These are a few of my favorite things

The Small Stuff

To show all the "little stuff" would take many pictures and likely bore the reader. These pictures above do show a few things in my basement. The picture on the left is a bit of an overall shot and shows my hardwood stock pile (maple, birch, cherry, walnut etc) and a storage bench. In front of that are some reject table legs, some steam bending forms and even an antique double chamber set of blacksmith bellows. My mill/drill is on the left. The picture on the right shows a bit of detail. You can see up top are some MT drills, involute gear cutters, R8 collets, a boring head while down below are a pair of dividing heads with tailstocks, milling cutters, a center finder etc etc while the blue thing in the back is a magnetics winder (a lovely machine that was given to me). It's like a lathe except you dial up the number of turns and the machine will automatically brake when the number of turns has been complete. This will come in handy when I do the coils on my Foucault Pendulum.

Ye Olde 10" Table Saw (This saw is now retired and given to my brother)

Ye New 12" Table Saw

This is the replacement for the saw above. Ye olde saw above threw the gear again (likely the 3HP motor was too much for it) so I gave it to my brother. This one is truly 3HP with a nice 12" blade (4" depth of cut). On assembling it I noticed the internal wiring was smallish for my liking so when hooking up the cord I re-wired it with #10AWG everywhere. I also outdid myself on the rolling mobile base for it (another MIG project) when I added the router table to it. Most of my moderately sized equipment is mounted on casters so as to allow for compact storage. To work with one I simply pull it out onto the driveway. After use it is cleaned up and wheeled back to it's parking spot in the garage. This machine however is now approaching a car length!

I obtained a Craftex router table and, in order to save space, discarded it's stand and mounted it between the fence guides like my old saw used to have. I can now use my Bosch "3HP" variable speed plunge router again. The top flips up for router access. The back 1/2 of the top is cast iron while the front half is an aluminum extrusion on slides so it can slide back and forth. I made provision for the router table to be mounted to a second higher position if I want to slide the router table *both* ways. Otherwise I leave it where it is and just remove the Porter Cable dovetail jig for sliding one direction which covers 95% of what I'll be doing. In future I may add a Pin Router Arm to it and have left space at the back for this. I made the dovetail jig mount so that a top-clamped board sits flat on the table top.

I retained all my other accessories (Lee Valley "Accu-Miter", router bits, mortising attachment etc etc) for use on this saw. Like the jointer below it has a commanding sound when running and will cut anything effortlessly.

The Jointer

This 12" General jointer is from the NRC (National Research Council). To my way of thinking you really want a big jointer since coming across wide boards greater than 8" is a fairly common occurrence. This 3HP machine even sounds "industrial". Notice that each of the tables are fully supported and will not sag with time. Quality like this is hard to find today. I have it on casters but it's still a chore to push as those casters are at close to their limit under the weight of this 700+lb machine.

I use the dial gauge (and the big hand wheel) to set the depth of cut. I nearly always set that to 1/16" but the machine can easily cut anything you can push through. The only down side to this machine is the incredible amount of shavings it can produce in no time flat. I really need to find somebody who has a pet rabbit.

The Planer

This is a 20" "Craftex?". Ya, I know, I really wanted to get a General planer to go with my jointer but they are getting to be prohibitively expensive these days. Since there were many jobs I had done that needed more than 16" I went for a 20" machine.

I had previously used one of those portable 12" planers but when doing serious work the thermal protector operates stopping the machine. I got tired of sitting on a pile of wood watching dusk approach as I waited for the machine to cool for the umpteenth time. They're OK if you are doing small amounts but I often plane a couple hundred board feet at a time. This new one has a big 3HP induction motor that will work (much harder) all day long. The shaving pile produced by the jointer above is only surpassed by this machine. Typically after a run I'll have a conical pile about 4ft high. I always find this sobering after having spent so much money for the wood going through it.

The stainless-topped infeed and outfeed tables are my own making. I made them because I didn't like the fragile stock roller arrangement and also to minimize "snipe" on long boards. They work very well. The mobile base is also my own making and allows for effortless moving of the planer out to the driveway where I plane (easier to clean up that shaving pile).

My 14 1/2" South Bend Lathe

Of all my machines this is one of my two favorites. I simply love this lathe. It's old ("conforms to the war production board"), it's tired, yet it continues to execute all work wonderfully. All I know of it's history was that it was Lee Valley's original prototype lathe. Why did I get a lathe so big? Well I wanted a metal lathe yet still wanted to occasionally turn wood (typically bigger objects) and when I bumped into this for the price of a wood lathe it was sold.

