Chapter 5: 1931-1940:-- 5:5 Technological Development

[in progress 4-11-09]

Back to Chapter 5

under construction 4-24-2008 -- it will be big!

The development of power woodworking machines scaled for the home woodworkshop began in the 1920s -- fueled by electrification, the patenting of fractional horse-power motors, and a growing middle-class able to move to home-ownership -- and in the 1930s, despite the oppressive nature of the Great Depression, amateur woodworking "took-off". Using "took-off" is not accidental: at two periodicals dedicated to amateur woodworking were launched in the early 1930s, and the National Homeworkshop Guild was formed in 1933.

Taken together, all of these matters argue that amateur woodworking is a vibrant, expanding activity. If there is an unknown in this equation, it is education. My search for evidence of the impact of high school Industrial Arts courses to inspire American men to embrace woodworking as their hobby continues, but -- ever so slowly, as you'll see here -- the reality is that amateur woodworking expanded on an fairly steep upward trajectory.

A O Smith acquires Sawyer Electric of Los Angeles, California, a manufacturer of electric motors. In the later 1940s, A O Smith motors are installed on Shopmiths.

V-belts begin replacing flat belts, permitting more compact designs of power tools, and encourages shift toward "individual motor for individual tool"

The Drill Press Flexes Its Muscles in the Home Workshop


Emergence of Delta's Famous Drill Press in Early 1930s

When the Delta Drill press pictured below was introduced is not clear, although we know the following: Herbert Tautz, founder of the Delta line, authored with Clyde Fruits The three-volume set, The Modern Motor-Driven Woodworking Shop. While no drill press is shown in the pages of the set, what is shown is of equal interest. On the left is Delta's "Boring Machine and Circular Saw, Mounted on a Bench" (Several different congigurations are also shown, but there is not Drill Press shown the three-volume set.

Just a year later, in 1931, page 30 of Delta's catalog includes the drill press shown below. This same drill was advertised by a hardward store in Appleton, Wisconsin. On page 32 of the same catalog, is a notice of the availability of Getting the Most Out of Your Drill Press (curiously, the, the database where I located the Appleton, Wisconsin advertisement, does not list any other papers showing the Delta drill press.) Notice, too, that the drill press comes WITHOUT the fractional horse-power motor needed to drive the unit.)

Competiton was fierce, however. Along with Delta, other machine tool manufacturers were targeting the growing homeworkshop market for power tools: Walker-Turner, Boice-Crane, J D Wallace, Sears, Champion, all hurried to market bench-top, floor and wall-mounted models.

(I have ordered on a 1931 (first) edition of Getting the Most Out of Your Drill Press -- when it comes, I will scan and upload it)

And here, in an issue of Popular Homecraft, is the claim the editors :

"And Tools to Work Withal ... the best there is..."

Marshall, Missouri, fitted out with several power tools, including a shadowy image of a Champion bench drill press. These images come from Popular Homecraft 3, no 3 September-October 1932, pages 210 & 265.


This is the caption below the photo:

REMEMBER the "newspaper" stories you've read and the movies you've seen where the demon reporter, editor, or whoever the hero might be, sighs happily as he hears the throbbing roar of the mighty presses?

Well, Frank C. Green, who lives in Marshall, Mo., is one of the men who make the presses roar, being by trade a newspaper pressman but, after the day's run is over and the press is washed up.

"You can find from two to a half-dozen young men in my home shop enjoying seeing different articles in the course of construction."

I have not spared time or expense in equipping my shop with the best there is. As fast as new machinery or tools worthy of consideration are put on the market, I add them to my now very complete outfit.

My shop equipment now consists of the following, in addition to about a thousand hand tools:

    New South Bend 9-in. lathe with about $100 worth of extra equipment;

    Oxyacetylene welding outfit; Wallace 14-in, handsaw, with unit motor;

    Bonnett-Brown circular saw and extra attachments with unit motor;

    Champion bench drill;

    Black & Decker electric hand drill;

    Stanley miter box with 6 by 30 in. saw;

    Foley saw filer, Model F5;

    Lacquer spray painting gun with compressor and tank;

    Driver flexible shaft outfit, with all present available accessories;

    Atkins Silver Steel handsaws;

    16-in, drum sander with disk sander attachment.

