Category Archives: Tools

Saw Change: Repurposed Table Saw, ca. Early 20th Century

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One of the challenges in creating a new piece of furniture from antique machinery — in this case, a dining table/kitchen island from a table saw — is marrying inspiration with the limitations of working with an existing utilitarian product. Certain aspects can be altered, others can be removed, but ultimately the character and history of the item need to be respected and highlighted.

When acquired, the early-20th-century table saw that became the platform from which to create a new, home-friendly furniture piece had immediate appeal. Not only was its hefty frame solid and well constructed, it contained all of its original details, including iron hardware and a start/stop switch. The hand-painted number adorning it, “48,” suggested that it was one of many machines operating within its native wood-mill habitat.

After we removed the saw-blade mechanism and belt, then unbolted the hardwood top, the opportunity arose to utilize some of these residual parts to create a lower shelf. Sections of usable material were cut and carefully pieced together to produce a sturdy storage space, perfect for pots and pans. A thorough cleaning of the original base revealed rich grain tones that, once clear-coated, intensified in color. A salvaged workbench butcher block proved aesthetically complementary while also adding a much larger surface area for additional seating. The finished table not only serves as a practical decor item but also becomes a gathering place conducive to conversation and shared experiences.

 

Meet the Press: Delta Drill Press, ca. 1940s

With each new project that Dorset Finds undertakes, an appreciation for  implementing the correct tool for the job intensifies. Overhead costs and environmental concerns are always front of mind, therefore buying older American-made tools ticks all the boxes in a practical sense. They were built to last and the carbon footprint of one of these gems is much smaller than a new, cheaply made imported version. The bonus with the Delta DP (drill press) 220 is that not only was it engineered to a high standard, aesthetically its Buck Rogers styling cues speak to the design ethos of that era.

In 1919, the Delta Specialty Company was founded by Herbert Tautz and run out of his garage in Milwaukee, WI. Started as a manufacturer of tools for the home shop, the company quickly expanded to produce light-industrial machinery. The Delta brand – which quickly became synonymous with quality and affordability – specialized in drill presses, heavy-duty saws, grinders and lathes.

Vintage tool and machinery enthusiasts are growing in number and recognize not only the collectibility of these fine artifacts of industria, but also the need to preserve them.

Though well-used, this drill press retains much of its original battleship gray finish. The motor purrs from behind the cast iron front pulley guard while the original Delta aluminum light provides illumination to the work space below the chuck. This unrestored example also possesses a particularly fine example of the maker’s badge.

*Special thanks to Nick and the other members of the Old Woodworking Machines forum.

Making the Cut: Woodworker’s Bench, ca. 1890s–1920s

To create a table it sometimes requires a table. Or in this case, the workbench to end all workbenches.

Traditionally, benches like this were found in wood shops, basements and garages. Generous enough to hold large and, in some cases, multiple furniture items, the 4-inch-thick maple top provides a stable station. Located on the front and side are vises that keep the project in place. At the rear of the horizontal surface is a gutter where tools and shavings can be pushed aside, while below a later addition including walls and a hinged door form a compartment for storing other tools.

Today, this 7-foot piece is as likely to be found in an open-plan kitchen surround by people sipping drinks or preparing food as it is in a carpentry shop. A thorough cleaning and several coats of polyurethane converted a workhorse like this into a show pony worthy of all the praise and attention it attracts.

C Change: Primitive Repurposed Furniture Clamp, ca. 1930s

We can be misled in thinking that the shift toward thriftiness due to the economy or environmental concerns is a recent phenomenon. In an age of massive consumption, we commonly purchase products with nothing in mind but their short-term benefits. Frequently, items make a brief pit stop in our homes before reaching their final destination at the ever-expanding landfill.

During the Great Depression of the late 1920s and ’30s, even educated, skilled workers who had adopted a frugal lifestyle prior to the Depression were forced to cut back even further.

The furniture clamp pictured is a fine example of the ingenuity borne out of necessity during this era. The size-15, cast-iron C-clamp, manufactured by Sargent & Co. (New Haven, CT), broke at some stage. Most likely, a stress crack formed after the piece was dropped, and quickly gave way. Rather than disposing of the item, the owner, clearly a master craftsman, chose to fashion something new and equally useful: a large furniture clamp.

The wood framework was handmade out of birch, complete with a notched shaft and steel-bound, bracketed wedge. The wedge slides freely until locking into place in one of the notches that line the shaft. Forged rivets hold the repurposed parts of the clamp, enabling a firm bond to be achieved once the butterfly screw is tightened. As if this tool was not unique enough to be identified, the owner, F. S. Taylor, stamped his name at the head of the one-of-a-kind instrument.

Beg, Borrow and Steel: Foundry Mold Collection, ca. 1940s

The appeal of old factory items is easy to grasp, especially when they’re repurposed to fulfill a new duty in a modern setting. They’re durable, show their wear well and perform a function.

What then, when objects — such as this collection of wood foundry molds — are presented as purely decorative? Generally, I would instinctively shy away from this concept. My preference is to gather useful, purposeful items. That said, there’s always room for exceptions to the rule.

This collection is a tribute: an assemblage of trophies commemorating the successful engineering of… something. These wooden parts were carefully designed and then put to use creating casts for what would become steel products utilized in machinery. The molds needed to be precision-made, because any miscalculations or flaws would render the resulting part incompatible with corresponding components.

Unexpectedly soulful, these patterns are mounted on heavy-gauge, steel bases. The paint hues are muted yet still draw the eye  to the elevated presentation of each mold, creating the illusion of them hovering above the table’s surface.

We’ve Lost The Spark: Auto-Lite Service Parts Toolbox, ca. 1950s

Utilitarian items like vintage toolboxes are always a joy to unearth. Sure, in the case of this example, the box’s purpose was to also act as an advertising piece, but fundamentally, this steel cabinet sat in a workshop to hold — and keep separated — spark plugs and related parts.

Auto-Lite (Toledo, Ohio) originated in 1911 when a couple of small parts companies began producing buggy lamps. By the 1930s it had become a prosperous automotive-components business, and in 1935 Auto-Lite undertook an endeavor to create its own ceramic spark plug. In no time, leading carmakers such as Chrysler, Willys, Packard and Studebaker were adopting the brand’s spark plugs. (Interestingly, Auto-Lite carries on today, outlasting all of these once-promising automotive manufacturing heavyweights, with the exception of Chrysler.) Aside from spark plugs, the company also made radiator grills, door handles and hubcaps.

The blue toolbox pictured is in very good shape structurally, and the graphics, though distressed in points, are still clear and clean. Inside the drawers are several metal dividers used to partition sections for various small components. Also present are two boxed, dead-stock,  ball-bearing gears.

The Bog of War: WWII Military Jeep Pump, ca. 1940s

With U.S. military jeeps playing a significant role in transporting troops across all manner of unforgiving landscapes during the second World War, it’s no surprise that each jeep was fitted out like a mobile Swiss Army Knife. Reliability wasn’t just a preference, it was a necessity, which is why each jeep had its own pump concealed behind a seat.

This example was manufactured in 1942 by Circle N and retains its original brass air chuck nozzle. The army green paint on both the wood handle and steel shaft is bright and the pump works just fine.

I may not have a jeep tire to pump up but this will do just as nicely on the superbly distressed Hawthorne I recently picked up.