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Great Projects from Old How-to Magazines

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Magazines like Popular Mechanics and Popular Science once published articles on how to build very capable shop tools like tilt arbor table saws, arc welders, and drill presses.  Those articles are still available on-line through Google Books.  

The photo shows plans for building a 10 inch tilt arbor table saw.  It originally appeared as a two part article in the November (p. 218) and December (p. 217) 1947 issues of Popular Mechanics Magazine.  (The link for the second part of the article takes you to the front cover of the December issue, not to p. 217 and the second part of the article.  See the second graphic.  Enter "217" and press "Enter" on your keyboard to get to p. 217.)

To the right of the box with "217" typed into it are two blue forward and back arrows.  The index for Popular Mechanics magazines is usually on about page 3.  You can also pull down the "Contents" tool in the menu bar and see hot links to most articles.  Oddly, the second part of the article on building a tilt arbor table saw did not appear in the contents menu, but I had to find it by advancing to page 3 and reading the index for the magazine.  

While this table saw is very well-built and full-featured, building it requires some work on a metal lathe to make the trunions and other things.  There is also some welding.  It would be possible to have these things done at a machine shop, or by a friend with the needed skills and tools.  It is also possible to buy a set of trunions for a commercial table saw on eBay.  (The trunions allow the blade to tilt so that its exact axis is where the blade comes through the table.)
 
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One of the greatest things that came out of those sorts of magazines was the mind set of being able to create your own "stuff." As a boy, I must have logged 1000's of hours messing around in the workshop figuring our how things worked and how to create tools that I wanted but couldn't afford. Plus shopping at "real" flea markets provided many of the raw materials in the form of used arbors, pulleys, motors, gears and all the rest. Today I'm a professional cabinet and furniture maker, and I still design and build my own custom jigs to make fabricating my work easier and more accurate.

But I sometimes I wondered where the next generation of inventors will come from since the inspirations for this type of creativity had disappeared. Then I found Instructables and people like you and there is hope in the world again. Thanks, Phil.
Phil B (author)  underground carpenter1 year ago
Thank you for sharing your story. I also have wondered where the next generation will learn to be creative and practice self-reliance. I have taken some comfort in the interest many have for robotics. Although often a team effort guided by advisors, a lot of DIY skills in several areas are needed to build a machine that can fend off other robots.
DIY-Guy Phil B2 months ago

I pre-screen articles (such as this one!) on the Internet, then share them with my son. We buy "dumb" metal tools at Harbor Freight, and ALWAYS buy high quality equipment if it's electric or might break. But with that said, we've beaten a few hammers and wrenches against anvils to make some basics for ourselves. We're looking for the plans to make a treadle powered (or pedals for that matter) boy's wood lathe. Still hunting for the one that used pillow block bearings.

Thank you for documenting the way for us to look at the old magazines!

Phil B (author)  DIY-Guy1 month ago

Somehow, I missed your comment. Your search for a treadle powered lathe suitable for a boy could be resolved with copying a medieval foot powered lathe. Actually, the Romans were using these 2,000 years ago. I think someone at Instructables even published plans for one. We saw two of them in Germany. Both were recent replicas. One was in a museum to the Romans in Augsburg. The other was at a medieval knight's festival in Ostfriesland (Dornum, specifically), and it was set up to be used in demonstrations.

I am sure you are thinking of something with a continuous forward rotation, rather than something that alternates its direction every time the treadle resets to its top position. Still, a young boy would be even less likely to be injured on one of these, and he could learn about the lathe throughout history. The drive mechanism is really simple because you simply loop a spring loaded rope around the stock a couple of times and connect it to a foot pedal. Neither center would need to turn, only to center the work and hold it in place.

