American Woodworking Tools


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Someone mentioned it was good to have choices, but when it comes to stationary tools, do we really have a choice? I mean other than the color. If it's a large stationary tool, such as a tablesaw, jointer, planer, etc. For the majority of woodworkers in this country who do this as a hobby, it just makes financial sense to get as much as we can for the amount of money we have to spend, and unless you have the patience, luck and room for "Old Iron" then your tooling is made in Asia. The only choice you have really is who you have importing it.

Technically yes I have a choice, but realistically I don't. As for table saws I think the Delta Unisaw is still American made. Sawstop also I think. As for jointers, planers, shapers, band saws, drill presses, miter saws I dont know of any of the widely known brands still American made. I dont know of any portable tools that are still American made. To their credit companies like Grizzly and Jet have made affordable, Asian made tools available to us. Powermatic, Delta, General followed their example. Oneida Duct Collectors are still American made.

It must be very difficult for them to compete with Asian made Dust Collectors like Grizzly due to American labor being so much more expensive. General is made in Canada and is the type of machinery I think of when people ask about made in the USA machinery, such as the older Powermatic equipment etc.

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My issue with North American equipment is that the design is so dated in comparison with some of the more modern machines, such as the Euro stuff. My wife owns a Rockwell wood lathe, made in Canada, it's probably about 40 years old. Catalogs, manuals and any other literature that is available on this site is made available for a historical record only. Please remember that safety standards have changed over the years and information in old manuals as well as the old machines themselves may not meet modern standards.

It is up to the individual user to use good judgment and to safely operate old machinery. The VintageMachinery. About Us. Discussion Forum. Machine Info. Photo Index. Support OWWM. Submitting Content.

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Submit New Photo. Classified Ads. OWWM Store. Workshop Calculations. The catalogue of Sheffield's Castle Hill Works offered 20 combinations of ready-stocked tool chests; the simplest contained 12 carpenter's tools and the most complex, 39, plus, if desired, an additional assortment of gardening implements fig. In , the Arrowmammett Works of Middletown, Connecticut, producers of bench and molding planes, published an illustrated catalogue that offered 34 distinct types that included everything from hollows and rounds to double jointers and hand-rail planes fig.

The conformation of these tools was still distinctly in keeping with the Moxon type and suggests that, at least in Europe, no remarkable change had yet occurred in the shape of planes. Smithsonian photo D. The planes are of particular interest since they show clearly a change in form from those previously illustrated. An updating of Moxon, Nicholson's carpenter required an axe 1 , adz 2 , socket chisel 3 , mortise and tenon gauge 4 , square 5 , plumb rule 6 , level 7 , auger 8 , hookpin 9 , and crow Smithsonian photo The inception of this shape occurred in the shops of Sheffield toolmakers in the last half of the 18th century, and it persisted until replaced by metallic versions patented by American innovators during the last quarter of the 19th century.

The metallic version of the brace did not replace the standard Sheffield type 1 in the United States until after For all intent and purpose the saw still retains the characteristics illustrated in Nicholson. Of interest is Nicholson's comment regarding the saws; namely, that the double handle was peculiar to the hand 6 and tenon saws 7 , while the compass 9 and the sash saws 8 had the single handle. In addition the tenon saw was generally backed in iron and the sash saw in brass.

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The Castle Hill Works at Sheffield offered to gentlemen 20 choices of tool chests designed to appeal to a wide variety of users and purses. The chest was available in either oak or mahogany, depending on the gentleman's tastes fig. Although few in number in the United States before , tool catalogues became voluminous in the last half of the century as printing costs dropped. Smithsonian Institution Library. Compare the content of two American carpenters' shops--one of , in York County, Virginia, and the other of , in Middleborough, Massachusetts. John Crost, a Virginian, owned, in addition to sundry shoemaking and agricultural implements, a dozen gimlets, chalklines, bung augers, a dozen turning tools and mortising chisels, several dozen planes ogees, hollows and rounds, and plows , several augers, a pair of 2-foot rules, a spoke shave, lathing hammers, a lock saw, three files, compasses, paring chisels, a jointer's hammer, three handsaws, filling axes, a broad axe, and two adzes.

Nearly years later Amasa Thompson listed his tools and their value. Thompson's list is a splendid comparison of the tools needed in actual practice, as opposed to the tools suggested by Nicholson in his treatise on carpentry or those shown in the catalogues of the toolmakers. Hollow Rounds. Match planes 2. Spring dividers. The dividers of the builder or shipwright illustrated here are of French origin and may be valued as much for their cultural significance as for their technical importance.

