Chapter 3:5 1911-1920:-- Technological Development

For example, availability of alternating current; Electrification of cities begins in mid-decade and continues strongly into the next decade.

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Thanks to Siegried Giedion (Mechanization Takes Command: A Contribution to Anonymous History New York: Oxford University Press, 1948, page 41-42), we can begin to establish at what moment the various electrical appliances became popularized, by surveying approximately when   minor appliances —  — entered the Montgomery Ward catalogs:  in 1912, fans, irons, toasters, wringers; in 1917, the electric vacuum cleaner; in 1930, the electric range; and the electric refrigerator in 1932. (Giedion notes his indebtedness to a Professor Richard M. Bennett, who was for a time with Montgomery Ward in Chicago.)

On, I have located a 1914 advertisement -- Lincoln Daily News 12-3-1914f -- for an electric clothes washer, powered with a 1/6-HP electric motor. (Sorry, for the moment, I can't get the image to show clearly enough for the WWW.) Was this an AC or a DC motor? AC electrification was just getting under way in cities at this point in the 1910-1920 decade.


The alternating-current electric motor, with no sliding parts other than the bearings, came on the market about 1919, The first of these motors used on woodworking machines were mounted direct on cutterhead arbors equipped with babbitt bearings. Bearing wear required adjustment to maintain the proper air gap between the rotor and stator and complicated the motor mounting. Ball bearings eliminated the necessity of this adjustment and their long life and other advantages were soon apparent.

Source: Judson Mansfield, "Woodworking Machinery: History of Development from 1852—1952",  Mechanical Engineering: The Journal of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Dec 1952, page 992.

Mansfield notes above the "state-of-the-art" in the technology of fractional-horsepower electric motors. The 1919 woodworker's manual, Prevocational and Industrial Arts, briefly, sets out another take on the state-of-the-art for fractional horsepower motors. Notice that Wood and Smith are discussing "battery-powered" electric motors, not "socket-driven" (For an illustration of the meaning of "socket-driven" look at the No 8 Wallace Portable Saw Wallace's catalogs show other models of saws with the same socket-ddriven features.) Fractional horse-power motors still lacked "torque", and capacitors, developments that occurred in the middle of the 1920s: Document 34: The History of the Induction Motor in America

Individual Motors for Individual Tools

In their 1917 Machinery's EncyclopediaErik Oberg and Franklin Day Jones write about "Motor Drive for Woodworking Machines": They argue that -- with the appearance of smaller motors driven by alternating current -- it's beginning to make more sense to visualize

"[e]lectric motors ... driving ... woodworking machinery... A great advantage ... is that additions can be made to the original shop, and rearrangements of the machinery are possible without interfering with the machines already installed. In the pattern shop, particularly, where the machines are generally operated intermittently and run at high speed, the individual motor drive is economical. The application of motors to woodworking machines and the horsepower required for different sizes of band saws, resawing machines, circular saws, swing saws, jointers or hand planers, surfacers, wood-turning lathes, mortising machines, wood shapers, tenoning machines, and sanding machines are given in the paragraphs on Electric Drive for Woodworking Machinery, Vol. IV, page 439.

Source: Erik Oberg and Franklin Day Jones, Machinery's Encyclopedia: A Work of Reference Covering Practical Mathematics ...  NEW YORK: THE INDUSTRIAL PRES, 1917 page 215.

[Opinion about authority of Machinery's Encyclopedia in 1922 from Margaret Hutchins, Alice Sarah Johnson, Margaret Stuart Williams Guide to the Use of Libraries: A Manual for College and University Students New York: The H.W. Wilson company, 1922:

330. Machinery's encyclopedia; a work of refererence... comp. and ed. by Erik Oberg and F. D. Jones ... in collaboration with many prominent mechanical and electrical engineers. N. Y. Industrial press, 1917. 7v.

