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I recently received an e-mail from reader Joe Polich seeking help to identify an old table saw he acquired. Before reading the message and looking at the photos, I was thinking it was likely a saw from the 1940s,  plus or minus ten years. Boy was I surprised with this beauty. As Executive Editor Megan Fitzpatrick said after taking a look, “You could clean that up and put it in your living room!”

I had few clues to give Joe except to look for information on the Old Woodworking Machines web site and forum. At first I thought it may have been custom-made, possibly in a patternmaker’s shop. But given the hardware for the rip fence and miter gauge, I concluded probably not. I also speculated that it may have originally been set up to be run on a line shaft and belt.

If you have any information or ideas for Joe, drop a comment. I already tried offering him a couple hundred bucks to haul the old piece of junk away, but he wasn’t buying, errr, selling it. Here’s the info and pictures Joe sent.

– Steve Shanesy

P.S. If you like looking at old woodworking iron, check out my six-part video series about the restoration of a Delta Unisaw from the early 1940s.

Dear Steve,

I’m hoping you can help me identify an antique cabinet saw my son found in Chicago and was sure I’d really appreciate it. He’s absolutely right. He paid $100 for it at an auction for a printing company going out of business and cost him more for the shipping. It weighs about 250 pounds.

There are no manufacturer identification marks on it, but I’m sure it was commercially made. It’s solid wood and the table top is 24-1/2″ x 40-1/4″ x 13/16″. The fence is fully adjustable, but the miter gauge is fixed at 90. It runs really smooth and pretty quiet. Because the blade arbor is also fixed, you adjust the blade height by raising the user end of the table by loosening wing nuts on each side and turning a crank on the front of the cabinet. The back is hinged. Someone put a fair amount of thought into it, but it is limited in what it can do, especially on the width of rip – about 8”. That’s why I think it was used in cabinet shops for making face frames or rails and stiles for doors. Rip a bunch of strips from 8” or narrower boards and crosscut them to the desire lengths.

I ran it using the blades that came with it, but they’re pretty dull so I pulled the carbide blade off my circular saw and it cuts great; an amazingly smooth cut. The fence is spot-on parallel to the blade and the miter gauge is spot-on 90 to the blade. With one straight edge, 3 cuts will give you a perfectly square board. Amazing! There were some blades in one of the drawers; a Henry Disston & Sons #32 which is 7 3/8”  diameter; a Craftsman #6871 crosscut and rip that is 7 ¼” and a Craftsman rip blade #926 that’s 8”. Seems like someone used quite a variety of blades. I’ve Googled all and have come up dry.

The cabinet has 4 drawers, one on the back and 3 on the operator end and there are draw bolts through the ends and sides. The motor is at the back and is an old Westinghouse motor with a cast case instead of a stamped steel case. There are oil cups on both ends and it runs on 110. The motor is wired into a duplex mounted behind it inside the cabinet. The switch plugs into one side of the duplex and a power cord, ungrounded of course, plugs into the other outlet. It has a v-belt drive that is on the outside of the cabinet, unguarded of course.

There’s an old Ream water heater booklet in one of the drawers that dates to 1947 which is the only date reference I can find. It’s in great condition and all I’m planning to do is clean it up. I won’t refinish it in case it does have some value.

Just wondering if you can help me identify it; who made it and how was it used. The monetary value is secondary to me. It’s real value to me is through my son’s awareness of what it would mean to me.

Thank you in advance.
The difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is how you use them

Joe Polich

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Showing 18 comments
  • rwilman

    Goggle printers saw. You will find numerous variations of this saw used to cut and trim up the type for printing page layout. Great example of an old tool!

  • johnofgroton

    I suggest you see if you can determine the manufacture date of the motor using the model # and Serial #. Even if it is not the original motor it could give you some idea. If it has a cast iron frame it could well be the original. The industrial motors made in the 60’s were generally expected to have a life of around 15 years of continuous use. I doubt your accumulated those kind of hours.

  • xokie

    You might contact they made

    saws that was used by the printing industry.

  • BillT

    I would submit that this saw is considerably older than 1940s. I have a printer’s table saw made by the F. Wesel Manufacturing Co. in about 1882, which has a cast iron frame, with oak sides to make an enclosed cabinet base. The cabinet has is all oak, with a door to access the inner workings and a drawer to catch the shavings.

    The saw shown in the pics above appears to my eye that it might possibly have been made by a skilled craftsman, perhaps a pattern maker or someone with similar skills, rather than manufactured as a commercially-sold machine – although the latter also is possible, because I have seen wooden “saw tables” dating from the late 1800s.

