Naval Maneuvers II

I’ve been working on the jointer the past couple of days, and learned some things about it, good and bad.

First the good: after giving the serial number to Rich Fink at Eagle Machinery, I was able to learn that my particular machine did leave the factory as a belt driven jointer, despite the fact that the badges give it the ‘166-CD’ designation. A note about the letters and numbers used: the ‘166’ is the model of machine, a jointer in this case. The next letter gives the width of the tables. The 166 series went from 166-A_ (8″) to 166-F_ (30″), in increments of 4″ with each advancing letter, except for the last increment, which is from a 24″ model to the 30″ model. So a 166-C_ is a 16″ jointer. The final letter designates the type of drive system – there was Direct-Drive (the motor attached directly to the cutterhead), Belt-Drive, and something called Coupled Drive (I’m guessing that is was to be run off of a line shaft). So, the badge on my machine says 166-CD, which indicates it is a direct drive, however the original sales receipt indicates that it left the factory with a belt drive, so I guess they didn’t fuss the details in regards to the identification plate.

My machine left the factory on May 10, 1944, having been ordered sometime the previous year. It went to a company in California called the Grand Rapids Store Fixture Company. While the name of that company would suggest a location in Michigan (where the company still seems to exist) I guess they once had a branch out west.

I also found out that the shipping weight of the machine when it left Oliver was 2470 lbs,which explains the gross weight of the machine in the crate of 2600 lbs. Apparently the belt drive machines weighed more than the direct drive ones.

So that was fairly interesting background info to uncover, and it is good to know that spare parts can be obtained, and that my machine is a factory special belt drive. Here’s a factory sales brochure of an Oliver 166 direct drive machine, which also shows the available grinding rail with both grinding wheel and honing stone set ups:

That machine is an older version than mine, as it has the company name cast into the side instead of being a cast iron name plate. They made the 166 jointer for a long time, from the 1930’s until 1986, at which point it was selling for nearly $20,000. At the time mine was purchased from Oliver, the selling price was $936.00.

I could tell that my machine once had that attachment mounted on it as there are some errant grinding marks on the cutterhead that can only have come from a grinding set up like that pictured above.

I got to work on the machine adjustments, and let me tell you, everything was totally out of whack. The seller had claimed that the machine was “ready to go to work” in his advertisement. Well, I guess that some people’s idea of ‘ready’ is at variance with mine. Not only were the knives chipped (not too badly) but they were sticking way too high out of the cutterhead. When I went to check on the fence squareness to the tables, I obtained very different results on each end, indicating that the fence was twisted, or the tables were twisted in plane to one another, or, worst case, both were going on at the same time.

So, my first task was to pull the knives out of the cutterhead. On an Oliver, the tables rest on a dovetailed carriage which is meant to be slid back from the cutterhead when you need to do work on that area. I tried to slide the carriages back but they wouldn’t budge. I suspected that the grease on the chassis ways might have congealed, so I got a piece of 2″x3″ lumber and put it to work as lever. That moved the tables without fuss and with liberal doses of solvent I cleaned up the ways and then put some machine oil on them. Now each table slides easily back and forth.

Here’s the cutter head exposed with both of the tables slid back:

See that little green lever below the cutterhead with the red knob? I thought at first it was some sort of cutterhead lock, but it turns out to be a braking device to slow the cutterhead down after switching off. It reminded me of a similar part on the pto winch on my truck. The round black knobs on the side of the machine lower down are simple set screws for securing the sliding carriages in place.

With the knives out of the cutterhead, I pulled the gib bars, removed all the set screws from them and gave all the bits a good cleaning. The spare set of knives that came with the machine proved to be freshly sharp at least, so I was at least ready to go with the re-setting of the knives in the cutter head. That would wait however until I could check out the table alignment.

I lowered each table until it was roughly level with the cutterhead. I got out my Mitutoyo dial indicator and stand and took a look-see. Each table was twisted in opposite directions relative to one another. It would be impossible to joint anything with such a set up. The tables were about 1~2mm twisted along their width relative to the cutterhead. So, I needed to remove that twist and this is where having a jointer with tables which sit on four adjustable points each comes to be a good design.

Here’s a close up of one of those adjustment points:

As you can see it is comprised of a pair of opposed wedges. The lower wedge is connected by means of a double-threaded screw to a cast post on the chassis below. With the lock nut released on the lower wedge, it is a simple matter to rotate that screw one way or the other to move the lower wedge block in or out, which raises or lowers the table in that location.

The lower wedge block is also keyed into the carriage, so it can only slide in one direction, thus preventing it from rotating sideways which might cause the connection of wedge blocks to bind:

Notice too how the wedge blocks actually interlock to one another:

This means that if you draw the lower block away from the upper one it effects a lowering of the table at that point, and when the bolt is re-tightened on that lower block, the upper one and the table comes down with it.

I went upstairs in the building to look, for comparison’s sake, at the WW I era jointer they had up there, and uncommon machine produced by the John A. White Company of New Hampshire:

The door on the front, which looks like it belongs on a wood stove, open into a small storage area. This machine is also 16″ and has a 4-point adjustment mechanism on each table. It has a bit of a shortish fence compared to the Oliver. Here’s a close up of one of that machine’s adjustment points:

While the wedge blocks are hooked to one another like on the Oliver, there is no provision for adjusting the blocks by way of a screw – instead the bolts would be loosened some amount and a mallet used to tap them too and fro. The upper block is keyed into the casting, but the lower block does not appear to be. The in-feed table on that machine is frozen and needs a bit of work.

