As the years went by I went the Dayton-made Shopsmith route and put the folder of articles away in a box.
And the years went by.
Now, if you know anything about me from my other blogs, I am a DIY'er to the bone and I love to build weird stuff. Like what? How about a world-class belt sander racer, a six cheese fountain, a wooden lathe, a box-joint saw, a pencil-post bed with giant pencils for the posts, animated wooden lobsters, wooden wheels for a 1924 Ford Model T Fire engine and hundreds of jigs and fixtures.
Recently while digging through boxes in my shop I came across the folder of articles and after an evening of walking down memory lane I found myself obsessing about home-made tools once again. A quick Googling and low and behold I learned that Gilliom Manufacturing is alive and well!
FYI: One of these articles was titled "Save Money With Tools You Build From Kits", which is from the December 1983 issue of The Family Handyman magazine.
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Please join in at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Gilliombuilders
The second photo is a nice close-up of the Gil-Bilt tension/tracking mechanism, which is used on both versions of the bandsaw and also on the 6" belt sander.
This particular bandsaw is about as text-book as they come. A lot of folks purchase the plans and a few of the major components; assuming that they can find the balance locally for a reduced price. I suspect that a lot of these partial kits are still partial kits covered with dust under the workbench. This saw looks to be a complete kit, and as I mentioned, it appears to have been built without modification. The builder even proudly stamped his name on the side: Paul M. Berry, we salute you!
If you click on the pictures you can see some of the details, including the Gilliom Mfg wooden rule attached to the wheel cover.
One modification that most Gil-Bilt bandsaw owners quickly adopt is some sort of dust passage under or behind the lower wheel. This saw is missing this mod, and without it the sawdust builds-up quite quickly. Steve, you might think about cutting a hole through the back, low and to the left of the pulley. You could then attach a dust collector or Shopvac which would keep the saw clean as a whistle. On second thought, there might be a slot there after all...
The bottom pic is also a great shot of the table tilt trunnion. I've seen several Gilliom bandsaws which were simplified with a fixed table. That's not a bad idea, seeing that 95% of the cuts made on a bandsaw are at 90 degrees.
Click this link for Shopsmith chucks faceplates and other lathe accessories for sale that fit the Gil-Bilt Drill Press/Lathe.
What could possibly inspire someone to make their own bandsaw, tablesaw or any other machine for that matter?
That’s actually a very good question. I suspect the answer was different in the 1940’s when Lyle Gilliom designed his first woodworking machine kits.
Back then the concept of DIY was alien to just about everyone but farmers. Sure, every man had a handsaw or two, a nail apron and hammer, and an assortment of hand tools, but large power tools?
Craftsmen tools in the 1940’s were built for the professional craftsman, and the average hobbyist just couldn’t justify the price.
Enter Shopsmith, Delta Home Craft, and AMT. These tools were down-sized and down-featured from their professional cousins. 18”- 24” bandsaws, 10” - 12” table saws and 1/2”-3/4” arbor shapers were common in the cabinet shop, but unheard of in the home shop. Home-grade bandsaws had 8” - 10” wheels; tablesaws had 6” – 8” blades and routers and shapers just weren’t available.
That is of course until Gilliom’s Gil-Bilt tools. These tools were truly professional sized. 12” & 18” bandsaws, a 8” & a 10” table saw, and so on could be made from a clever set of plans and a kit of custom made hardware.
So that’s the way it WAS. Today we have readily available at the local Big Lots, Harbor Freight, Woodcraft, Rockler, Lowes, Home Depot, and even Sears have Chinese and Taiwanese knock-off’s of the classic Delta/Rockwell 14” Bandsaw for as low as $299! Want a 10” table saw? No problem. $299 will get ya a cast iron contractor-style saw too.
My grandfather would have LOVED to have tools this cheap! Or would he?
Both of my grandfather’s were absolute geniuses when it came to building tools or pushing the tools that they had to their extreme. If my dad’s father needed greater accuracy he would build a jig or fixture with the skill and speed that most guys change socks. If my mom’s dad needed a tool he was just as likely to build one from an old washing machine and parts from a Model-T than to buy it. It is from these men that I get my drive to build my own tools.
When you build your own tool you can make it a little taller of lower than anything on the market to fit your needs. Want an extra 6” of table behind the saw blade? You got it. And how many woodworkers do you know who make their own power tools? No, nothing beats the pride in accomplishment that comes from a tool that you made coming to life at the flip of a switch.
What does a shop-made toolmaker look like?
- Woodworkers like us don’t just wish we could make a grandfathers clock, crib or gazebo; we’re the guy who actually makes one.
- We used to buy Wood Smith magazine just for the two pages called “Shop Notes”, now we have the entire collection of Shop Notes magazine. (In binders no less)
- We drive VW’s, JEEPS, SUV’s, Harley’s, boats, snowmobiles, etc, because we actually like the idea that we will occasionally get our hands dirty.
- When our son says “Hey Dad, I want us to build a six cheese nacho cheese fountain for my wedding reception” we smile with pride and anticipation and simply say: “Only six?”
- We prefer charcoal grills, and have the biggest one on the block; but we’ll own a gas grill if we want because you can’t put a label on us.
- We don't talk about building tools to most folks because "The Others" don't and won't get it.
- Many of us own some Shopsmith tools and actually like the time it takes to do "changeovers". They are engineering marvels and how could more time touching a power tool be a bad thing anyway?
No, making a woodworking machine isn’t for everyone. And that’s another reason we do it.
- A catalog of all the Gilliom Woodworking Machine Kits
- A parts catalog
- A reprint of a Workbench Magazine article on building a bandsaw from a Gilliom kit
- A catalog of shaper cutters, saw blades, lathe tools, etc.
- The fold-out plans for the saw, full-size template for the most critical parts, and a upper saw guard supplement
Once again I highly recommend that you at least get a copy of the catalog and parts list. Shopsmith Mark V owners should know that the Gilliom lathe spindle parts will fit the Mark V, so if you need a new spur drive or a face plate you have someone with whom to compare prices.
Mr. Gilliom went into production of not only plans but ultimately the harder to find machined parts that tool builders would need to build his tools.
After almost 40 years in the 1980's Lyle Gilliom entered into negotiations with Roger Thompson and though unfortunately Mr. Gilliom passed-away before the deal was signed, his widow completed the deal. To this day Roger and his bride personally man the phones at Gilliom where they fulfill orders for the entire Gilliom tool range.
What's in the range? Table saws, Bandsaws, a Lathe, a Beltsander and more!
I asked Mr. Thompson about why he doesn't have a web presence he sincerely replied that while it is true that the web is a bit intimidating for folks of his age, more importantly they enjoy talking directly to their customers. What a sweet man, and truly a unique company.
Please support the Thompson's with an order of a catalog, and how about an order for at least a set of plans? And tell him Scott sent ya.
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