Flyer356J1 year ago
Does anyone remember a Popular Mechanics project of a ered little car powered by twisted rubber bands just like model airplanes of the time The bands were cut from truck inner tubes. Six of them. I think published in the late 30's. I can't figure how they got power from six bands to one drive shaft, or maybe rear wheels. My granson in college engineering tried to make a little car using the energy iln the spring of large rat-traps. Did not work well. The rubber band car would sure put him at the head of the class. Any help will be much appreciated. _ John Mahon, Albertville, AL
Phil B (author)  Flyer356J1 year ago
Would this be the article you have in mind? It is from the July 1931 Popular Science.
there invaluable for information and projects i'm a faithful subscriber to them, i do have a library dating back a few years.
Phil B (author)  wood doctor1 year ago
I may have mentioned my barber gave my mother his collection when he retired in the late 1960s. I probably should have saved them, but I clipped articles on using power tools and on workshop techniques. A few years later I was married and making furniture we still use more than 40 years later. Thank you for looking and for commenting.
Semtex1 year ago
Really nice links!! Thank U!! Greets from Austria ;)
Phil B (author)  Semtex1 year ago
Sie sind willkommen. Recht herzlichen Dank, dass Sie meine Veroeffentlichen angeschaut haben.
Semtex Phil B1 year ago
Ja Danke! Here i found a Method to download some sites from the magazines and to print out -> http://book.huhiho.com/ and than here http://userscripts.org/about/installing
l8nite2 years ago
I have over 100 of the old popular mechanic mags from the 50's and 60's, it's always fun to rereread them
Phil B (author)  l8nite2 years ago
A local college library has all of the copies back to day one. Several times I have gone there to find some article I remember. It is also great that they are archived at Google Books. It would be fun just to browse the old issue wherever, but life keeps calling me for other things.
weldor2 years ago
Try looking for some of the old Audels books. They had tons of info in them. Some is no longer economically feasible, but the basic principles still apply.

Audels is still in business and continues to print great stuff. Problem is they,as well as others, now must be more "careful" about what is in their material (less some irresponsable fool hurt themselves).

I am the proud owner of a complete set of Popopular Mechanics "How to Encyclopedias" (that is their name as it appears on the cover).
Phil B (author)  weldor2 years ago
I had a set of the PM encyclopedias. My impression is that the encyclopedias were assembled from old articles in the magazine. I remember the Audels advertisements in the PM magazines back in the '50s and '60s. I actually ordered the book on mechanical drawing, but have no idea what has happened to it since.

I did an Instructable on turning a common electric circular saw into a precise table saw and built furniture with mine. In the years prior to the one I did, there had been at least three such conversions in how-to magazines. Now you never see them. I suppose that is partially due to possible liability problems. I guess it all started with that woman who spilled hot McDonald's coffee on herself.

Thanks for commenting.
karlpinturr3 years ago
Thanks for this Phil,


One of the earliest things I looked for on Instructables was 'how to build a drill press' - but couldn't find anything for a full-size drill (to say nothing of a cordless).  Now, with this to reference, maybe I can actually get something figured out...
Phil B (author)  karlpinturr3 years ago
Thanks, Karl. Popular Mechanics did actually run a couple of other plans for a drill press. One was based on a truck differential set vertically. I was having difficulty finding it again to list it, but here it is: Popular Mechanics, November 1953, page 216. It is definitely "heavy duty."  The other was from the 1920s and looked a little flimsy.

I did not read the drill press article I listed completely.  It appeared to use a sleeve bearing.  I would probably try to fit it with ball bearings, if I could.  
Dr.Bill Phil B2 years ago
When I was in Montana out in the Big Hole I saw a drill press built out of a differential. It was used to drill holes for Jack Leg Fences and took 3 people to operate it. The 9 foot logs were very heavy.
Phil B (author)  karlpinturr3 years ago
Karl, I see the other drill press is made from a Model A Ford differential, not a truck differential. And, the drill press plans from pipe parts use Babbitt bearings. I am not sure where a person goes to get Babbitt metal these days, but here is a description of Babbitt bearings.  There are some videos at YouTube on pouring Babbitt bearings.  Or, you could mount bronze sleeve set in collars and a material like epoxy.
jaxdadd Phil B2 years ago
Babbitt metal ingots can be found at McMaster-Carr. Great DIY source.
Thanks again, Phil.

I had to nip out, so hadn't got around to 'googling' Babbitt.

If there are vids on YouTube, I'd suspect they made their own Babbitt - "a soft alloy of tin, antimony ("the chemical element of element 51, a brittle silvery-white semimetal. (Symbol Sb)"), copper, and usually lead", apparently - depending how easy it is/isn't to get hold of antimony.

