Badger Pond Shop Tours
A Tour of John McAtee's Shop
 
 

Fellow Ponders,

I enjoyed that last shop tour so much that I thought I would share mine with you all. It has been thirty years in the making and owes its existence to a lot of special people, especially my wife Lynne, who have encouraged me to keep going through a legion of mistakes and some really tacky stuff. I hope you enjoy the tour.

Never enough room. Never!

The shop occupies 12 by 30 feet (never enough space) in the basement and is protected by smoke, radon and intrusion detectors. Given the limited amount of space, everything has a mobile base except the lathe and two long workbenches. Decades ago I began hanging tools on pegboard so they could be found. There's not excessive logic to where they're placed but I can find everthing. Besides that, a lot of them have sentimental value (belonged to my father) and I like looking at them. My kids tell me some of their happiest moments were in the shop using them. It continues to this day.

Great American-Made Stuff!

The shop contains a fair number of Delta tools; however, this is due more to the service and longevity (in business since 1780s) of my local, Worcester hardware place than anything else. They're probably the oldest hardware store in the US. The US made Delta tools (bandsaw, unisaw and HD shaper) have been stellar. The Taiwan made stuff (8" jointer and 15" planer) have been less so. The favorite joke around this shop is "How do you say Delta DJ20 Jointer in Chinese?" The answer is, "sum ting wong."

Uses washing machine motor

My favorite is a Rockwell/Delta lathe I picked up new in a warehouse in Chicago for $400, sans motor, 30 years ago. Not having enough money to buy one with a motor, I adapted a two-speed washing machine motor. Two speeds plus 4 pulleys gives me a whopping 8 speeds.

Fully operational English upright wheel.

Over the years, this old lathe has turned out a few spinning wheels, such as the one shown on the left, which is a copy of upright wheel owned by a southern Illinois collector. Spinning wheels are great turning projects that will challenge and teach you. With a special outboard jig, not unlike Grumbine's, you can easily turn the wheel. Getting spokes in is another story.

A DC that won't come out of the closet.

At the other end of the shop is a rolling workstand I built for the grinders and mortiser. When the wife was less than pleased that my shop bench was nicer than her cabinets, I ended up having to build new vanities to maintain harmony. This wasn't so bad, though, because each new thing you build usually needs a tool you don't have :-)

The dust collector sits in the closet under the stairs and has two ports that I switch between the various tools. The drill press is variable speed (500 to 20,000) Toolkraft/Powerkraft that can also double as an overhead shaper and router. I picked that up new in the 1970s for about $100 plus change.

These things are dangerous

Another golden oldie is my Magna Sawsmith, which was a favorite tool in the 1960's. It was made by the original makers of the ShopSmith, features variable speed control, up-front arm controls and host of dangerous characteristics (e.g., kickback pawls that can hit the blade) that make it most suitable for crosscutting.

For years; however, I used it for everything: (crosscutting, ripping, shaping, routing, etc.) and am thankful to still have all my body parts. This thing has, for the most part, kept its original settings. It cost the then-staggering sum of $500, complete with mobile stand and a hardback cover book by R.J. De Cristoforo (who should be in the WW hall of fame) telling you how to use and care for the saw. What was the last tool we got that had a 200 page hardback book for a manual?

Sum Ting Wong

At the other end of the shop are the jointer and planer. The 15 inch planer has worked well with my only gripes being that the folding tables (which I wanted due to lack of space) fall out of adjustment easily and transmission will leak small amounts of oil after being run for a while. The major virtue of the DJ-20 is the size of its infeed/outfeed tables. Quality control on both of these Taiwan-built tools was less than ideal.

I hope you enjoyed the tour and please feel free to drop by the shop any time you're in the area. There's always a cold one in the fridge for you.

John McAtee

Originally posted 4 August 1999

wb 16 June 2001