My list of small tools is by far too large to enumerate, but all the tools I have are of standard brands and not the cheap kinds that so many beginners make the mistake of wasting their money on.

Shapers and Routers Become Viable as Power Tools in Home Workshops

The Carter-Stanley router comes on the market

In 1929, the Carter line Stanley Electric Tools purchased   and produced routers until the company was sold to the Bosch Tool Corp. in the early 1980s.

Blurb from 1932 J D Wallace Catalog:

"Thousands of Workace Electric Shapers are in service -- in large plants and small shops-schools and hobby shops, maintenance departments, pattern and cabinet shops and furniture repair departments, etc."

j d wallace workace 1929

The J D Wallace "Workace" bench top shaper is released to the market, definitely with the home workshop woodworker as a chief target

(More discussion here.)

Boice-Crane's "Low-Priced Shaper" given "royal-treatment" by Popular Homecraft in promoting this power tool to the homeshop. Strangley, this shaper evidenlty had a short life span. In the only Boice-Crane catalog on -- a 1935, page 31, which features a "shaper", is obliterated by a "price list", super-imposed over the top of it. The fraction of the shaper's base that you can make out -- its outline stretches out beyond the border of the price list -- looks to me like another model of a shaper.

Popular Homecraft November 1930 page 362popular homecraft 1930 promoting B-C shaper to home workshops


Only a shaper can give that distinctive "finished" touch required by every piece of artistic woodwork. It is adapted to a greater variety of refining and beautifying work than any other machine in the woodworking industry. Its vertical high-speed spindle will carry any type of cutter, jointer head, cope head, dado head, saw, router, dovetail, rounder, rosette, fluter bit, drum sander, disk sander or carving tool and will transform the simple and unattractive lines of the amateur to the handsome, molded work of an expert.

boice-crane shaper in PH 1930The manufacturers have long realized the great need of the amateur and small shop owner for a low-cost shaper that anyone, even the man who has never before seen such a machine, can operate with complete safety and satisfaction.

Some of the mechanical details of this shaper are: Ball-bearing spindle; 17-in, stationary table, cast as an integral part of the floor column and absolutely square with the spindle; adjustable spindle that raises and lowers to accommodate different styles of cutters and heads; adjustable cast-iron fence and combination safety guard and hold-down.

Any motor that can be operated vertically can be used for operating the shaper and, at 1750 r.p.m., the shaper spindle is revolved at 7,000 r.p.m.

A very complete assortment of cutter equipment is available, in addition to a new solid milled-type cutter that has been developed by the manufacturers, which makes it possible to produce 70 different modeled shapes with but a single cutter.

This machine, aside from its size and price will compare favorably with the larger and heavier production-type machines and that, in fact is exactly what it is — a production shaper adapted to the requirements and the purse of the amateur worker and the small woodworking shop.

Walker Turner is one of the major manufacturers of power tools for the home workshop market. Walker-Turner's house organ, Home Craftsman -- for background, scroll down on Chapter 5:2 -- launched in 1931, was published until 1965. Initially, H-C contained only advertisements for W-T products -- see below, for example of ads for W-T power tools in first issue of H-C:

walker turner tools in H-C 1931

In 1932, Walker-Turner also issued a 127-page Woodworker's Handbook, a manual that includes almost 50 pages of data on WT benchtop machines, including operations. A click on the link takes you to a special page, created just to introduce the Woodworker's Handbook and to give a link to the pdf complete text on

Delta Announces Lathe

In The Deltagram's editor, Sam Brown, featured several articles in that magazine, and Delta issued in 1935 Brown's 48-page, Getting the Most Out of Your Lathe in 1935.lathe_delta_1935

Delta Announces in The Deltagram the Company's New Bench-top Shaper, January, 1937


In preparation for the machine's release to the market, The Deltagram's editor, Sam Brown, had penned a Delta "Getting the Most out of Your Shaper" in 1936. (By February, 1947, ten editions were recorded on the manual's title-page, suggesting that perhaps 25,000 cpoies were in circulation.) Brown waited until November, 1937, to feature anything about the shaper; that month's page 39 is about shaper cutters, and the "bread-and-butter" details about window making. However, not until February, 1938, does Brown include a feature article -- a one-pager -- on "freehand shaping". The shaper itself gets cover treatment in the March issue, and a one-page "how-to-do-it" on making a "corner-clock-case", including an illustration of shaping edges of shelves with the bench-top shaper.