Smithsonian photo G. Specialization is readily apparent; the change in, and achievement of, the ultimate design of a specific tool is not so easily pinpointed. Only by comparing illustrations and surviving examples can such an evolution be appreciated and in the process, whether pondering the metamorphosis of a plane, a brace and bit, or an auger, the various stages of change encountered coincide with the rise of modern industrial society.

Considered too utilitarian, their decorative appeal--the mellow patina of the wood plane or the delicately tapered legs of a pair of dividers--often goes unnoticed. Surprisingly modern in design, the ancient carpenter's or cabinetmaker's tool has a vitality of line that can, without reference to technical significance, make it an object of considerable grace and beauty. The hand tool is frequently a lively and decorative symbol of a society at a given time--a symbol, which, according to the judges at London's Crystal Palace Exhibition in , gives "indications of the peculiar condition and habits of the people whence they come, of their social and industrial wants and aims, as well as their natural or acquired advantages.

Private collection. Smithsonian photo B. See detail, figure Smithsonian photo C. The great dividers used by the shipbuilder and architect for scribing and measuring timbers not only indicate building techniques accession Well before the 17th century, artists and engravers recognized them as intriguing shapes to include in any potpourri of instruments, either in cartouches or the frontispieces of books fig.

Of further interest in Shaw's plate is the dress of the workmen and the balloon frame of the house under construction. Smithsonian photo A. The dividers shown in figure 15 are English and would seem to be of early 18th-century origin, perhaps even earlier. They are Renaissance in feeling with decorated legs and a heart-shaped stop on the end of the slide-arm.

In character, they are like the great dividers shown in figure functional, but at the same time preserving in their decoration the features common to a wide variety of ironwork and wares beyond the realm of tools alone. The dividers pictured in figure 16 are a decided contrast. Dated , they are strongly suggestive of Sheffield origin. Gone is the superfluous decoration; in its place is the strong, crisp line of a tool that has reached nearly the ultimate of function and manufacture, a device which both in general appearance and precise design is very modern in execution.

The double calipers of the woodturner fig. Designed for convenience, few tools illustrate better the aesthetic of the purely functional than this pair of 19th-century American calipers. Inherent in this practical design is a gracefulness of line seldom surpassed. Still, even the most prosaic examples of woodworking tools, completely divorced from the quasi-mathematical devices of measure and proportion, have this quality and can be admired solely as decorative objects.

This is most evident in the three European bench planes illustrated in figures 21, 22, and one Norwegian, dated ; one Dutch accession , dated ; and one German, dated The Norwegian and German examples, with their elaborately carved bodies and heart-shaped mouths, are typical of the type that Swedish and German colonists in America might have used in the 17th and 18th centuries.

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They are important for that reason. Also, all three exhibit elaboration found on other material survivals from these countries in their respective periods. For example, the incised rosette of the Dutch plane fig. The decorative motifs that characterized European tools of the 17th and 18th centuries obscured technical improvement.

By contrast, in England and America, tools gained distinction through the directness of their design. Following English patterns, tools of American make were straightforward. Only later, in new tool types, did they imitate the rococo flourish of their European predecessors. In America, as in England, the baroque for things functional seemingly had little appeal. This is particularly true of woodworking planes on which, unlike their continental cousins, embellishment is rarely seen.

Exemplifying this tradition are three early 19th-century American planes: a plow, for cutting channels of various widths on board edges, marked "G. White, Philda" fig. Carpenter of Lancaster, Pennsylvania fig. Klock and dated as seen in figure The plane is of Dutch origin. Smithsonian photo F. It is of a traditional form that persists to the present day. The planes pictured in figures 21, 22, and 23 are similar to the type brought to North America by non-English colonists. White of Philadelphia in the early 19th century. It is essentially the same tool depicted in the catalogues of Sheffield manufactures and in the plates from Martin and Nicholson.

The pattern of the basic bench tools used in America consistently followed British design, at least until the last quarter of the 19th century. Smithsonian photo E. The carpenter's dependence on this tool lessened only after the perfection of multipurpose metallic planes that could be readily converted to cut a "rabbet. Smithsonian photo H. How, for example, is the early 19th-century attribution arrived at for the planes inscribed White and Carpenter?

First, the nature of the stamped name "G. White" is of proper character for the period. Second, G. White is listed in the Philadelphia city directories as a "plane-maker" between the years and , working at the back of 5 Filbert Street and later at 34 Juliana Street.


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Third, internal evidence on the plane itself gives a clue. In this case, the hardware--rivets and furrels--is similar if not identical to that found on firearms of the period, weapons whose dates of manufacture are known.

