Saturday, 17 January 2009

In the immortal words of Kermit...

“... it’s easy being green

Especially when they make such darn great machines.

My first experience with one of the “good” General machines was at Rosewood Studio in Almonte, Ontario. They had two actually - a General 130 thickness planer and a 12" General jointer - model 780. I say “good” machines because there are two lines in the General family - the ones made in Quebec and the ones made elsewhere. General has created a bit of a problem for themselves because the machines made in Quebec are so well made that they last forever - even if only remotely cared for. This is one of those rare cases where you can purchase the machine new, use it for 20 years, and sell it for more than you paid for it.

Ever since that experience at Rosewood - I have been keeping my eye out for used General machines. My first find was the 130 thickness planer. It was completely rebuilt and in fantastic working order. It reminded me of my Mac - a true “plug & play” for the workshop. The only issue I had was the task of changing the knives.

A few years ago, I was attending the Kitchener/Waterloo woodworking show, and saw a DJ-20 set up in one of the booths. The guy asked me if I had ever tried a jointer with a Shelix cutterhead. Intrigued - I walked over. The machine was very quiet and the cut surface was amazing. A Shelix is a “shear cutting helix” and has several advantages. The blades are individual carbide square with a cutting edge on each side. If you get a knick - rotate the blade and you are back in business. The blades are arranged in a helical pattern around the cutterhead. This provides a constant skewed cutting action. It also means the cutterhead is moving through the air at an angle. The standard “thump, thump, thump” of the cutterhead compressing the air as it passes the infeed table is gone - resulting in a very quite machine as well as one that requires less power to run. There is another more subtle difference and it has to do with the difference between a Helix cutterhead and a Shelix. The teeth of a helix are arranged in a spiral pattern, but they are still oriented perpendicular to the cutterhead. A Shelix has them skewed. So if you are in the market for one - make sure it is a Shelix and not a helix. Oh, Shelix is a brandname and made by Byrd in the US (insert standard no-affiliation disclaimer other than a satisfied customer).




Here is the Shelix in the General 130.



The next green-machine was a bit of a surprise.

My friend Steve stopped in one friday, and as he was leaving he asked if I saw the huge jointer on the Canadian Woodworking forum. I hadn’t, so he told me that someone posted a comment that there was a huge General jointer for sale in Windsor, Ontario. Steve thought it was at least a 12" but was likely a 16". We both laughed that it would not last too long and likely sold within hours of the post.

When I went in for lunch, I checked the thread, and while there were over 20 posts - no one said “I have bought it”. So I followed the link, found the phone number and called. Amazingly - it was not sold, so I made arrangements to drive down and see it. I was the first person who was prepared to pick it up - and was therefore the “first buyer on the list”. Steve and I drove down on Monday and arrived shortly after lunch. A handshake and payment later - we were driving up the 401 with a 16" General 880 in tow. The canary feathers were still hanging from the corner of my mouth when we pulled into the drive. I had made arrangements with a Bobcat owning friend to meet us at my house to unload it from the trailer and drive it into the shop.



This is what it looked like right off the trailer. Compared to the Jackson Cochrane jointer - this one was a dream to restore (note the JC was painted green). It was less than a day to have everything cleaned and in working order.



There was a missing handle but General was quick to replace it for me. It had a 5hp, 3 phase motor which I swapped out for a 5hp single phase, replaced the belts with link belts and ordered the Shelix - which thankfully - Bryde stocks.






Here is a shot of the jointer in its new home - lovingly surrounded by burls.



And in case I ever forget what it is - someone put a lable on the machine for me.


There is a great Ford(?) ad that goes something like this;

“the only thing better than owning a truck is having a buddy with one”

This is my friend Steve. He has been a tremendous friend always ready to lend a hand, or jump in the truck and go wherever to pick-up whatever. So Steve - my deepest thanks for all your help.

The next item on the list is a monster bandsaw. I have a Laguna 16HD that has been a wonderful saw - but there are a few limitations. The biggest two are the size of the table and the throat capacity. I would like a 30" + saw - something that can resaw at least 16", has a massive table (in the 36"x48" range) and a throat to match. So if anyone knows of one, has one they are looking to sell - please let me know...and don’t worry if it’s not green…I have paint.

