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.