Tools that Have Gone the Distance

Interesting thread about old tools that just keep on going. June 16, 2010

I was reminiscing the other day about what tools I am still using that came with the cabinet shop I bought in 1974. What I came up with is kind of interesting. (I have more up-to-date versions of some of this stuff, but this old stuff still chugs along.)

Floor machinery:
1) A Davis and Wells 1" spindle shaper
2) A couple of Sears items including a 6" jointer, 10" radial arm saw, and a Sears (Parks) planer

Installation tools:
1) A Ryobi saber saw which was made in Japan, not China
2) A Black and Decker power miter saw which I think is so basic it just can't break or go out of adjustment, and cost less than $50 new.
3) A 4' step ladder, believe it or not, which has never been lost or stolen, although I have left it on commercial jobs overnight many times - a phenomenon I attribute to the fact that it is wooden and over the years has gotten uglier and uglier.
4) Several shop-made tools, like an oversize circle-drawing compass, made of bent sheet metal, which looks old enough to have been inherited by the old guy I bought the shop from.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor L:

Old shapers never seem to die. I've got a SAC TS80 I bought more than 30 years ago, also an old Moak I bought used. The SAC runs every day. I've often wondered why odd spindle sizes were made (1" and 1 1/8" which the Moak has). I can understand European sizes, but there are too many variations.

From contributor M:
My favorites are a Powermatic 66 table saw, Powermatic 5hp 2 bag dust collector and a Ritter in line borer on 2" centers. I bought all three 20 years ago when I started. I have put a capacitor on the Ritter motor and a capacitor on the table saw motor. That's it, other than blades and bits. Still using all of them every work day. On a smaller note, I still have and use five Porter Cable routers that I bought at the same time. Replaced brushes and bearings along the way, but they are still doing the job.

From contributor P:
I bought a sharpening stone at a Chinese grocery store in 1985. It seemed to be bigger than I needed, so I snapped it in half and have one half at home at my sink, and the other half is in a bucket of water at the shop. After 25 years it still isn't completely worn out - not because I never sharpen anything, just because it's a dang good stone. I also have my first hammer and a Milwaukee drill (with plug and cord).

From contributor J:
Back in the late 70's I bought a new Senco K gun. Still use it every day; just oil it and go. If it ever goes out I have two more. One is still brand new and is never used. The old K gun is perfect for 5/8" staples for 1/4" backs. My 1951 Rogers stroke sander works like
new, and I use it quite a bit. My rarely used Conover wood lathe is so well made I'm sure someone will be using it 100 years from now, or looking at it once in awhile as they walk by it. Great machine. Bowl turner's dream.

From contributor V:
Back in the day when I remodeled, 1980 something, I found the head of a framing hammer with the stub of its handle tossed in the woods on a job site. Big 32 oz. smooth faced framer. Put a hatchet handle on it and called it Goliath. The old boy could tear up anything. Hangs with pride in my shop today like an old friend. Next to my retired Shopsmith Mark 5, first big-time power tool.

From contributor D:
I have a Skil drill from 1963 that I bought new at 13 years old - complete with cord. It doesn't get much use since it is now semi-retired at my home shop. Single speed, non-reversing, but the battery never goes dead.

I have a 1940's era Rockwell shaper that just had the original motor replaced last year. I redid all the spindle bearings for its 4 interchangeable cartridges about 15 years ago. Works every day.

Also a 1962 Powermatic 2-A tenoner, all original except for the 21st century heads with interchangeable carbide tips. It works like a champ as long as you know how to hold your tongue when dialing it in.

From contributor C:
I have an old Hermance single end tenoner (a fantastic machine). We hadn't had it long before I installed mechanical digital counters on the elevating screws. This has saved tons of time in the years since.