Deals with practical mathematics and mechanics; strength of materials; design of machine details; machine tools and machine shop practice; heat-treatment of iron and steel; forge shop, pattern shop, and foundry practice; metallurgy of... the more important. . .metals .. . including very complete treatises on electrical machinery, gas engines, hydraulic turbines, steam engines and turbines, boilers and accessories, pumps, air compressors, etc.". . .Editors' preface, v.1. Some of the articles are signed by initials explained in the front of v.i. Arranged alphabetically. Use the general index in v.7 to find all the information on a certain subject in the encyclopedia. It refers not only to the page, but also to that section of the page where the information will be found; e.g. IV, 285-3. This means that the reference is in v.4, p. 285, upper right hand corner. ]


As has been stated, one cannot see the flow of electric current, but results from electric current can be seen. The electric motor, Fig. 22, is another illustration of electric motive power. The electro magnet is again the moving force. A simple type of motor which can be easily made and which thoroughly illustrates the principle on which the larger motor works, is shown in Fig. 24.

fractional HP motor 1919aIn this simple motor, when the current from the battery is turned on, it travels around the iron core (5), causing it to become an electro magnet.

The current then travels through one of the brushes (1), to the commutator (2), then around the armature (3), out through the. other brush, then to the battery. When the armature is turned to a certain point, the brushes exchange contact with the metal plates on the commutator and therefore the flow of current is reversed. This reverses the polarity of the armature magnets. In this way alternate attraction and repulsion is produced between the armature magnets and field magnets, first a pull and then a push being given to the armature. With each new contact between the brushes and the armature plates, magnetic force is again set up and the armature is given another pull, only to have the pull cut off by the brushes. It is this chasing game, played in a motor, which makes the armature revolve continuously as long as the switch is closed and the current allowed to flow.

fractional HP motor 1919b

In making a motor like  the illustration, the field magnet must be wound so that one end becomes a north pole and the other one a south pole. The armature magnets must also be wound in this manner. The polarity of a magnet can be deter-mined by grasping the coil with the right hand so that the fingers point in the direction of the current ; the north pole will then be in the direction of the extended thumb as illustrated in Fig. 25. The plates on the commutator must be placed so that the brushes make a contact when the armature is in the position shown in Fig. 26, the reason being that, in this illustration, the north pole in the armature is nearest the south pole of the field magnet, making the pull easier. It will be remembered that like poles repell each other: consequently in Fig. 25, even though one pole in the armature is near a pole of the field magnet, it will not be attracted to it because the polarity in each is the same. A pulley placed on the end of the armature is the means of using the power developed in a motor.

Source: Harry Einsley Wood, and James Henry Smith,Prevocational and Industrial Arts Chicago, Atkinson, Mentzer & company, 1919.

The Baldor Electric Co was founded in 1920, an event that helped place fractional horse-power electric motors on the mass market and acted as a catalyst for the invention and production of power tools, scaled for the homeworkshop:

From George Schock's "History":

Chapter 1: Baldor's Beginning

Very early in the year of nineteen hundred and twenty (1920) two men conceived the idea of becoming a manufacturer of electric motors.

They were Edwin C. Ballman, a graduate. of Washington University, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree and whose major study was electrical engineering; and Mr. Emil Doerr, who had learned the trade of machinist through many years of first hand experience in all phases of metalworking. Mr. Doerr had advanced through all stages of becoming a master machinist, beginning with his apprenticeship. At the time that he co-founded Baldor, he was eminently qualified as a master machinist.

These two men had worked at the same places, Wagner Electric Co. and the St. Louis Electric Co. They did not work closely together in those places, but they were well acquainted and had confidence in each other. Mr. Ballman was experienced in the field of electrical engineering and Mr. Doerr was fully experienced and knowledgeable in electrical manufacturing, including motors; also in supervising and running a metalworking plant. Both were ambitious and hard working and both were honest. Each had respect for the other and they became a team.

In choosing a name for the corporation they agreed to use the first part of the name of one founder (Ball) and the full name of the other (Doerr) (Ball-Doerr). To make the name simpler and more distinctive a new word was coined, hence Ball-Doerr became Baldor. This was a good choice because Baldor is distinctive and rare.

The original basis for going into the motor business was to "Make a Better Motor". This basis was adhered to strictly, not only at the beginning, but throughout the company's history. In fact, the company's original slogan

Baldor: a Better Motor

aptly expressed the company's philosophy, then and now... Read More : --

J D Wallace's Portable Jointer; Also known as "Rotary Planer" and "Bench Planer"

Introduced earlier in the decade, the 4-inch J D Wallace "portable" jointer was driven by a direct-current motor. (The term "portable" had a connotation different than the common one today for woodworking tools; portable then meant that the tools could be transported from construction site to construction site.) According to the American Carpenter and Builder 20, no 2 November 15, page 4, 200 machines were sold. (This little factotum needs more investigation, because my scanty evidence suggests that the Wallace Bench Planer became an immediate hit. Here are links to more info for the Wallace Bench Planer on the Old Woodworking Machines website and the Google Patent database.)

