Document # 46: The Radial Arm Saw:
"Machine Sawing From On Top"
the shaded box below, Mr William W. Klenke is describing the DeWalt radial arm
saw, Model JR, that was released on the market in 1929. In length, the
article is a mere two pages, but it describes how -- using a new type
of saw and shaper -- someone can build a "built-in Colonial corner
brief background on the development of the radial arm saw in the 1920s,
particularly the role of Ray DeWalt's contributions, click here: Appendix
18: On the
Origin of the Radial Arm Saw
(The author of the article posted , William H.
Klenke, was ab instructor of shopwork in the Central Manual Training High
School, Newark, N. J., a practicing architect, and the author of
Selected Furniture Drawings and many other books on craftwork.
was commisioned by Popular Science's
Home Workshop Editor, Arthur Wakefield, to write a series of
(over-brief) articles for issues of 1929-1930 issues of PS
on tools for the homeworkshop.
Subsequently most of these same articles
re-appeared in two books published in 1930, edited by Wakeling : as
Chapter V, "Small Woodworking Machinery" in Things
to Make in Your Homeworkshop and as Chapter III,
"Small Woodworking Machinery", in Wakeling's Home
Workshop Manual. Both of these
woodworking manuals are given greater detail here.
The intent of Popular Science to publish two books on home
workshops in 1930 is obvious. Starting even before the 1920s, with electrification of
cities, the emergence
of the fractional horse-power electric motors, and the (scaled-down) power
woodworking tools designed for homes, the homeworkshop
movement had emerged as a movement of major proportions.
In its first issue in 1931,
only a year later, Popular
Homecraft (v 1 no 1 1931) boasted that 77,000 homeworkshops -- equipped with power
tools -- existed in America,
(Unfortunately, as is frequently true about statistical data of this type, PH does
not provide the source of these statistics, something that makes them
somewhat suspect. No doubt home workshops -- equipped with power
tools -- at the end of the 1920s existed in great numbers -- evidence
of this fact comes from several sources, including the demand for
woodworker's manuals and the emergence of Home Craftsman, Deltagram, and Popular Homecraft. Popular Mechanics' Shop Notes, begun early in the 20th century, was still being published, and Popular Mechanics and Popular Science carried articles about the equipping homeshops with power tools. Cick here for more discussion on this topic.)
Moreover, the fruits of the homeworkshop movement, promoted in
high school Industrial Arts curriculums throughout the 1920s decade was
paying off: in
1933, Arthur Wakeling, editor of the Home Workshop section of Popular Science, launched the National Homeworkshop Guild
In addition, several other matters associated with this article by Klenke are worth considering:
Arts, as a component of high school education, was in decline. (Klenke
is among the most prominent IA officials of this period.) Mass
production in furniture manufacture, where men to work in assembly
lines could be hired off the street, meant that lengthy apprenticeships
were definitely no longer appealing to young men as career choices. For
more about the impact of mass production upon the decline of the master
craftsman, click here:
Appendix 16: Amateur Woodworkers and the Hour Glass Analogy.) Enrollments in decline, IA instructors hustled to sustain their
existence by creating alternative reasons for boys to take course in
woodworking and related activities.
Second, anyone who
has read articles by such instructors of woodworking as Franklin H.
Gottshall -- I am thinking of Gottshall's classic 1937
woodworker's manual, How to Design Period Furniture
-- or even the flamboyant Wallace Kunkel -- as detailed in How to Master the Radial Saw
-- knows, realistically, that to attempt to construct a piece of
furniture of such complexity as this "Built-In Colonial Closet" that is
the focus of Klenke's article CANNOT be reduced to two pages of
text and images -- that is, photos and dimensional drawings of the
furniture to be constructed -- and a brief 10-step set of instructions.
Even the obligatory Materials List -- i.e., lumber and hardware,
including the dimensions of each piece of the project's parts -- is not given.
we recognize Wallace Kunkel as the leading champion of the Dewalt
radial arm saw, as a versatile tool; see his 1997 ring-bound book, How to Master the Radial Saw.
However, earlier professional woodworkers who promoted the radial arm
saw are Herman Hjorth -- a colleague of Klenke, who died in 1951 -- see Document
Hjorth on the Radial Arm Saw Home Craftsman Magazine
J-F 1950 and Robert Scharf, in
his 1956 Easy Ways to Expert Woodworking.
While Hjorth did not focus exclusively on the Dewalt, Scharff
does. Taken together, though, each of these gentlemen take a much more
detailed, instructional approach, and walk the reader, step-by-step,
through the process of constructing classic furniture designs such as
this colonial closet.
contrast to the helpful approach that Scharff and Kunkel, and others,
adopt toward the radial arm, Klenke seems downright mean-spririted.
Klenke is not the problem here, though, nor would I fault Arthur
Wakeling, Homeworkshop editor for Popular Science; instead, I lay the reason for the scant two pages the Popular Science allows for this article on a classic colonial furniture piece on a stingy editorial policy employed by Popular Science.
However, since I lack the "smoking-gun" evidence to make this
claim decisively, I must hope to find more information.
also need more information on the DeWalt Model JR radial arm saw.