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The decorative molding on the fence of this plane is proper for the period; this is not a reliable guide, however, since similar moldings are retained throughout the century. Finally, the plane is equipped with a fence controlled by slide-arms, fixed with wedges and not by adjustable screw arms. After , tools of high quality, such as White's, invariably have the screw arms. The rabbet plane, made by Carpenter, is traceable via another route, the U. Patent Office records. Carpenter, self-designated "toolmaker of Lancaster," submitted patents for the improvement of wood planes between and Examples of Carpenter's work, always stamped as shown in figure 27, survive, both dated and undated.

There are several of his planes in the collections of the Bucks County Historical Society, and dated pieces are known in private collections. Inherent in the bench planes is a feeling of motion, particularly in the plow and the rabbet where basic design alone conveys the idea that they were meant to move over fixed surfaces. Of the three examples, only the brass tippings and setscrew of the plow plane suggest any enrichment, and of course these were not intended for decoration; in later years, however, boxwood, fruitwood, and even ivory tips were added to the more expensive factory models.

Also unintentional, but pleasing, is the distinctive throat of the rabbet plane--a design that developed to permit easy discharge of shavings, and one that mass manufacture did not destroy. As with the plow and the rabbet, its shape is ubiquitous. Dated and marked A. Klock, this American example follows precisely those detailed in Sheffield pattern books.

This, however, was not always the case. The woodworker's shop by the Dutch engraver Jan Van Vliet suggests the similarity between English and European tool types in the 17th century. Note in particular the planes, axe, brace, and auger as compared to Moxon. Library of Congress, Division of Prints and Photographs. The change in the wooden bench plane can be followed from the early 17th century through its standardization at the end of the 18th century.

Examine first the planes as drawn in the 's by the Dutchman Jan Van Vliet fig. Compare them to Moxon's plate fig. In all of them, the rounded handle, or tote, and the fore-horn appear, characteristics of both European and English planes of the period before The similarity ends with the mass production of hand tools from the shops of the English toolmaking centers, principally Sheffield. An illustration from a pattern and design book of the Castle Hill Works, Sheffield, dating from the last quarter of the 18th century fig.

The use of this form in America is readily documented in Lewis Miller's self-portrait while working at his trade in York, Pennsylvania, in fig. In each example, the bench plane clearly follows the English prototype. The bench planes, smoothing planes, rabbets, and plows universally resemble those shown in this illustration from the pattern book of the Castle Hill Works, Sheffield.

In a predominantly Pennsylvania-German settlement, the plane used by Miller conforms to the Sheffield type illustrated in the catalogue of the Castle Hill Works as shown in figure Library of Congress, Smithsonian photo Contrast this form with that of the standard Sheffield version in figure 38 and the metallic braces illustrated in figures 40 through From these plates can be seen the progression of the bitstock toward its ultimate perfection in the late 19th century.

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The tool is of Dutch origin and suggests the influence of Sheffield design on European tools. Original patent drawing 9,, U. Parker Gordon is in sharp contrast to the heavily splinted sides of the wooden brace commonly used in midth-century America. Original patent drawing 52,, U.

Barber's ratchet brace shown in figure 66 completes the metamorphosis of this tool form in the United States. Original patent drawing 51,, U. Refer again to Van Vliet's etching of the woodworker's shop fig. All show the brace in a form familiar since the Middle Ages, a shape common to both delineators and craftsmen of the Continent and the British Isles. But, as the plane changed, so changed the brace.

The standard form of this tool as it was used and produced in the United States in the 19th century can be seen in another plate from the catalogue of the Castle Hill Works at Sheffield fig. All manners of Augers, piercing bits, Whip-saws, Two handed saws, Froes It is of American origin, yet of a style that might have been used in England or on the Continent. This lack of provenance need not detract from its significance as a material survival. This hammer, the brace fig. This aspect of variety of detail--sophistication, crudeness, decorative qualities or the like--reflects something of the individuality of the toolmaker, a quality completely lost in the standardization of the carpenter's brace.

This can be seen in figure 39 in a transitional-type bitstock accession from the Low Countries. Adopting an English shape, but still preserving the ancient lever device for holding the bit in place, the piece with its grapevine embellishment is a marked contrast to the severely functional brass chucks on braces of English manufacture. No less a contrast are metallic versions of the brace. These begin to appear with some regularity in the U. Roubo fig. Each suggests a prototype of the patented forms of the 's.

For example, in , Jacob Switzer of Basil, Ohio, suggested, as had Roubo a hundred years earlier, that the bitstock be used as a screwdriver fig. The inference is that such a tool form was already a familiar one among the woodworking trades in the United States. Disregarding the screwdriver attachment, which is not without merit, Switzer's stock represents an accurate rendering of what was then a well-known form if not as yet a rival of the older wooden brace.

Likewise, J. Parker Gordon's patent 52, of exemplifies the strengthening of a basic tool by the use of iron fig.

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American Woodworking Tools American Woodworking Tools
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