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View Full Version : Old Craftsman Tools..... I just Can't See How They Did It



JoeLee
02-28-2011, 11:01 AM
I ran across an old Craftsman catalog of the early 50's. As I was browsing through it some stuff caught my eye. For $61 you can buy this nice 8" bench grinder......... and for..... ONLY..... $200 more you can buy this nice metal lathe, 24" on center.......... and for $75 more you can ad the quick change gear box. I can't figure out how they could sell the lathe so cheap as compared to the price of the bench grinder?? The grinder is basically just a motor, but think of all the parts and precision fitting that goes into the lathe as compared to the grinder. You can still buy a cheap Chinese bench grinder for about $60 I think, but you would be hard pressed to find even a cheap crappy lathe for $260. By the way..... the lathe looks to be a copy of a South Bend....... I wonder if SB made them for Craftsman at the time??
Also...... look at the last picture...... a Swing Saw..... I've never even seen one of those, it looks like an accident waiting to happen ! I guess they were not very popular as the design never caught on. I guess it evolved into what we now call the chop or miter saw. It kind of reminds me of the old movie "The Pit and The Pendulum" Enjoy.....

JL.....................

http://i911.photobucket.com/albums/ac317/JoeLee09/Craftsman%20Catalog%20Pictures/Image001.jpg
http://i911.photobucket.com/albums/ac317/JoeLee09/Craftsman%20Catalog%20Pictures/Image002.jpg
http://i911.photobucket.com/albums/ac317/JoeLee09/Craftsman%20Catalog%20Pictures/Image003.jpg
http://i911.photobucket.com/albums/ac317/JoeLee09/Craftsman%20Catalog%20Pictures/Image004.jpg

bruto
02-28-2011, 11:14 AM
I think the Sears lathes were made by Atlas, except for the bottom line little 6 inch that was made by AA. Most of their other tools were made by other companies with slight variations of trim. King Seeley made some of them, and those were quite nice.

Remember that once upon a time Sears really was about the biggest retailer in the world, and they had tremendous buying power and economies of scale. Like Wal Mart now, they could call a manufacturer and order a special run of a product just for them.

Alistair Hosie
02-28-2011, 11:26 AM
It's all relevent that was alot of money then.It still is in sir Johns neighbourhood grrrr down boy down grrrr .Alistair

projectnut
02-28-2011, 11:26 AM
Those tools aren't as cheap as they appear to be. $1.00 in 1954 is equal to a little over $8.00 today. That means the grinder would cost $488.00 and the lathe $2080.00 in todays money. It looks to me like the grinder is way over priced.

Here's a link to an inflation calculator: http://www.dollartimes.com/calculators/inflation.htm

JoeLee
02-28-2011, 11:27 AM
Bruto, Yes... my old table saw and jointer are made by the King Sealy Corp.

JL.......................

JCHannum
02-28-2011, 11:28 AM
To put it into perspective, consider that tha average wage in 1955 was right around $75.00/week and the minimum wage was just raised to $1.00/hour.

The 12" Craftsman lathes in the catalog were manufactured by Atlas to Sears specifications. While they were very similat to Atlas, there were some differences.

Dr Stan
02-28-2011, 11:31 AM
Ditto on the other replies as Atlas made the Sears and I also think the Montgomery Ward lathe. As to the saw, that is just an accident waiting to happen.

TGTool
02-28-2011, 11:43 AM
I've seen large swing saws used in mills for repetitive work like sawing up blanks for shingles and for firewood. It looks like a precursor to the radial arm saw. I've got an older radial arm saw that I use only occasionally. It does nice work but it still scares me sh!tless - and I'm not particularly alarmed by table saws, routers, chainsaws or heights.

aboard_epsilon
02-28-2011, 11:59 AM
Thats the lathe with the zamac gears in the apron and as the change gears that keep busting isnt it .

all the best.markj

J. R. Williams
02-28-2011, 12:00 PM
The prices may seem low by today's standards but wages were low. After exiting the Army in '55 I landed a job paying $2.25/hour. Good money for the time. I saved my money and bought the grinder in the photo. The switch has been replaced along with many wheels.

JRW

black powder
02-28-2011, 12:01 PM
I think the wards lathes were made by Logan and were better than the Sears Atlas made. Spot on about the difference in what the dollar was worth then & now.look at the rotary table /for $49.50 I think they were made by Palmgrin

Dr Stan
02-28-2011, 12:26 PM
I think the wards lathes were made by Logan and were better than the Sears Atlas made. Spot on about the difference in what the dollar was worth then & now.look at the rotary table /for $49.50 I think they were made by Palmgrin

You're probably correct about the Wards lathe. BTW the RT was made by Palmgin and was no different than the industrial models of the same size.

