Posts Tagged ‘chicago’
The Chicago manufactured Mead belt sander is finally finished. It took a while as I was working on it between other jobs and trying to prepare for Woodworking in America, but it was worth the wait. Picking up where the last blog entry left off, the only thing I had left to finish was the sanding deck. This is my one complaint with the design of the sander, the entire deck has to be removed to change the belt. The belt change itself couldn’t be simpler: push the head of the sander down, slide the old belt off, slide the new belt on, release the head. It literally takes me 10 seconds to swap belts… except every time I do I have to unscrew the wing nut from underside of the deck, the swap belts, put the deck back on, re-thread the wing nut to its post (you don’t loosen it, you have to remove the nut completely), then get my square, make sure the deck is square to the belt, lock it down, and put my square away. It turns a 10 second operation into a couple minutes. This may sound trivial, but I intend to use this sander for working with wood and metal and I have several belt types and grits to suit my needs. I want to change belts quickly and get back to work. I also don’t want to take the chance that the deck isn’t square to the belt every time I change a belt. My solution was to modify the casting that supports the wooden deck by cutting off the inside portion to the right of the belt. I hate to hack up the castings on a vintage piece of equipment, I can’t just go buy a new one if I don’t like my finished product, but in this case the benefits outweigh the risks and hack it up I did. I opened up a slot just wide enough to slip the belt off, slide it through the back of the decking, and then replace with a new belt in the same fashion. This was completely worth doing in my opinion and I couldn’t be happier with the finished product now that I’ve had a chance to take it for a spin.
The restored sander now up and running. I finished the walnut with Watco Danish Oil followed by a few coats of wipe-on polyurethane followed by wax. A lot of people seem to have the impression I’m going to all this effort to keep the tool shut away in pristine condition. Let me assure you, I will be putting this thing to work without reservation. But whenever possible, I think restoring a tool like this is more than just an exercise in fashionably toolery. Going through every part reveals a lot of hidden flaws in the tool (in this project alone I found the tilted deck, frayed wiring in the old switch box, a poorly aligned drive belt, and a non-flat sole to the sander casting) as well as several cosmetic (cracked wooden base, ugly switch box, and poor wiring path). You also gain an intimate knowledge of the tool, just like restoring your first hand plane, that will help you understand the strengths and weaknesses of each tool you own and how to use them most appropriately to yield the best possible results. Now let me step down from my soap box and show the finished product. Enjoy.
As for the belts, I ordered a wide range from Klingspor. The blue are Alumina Zirconia for grinding metal, the yellow are Aluminum Oxide with “gold coating” which can be used for wood or metal, and the brown belts are basic Aluminum Oxide wood belts. I purchased a few grit levels of each style. I also purchased a linen belt that can be loaded with a honing compound in case we end up selling marking knives or something similar where several identical edges need to be honed quickly, this might prove very useful.
Finally, here’s a shot of the motor specifications for those who care about such things. (And now I have to get back to prepping for WIA)
Things have progressed nicely with the sander. The base is now finished, the sander and motor are mounted, and the wiring is installed, all that remains is the modification and installation of the sanding deck itself. I did re-design the switch box since my last entry, here’s why: My original box was small and clean looking (which I liked) but it didn’t allow access to the switch once everything was installed. This may or may not be fine for my lifetime, but sooner or later something will come loose, the switch will die, a wire will get cut and need replacing… something, and at that point I would need to destroy the old switch box, make the repairs, and install a new custom box. Eventually this bothered me enough to design a switch box with a removable cover plate. It’s larger than my first box and has four screws holding the front plate on, but I think it’s for the best and I’m happy with how it looks. I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking until my third and final entry on this restoration project.
FYI- This is probably my most unnecessary and awesome restorations to date.
About a month ago I picked up a vintage, Chicago-made Mead 1″ belt sander off craigslist for a measly $60. It was in great shape, the previous owner had it for decades and he took the time to re-paint the body of the sander and the motor as well as grease up all the pulleys. He did a great job on these parts and I could have just plugged it in and started sanding. Being ridiculous, however, I decided to take it from classy to world-class. There were a few minor things that bothered me (the belt wasn’t aligned precisely between the motor and sander pulleys, the wire path was ugly, the wood used for the base and sanding deck was cheap and cracked, and the deck wasn’t square to the belt) and one major point of irritation (the on/off switch).
The first thing I addressed was the tilted table. The previous owner used a copper shim to correct the table but I wanted to fix it for good. I painted the body with red layout fluid, then loosely installed the deck. After pivoting the deck a few times I removed it and could clearly see the high spots in the casting that needed to be knocked down with a round file. I repeated this process a couple times and after about 10 minutes had the table nicely squared up to the belt.
Next I swapped out the switch with a vintage style toggle switch that seemed appropriate and made a simple wooden box to house it. I also took the time to inlay the face plate into the housing.
The last thing I will cover in this post is the new base. I used walnut that was a little thicker than the original base, but otherwise I left the dimensions nearly the same. The feet were made from the same board, cut free from either end of the base. I could have cut long-grain feet instead of short-grain, but then I’d have to deal with differential expansion and the grain pattern wouldn’t be continuous. The short grain feet aren’t as strong, but given that they’re thick and trapped in a dado I think they will be fine… they certainly look nicer to me, especially when you don’t see end grain on the sides of the board. I used an old router template I had lying around to cut an arch in the feet and a stacked dado set (that I was already using for a larger job) to dado the base. One note on dado sets, they leave small V’s in the corners of the cut where the outer blades score the fibers. This is great for clean cross-cuts, but I don’t like the small V it leaves after the cut. I correct this is seconds with a router plane set to a depth that aligns to the tip of the V. Run the plane through the dado and you’ve got a perfectly square recess for the feet to sit in.
For the wire path I wanted something as clean and hidden as possible. The motor wire runs immediately underneath the base where it is captured by a series of custom made wooden hold-downs. The wires pass through the base where the front foot gets installed, into the switch box, and finally out the back of the base. Overall I think it will look very nice when finished.
The last operation for the base was laying out the hole locations for mounting the motor and sander. I couldn’t simply copy the original because as I said before they weren’t aligned very well, but after a few minutes of measuring double checking the belt everything was ready for drilling. When I went to dry-fit everything I noticed the belt sander had some wobble to it, so I touched that off on a larger belt sander and got the casting dead flat in a matter of minutes.
That’s all for now, in two following entries I will wrap up the (improved) deck, overall assembly, detailing and finishing. I’ll also discuss the belts I use and a few of the things that make this sander so useful. Stay tuned.