I was curious, but not much, when my son started telling me about his visit to an old brush-making business here in Cincinnati that was closing its doors after 100 years. Two things stuck in my mind as he talked about how “cool” the old place was: First, that for many years the small business made the brushes for baseball’s National League umpires to sweep home plate and; second, there was some old woodworking machinery.
The building was changing hands and the contents were up for grabs. So we went to take a look and indeed, passing through the doors was like passing through a time warp. Dozens and dozens of various types of brushes were strewn throughout two floors of the building. But it was the shop area on the second floor that caught my eye in the dim light. There stood equipment for which I couldn’t fathom a purpose, mostly types of shears I guessed, used to trim and shape brush bristles. But at the far end of the room sat the woodworking equipment.
To my amazement, it seemed most of those machines were from the same era; my guess was the 1940s. I jotted the serial number from an old but apparently still operational Delta Unisaw that stood center stage. I hoped it would help date the machine. Later, a quick Google search landed my at the Vintage Woodworking Machinery web site that, sure enough, had the serial numbers organized by date of manufacture. Turns out this Unisaw was made in 1944, the fourth (or some would argue fifth) year of production.
Could I buy it? Do I want to buy it? What’s it worth? What would I do with it? After ruminating about this 65-year-old machine I concluded it would be fun to restore it and share the experience with our readers. The idea seemed especially intriguing given Delta’s recent introduction of the all-new Unisaw, the first major engineering and design changes in the tool’s storied history. And when done, we could do some side-by-side comparisons. So now all I had to do buy it at auction , which I did for less than $200.
What’s remarkable about this relic (aside from the obvious fact that it’s still around) is its likeness to all the Unisaws save for the new 2009 model. Take away a Beismeyer fence, the badges and motor, and it would be hard to tell this ’44 version from a ’04 version. Well, maybe this one looks a bit more used.
I’ve done some preliminary digging into this machine and will start chronicling my findings and sharing my experiences with you over the coming weeks. More than an interesting journey restoring an old , and much beloved , machine, I hope to learn and share with you some techniques that will help you keep your table saw and other machines in good operating order. My goal is to get this old beast close to what it was like new in 1944. I suspect we’ll set a new standard for the “how to tune up your table saw” article. Stay tuned!