The picture above left shows it being delivered several days after I bought it. The view is of the back side of the lathe. I was smart enough to get delivery included for the buying price. Having already bought a few big machines I know that this is often easy for the seller in the business but can be expensive otherwise. His buddy delivered it in a 1 ton "dually" while he drove up the street with the forklift (he happened to be in the area with it anyway). It was set in the garage and using pipes as rollers it was simply pushed into place. The middle picture shows it as it is presently set-up looking towards the headstock. The right picture is similar but viewing towards the tailstock. It was originally 600V 3 phase and I converted it to 220V single phase. Despite it's size its only 1.5HP and power has never been an issue.

It also came with a taper turning attachment, 4 chucks (inner and outer 3 & 4 jaw chucks), carriage stop, faceplates. a set of collets with rack, work supports and a myriad of other accessories as can be seen in the pictures. I have also since obtained boring bars, a large Jacobs 3 jaw chuck, knurling tools, live center, expanding arbors, MT drills up to 1" etc. I also recently made a 2 1/2" spherical cutting attachment for it which works very well. Because it is stored in the garage I also made a denim cover for it to keep the dust off it when not in use.


My 5HP DC (Variable Speed) 36" Oliver Bandsaw

That's right 5HP, 36". This is my other favorite machine. Made by The Oliver Machinery Co. of Grand Rapids Michigan. I bumped into the ad for it in rec.crafts.woodworking the early days of the internet. It was to be 3HP but the guy said for an extra $100 he'd upgrade it to 5HP (he worked at GE). We drove over 1000mi round trip in a snow storm to get it and when we got home realized there was no way to lift the 2500 lb frame off the trailer. Having already taken a day off work and having to get the trailer back the next day there was only one option. Ottawa Crane Rentals. $70/hr 3 hr minimum.

When the 18 wheeler sized crane pulled up (above) I got nervous. He placed one support leg down next to my neighbor's house and the other in the middle of my yard. When he fired up the auxiliary engine and raised the massive boom within inches of my neighbor's roof I was sure my hobbies were out of control. Yessiree heads were poking out the front doors all the way up and down the street on this one. He actually managed to set it 1/2 way into the garage.

The beauty of this saw is that it does metal or wood with a simple blade change. One simply changes the blade and turns the dial to a different speed. The down side is that the blades are 20ft so you have to buy the blades in 100ft rolls and weld them up. Since I don't have a blade welder I have been getting them done (self serve) at sympathetic machine shops. Mostly the metal blade stays on and I've found that Starrett bi-metal blades are the best bang for the buck.

When you first plug it in the an AC blower starts up to cool the DC motor. Unlike a geared down AC motor which can rely on its rotational speed for cooling the DC motor can slow to near zero and so relies on the blower for cooling. The controls consist of a forward/reverse switch and a dial for setting the speed and a start & stop button. It couldn't be more convenient. The 36 1/2" capacity of this saw is amazing. It can resaw up to 20" although I'm currently limited to about 11" before the guide boom hits the roof.

I also made a removable circle cutting attachment for it which will allow me to cut circles from about 1" up to about 10ft. The attachment can also pivot with the tilting table allowing me to cut tapered plugs. The 3/8" pivot pin is replaceable by loosening a hex socket set screw. To make a pivot of different diameter I would simply turn a 3/4" piece of steel (about 1" long) to the desired diameter for 1/2 the 1" length, insert it and lock it in place.

Due to it's very size it's hard to take pictures of this saw and get it all in. I did put my Starrett 24" square on the table in the pictures above to give a sense of scale.

Every time I use this saw I walk away smiling. It is a wonderful machine!

The "Mill" Drill

I purchased this machine early on just starting out and, after having bought it, realized all it's pitfalls. Note how the spindle is held. Hold your arm as stiff as you can straight out in front of you. Get someone else to put a gentle sideways push on your hand and see if you can resist it. That's the problem with this machine. It's a great drill press and OK with light machining but every time I want to machine steel I grit my teeth. It'll do it but forget speed with accuracy. On a related note I have removed the top pulley cover because it had a tendency to rattle when the machine was loaded.

I have added an auto feed to the longitudinal feed. I also installed an auxiliary 110V power outlet on the rear and an operational light that illuminates the area below the chuck. The original vise was a complete joke and I have since replaced it with a large 6" machining vise. Also replaced was the original el-cheapo 3 jaw chuck. I have also replaced the two large clamping bolts at the back of the head as the original ones were made of terrible steel and kept galling, preventing the proper securing of the head. In terms of accessories I have have obtained a more or less complete set of R8 spindles for end-mills, chucks, MT drills, gear cutters, boring head etc.

