Woodworking: 60 Years Ago

old wj coverHere at Woodworker’s Journal, a staff birthday (no, it’s not Rob — as he will clearly tell you, his birthday is December 11. That’s De-cem-ber el-ev-enth.) has us looking to the past — 60 years ago, to be precise. What was happening in woodworking back in 1951?

Well, it was right in the midst of the post World War II “do-it-yourself” era, the beginning of the birth of modern hobbyist woodworking. Some of the names in woodworking tools back then are names you still see around today: In 1951, Milwaukee Tool introduced the Sawzall, the first reciprocating saw. Featured in the 1951 Delta Milwaukee Industrial Machine Tools catalog were a new Delta/Rockwell 8″ jointer, which weighed in at 400 pounds without its motor and switch. Those, said the catalog, cost extra. And, according to one source, the Shopsmith used in broadcaster Andy Rooney’s shop today is a 1951 model.

Also in 1951, Walter Durbahn, a locally famed TV woodworker of the day, published Walt’s Workshop, a woodworking manual with the same title as his Chicago-area NBC TV show. It joined the year’s other publications like Make Your Own Modern Furniture by Paul Bry, and the ongoing series of “Deltagrams,” published by Delta Machinery from 1931 to 1959.

And, in 1951, the Sauder Woodworking Company of Archbold, Ohio, made their first snap-together table, thereby, according to their website, “creating the ready-to-assemble furniture industry.”

So, Woodworker’s Journal blog readers: do any of you have memories of woodworking from 60 years ago?

  • Ed Henderson

    About 60 yrs ago my father built a boat out of plywood. I think it was 14ft long, had a flat bottom and no seats. All passengers sat on the floor. He finished it with resin and it turned out very nice. It was good enough to hold a 25hp evinrude engine and because of it’s flat floor was very fast. I learned how to water ski behind that boat on a pair of homemade water ski’s.

    • Joanna Takes


      Sounds like fun! Did your dad make the homemade water skis, too?

  • bobcatt

    I use a 6′ jointer made about 60 years ago. The machine made in that era were built like tanks. This unit has Timkin tapered roller bearings just like your cars front wheels. The guide is mounted ridged yet locks with simple cams. There are table mounted infeed & outfeed rollers. No wonder Rockwell bought them.

  • Gary Kapp

    I have “Deltagrams” from 1953, 1954 and 1955. Is there a market for them, ie collectors? Please advise, or point me in the right direction. Thanks a lot.

    Gary Kapp

  • http://www.woodworkersjournal.com Joanna Takes


    You will find some of the Deltagrams for sale on online auction sites like eBay, so it appears that, yes, there is a market. How much of a market depends, of course, on how much interest is out there at any given time, and what someone would be willing to pay.

  • don horn

    60 years ago i was 13 and had just discovered that i could make things – my grandfather taught me to use hand tools to build the things i came up with – and he helped me get my first power tools – i still have some of the planes and “brace and bit” he gave me, they work just as good today as they did back then.
    i have been learning ever since – i have been retired now for 10 years and it has become a game among my kids to try and find a tool that dad does NOT have – i wish i still had some of those old tools – they did what they were supposed to do – without a lot of bells and whistles – they just worked (and they still do)

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