What is the primary market? What is the cost? Any info is welcome
Source: William W. Klenke
“Machine Sawing From On Top” Popular
Science Monthly 117
AUGUST, 1930 pages 74-75
expert's impressions of a new type
machine, and a built-in Colonial corner closet.
Have we been doing our machine sawing upside
down? I wonder — and so will you before you finish reading
review for a moment a previous article on "Mastering the Use of a
Circular Saw" (Popular Science Monthly
November 1929, page 88). Note how all the cutting is
done from the underside.
[Pitfalls of the
With that type of machine — the
standard design for a circular saw — the cutting is never in
sight until the saw has made its way through the wood. This
disadvantage is even more pronounced in grooving, for in that case the
cut cannot be seen at all until finished. Furthermore, when we cut from
the underside, the saw has a tendency to force the wood up-ward. This
is even more true when the saw becomes dull and binds, and in extreme
cases it may cause an accident.
of this New Saw: Used as a Saw, the Action is on the Top of the Workpiece; It Doubles as a Shaper]
In the relatively new type of saw
illustrated, the cutting is done above the table. By studying the
photographs (especially Fig. 2), you will note that the operator need
not hold the wood when cutting, for the tendency of the saw is to force
the wood down on the saw table and against the fence.
As a safety principle, this is a noteworthy
and commendable feature of the machine.
Klenke, the Highlight of the NEW Radial Arm Saw is the Following:]
Have you ever
been confronted with the problem of trying to cut off long pieces of
wood on a small saw table of the underside type? It is not easy to
control the extra length. With this new type of machine, the wood
remains stationary for crosscutting and the saw is pulled over the
material to be cut. By adding extension tables to either side, any
length of lumber can be handled.
Angular cuts are made by tilting the motor
and saw as a single unit. The ease with which the saw can be set at any
angle design is especially appreciated for making compound cuts such as
in the cutting of a double miter — as in Fig. 4. For
re-sawing, cutting tenons, and similar work, the saw is placed in a
horizontal position as illustrated in Fig. 3. The circular saw also can
be quickly and easily converted into a shaper or molding cutting outfit
with almost unlimited possibilities (see Fig. 5).
a project to accompany this brief
description of the overarm saw, I have chosen a built-in Colonial
corner china closet illustrated in Figs. 1 and 7. This style of closet
is exceedingly popular to-day. It is built in the corner and there-fore
utilizes space that is rarely used. It provides a very useful storage
and display space for beautiful china and glassware. Closets of this
type are often built in pairs.
While the greater part of this cabinet can be
worked out on the machine shown, it can also be built with other
outfits or even with hand tools alone. The steps, briefly outlined, are
No. 1: Stock.
Get out all stock, using a combination saw blade to
insure a smooth cut. (For the care of saws see Popular Science May '30, p.
86.) Since the closet is to be painted, whitewood is a good stock to
No. 2: Moldings.
Work out the various moldings to the design shown. If
you have no molding cutting outfit, moldings that will answer the
purpose can be bought at the lumber mill.
Step No. 3:
With the aid of a
band saw, cut out the curved headpieces and the top of the sash (door).
information on the use of band saws see Popular Science Monthly 117
February 30, 1930 page 86.)
Step No. 4:
Make all necessary
joints; be sure to allow for the sash molding.
Step No. 5:
Prepare a form out of
scrap material for gluing and shaping the five-ply stock for the
circular head of the jamb (see Fig. 6). Fasten the completed jamb to
the two sides with screws.
Step No. 6:
all the parts with Nos. 1 and 14 sandpaper, using a sandpaper block to
insure flat surfaces.
Step No. 7:
Building the Closet in
Carefully plumb and level the jamb while setting it up. Nail this
securely to the walls after putting the necessary blocking in place.
Fasten the shelf cleats to support the shelves and fit the shelves in
position. Now nail the front casings, moldings, etc., in their correct
No. 8: Hanging
the Door. Fit and hang the door to open freely.
with the hinge side. A circular plane, if avail-able, should be used to
fit the curved top. The bottom cupboard can be designed totake a pair
of doors or can be used for a drawer.
Step No. 9:
Final Cleaning Up.
all parts with No. 0 sandpaper; slightly round all corners. Countersink
No. 10: Finishing.
Much of the Colonial woodwork of olden days was
painted in white or ivory, so I shall give directions for a paint and
enamel finish. Apply a thin coat of white shellac and sandpaper when
dry so as to cut down the raised fibers of the wood. Apply one coat of
lead paint mixed with one part raw linseed oil and one part turpentine,
adding a small amount of drier. When dry, putty all nail holes, and
lightly sandpaper the surface with No. 0 sandpaper. Apply two coats of
flat paint in whatever tint you prefer, rubbing down between coats with
No. 0 sandpaper. Then put on a coat of good quality enamel in the
proper shade. If you wish the finest quality of finish, apply a second
coat of enamel, allow it to dry thoroughly, and rub it down with pumice
stone and water to an eggshell gloss. This last coat of enamel may be
omitted and the work of rubbing avoided by using an eggshell enamel
instead of gloss enamel.
Below is an image of a real DeWalt Model JR Radial Arm Saw, from the Old Woodworking Machines website. Click here for more.
William W. Klenke
“Machine Sawing From On Top” Popular
Science Monthly 117
AUGUST, 1930 pages 74-75