Antique Tool Market: Issue 3

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This article is from Issue 3 of Woodcraft Magazine.

This month: a look at a home-shop favorite since the 1930s; whatever happened to Bingham’s Best Brands?

I didn’t think it would be long before questions on old equipment started coming in.  The love of old tools is a pervasive one, and I’m glad to help.

This time around, we get to revisit one of my favorite table saws, and we’ll investigate the history of a classic manufacturer.

the delta no. 860 table saw has been a home-shop favorite since 1933.

Finding parts for Delta No. 860

Q: The only table saw I’ve ever had is the 8" Delta No. 860 you described in your column (Jan. 2005 issue). I’m a hobby woodworker with only a small shop, and this saw really fits my needs. My uncle originally purchased the saw in 1947, and it was willed to my dad at my uncle’s passing. I have the original parts list as well as the purchase information.

I would really like to have the extensions, and several other aftermarket parts. The stand would be a valuable addition also. Since these parts are all long gone from the Delta warehouse, do you know where I might get either some parts or maybe a complete saw that I could use for parts to keep this one going?

A: The most important add-on for Delta’s No. 860 table saw was the front table extension. The machine table extension and the machine table were covered by Patents 1,938,548 and 1,938,549 respectively, granted to H.E. Tautz, founder of Delta Specialty Co. (later Delta Mfg. Co.) on Dec. 5, 1933.

“The crosscutting of wide boards,” stated Catalog J (1933), “has always been a problem for the user of the small circular saw. As soon as he attempts to crosscut a board wider than a few inches the miter gauge projects way beyond the front of the table, making it impossible to crosscut accurately. Or, if he reversed the gauge, it projected from the rear edge of the table before the board was cut through, making the last of the cut inaccurate, due to the lack of support from the miter gauge.”

Tautz solved the problem with the table extension. The 7"-wide auxiliary table was accurately machined and equipped with miter slots to fit on the front of the table. To attach it, one only had to remove two screws. The extension was then bolted in place and the longer rip fence mounted onto the fence adjustment mechanism. The change took less than five minutes.

With the extension in place, the distance from the saw blade to the front edge of the table was 12½". A board 12" wide could be crosscut with ease.

In the 1933 catalog, the No. 860 was listed at $20.90, which would be about $300 today. The No. 866 conversion kit consisting of the table extension, two guide bars to increase rip capacity to 24", the longer fence, and the required screws and bolts was priced then at $9.95.

Other extras for the saw included the No. 864 new auto-set miter gauge at $2.25, the No. 865 new miter gauge clamp attachment at $1.95, the No. 863 swing guard at $4.85, the No. 329 open steel stand at $5, and the No. 333 6" stack dado head at $9.85. Delta soon added the No. 858 molding head (Patent 1,830,813 issued to Tautz on Nov. 10, 1931) priced at $14.55 in the 1936 Catalog M-1.

The last mention I can find of the No. 860 is in Delta’s Catalog Q-3 from 1940 which listed the table saw at $32.85 and the extension kit at $8.85.

Cannibalizing two or more duplicate machines for parts to achieve a mint machine is not uncommon, especially among those struggling to restore truly vintage equipment. When replacement parts are needed for a machine that is otherwise in good condition, it’s often easier to buy a “parts machine” than to repair broken castings or find lone replacement parts.

The obvious place is still the best place to search for worn-out relics with serviceable parts – an occasional visit to the local scrap yard can sometimes turn up gold. You might even ask that they notify you if anything interesting comes in. 

I have heard high praises about the helpfulness of the Web site which concerns itself solely with vintage woodworking machinery. A members’ forum often lists machines and miscellaneous parts either needed or for sale.

the w. bingham co. published a number of catalogs over the life of the company, all of them hefty. This 1941 catalog exceeded 1,500 pages.

Bingham’s Best

Q: My brother collects old tools manufactured by “Bingham’s Best Brands” and their trademark is a “BBB” stamped on the tool. I have been trying to learn more about this company, but it’s been difficult to find information. Have you ever heard of this company, and if so, do you have any thoughts about how to acquire tools they made?

