Antique Tool Market

This month, our readers came up with three classic machines – one of which is considered quite rare. 

Two of this issue’s questions concern foot-powered jigsaws/scroll saws. 

Of all woodworking machines, treadle (and, to a lesser extent, hand-powered) scroll saws and lathes are the most actively sought after by collectors. As a result, they steadily appreciate in value. Such machines are generically called “velocipedes” from the Latin for “swift foot,” a term usually applied to those early high-wheeled bicycles and tricycles from the romantic 1890s. These saws were very popular from 1880-1900. Manufacturers included such firms as H.L. Beach, Montrose, Pa.; W.F. & J. Barnes, Rockford, Ill.; Trump Brothers, Wilmington, Del.; Barnes Tool Co., New Haven, Conn.; and Millers Falls, Greenfield, Mass.

Leading manufacturer A.H. Shipman placed a high value on the role the humble scroll saw could play in society. 

“The old clumsy wood frame machine,” he wrote in 1881, “has given place to the neat and tasty iron frame. The then simple scroll saw machine is now giving place to the combined scroll saw and lathe. When in the past this work was most all done for pleasure and amusement, it is now fast becoming a part and parcel of practical earnings of every-day life. Boys now indulge in it not only to satisfy their great desires for tinkering with machinery, but also to earn and lay up money; hundreds of letters bear testimony to these facts.

“Fathers find in these machines that which enables them to spend a great many pleasant hours at home earning a few extra dollars, at the same time decorating their homes with those articles of beauty which help make it pleasant to themselves and children; also educating the young folk in those arts which ennobles the soul and creates a desire for such things as will make true men and women of them; he will also find that as they grow up their interest in the work executed on said machine has grown with them, and the moment they are old enough they will improve each spare moment until they have accomplished their desired object or find that they were never intended for mechanics.

“My observations in the past five years, I think, warrant me to say that the time is fast approaching, and is already far advanced, when this will be the universal method of testing children to show who can and cannot be mechanics; and what a blessing it will be, for how many boys are there who are brow-beaten around by some foreman because he can never make a mechanic; with this machine this is overcome, and at home in his own time and pleasure, he decides for himself whether he can ever become a mechanic or not.”

Though an 1896 tool catalog dismissed them as “toys that were gotten up to sell to boys and ministers of the gospel,” some of the heavier machines such as Seneca Falls’ Challenge, Empire, and Victor brands were designed for serious cabinetmakers, model makers, printers, jewelers and others who needed jigsaws of larger capacity capable of close, intricate and accurate work on wood, bone, ivory, shell and nonferrous metals. Some models could saw through 3" thick wooden slabs at 800 strokes per minute.

Centennial bracket saw, made by the A.H. Shipman Co.

Centennial Bracket Saw

Q: I would like to know the history of this old treadle scroll saw given to me by my father-in-law in western Massachusetts. Any help and information you can provide will be greatly appreciated.

A: Based on your photos, your scroll saw appears to be an early example of the scarce Centennial Bracket Saw manufactured by the famous A.H. Shipman Co. (later Shipman Engine Mfg. Co.) of Rochester, N.Y. Introduced in 1876, the saw takes its name from the United States centennial celebration.

In the preface to his 1881 catalog, Shipman wrote, “In offering my new and enlarged catalog to the public, I feel that a few words of explanation regarding the introduction and continued developments of the foot power scroll saw and turning lathe, for the amateur mechanic, would be of great benefit to those who contemplate the purchase of either or both. Five years ago such a thing was comparatively unknown; but the introduction by me of then popular Centennial Bracket Saw set the ball a rolling. Since then it has been almost impossible to manufacture them sufficiently fast to meet the increasing demand. The improvements over the old, and the new attachments I have each year added, are certainly wonderful; and now the Prize Demas and Holly stand pre-eminently at the head of all amateur tools. The reasons for this are numerous. I was the first to introduce them, and at the start determined to make this a specialty; to do this and be successful, I found it necessary to please my customers and give them satisfaction.”

Shipman set up a unique research and development plan. “Each purchaser,” he continued, “was kindly asked to write me if his machine was not perfectly satisfactory. In this manner I found out any weak points or improvements that might assist in making my machines popular to the general public. My experience in the past five years, with the assistance I have received from my large list of patrons, has given me advantages which none of my imitators possess; and while a number of inferior articles are forced upon the market by these imitators, it requires but one to decide their further introduction in the same neighborhood. But even this should not be, for a good scroll saw is to every family what a good teacher is to a school; therefore everything possible should be done to increase its introduction.”

The Centennial was in production for only a brief period. The model does not appear in the 1881 catalog. Its descendant, the No. 1 Prize Holly, sold for $3 (about $66 in today’s dollars). Your machine is worth $1,200-$1,500.

Rival scroll saw from the Seneca Falls Mfg. Co.

