The Era of Manmade Machines
A generation of woodworkers overcame the high cost of machinery by building their own
Synopsis: A look back at some of the fascinating shopmade machinery throughout the history of Fine Woodworking, from wooden tablesaws to bandsaws, planers, and more.
When it comes to outfitting our shops, today’s woodworkers have a lot of affordable machinery options. But that wasn’t always the case. Before amateur DIY and woodworking went relatively mainstream, woodworking machinery manufacturers served primarily a pro audience, which meant that prices often were out of reach for many hobbyists, and availability was limited. The solution for some woodworkers was to build their own machines. Fine Woodworking published a number of project articles from these enterprising woodworkers, who created astounding, functional machines from hardwoods, sheet goods, spare parts, and used motors.
This issue’s Looking Back highlights a few of those shopmade successes, with short excerpts from each article, explaining why or how each machine was made. One of the projects, the bandsaw above, offered plans for sale, and we still occasionally get requests for them. Another, the lathe on p. 86, actually graced our front cover.
“Seven years ago I walked into a local hardware store to buy an odd assortment of stuff. ‘What are you going to make?’ asked the quizzical gentleman waiting on me. ‘A wooden jointer,’ I replied, trying to sound confident. He was both astonished and skeptical, and did his best to persuade me to buy the jointer on display in the store. Despite his warning, I bought the items on my list and thus embarked on my first tool-building venture. I tested five designs before I arrived at the design shown here. Its performance rivals that of an industrially produced machine, though its price (about $350) is considerably less and its feel and appearance are friendlier.”
A Wooden Tablesaw
“The only way I’d own a sliding tablesaw…