If you are reading this in terms of deciding on equipment I would hope that unless you only plan to do drilling and light machining of wood you learn from my mistake and steer yourself towards a Bridgeport type mill. When you look at a machine like that note how the head is supported and how the table etc is held close to the machine and on dovetail ways. I once heard a fellow hobbyist describe machining to me as like trying to hold a slippery fish. If you can hold it the rest is easy. A rigid machine is 90% of the battle. This is why serious equipment is big and heavy. Unfortunately this machine lacks those traits.

Having said all the above I have done many things on this machine that I otherwise couldn't do.

My Kent Vertical Mill

I just bought this mill May 29/03. One of the big selling features to me was the included Acu-Rite two axis DRO (Digital Read Out) and that it is a serious mill. Additionally it uses R8 tooling and I have a lot invested in that (see very top right picture for some of it) for use on the mill/drill above. All that investment can be used on this new machine. The motor was a 3HP 575V 3 phase but I swapped in a 220V single phase motor. I also put another Mititoyo DRO on the quill. It is so nice to know where the table actually is and not have to factor soft dial backlash.

Below are some pictures of the delivery. *This* is the way to move a big machine!

He (Alex) simply jiggered it out of the truck and onto the 10ft hydraulic gate, lowered it, and jiggered it into the garage. Easy as pie. If I ever move I'm going to hire this guy! I had previously removed the motor to ease entry into the garage but it still *just* made it.

Below is my single phase conversion. I bought a brand new 240V 3HP Baldor C-face motor. On the left is some shaft customization. The shaft had to be reduced from 1" to 7/8" diameter where the pulley would be. It also had to be shortened in length. The mounting plate had to be cut off with an angle grinder too as this was going to be vertical mount. All this was a little nerve racking. A brand new $700 motor, never run and I'm cutting it all up. The picture on the right shows the completed motor with its new sliding baseplate I made. This was all custom painted to match the rest of the mill. The old 575V 3 phase motor can be seen in the background (I have now set it aside, unaltered as an alternate powering option) just behind the step pulley.

Below it is all back together and now running. The picture was taken while I was transferring some tooling up from my mill drill and shows a pair of dividing heads and some chucks on the table. Other tooling can be seen on the home made shelf to the right.

The 12" Hendy Shaper

Another NRC machine. I bought this old bugger for $600. How old? The motor data plate had the 25Hz over-stamped and 60Hz stamped above it. It may be old but the hand scraping marks are still very evident on the dovetail ways. This machine was 2HP, 600V 3 phase but a gear motor. Not wanting to make a unique exception to rotary phase converter free garage I opted to get it rewound to 220V single phase and add the capacitor start / centrifugal switch myself. This is not a job for the faint of heart and is a fairly involved process.

The picture above shows us all unloading it. A snow flurry started in the middle of the process. You can see that two 2 x 8s were braced across the front of the trailer, about a 6ft span. A chain was looped around them and some cable come-alongs were used between the chain-loop and the machine to lower it off the tilted trailer. I should note at this point that this machine is massively heavy. In the photo above the we were unable to lower (flatten) the hydraulic tilt bed trailer with the machine in the position shown. We wanted to do that because the two 2 x 8s were "wowing" dangerously. In the end we were stuck and about 2 minutes after this picture was taken the two 2 x 8's snapped like matchsticks and the machine slid off the back of the snow covered metal topped trailer (landing upright, whew). Luckily no one was killed but I learned then and there that when moving heavy machinery you should be properly prepared.

For those who don't know what a shaper is if you've ever seen wood being hand planed, well, this machine does the same thing to steel. The ram holds a lathe-like tool bit. The tool bit can be any shape you grind. The tool holder is braced on the forward stroke and is free to flap on the back stroke. The stroke of the ram is adjustable from 0" to 12". The speed of the ram is adjustable from 14 to 200 strokes per minute. The piece being worked on is clamped in the 3 axis adjustable vise. The vise table can be cranked up or down to set the depth of the cut. Once started the feed is engaged which automatically traverses the vise table sideways (left or right is selectable) so as to advance the work into the cutting. The amount the vise advances on each stroke is also adjustable. It can do nearly anything a milling machine can do and a few things a mill can't (like machine a slot inside a tube say).

This machine may be heavy but when running you can feel it in the concrete floor of the garage. I think that's also partly because there is not a single smooth motion made by this machine. Everything either oscillates, flaps or jerks. It is hypnotizing to watch when it's running however. In the end I can't say I do a lot with this machine but, like all shapers, it does have a fantastic vise and a load of weight to keep it from moving.


The Harris oxy-acetylene welding rig was first welder I got. I used it for many years and made many things with it until I purchased my MIG. The torches are now used for things that they, only, can do. I made the cart such that it would hold the tanks, allow the hoses to be coiled and also to carry all the accessories tools (sparkers, glasses, tips, tip cleaners, cutting torch etc.) as well as an assortment of rods.