12 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oooh, machinery envy!

Please tell me more about your experience with the Shelix cutter head. How do you like it so far? I'm seriously considering one.

Dan

28 January 2009 at 17:08  
Blogger stephen said...

I wish I had space for power tools.... I must say Konrad I read 'it ain't easy being green' and I thought you were posting about how environmentally friendly your planes are. Sustainability? Carbon capture? ever think about these issues?

Stephen

28 January 2009 at 18:07  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Dan,

Yeah - but I have seen the bandsaw you are working on.... talk about envy!

Cheers,
Konrad

28 January 2009 at 18:13  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Stephen,

Funny you should ask. I have thought about it - many times. We considered putting a green roof on the shop... it was not practical to do so though. Sustainability... using rare exotic woods is not ideal in that regard... but when you consider how many boardrooms covered in Brazilian Rosewood have ended up in dumpsters because the next CEO favours Ebony...I suspect I am using a pretty small amount of wood. At some point - we may re-investigate solar for the shop. The roof is quite large and has total sun exposure (which is why we have overhangs on those sides to shade during the hot months). Are these the types of things you are asking about?

Cheers,
Konrad

28 January 2009 at 18:18  
Blogger stephen said...

Great to hear it, love the idea of a solar roof. By 'green roof' do you mean covered with plants?
I have heard that they have gone back and harvested the stumps of previously felled rosewood trees. I also like how japanese planes blades are partly made of old anchor chain or other recycled metal. Go Nature!

Stephen

29 January 2009 at 21:39  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Stephen,

I do have some Brazilian Rosewood ”stump” wood. A lot of it is pretty crumby - but I found a few pieces that are spectacular - lots of amazing grain and color.

We are planning a veggie garden this summer - we had a large backyard tree that had to come down and has freed up some great space. Not to mention all the firewood!

Go nature is right!

Cheers,
Konrad

29 January 2009 at 21:44  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congrats Konrad, that's a great machine to start with, and now it's even sweeter with the new Byrd head.

Forgive me for hating you, but I'm suffering from BURL ENVY!!

Cheers,
Steve

31 January 2009 at 12:14  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Steve,

I don’t have too many burls - but the ones I have are pretty sweet. The burl under the infeed table is a 220lb Thuya burl - my kids call it the “dino-turd” :)

Cheers,
Konrad

31 January 2009 at 12:38  
Blogger jbreau said...

hello konrad. you picked my curiosity about big bandsaws. i love old machines and i'm constantly looking even if i don't quite have a space to put them. my luck was good this summer when someone called me up with a 12" poitras jointer in the village where i'm at. couldn't pass that up.
anyhow, about a big bandsaw... i assume that most people know about owwm.org, but maybe not. it's a forum with a buy and sell called 'bring out your dead'. there are regularly huge machines for sale, thought they are mostly states side. it's a great waste of time, if nothing else. there's a 30" chicago exchange bandsaw on there right now, and quite often there are 36ers.
p.s. i'm the guy at inside passage (a few years ago) that had a shepherd plane that severely needed help, so robert gave you a call, and you gave good advice. thanks.

1 February 2009 at 12:47  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Jacques,

Thanks for the reminder about OWWM. I have been there several times but forgot about it. How is the Poitras working for you? Is it restored and running?

Glad to hear the plane advise was worthwhile - do you have the plane up and running now? Let me know if you have any other questions about it.

Cheers,
Konrad

2 February 2009 at 08:18  
Blogger jbreau said...

no i don't have the poitras going. it's quietly sitting in my mother in laws baby barn. i'm working out of my dad's shop which is fully geared, so all i did to the poitras was get the rust off and store it properly.
as for the plane... i followed your advice and got it nicely tuned up. but by that point i wanted to move on, so i sold it. at this point, i wish i would have kept it. it was working quite nicely by the time i was done with it.

3 February 2009 at 07:00  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Jacques,

Glad to hear the plane tuning advise worked for you - and sorry to hear you no longer have it. I have struggled with my own collection of infills - both original ones, and ones I have made. I clearly have way more than are practical to own... but they all have great stories behind them. I am also hanging onto them for our kids - in the off chance that either of them might be interested in woodworking some day.

Cheers,
Konrad

5 February 2009 at 12:08  

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