power with little or no vibration; a must for the serious spindle turner. And the Powermatic 45, is one of these icons, as well. What can I say? If a man can fall in love with a dream…I fell head over heels.
So for the next few weeks, the woodworking schedule will be somewhat deferred as this little sweetheart gets new bearings and belt, a plastic knob here and there. A little scrubbing and stripping followed by a protective film of Vista Green. Hmm…the question becomes, where am I going to put it? Hey, it’s an icon! Maybe the living room….