Delta Announces Unisaw The Deltagram February 1939

On the left below, the patent submitted by Herbert Tautz for the Unisaw; further below, on the right, below, an ad from The Deltagram, March 1940. circular_saw_patent_delta_unisaw_1939

circular_saw_delta_unisaw_1939 Back to top

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The Portable Belt Sander.

As its name indicates this sander can be moved about wherever you want to use it. It is operated by a flexible shaft that runs from a motor and it is made very like the sander I have just described but it is fitted with a knob and a handle, and looks and works somewhat like a jack-plane. Instead of holding the work on top of the sanding belt you push the sander over it just as you do a plane. To get the best results the belt should run at a speed of 1750 R.P.M. It has a length of 17 inches, a shipping weight of 14 pounds, and it sells for $9.00.

The 6-inch Belt Sander. This sander can be used as a disk sander or a belt sander and, it follows, any moves over a graduated scale and this enables you to tilt the table with accuracy and, hence, you can sand straight angles. By tilting both the table and the miter gauge you can sand angle joints and tapers on patterns.

The shafts run on self-lubricating ball bearings which are provided with oil reservoirs, and balanced rubber covered wheels are rigidly keyed to them. The sanding belt 2 is 6 inches wide and 44-1 inches round, and there is an adjustable belt device -- see Fig. 63 -- that is worked with a hand-knob on each side, and by means of which you can easily align the belt and give it the proper tension.

Fine, medium and coarse belts can be had for 90 cents each.

Source: Archie Frederick Collins, Amateur Power Working Tools Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Co., 1937

Contents of this pdf gives "operating instructions: operating instructions belt type skil sanders No date on this manual, but looks like 1930s vintage. I am indebted to David Hoelzeman for this pdf document.

Check this source -- Popular Mechanics 62, no 1 July 1934, pages 141-142, for a "how-to-build" a home-shop version of this "new" portable tool, "Portable Blt Sander".

A search. "portable belt sander", 1930-1940, in google books, gives additional info, mostly in sources not "full-text"; however, the adverts for portable belt sanders are interesting.

Below is a portion of the brief description -- and images -- of the portable belt sander given by Herman Hjorth in his 1937 Machine Woodworking Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing (click here for more on Herman Hjorth):


207. Portable belt sanders ... have two rubber-covered pulleys between which an adjustable form shoe, corresponding to the table, is fastened (Fig. 381, on left).

On the upper part of the machine are the motor, the starting switch, and the handles for guiding the sander.

In operation, the pulleys do not come in contact with the work and, 1,300 and 1,600 r.p.m., and may be run either on 110- or 220-volt circuits.

The Bandsaw


archie frederick collins demonstrates the bandsaw in the 1930s

THE term band saw is used to mean (1) a saw made in the form of an endless band or belt, that runs over a pair of aligned wheels, and (2) a power sawing machine in which this kind of a saw blade is used. The band saw is the big brother of the jig saw for it does practically the same kind of work as the latter but on a larger and heavier scale.

The Parts of a Band Saw.

A band saw is formed of five chief parts, and these are (1) a base, (2) a frame, (3) a table, (4) a pair of aligned wheels, (5) a band saw blade, (6) a spring tensioner, (7) a ripping fence or guide, and (8) a blade guide or support.

In some band saws the frame and base are cast in one piece, while in others the former is bolted to the latter. The table is pivoted to a pair of trunnions which are cast integral with the frame, so that it (the table) can be tilted. The wheels, which are of large diameter, are rubber covered, and run in either bronze or ball bearings.

The band saw blade is made of vanadium alloy steel which will twist but not break and is flexible enough to bend easily around the wheels. Finally the band saw blade is held in a straight vertical line where it passes through the table by a guide or support formed of roller or ball bearings.

Source: Archie Frederick Collins, Amateur Power Working Tools Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1937, pages 31-48.