Document # 46: The Radial Arm Saw:

"Machine Sawing From On Top" (under construction)

In 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 closet".

For 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.

Klenke 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:

First, remember that Industrial 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.

Third, generally 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 26: Herman 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.

In 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.

I 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

[Article's Teaser:]

An 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 this article.

Let's 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 Table Saw]

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.

[Advantages 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.

[For 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).

klenke colonial corner closet PS 1930As 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 as follows:

Step 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 use.

Step 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: Curved Work. With the aid of a band saw, cut out the curved headpieces and the top of the sash (door).
(For information on the use of band saws see Popular Science Monthly 117 February 30, 1930  page 86.)

Step No. 4: Joints. Make all necessary joints; be sure to allow for the sash molding.

Step No. 5: The Jamb. 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: Cleaning Up. Thoroughly smooth all the parts with Nos. 1 and 14 sandpaper, using a sandpaper block to insure flat surfaces.

Step No. 7: Building the Closet in Place. 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 positions.

Step No. 8: Hanging the Door. Fit and hang the door to open freely. Start 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. Hand sandpaper all parts with No. 0 sandpaper; slightly round all corners. Countersink all nails.

Step 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.
klenke dewalt JR PS 1930

Source: William W. Klenke “Machine Sawing From On Top” Popular Science Monthly 117     AUGUST, 1930 pages 74-75