    It has some similarities to my F. Wesel saw, but to my knowledge, F. Wesel machines were always mostly cast iron and steel, not entirely wooden as that one is. My theory is that this saw was made by a talented and skilled craftsman. And I would place its age at more around the turn of the 20th Century, like 1890s – 1920s, rather than 1940s, but that’s just my SWAG based on lots of other machines I’ve seen.

    Whatever it is, it’s a way cool machine!

  • Schwerth

    You might also try Mark Barbour at the International Printing Museum.

  • William Lohr

    I have a friend, Rich Hopkins, who is the founder of the American Typecast Fellowship and is internationally known, world authority in the area of movable type. How well known? The Smithsonian Institution contacts Rich for input in this area. I forwared him this link and asked him to have a look at the saw. Below is pasted his response.

    “Regarding the saw the guy got from a printing shop, at first I thought it might be a Hammond Glider Saw, which is highly sought after by woodworking people because it is so accurate and has a calibrated sideguide which can accurately take a “hair” off something, etc., etc. But the Hammond saws, as were all other brands too, all were completely made of metal.

    The saw that’s shown is not something which was made commercially, for I have never seen anything like it in the many shops I have visited over the years. If it came from a printing shop, it most likely was used for cutting wood blocks to underlay “cuts” (illustrations) which were made by a photoengraving process. But as I say, it’s likely homemade . . . probably someone got tired of the inaccurate cutting of the wood underlayment and created this saw to make the work more accurate.”

  • tadol

    Looks like a printers saw – used to cut and trim letterpress furniture ( the wood blocks used to fill in the extra space around type thats being set ) and also to trim cuts and engravings for printing. Its design is almost identical to a lead saw, used to trim lead spacers used the same way, but obviously larger and with a greater depth of cut. Quite cute, but dust collection was not a major concern –

  • wormwood

    better burn it while you have the chance, or at least take the blade off and cut the electrical cord. If anyone gets hurt on it you may be criminally liable. Reference the add in Woodworking page 49 searching for victims.


    I own a printshop have been printing since 1954 and I have never seen a wooden cabinet saw in a printshop. Can’t think of any reason to have a rip fence all cuts would be crosscut. I would look for metal shavings in the nooks and crannys. The wood furniture (fillers) we use is very precision except for length so it would be crosscut also.If it was mine it would be in my great room, for how long I dont know probably bout as long as my 47 inch wood plane. The wife just dont understand. 🙂

  • Dean

    That’s an amazing “table” saw! However, I do have one request:

    You really need to get a “slide” viewer for your Editors Blog. Chris Schwarz has a functioning one for his PW blog, so I assume it’s available for your blog. Whenever I view a series of pictures you’ve posted (or even one), I’m taken to a second page with a small picture, that I have to click on the small picture to open a viewer frame with (finally), the large picture. There is no way to click a right arrow to move to the next picture. Then, after closing the big picture, I have to page back to the original article to click on the next picture. So, I’m trying to view 7 pictures in this blog article, and I just have to give up and move on. Can your web master please fix this so it works like the one on Chris’ blog?

    Oh, and it does the same thing in IE8 as well as Firefox v12.

    Thanks very much.

  • masterprecison

    Do u have a drawing,maybe I can build the enomonical way..

  • jet10rht

    I have received a number of comments that indicate this saw was used in the print industry back with lead type was used on flat platen presses. Illustrations and pictures had to be shimmed up to the level of the lead type. Sheets of wood the correct thickness would have to be cut perfectly square to keep the type perfectly aligned.

    I found two more table inserts in one of the drawers. One is marked “OLD DADO” and the other is marked W.A. RICHMAN 1948 NEW COLLARS” in type and appears to be by hand. This fits the lead type in the print shop. It also tells me the “old dado” predates 1948.

    Also, if you look closely at the table top, you can see round marks from what I’m guessing are ink cans.

    I’ve sent the info to several print industry museums and hope to hear from them soon. I’ll keep everyone posted.

    Thanks to all who are helping out.

    Joe Polich

  • philjohnwilliams

    Seeing as how this came from a printing company, it is probably a bookmaker’s saw. The fixed 90deg miter gague and small rip capacity also point to a bookmaker saw.

  • juniorbrake

    I hope someone can identify it, my guess would be a vintage altendorf, as they were known to make wooden table saws of good accuracy. I could not find pictures though. Also, may not be a woodworking machine, but specifically a print saw.

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