A: Retail/wholesale hardware dealer W. Bingham Co. of Cleveland was a giant among giants, including such famous firms as Masback Hardware Co. (Est. 1875) and Hammacher & Schlemmer & Co. (Est. 1848) of New York City, and Chandler & Farquhar Co. (Est. 1882) of Boston. Their tools were usually marked BBB, standing for “Bingham’s Best Brand” and “Best Bingham’s Brand.”

In 1841, William Bingham and Henry Blossom purchased the old Clark & Murfey Hardware Co. for $12,933.24 (about $500,000 in today’s dollars) and renamed it. The company continued the retail business and started selling to other hardware wholesalers. Cleveland itself had been incorporated as a village only a few years earlier –

in 1814 – making Bingham one of the city’s oldest businesses. After years of steady expansion, it was incorporated in 1888.

William Bingham died in 1904. By that time his company had become one of the largest hardware dealers in the United States. It was a major supplier of industrial products and mining and railroad supplies. In 1915, Bingham Co. discontinued the retail business to concentrate on the more lucrative wholesale market. That same year it moved into a large new building designed by one of Cleveland’s most prominent architectural firms, Walker & Weeks, occupying the entire area from 1278 to 1298 W. 9th Street.

After weathering two world wars and the Great Depression, Bingham Co.’s owners shut down the warehouse operations in 1961, putting some 300 employees out of work. However, before the company completely disappeared, a group of Bingham officials pooled their resources and bought the company in August 1961. It was renamed Bingham, Inc. and the BBB logo disappeared. 

Now under new management, the volume of their wholesale business by 1965 had begun to attract the interest of New York investors. In 1970, Bingham was purchased by Dyson-Kissner Corp. In 1979, Cleveland-based Formweld Products Co. purchased Bingham from Dyson-Kissner and persuaded former Bingham president V. E. Peters, who had been with the company for almost 50 years, to come out of retirement and act as general manager.

An article in a 1980 Cleveland Plain Dealer indicated Peters and the company were succeeding. “We had a 20-percent increase in sales and I expect an additional 30-percent sales gain over the next three years,” Peters stated. “Our inventory, in excess of $1 million, represents considerable increases. This trend will continue.”

Operations were still located at the Bingham Building on W. 9th Street. Among products distributed by Bingham were bonded abrasives; diamond wheels from Simonds; Browning power transmission components; an entire department dedicated to 3M Co. products such as coated abrasives, adhesives, electrical and industrial tapes; and hoists and trolleys built by Chisholm-Moore Corp. and Coffing Hoist.

Peters was overly optimistic. On June 1, 2004, an $80 million renovation of the old W. Bingham Building was nearing completion. Besides 340 luxury loft apartments, amenities would include a 9,000-sq.-ft. gourmet grocery store, indoor parking and a fitness center. 

It was customary for the early hardware companies to  mark the merchandise they sold with ornate logos, but as competition grew, costs had to be cut. Fancy embossed logos gradually were replaced by engraved names, stamped names, decals, painted names, and finally no names. W. Bingham’s logo went through several changes.

Your brother has a very fertile field for collecting. The Chicago Historical Society’s library contains a superb specimen of Bingham’s 1894 catalog. The profusely illustrated catalog contains a whopping 1,476 pages. It lists railway, architects’, miners’, engineers’, machinists’, and tinners’ tools and supplies. Also included are table and pocket cutlery, match safes, house gadgets, and everything from adzes to yokes. Interleaved with these are correspondence, folders, illustrated circulars, brochures of special tools, and manuscript notes of price changes by a salesman.

The best places to find Bingham’s tools are yard sales, flea markets and tool-swap events. Friends tell me eBay is an excellent place to shop for such merchandise, though bargains are rare.

Formerly a geologist, Dana Martin Batory is a cabinetmaker who runs a one-man shop (filled with antique machines) in Crestline, Ohio. He is the author of “Vintage Woodworking Machinery: An Illustrated Guide to Four Manufacturers, Volume II.” 

Dana Martin Batory

Formerly a geologist, Dana Martin Batory is a cabinetmaker who runs a one-man shop (filled with antique machines) in Crestline, Ohio. He is the author of “Vintage Woodworking Machinery: An Illustrated Guide to Four Manufacturers, Volume II” published by Astragal Press.


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