Adventures in Machine Land

I am still working on part 6 of the series on CNC, and it’s just not quite ready to go, so I thought in the meantime i’d post up some of my recent hi-jinks with some of that cast iron in my shop.

This past week I stripped the tables off the Oliver 166 BD jointer, an operation that doesn’t take all that long, but which must be tackled carefully given the arm-crushing weight of the tables:

You can see from the picture why the construction of this machine is characterized as ‘bridge-like’. To be honest, it seems to me that it would be better to do it in a tripod fashion, like the Porter and Northfield designs, as that eliminates the need to precisely level the bases so as to impart no twist to the bridge.

Another view:

I have taken the double adjuster screws out, which are used to push/pull the adjusting wedges relative to one another, and over to a local machine shop so some new ones can get made. The local machine shop will charge me $15~20/piece for these, whereas the guy selling Oliver parts wanted $50/piece. Given 8 double adjusters, at $50/ each I’d be spending a lot more than I would prefer, so I’ll get them custom made. They’re simple items for a machinist to fabricate.

Here are the two tables ready for loading into my truck:

I took the tables down to East Hartford CT, about an hour’s drive south, to a place called Marena Industries. They specialize in machine grinding work, and have been in business for 45 years. They are the nearest outfit in New England that can handle the size of tables I need worked, and came recommended by a large sharpening company I had approached initially.

Once I had the tables unloaded at the freight dock, the operations manager John gave me a little tour of the facility. The first item to come across was this absolutely humongous grinding machine- you could literally park a car on the table:

Frankly I was too stunned after that to take a whole lot of pictures. I just sort of walked around spaced out, slack-jawed and drooling after seeing that monster. The facility was crammed full of all kinds of neat machinery, including grinders 24′ long, and various machining centers. Here’s a rack of tooling for one of those centers:

It looks like something out of a sci-fi movie, an armada of weapons stuck on the front of the bad guy’s spaceship. They had several tool racks just like it.

Shop Operations Manager John was one of those seldom-encountered knowledgeable fellows with long experience in the trade who could answer pretty much any question I asked him about machining, differences in types of cast iron work, varieties of lathe chucks, grinding vs planing, etc., etc. Our conversation was most edifying. It was cool to see their water jet cutter as well.

This company used to be a dealer for Rockwell many years back, and they actually had, brand new in boxes, a Rockwell Unisaw and a Rockwell 14″ radial arm saw. They’re for sale, so if anyone is interested in that sort of thing, it would be worth giving them a call.

The tables should be ready next week and I look forward to getting my jointer up and running and properly set up at last. I still want a Martin jointer eventually, but it will be good to have a well aligned usable machine in the interim, and if I do sell the Oliver down the line, I can have a clear conscience about it’s condition. Also, the money I have put into it I should get back later as I would think it will be worth $5000 when everything is tickety-boo.

All for today. I’m heading into the shop to continue work on the bookcase, and I have obtained material for the coffee table build as well so another post in that series will be coming down the pike soon enough.

Thanks for dropping in on the Carpentry Way today.

3 thoughts on “Adventures in Machine Land

  1. Chris

    I always learn something about woodworking or Japanese culture from your blog. Now I am learning vocabulary, too! I plan to drive friends and acquaintances crazy in the next weeks with 'tickety-boo'. Thanks.


  2. Unless you don't care to mess with the originality, you might consider drilling a line of holes across the infeed table throat plate, if there is one and it allows. Makes for a quieter operating machine, and a little breeze feels nice in the summer.

  3. Tom,

    glad I could enrich your vocab base. Based on my experience, you will find people having all sorts of curious reactions to hearing 'tickety-boo'. Not sure why that is, but have fun with it!


    you know, funny you mention that. I was thinking of getting the table lips slotted several months back, and mentioned that idea to Rich Fink, the Oliver specialist. He said they'd tried that in the past and he didn't feel it made much difference. However, I have still been entertaining the idea, for the sound-reducing benefit you mentioned. Most of the higher end European machines have the lips perforated or slotted, so it must be of some benefit.

    However, given that this machine is not likely the end of the path for me in terms of jointers, I think I will hold off on plans to make any significant modifications to the machine, like table lip slots or holes, or swapping out the cutterhead for a Tersa or Terminus, etc., as I think that most buyers of an old machine would tend to prefer it be completely stock.


Anything to add?