personally, I'd probably use a shortened pushbike headstock, and bearings, as I don't have the safety equipment for melting lead, or access to antimony, as far as I know.
notingkool2 years ago
i found this: http://books.google.com/books?id=F9kDAAAAMBAJ&hl=es&source=gbs_all_issues_r&cad=1&atm_aiy=1900#all_issues_anchor

it's usefull to you?
lyonpridej3 years ago
Thank you for telling us how to find these links, I had no idea they were available online! I remember sitting & looking at my dad's Popular Mechanics magazines & being totally fascinated back when 'girls didn't do things like that'! Then a few years ago when my mom was cleaning out her bookcase,I brought home his enclyclopedia of Pop.Mech. books. I also have an old welding book of my grandpa's that I think shows how to make things. I like to collect old books like that with how-to instructions. So many people turn their noses up at the old-style look and the black & white photos, but if you really look at these projects, many of them are fantastic!
I've seen a bunch of books like that at the thrift stores like Goodwill, they are really cheap because nobody wants them. So you migh look there if you are wanting more stuff like that.
Phil B (author)  lyonpridej3 years ago
Thank you very much for your comment. I am glad to know women enjoy the old Popular Mechanics and Popular Science "how-to" magazines. I was reading them in the early- and mid-1960s. At the time I also enjoyed Mechanix Illustrated and Science & Mechanics. I do not yet know if those are on-line, too. I remember feeling a little frustrated reading those articles because the projects that excited me requred a table saw, or a metal lathe, or a welder and I had none of those. There are a lot of things now on Instructables that fill the void left by the projects in good "how-to" magazine articles from days of old to a great degree. I have tried to post some Instructables along the line of some of those articles, too. Check my page at Instructables.

Also, several decades ago I found a book in a used bookstore titled "Woodwork for Secondary Schools." That title is available now as a free download from Google books. Go to: http://books.google.com/books?id=hZkBAAAAYAAJ&ie=ISO-8859-1 (Sorry, but the Rich Editor does not seem to be working today.
jtobako3 years ago
Try http://www.vintageprojects.com/ for some pdfs of the same and more.
Phil B (author)  jtobako3 years ago
I have seen those. The table saw plan linked here has far more features and capabilities than the table saw at the vintage projects link. The welder made from a surplus aircraft generator would likely be easier built from a heavy-duty alternator today. Of course, the same is true of the gasoline powered welder I linked here. If you saw my recent Instructable on Learning to Weld, you saw some links to gasoline-powered alternator welders there (final step).
notingkool3 years ago
do you see:
www.mimecanicapopular.com (in spanish)
or
www.rolando.mimecanicapopular.com (in spanish)
¡Gracias por el vínculo!
Phil B (author)  notingkool3 years ago
I do not read Spanish, but rimar2000 does.
well, you can always use googletranslate.
i think that rimar2000 is from La Plata too, where i live.
Phil B (author)  notingkool3 years ago
rimar2000 (actual name: Osvaldo) mentioned going into La Plata when he needs something special. It appears he lives near La Plata.
well, La Plata, is a square of 4x4km and have "districts", rimar2000 lives in one of these districs, at the north of La Plata. Still be part of the city. Rimar live in "tolosa" i guess.
If you want to see the map, search "mapa de La Plata" in google and look "tolosa" in the google map.
Nice info Phil. I have all these magazines in electronic format and even though they are old there is such good information and ideas to be inspired from.
Thanks for the post
Steli
Steli,

Thank you for your comment. Because you have identified yourself as a reader of these magazines, I believe I understand you better.
Hey Phil,
Great info! Excellent links!
I love to look at old boyscout handbooks. There are instructions on how to build so many excellent things. The requirements for badges and the step-by-step -pictures and directions are motivating and not too scarry to try (for a novice like myself.)
Phil B (author)  porcupinemamma3 years ago
Thanks, Lyn. I once had some old army field manuals from 1918. They were fun to browse, probably in the same ways your old boy scout manuals are fun for you. Good to hear from you.
tocsik3 years ago
Wow! Thank you.
Phil B (author)  tocsik3 years ago
I am glad you enjoy it. I wish articles like these were still available to find in newly published magazines. Thank you for looking and for commenting.
pfred2 Phil B3 years ago
In my travels I have managed to pick up 3 different encyclopedia compendiums of these old DIY articles complied by Popular Mechanics etc. You can see them in my garage library here:

http://i.imgur.com/GDMLO.jpg

All of the books up there are about tooling, or woodworking or that sort of thing.
Phil B (author)  pfred23 years ago
I had such a DIY encyclopedia set from Popular Mechanics once. Someone who needed more space gave it to me. After a few years, I needed more space and did the same. One of the arc welder articles linked above was included in it. I have seen other sets, probably some of those you have, in a public library.  They are generally reprints of materials from the magazines.  Still, they are a lot of fun to peruse.
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