The Old Ladies

I know it is a terribly sexist remark but I do think of the machines in our first workshop as old ladies. Over the years I have had all sorts of lighter weight machines and I have gradually replaced them with either Wadkin or Robinson machines. The golden period of manufacture seems to me to have been in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s when both manufacturers were making superbly engineered, fully adjustable machines. If properly serviced and looked after they would last certainly one, possibly two, maybe three life times. My band saw is a classic made in about 1960 by Robinsons. It is a 36″ model with all the trimmings. It runs superbly, absolutely no vibration. Like all elderly ladies, however, she needs polite attention. Her guides need to be adjusted regularly, a spot of oil here and there and a spot of grease here and there periodically. Look after her like this and she is a sweet tempered old soul. Apart from Mrs Robinson, the band saw, most of my other machines are made by Wadkin.

The golden period of manufacture seems to me to have been in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s…

I must admit to liking Wadkin. They are horribly expensive but to my mind they are the best. I will give you an example of why I have come to that conclusion. A few years ago I wanted to invest in a new spindle moulder. My aim was to buy a tool that would last out my working life. I bought a new Wilson FM with a sliding table for tenoning, a reversing switch, roll on and roll off tables, all the whistles and bells that would make it a really useful machine. I bought that because I suppose it seemed to offer nearly everything the equivalent Wadkin moulder had but to offer it at £2—300 less. We have had that moulder now for three or four years and it has done a lot of work. No body in the workshop has a good word to say for that machine. The adjustment to the rise and fall is difficult because it is always sticky, the wood chips tend to collect on the travel of the sliding table making the action very bumpy, the sliding table is always out of adjustment for one reason or another. It is a heavy serviceable machine and I am not really knocking Wilson because in another situation it would probably do a very good job but for us it is just not a very pleasant tool to be with. As a consequence I really I wish that I had spent the extra money and bought a slightly better machine. However, I must confess I don’t think I will buy new machines again. Not even Wadkin. Where possible I will buy really good quality second hand machines from a reliable dealer.

However, I must confess I don’t think I will buy new machines again. Not even Wadkin.

I have tried buying second hand machines at auction with some mixed success. We got our Wadkin PK dimension saw from an auction five or six years ago. It was the closure of a good, old style joinery firm and there were some very good machines to be had. I had to go down there for the preview and then go down and bid. I then had to send Malcolm and Neil down with a rented truck to pick the machine up. They had to hassle for the best part of the day to get the machine out of the factory because, like most of these auctions, the auctioneers wanted the place cleared immediately. We then had to drive the machine back and unload the rented van. Now that is no joke because one of these big old saws can weigh the best part of half a ton. So we had to rent a forklift truck from somewhere then manhandle the saw into the workshop. I don’t think any body enjoyed that day’s work. It was then the best part of a week’s work on Malcolm’s part to get that saw running sweetly. It has gone very sweetly ever since but that was a good deal of production time that was lost that cost me a lot more money than I had anticipated. Certainly if I had been doing all the restoration work myself it wouldn’t have cost me so much because I am the cheapest worker in this outfit. So now if I need a piece of equipment I go to a reputable second hand wood working machinery dealer. Next month I will take you to meet Brian Stacey of Daltons in Nottingham.


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