Anyway, back to Oliver land. With the twist removed from the tables I could see about getting the tables in plane with one another along their lengths. One of the cabinetmakers upstairs mentioned he had a 6′ straightedge, so I said, “what are you waiting for, bring that out!”, and so he did. It was a very nice piece of metal indeed, an old knife from a paper mill which had a flat ground along the old edge. Perfect!

So, next I checked the tables relative to one another in three positions. Here’s one:

And two:

And three:

Then my camera ran out of battery juice, so that’s where the pictures end for today. That little heater on the out-feed table is how I am keeping warm in my unheated shop….

The adjustment work was far from over. Once I had examined the situation with the straightedge from those three positions, then I checked with the straightedge set in a diagonal orientation, both ways, and then check the tables across their width at several locations.

Now comes the bad news: While the tables are flat across their width at their far ends, near the cutter head both tables are slightly cupped downward. They are hollow in fact for about 2′ coming either direction from the cutterhead. The out-feed table is also slightly hollow along its length. That was a bummer. I adjusted them as best I could to one another, and then mounted the fence back on. While I was hopeful that the correction of the table twist had eliminated the main problems, I in fact discovered that the fence was twisted, by 1~2 mm in one spot. Damn!

I don’t have the money right now to get the tables and fence re-ground, so I had to make do with the situation as best I could. The tables were sorta fudged to one another as best I could, but the fence was a real problem. I considered drilling and tapping it to mount a sub-fence, which could be shimmed true, but really didn’t feel like drilling it. I settled for getting out my 4.5″ Metabo angle grinder and commenced freehand grinding for, oh, an hour and a half or so. Lotsa fun. In the end, covered in soot and with a gross metallic taste in my mouth, I had the fence decently straight and looking okay.

So, after all that, I cleaned up, re-set the knives in the cutterhead using some magnetic setting blocks I have, and then plugged the machine back in. With all the adjustments I had done, I was not at all confident about the results. One thing with a jointer though, and it is exactly like the hand plane in this respect – the surface produced tells you all you need to know about the set up of the tool.

I grabbed a couple of longish pine 3″x3″‘s and ran each one over the jointer then placed their freshly cut surfaces edge to edge. I could see that the joint was slightly sprung (hollow in the middle and touching on the ends. If the jointer is producing a sprung edge, then that means that the tables are aligned in mirror image to that shape – that is, the tables are low at the ends and high at the cutterhead. If the jointer had instead produced boards which touched in the middle but not at their ends, it would have meant that the tables were high at the ends and low in the middle at the cutterhead.

So I loosened off the rear sets of wedge blocks and did a half-turn of the screws on each one to lower the ends of each table. Then I tightened the bolts back up and re-jointed the two sticks. On the second try I had the two sticks jointed just right to one another along their lengths. So that was at least a minor success.

The problem is, that while I have the jointing joint well in the current position in which the fence sits, if I move the fence I will lose the setting relative to the cupped tables. So, in the not too distant future i will have to send the tables and fence out to be re-ground or re-planed. I have located a company down in Connecticut that can handle such a job. It won’t be cheap, but once done i should be able to get the jointer dialed in. For the time being, it will have to do.

And in fact it did do, as I ran all the material for the Ming-inspired table through the jointer and then gave it a pass or two through the planer. Everything is looking good. I think I will be able to manage, though I am a bit bummed out that I have, in all likelihood, another $1000 to spend before this jointer is going to be able to work properly. At least I obtained the machine for a reasonable price of $2750.

I’ll let the wood sit for a day or two before another round of joint and plane. In the meantime I am going to concentrate my energy on getting the Volume III of the Japanese Carpentry Drawing essay completed. A lot of work to do yet on that, and I am hopeful to have it ready for sale in the next week.

Thanks for your visit today, and comments always welcome.

3 Replies to “Naval Maneuvers II”

  1. Hi Chris, had similar experience with an old machine. If possible before you get the tops ground. Try and check that the mounts on the bed itself are in a plane. You may end up getting the the tops ground in a plane but not in plane with the mounting face.
    Anyway great posts as usual.

  2. Hi Sinjin,

    I'm planning to take the tops AND their carriages to the machine shop for grinding as a unit, as that is how they were done at the factory, according to Rich Fink. In order for the chassis ways to be out of plane, the entire cast chassis would have to be out of plane, that is, twisted – that's a possibility of course. I'm thinking that since the carriages stay in a set position all the time, except when changing knives, it might not matter too much if the carriage ways are a bit twisted. With the carriage in a set position, and the in-feed table moving atop the carriage (the out-feed basically stays in the same place all the time), I shouldn't have any issue with any potential carriage twist. The 4 adjustment points on each carriage should allow me to get the tables planar with one another unless the chassis was very badly twisted. Once the tables are co-planer with one another, all should be good.

    Please let me know if you see a flaw in this logic!


  3. I am sorry to hear that the machine requires some “refinements” and I am glad that you were able to at least get the fence to a point where it is functional.

    But be encouraged. A new machine of that size and type made in China would run over $6000 and still would not have as long a set of beds. So, even after you get the tables and fence reground, you will have spent far less and have a jewel of a jointer.


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