Rival Scroll Saw

Q:  I was wondering if you can give me any advice on the identity and the value of this old scroll saw that I have. It’s a Rival model from Seneca Falls Mfg. Co., patented June 12, 1877, and Jan. 13, 1885. The year 1889 also on the side piece. It’s made of wood and cast iron, and stands about 3' high and a bit more than 2' long. The table measures 8¾". 

This saw is in very good shape and still works very well for a treadle saw, but I really don’t think I’ll give up my DeWalt scroller any day soon.

A: The Improved “Rival” Scroll saw was still featured in the 1890 Seneca Falls Mfg. Co. (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) Catalogue No. 16-A.

“When we commenced the manufacture of foot- and hand-power machinery (in 1879),” stated the catalog, “we clearly recognized that the only ‘room’ for us in the trade was ‘at the top’ and from that day until the present our energies have been incessantly concentrated on maintaining our position there.”

The catalog explained their machines’ motive force. “Foot power, of necessity an essential feature of our machines, is but an application of the lever principle, the scientific development of which we obtain a valuable medium for the production of power in connection with our machinery. After an exhaustive study of this complicated question we have evolved in our improved walking motions a foot power without a peer in its capacity for developing a powerful, rapid unvarying motion without undue stress upon the operator.

“Most methods of applying foot power confine the operator to one position, thus limiting the strain to a single set of muscles and, of course, necessitating a cessation of work when these muscles become fatigued.

“Our ‘walking motions’ introduce a radical change in this direction, as they permit the operator to change his position as often as he may desire, enable him to operate our machines either sitting or standing, and at the same time secure the maximum power with the minimum of exertion and fatigue, features which we think will be appreciated by one interested in foot-power machinery.”

Listed at $10 ($200), the machine was designed for the use of amateurs and general light work and had been recently reconstructed. One of the most important improvements was the rocking motion in connection with the wooden arms, the latter being attached to adjustable rocker plates with pivot bearings that prevented friction or side motion, which, in connection with the self-adjusting saw clamps, gave a straight up-and-down motion to the blade.

The Rival’s polished iron table could be set to any position for sawing inlaid work. It was fitted with adjustable saw clamps which would firmly hold any 5" blade. The upright drilling attachment was standard, and would hold twist drills from No. 60 to No. 45 inclusive. An optional lathe attachment was available at $3 ($60). The 45 lb. machine, like all Seneca models, was set up and run before leaving the factory.

Today, the machine is worth from $300 to $500.

Delta 12" Lathe

Q:  I would like to know the value of this Delta lathe and any info you have on it. The only number I could find on it was the serial number 59897.

A: Based on the photos you provided, you appear to have an early No. 1466 12", 16-speed lathe introduced by Delta Manufacturing Co. of Milwaukee, Wis., circa 1939. With the addition of a specialized optional tool rest, the lathe could also be used for light metal turning.

The No. 1466 is simply a variation of the No. 1460 introduced at the same time, which had 37" between centers. “Here is a lathe that was designed with only one purpose in mind,” states Delta’s 1939 Catalog, “to provide the biggest amount of real lathe for the least amount of money. And when you study the design you will see that it provides just that. No unnecessary frills, no skimping on hidden details, nothing added merely for ‘looks’ and nothing essential omitted for ‘cheapness.’ Designed by engineers with years of experience in making tools for your requirements, built by real mechanics who know and appreciate good machines, it is an honest, solid, dependable lathe for real craftsmen – the lathe you want for your shop, whether it is a home shop, a school shop or an industrial shop.”

The lathe featured a self-indexing device; double-sealed, pre-loaded ball bearings lubricated for life; a universal tool support; a V-belt drive; and a safety headstock whose pulley and belt were completely guarded by a cast iron shroud. The belt drive could be taken either from below or rear. Accessories consisted of a 3" faceplate, drive and tail centers, 4" and 6" tool supports, and wrenches. The four-speed motor pulley was extra.

The bed was of fine-grain cast iron heavily ribbed to provide rigidity and accuracy, with machined and polished ways. The cast iron headstock cover was removable for changing the belt on the step pulley. The built-in indexing mechanism in the step pulley had two rows of holes – 8 and 60 – to provide the maximum number of index divisions. An indexing pin engaged either row of holes.

The 1¾" headstock spindle used a No. 2 Morse taper, and had a hole bored through its center. Both ends were threaded 1x8, with a left-hand thread on the outboard end.

The fine-grain, cast iron tailstock and its sub-base had provision for set-over to provide for alignment and taper turning. The sleeve was also machined for a No. 2 Morse taper.

The 1466 consisted of the 1460 lathe, the No. 1463 cast iron stand, and the No. 1464 countershaft which provided speeds ranging from 350-3,160 rpm. Weighing in at over 250 lb., the unit was listed at $79.85 ($950). The 1462 slide rest accessory was listed at $20.85 ($225). Boring bars, a holder, and a universal chuck were also available.

The 1466 eventually was designated the No. 46-310 and was still listed as late as 1960.

The machine is currently worth about $175 to $200. 

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.” 

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