Saturday, January 6, 2007

1939, Teaching a New Dog Old Tricks

Where were you in 1939? Most of us weren't even alive. Do you know of anything that happened in 1939? Let me give you a few highlights before I get the the main topic of this post;

January 3- Gene Cox becomes 1st girl page in U.S. House of Representatives
January 22- Uranium atom 1st split, Columbia University
February 15- German battleship Bismarck was launched
February 27- France recognizes Franco's regime in Spain
March 2- Massachusetts Legislature vote to ratify the Bill of Rights - 147 years late
March 25- Billboard Magazine introduces hillbilly (country) music chart
March 28- Spanish Civil War ends, Madrid falls to Francisco Franco
April 14- John Steinbeck novel "The Grapes of Wrath" published
May 2- Lou Gehrig ends 2,130 consecutive game streak, Yanks beat Tigers 22-2
June 29- Dixie Clipper completes 1st commercial plane flight to Europe
July 13- Frank Sinatra made his recording debut
August 29- Chaim Weizmann informs England that Palestine Jews will fight in WW II
September 1- WW II starts, Germany invades Poland, takes Danzig
September 17- Russia invades Eastern Poland, takes 217,000 Poles prisoner
October 11- Albert Einstein informs Franklin D. Roosevelt of possibilities of atomic bomb
October 25- Nylon stockings go on sale in U.S. for 1st time
November 11- Kate Smith 1st sings Irving Berlin's "God Bless America"
November 15- Social Security Administration approves 1st unemployment check
December 14- Soviet Union attacks Finland-League of Nations drops Soviet Union
December 27- 1st American ski mobiles (North Conway, NH)

Another thing that happened was that Delta Tools first introduced the “Unisaw” tilting arbor table saw. The Unisaw was the first cabinet saw, and set the standard that manufacturers still use today.

Keith Bohn of the Old Woodworking Machines website had this to say about the Unisaw in his “Brief History of Delta”:

Delta says it was released in 1937 though it doesn't show up in the catalog until 1939. I have evidence supporting a late 1938 "introduction" and the aforementioned 1939 availability through the catalog. My obsession with the true release date has gone so far as to writing an article on the subject of collecting *dirty paper* and was published in Popular Woodworking in August of 2001. The base was changed to sheet metal in 1977. The original motor guard was a cast iron half goose egg shape and primarily sold to schools. It was changed to sheet metal in 1967. The dust door was eliminated in 1987 as part of the "50th. Anniversary Model". It should be noted that this was not the first tilting arbor saw available to the hobbyist but it is the first saw of its size available with the tilting arbor. It should also be noted that the casting marks LTA stand for "Light Tilting Arbor" and when compared to other industrial machines, this saw is a light weight.
No. 1450 10" Unisaw - $89.50 W/O motor (1939 catalog price)

Current production Unisaws sale now for about $1200.

What, you may ask, is your point?

I have one of these saws. Not just any one of them, but one from the first year of production. How many of anything made in 1939 are still around today? I have restored the saw, which is to say I cleaned and painted it. I also replaced the 68 year old bearings in the arbor. I had a shop check the original electric motor for me and it was good to go. So now I have a 1939 table saw in original condition.

I hear you thinking;"Wow! How did you get it? Was it expensive?"

Since you asked, I found it. Actually my father found it. Dad was checking out a building on some property his employers had recently bought. The building was due to be demolished. Dad was charged with cleaning up anything that couldn't be bulldozed.

He called me to tell me that while he was looking around, he had found "A big saw" in the building. He had no idea what kind it was, or if it was complete, or if it even worked. He had talked to his boss, and the boss wasn't interested in "junk". Dad said he want interested in it either (since he has a pretty nicely equipped shop), but that if I was interested, I could have it. The only catch was that we had to get it out the next day.

So, we went and loaded it up. The rest of the story you already know.

I use the saw still. I have used it in the partial remodel of my home. I have used it for projects for my kids. I have used it in my shop.

I can't help but look at that saw and think how long it has been around. That it has been around since before atomic energy. It was here before jet airplanes. It was here before you could fly across the ocean and had to get there by boat. This saw has seen world war, and both technical and industrial revolution. This saw was in use long before computers were thought of.

I wonder at the men who have used this saw. What did they build? Did they use it in a home remodel? Could someone have made his wife's kitchen cabinets with it? How many children's projects has this saw seen?

Barring some unforeseen disaster, I expect this saw to be working when I am old(er) and gray(er). I see no reason I couldn't pass this down to one of my sons, or grandsons. Am I worthy to own such a time traveler? Can I measure up to the tools and knowledge and history contained in it? Can I do justice to the abilities of the men who have gone before me?

I can try. That's really all any of us can do.

Mr fixit

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