Timewarp
02-28-2011, 01:56 PM
I bought a drill press 2 years ago and the seller threw in a big swing saw. I couldn't see a use for it, but it had a 3hp motor on it so I hauled it away. I would be interested to hear about anyone using these saws - what were they used for historically etc.
Paul

aboard_epsilon
02-28-2011, 02:04 PM
I bought a drill press 2 years ago and the seller threw in a big swing saw. I couldn't see a use for it, but it had a 3hp motor on it so I hauled it away. I would be interested to hear about anyone using these saws - what were they used for historically etc.
Paul

I have a friend who has a similar one ..he has a sawmill and fencing business...makes and installs fences ..and uses it to chop the wooden strips up for these

http://www.garden-fence-panels.co.uk/images/fence_installation_large3.jpg

all the best.markj

cuemaker
02-28-2011, 02:51 PM
Read this post which led me on a search for steel prices in the 50's....Came across this old Time Life article...Lots of info about steel from the late 50's plus all the old ad's etc..

http://books.google.com/books?id=nkgEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA34&lpg=PA34&dq=steel+prices+in+1950&source=bl&ots=5AcO48J3ei&sig=GFcZffUGTDAoha0rGWnprdYb1XM&hl=en&ei=s_lrTaulLJG4twfB1LjmAg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=10&ved=0CG8Q6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=steel%20prices%20in%201950&f=false

fciron
02-28-2011, 03:47 PM
I've got my grandfather's craftsman grinder from the 50's or earlier. (Looks 50's) That thing just won't quit, replaced the switch a few times and worn out a few wheels too.

All I've ever heard about the old Craftsman grinders is how nice they are, whereas most of what I've heard about the inexpensive Atlas lathe is similar to what I hear about cheap import lathes now.

So maybe what you're doing here is like comparing the prices of a Baldor grinder with a HF lathe?

lazlo
02-28-2011, 03:52 PM
BTW the RT was made by Palmgin and was no different than the industrial models of the same size.

I have the Palmgren rotary table, and it's really a light-weight drill-press table.

gwilson
02-28-2011, 04:09 PM
Wards definitely sold the Logan lathe,MUCH superior to the Atlas lathe. It did not have Zamak gears,half nuts,etc..

I remember back then when those prices seemed like a lot of money. I made $.75 an hour,or $1.00 an hour at most. My first teaching job in 1963 was $2.50 an hour IIRC.

You are very fortunate these days to get much better machinery for much less,relatively speaking.

Al Messer
02-28-2011, 04:19 PM
Ditto on the other replies as Atlas made the Sears and I also think the Montgomery Ward lathe. As to the saw, that is just an accident waiting to happen.


Montgomery Ward lathes were made by Logan.I think.

gvasale
02-28-2011, 05:18 PM
I'd take a Millers Falls grinder over the Craftsman. To me many of the aforementioned things were somewhat like economy Black & Decker.

Doc Nickel
02-28-2011, 05:31 PM
Those tools aren't as cheap as they appear to be. $1.00 in 1954 is equal to a little over $8.00 today. That means the grinder would cost $488.00 and the lathe $2080.00 in todays money. It looks to me like the grinder is way over priced.

-Yep. People forget that the value of money is not fixed. I remember a PM thread discussing Southbends going for a mere $400 or so "back in the day", with a lot of griping about why we can't do that today, etc. Until somebody pointed out that the selling price then, was the rough equivalent of over $4,500 today.

Look at the ads above- why else would you need to put a down payment on a $60 purchase? :D

And the grinder isn't too badly overpriced. A Baldor 6" is $350 (http://www.use-enco.com/CGI/INSRIT?PMAKA=160-2022&PMPXNO=952924&PARTPG=INLMK32) today.

Doc.

Rich Carlstedt
02-28-2011, 06:16 PM
Iron was cheap. we had lots of foundries and machine shops left over from the War.
The expensive part were the motors. Notice that the lathe has no motor.
That was probably another 50 bucks.

sasquatch
02-28-2011, 06:25 PM
I agree that today tools of all sorts have never been so inexpensive and accessible to most everyone compared to the post war era.

Those "Swing Saws"-- there are still a few around in places like sawmills, and lumber yards etc, still humming along, but certainly dangerous if one wasn,t paying attention.

Anyone remember the articles in the older Pop Mechanics on building your,e own Swing saw using an automotive straight axel suspended from the shop ceiling,,SCAREY lookin!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:D

JoeLee
02-28-2011, 07:36 PM
Iron was cheap. we had lots of foundries and machine shops left over from the War.
The expensive part were the motors. Notice that the lathe has no motor.
That was probably another 50 bucks.

Almost all the big power tools in this old catalog come without motors, table, band and jig saws, jointers, planers etc. They do have a lot of different motors listed separately and you had the choice of several different HP and RPM ranges to chose from. Most of the motors were around $25.

JL.......................

PaulT
02-28-2011, 08:20 PM
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Don Young
02-28-2011, 11:15 PM
I forgot the year but I have an old Sears catalog that shows the Atlas made 6" lathe for $79.95 and the AA Products made 6" lathe for $49.95. I worked as a Harley Davidson mechanic in 1949-50 when the minimum wage was $0.75 per hour and I got $30.00 for a 44 hour week. Those dollars were harder to come by and worth a lot more than the current ones.

Optics Curmudgeon
03-01-2011, 12:42 AM
A couple of comments from the Curmudgeon; Sears provided a reasonable cost option for many, not the best quality but affordable for the masses. Many put these tools down for the cost cutting features they had, but what do you expect? How many people here are still driving the cars they had in the '50s? You paid a lot more for the car, used it up and traded it in or sold it. Yet, you expect the $69 lathe to last forever, and if it doesn't you deride it for its Zamac parts and otherwise cheap construction. On a lighter note, how many are aware of the story of King-Seely, a major supplier to Sears? They were a division of General Motors, and made things like speedometers, trim parts, etc. They also made use of "slack capacity" at GM plants to make power tools for Sears, and owned the Thermos name (they made Thermos bottles and lunch boxes as well). Their access to foundries, die casting plants and stamping facilities made them quite competitive.