The 220V MIG is a fairly recent purchase. The MIG is now used almost exclusively and is fast becoming one of my favorite tools just for the speed and quality of output it can do. In conjunction with an angle grinder it excels at making things like the forge below. Having previously used (borrowed) an almost identical 110V MIG, I learned early on how difficult it is to work with a regular visor (flip, flip, flip) so I got an auto-darkening visor to go with it. I highly recommend them. I also learned that a 220V MIG is the way to go. A 110V MIG really pushes an electrical circuit while with 220V there is power and welding capability to spare. Again the mobile cart is my own making. It carries the MIG underneath, the CO2 tank behind, the AC cable behind that. Up front is a tube to support a spare roll of wire. The latching handle can be released allowing the cart to be pulled like a wagon. The pull handle also carries the DC cables. Up top is a tray for gloves, magnetic clamps, tools etc.

Two tid-bits of wisdom.

1) If you store an auto-darkening helmet in a cool dark garage for long periods put it in a sunny window a day before you use it. They operate off the UV but when stored in the dark for long periods I think a capacitor discharges (these things are batteryless) and they will be sluggish on darkening. Your eyes will thank you.

2) Be sure to weld with ventilation. I did some oxy-acetylene welding in the closed garage in winter (thinking the extra heat would be nice). I was simply capping the ends of 1 1/2" square tubing with 1/8" flats. No rods used just moving the puddle around the edge. At the end of the day I didn't feel good (shivering chills etc) and later found I had given myself "metal fume fever". I would expect this from arc welding but not the clean quiet flame of oxy-acetylene. I won't do that again!


I got this item on sale from Busy Bee. I got it because I found I was using my woodworking belt sander more and more for doing finish work on steel bits I was welding up. The basic machine is not too bad but there were serious issues with clearances between tables and belt/discs. The clearances were too large (despite minimum adjustment) and were dangerous as a piece could be grabbed by the belt or disc and flip up wedging your fingers between the part and the moving abrasive. This happened once before I remedied the situation. Youch! The solution was to machine the castings at several critical points as they were preventing the tables from moving forward enough. Both tables can now be adjusted full tight against the belts however about 1/16" is what I set it to.

It originally came with a stamped sheet metal stand which I found light duty and more importantly non-mobile. Instead, I made the mobile base for it which includes a tray for holding parts being worked on. If you leave the parts on the table by themselves they will tend to vibrate off and fall to the ground. The table solves that and allows the work surfaces to be clear. It is shown in the picture front of the belt but you can see similar pins on the stand in front of the disc. The tray also has holes (in tabs) allowing it to hang down vertically out of the way when not in use. The nice large casters make it easy to move around.

Having done all the above it is now a wonderful machine. I wonder now how I ever got by without one before!

Forge & Anvil

Here is my forge. When you need serious, un-Godly amounts of heat you fire this thing up. This is my own creation. It has a large Centaur forge PB50 blower which I set up to work off a foot pedal switch. There is also an air gate for instant heat control. I have hammer racks on the front and right and tong a tong rack on the left. The central side wall is removable front and back to allow heating of long objects in the forge. There is a bolt-on attachment on the ground between the forge and the anvil for holding a propane tank. Propane tank?! I live in suburbia and have only fired up this forge at home once. It puts out a fair amount of smoke until you coke up the coal. I'm very worried the fire department will pay me a visit (this did happen once on an unrelated incident). Anyway the thought is I might add a swivel arm with a propane forge on top which would allow me to use this at home more often.

The forged dual horned anvil is originally from the Quebec city area (I'm told) from around 1750. It was in bad "saddle back" shape (even a torch cut into it) so I had some Ranomatic BBG hardface put down on it until it was built back up. I bought a 7" grinder and cup wheels to true up the resurfaced top. It came out quite well. It has both a round and square horn, a pritchel hole at each end and a hardy hole at the round horn end

Leaning on the left side of the forge is one of my leg vises. I actually have several of these. I have yet to mount this to the forge.

The Hesperer cone anvil on the left was a purchase from north of Toronto. My intent was to use it to true up forged iron clock wheels. In fact my whole reason for getting into blacksmithing was to create a forged iron clock.

30 Ton Press

I got this item on a special sale recently at Princess Auto. The deal was just too good to pass up even though I don't have a lot of jobs planned for it. I do need to press in a pair of bearings and I could likely make some "V" blocks etc to bend steel. Perhaps with a die I could use it for bending tubes as well. In my experience it is the kind of machine you don't use a lot but when you do need one nothing else will do. We'll see. I'll edit this part as time progresses. It's been placed in my basement as there is currently no more space in the garage. When it's assembled I'll update the picture too.


Well that's more or less it. What? No air compressor? Hmmmm.......



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