Document 23: John Shaw Portable Electrically-Driven Machines 1928

" Portable Electrically-driven Machines"

article by John Shaw

THE WOOD-WORKER April, 1928.


Article Teaser:

The small "socket-driven" machines and tools now in use in wood-working factories, make possible the accomplishment, with accuracy and dispatch, of many tasks which heretofore have been done by hand.

Until comparatively recently I had been skeptical as to the practical utility, from the workshop point of view, of the several lamp-socket-driven machines such as the shaper, bench jointer and circular saw, that are coming into quite general use in wood-working plants. This opinion has been reversed, however, clue to the installation of several such machines, which I now use daily as my job of bench work (or assembling) may demand.

For instance, the electric router saves an enormous amount of hand work. In the hands of a competent workman the amount and nature of the work possible with this handy machine is a veritable eye-opener. To mention just a few: It is possible to finish the ends of shaper stuck pilaster panels to an accurate depth; to form the grooves for shelves and divisions of filing and medicine cabinets or other work entailing similar construction; to flute small pilasters, whether straight, tapered or "entasised." [My Webster's New International Dictionary 2nd ed 1952 gives "a slight convexity" for entasis.]

The electric router is particularly adaptable to fluting across the grain, as in the bands of clustered cross-flutes, flutes and dots, and other variations of fluting that are a feature of certain designs of mantels and other interior finish. A common example of electric-router work may be seen in the show windows of practically any furniture store, on the drawer-fronts and doors of household furniture, where it takes the form of fancy designs outlined by a narrow flute which is usually "picked out" in gold or colors. This work is accomplished by temporarily affixing the necessary pattern (usually made from three-ply stock) to the part to be fluted, to serve as a position and depth guide to the drill of the router.

Many other instances could be cited and are possible to any workman endowed with the necessary initiative and ingenuity necessary to construct such jigs, forms or patterns as the particular needs of the job demand. These are of the utmost importance, as it is absolutely essential that a guide be furnished to control the position of the cut and also, where necessary, its limits. In the variegated cross-fluting mentioned, the router method has two distinct advantages over hand-carving. First, much more work may be turned out in a given time; second, a much more clean-cut and uniform job is obtained.

The small saw mentioned earlier has a top area of about 24-in. each way. It is used in the bench room to do the miscellaneous trimming, fitting, mitering, etc., such as is common to our line of work during the process of assembly, and which is supplementary to general milling done previous to the job reaching the bench room. The saw bench is of rigid all-metal construction and is fitted. with casters to facilitate moving it where most convenient. When positioned, a locking device insures its staying exactly where it is placed. Its accessories include a ripping rest and two cut-off rests. These are adjustable as to angle and may be used on either side of the saw; slots in the table top make this possible and furnish a distinct advantage under certain conditions.

An auxiliary top of wood is a feature of this machine. It is fitted with two reverse directional fixed 45-deg. rests and a fixed rest for square cutting. Two wood slats fastened to its underside correspond with the slats for the cut-off rests. The whole top is moved backward and forward in the cutting operation. This handy rig is particularly suited to such mitering jobs as are within the range of the depth of saw-cut.

A notable feature of this mitering rig is that the molding may be positioned either in front of or behind the rest in
making the cut, something not usually possible on the ordinary cut-off rest. For inside cuts such as on panel molding work the stock is placed in front of the rest. For outside cuts, as on the necking of a stair post, the molding is placed (and rigidly held) against the vertical back surface of the rest. The purpose of this, needless to say, is to place, and cut the molding in the position best calculated to prevent any tendency to roll in the process.

Miters requiring an angle other than 45-degrees are taken care of by adjusting one or both of the ordinary cut-off rests as required. Deep miter cuts, as in case bases or flat and wide moldings, are made by tipping the metal table of the machine to the necessary angle. A degree scale and pointer facilitate this setting, while a locking screw insures its permanency.
The "socket-driven" shaper, another member of this midget family, is thoroughly efficient within its power limits. In our particular case (as in others I know of) it is used as an auxiliary to the regular machines. It has no regular operator but is used exclusively by the bench hands on the simpler and lighter moldings of their respective jobs. This materially relieves the pressure on the regular shapers and makes for better work. Incidentally, and clue to shorter waits for molded parts, it ,enables the henchmen to execute their jobs in more advantageous sequence.

In a part of the country where good shaper hands are notoriously scarce, the increasing use of this machine in the manner described, bids fair to relieve this scarcity. Some of the younger men are showing an aptitude which will sooner or later cause the "high-hat" regulars to sit up and take notice. A case in point is that of a very competent but some-what foolish shaperman who many times has held up the bench-room through his failure to report on Monday, Since the installation of the light shaper his temporary lapses have not caused nearly the amount of trouble previously experienced. It is an interesting fact that the men who run this light machine do so without any fear. Many of them would, however, be very reluctant to set up and do the same work on a regular machine. It is hard to see just how they reason this out, but the fact remains, nevertheless.

The socket-driven bench jointer, while it does not possess the versatile characteristics of the other machines mentioned, merits favorable comment and justifies its use in the bench room, by the amount of hand-jointing it eliminates. It is, as a fellow-workman expresses it, "as handy as a hammer." It can be picked up and transferred where most needed, with the greatest of ease. It is a great time saver in "jointing in" case doors and sash, and in fitting drawer ends to their position before assembly.

There is still another electrically-driven device which, while much longer on the market than the others mentioned, has not yet attained the recognition or general use its time-saving merits entitle it to; I refer to the electric hand drill. Much of the work done on the benches is held together, or at least reinforced, by wood screws for which holes have to be bored. In many cases it is not possible to do this work on the boring machine, and even if it were, the machine might not be available at the time. It is therefore not unusual to find that the necessary holes (often a large number) are laboriously bored and countersunk by hand. It should be fairly obvious that the use of this tool would save a large amount of time and hand-labor under such circumstances. A turn of the wrist mounts or demounts a drill or countersink, while with it holes may be bored in any position or direction.