The Building Age 36 December 1914 , pages 84-85

The Wallace Bench Planer

One of the latest candidates for popular favor in the way of a bench planer is the little machine which is being introduced to the attention of carpenters and builders by J. D. Wallace, 527 West Van Buren Street, Chicago, Ill., and shown in operation in Fig. 12.

This is a portable power planer which weighs only 50 lb. including its direct-connected electric motor. It will be observed that the planer stands on the bench without fastening and can be operated from an electric light socket.

It is furnished with either direct or alternating current motor, although if desired it can be arranged for belt drive from a countershaft. It is of such a nature that it can be carried directly to the job and put into operation at a moment's notice.

The planer is said to take the heaviest cuts in hard as well as in soft wood and in addition will take a fine cut that will not show the knife marks. Its fence is adjustable to any angle and the table to any depth of cut.

photo of 1914 wallace portable jointer

Its cutting knives are 4 in. wide, but by removing the fence, stock up to 12 in. wide can be roughed off. The cutter head is cylindrical and the throat opening averages only 1 in. in width—half the usual size. The device is a planer pure and simple, there being no attachments for doing other work. Mr. Wallace, the manufacturer, makes the prediction that before another season is over this bench planer will be considered as necessary to a carpenter and builder as a try square and will eventually eliminate the hand plane from the tool kit.

Temporary Fix: The Text Below is Courtesy a Friend Who Just Acquired a 1920s Wallace Bench Planer

J.D. Wallace began operations on October 27, 1916. The company was originally located at 1401 W. Jackson Blvd. Chicago, IL. The name of the business was amended in 1919 as J.D. Wallace & Co. On September 21, 1925, the company relocated it's factory to 134 - 158 So. California Avenue, taking up the length of a city block. The business was dissolved December 4, 1957.

Based on my research, if J.D. Wallace manufactured a machine before 1919, it bore the name J.D. Wallace; if the name on the motor tag bore the name J.D. Wallace & Co., it was manufactured from 1919 on. If the address on the same tag indicated an address of 1401 W. Jackson Blvd., the machine was manufactured before 1926; if the address was 134 So. California Ave., it was made from late 1925 on. For example, the tag on my 6" jointer reads as follows: J.D. Wallace & Co., 1401 W. Jackson Blvd., and thus, was manufactured between 1919 and 1925. Based on the low serial number 330, it would seem that the machine was built either in 1919 or 1920 (1921 at the latest). As I have yet to find any records pertaining to serial number allocation for Wallace machinery, the last statement is a likelihood and not etched in cast iron (arn).

Sources: Michael Tavalin email, 12/18/09; Industrial Arts Magazine 18 September 1929; Illinois Secretary of State Office, Archives Reference Section (Springfield Office).


The history of the router goes back to World War I, its invention generally credited to R.L. Carter, a patternmaker who designed a cutter from the worm gear of an electric barber's clipper and secured it to the shaft of an electric motor. The efficiency of the "Electric Hand Shaper" was quickly noticed and Carter found himself producing thousands of the units for sale. In the late 1920s, Stanley acquired the Carter business and produced the first "modern" router, not especially for me, of course.

For the near future, please turn this document, even though it is overly large. At the moment, I am reconsidering how best to present all the information gathered on the Router

Beginnings of the Radial Arm Saw

Around 1915 , in a garage in Florin, PA., Raymond DeWalt created the first radial arm saws (RAS).

(The RAS is predated by the early swinging crosscutting saws, suspended on a bar several feet above the operator and the table. As Sandor ? notes, these crude saws bore equally crude labels: Vertical Column-Bracket Cutting-Off Saw and the Over-Hung Traversing Gainer and Cut-Off Saw. "... [C]ast-iron monsters with huge, unprotected circular sawblades that cut well, but ... were expensive to build and very dangerous to use.)

DeWalt's first machine is the model A- I; it became an instant hit, requiring -- in the early 1920's as sales increased -- that DeWalt  incorporate and move to Fountain Ave in Lancaster, PA. In this new plant the company began to manufacture a full line of woodworking equipment including shapers, jointers, chisel mortiser and a table saw.

Source: Adapted from TimeLine prepared by The Original Saw Company

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