June 19, 2020

Dad, I Finally Fixed The Switch

Dad, I Finally Fixed The Switch 
By John R. Greenwood

New switch on the lower left
This bandsaw is the first power tool my father taught me how to use. He used a lot of different tools to make a living, but when he was in his own garage/workshop, he enjoyed this *1945 Delta/Milwaukee 14 inch bandsaw. I was around ten when he first let me flip the switch and go solo. My father was firm when teaching me the dos and don'ts of anything with death or injury potential. Whether he was giving me instructions on the handling of a 30/30 Winchester or a 1940s bandsaw, I knew when he meant business. The word 'firm' may not be strong enough to describe dad's safety speeches. 

My first lessons on the Delta consisted of dad reaching over my shoulders and guiding my kid-hands with his heavily callused, blue-collar hands. Two fingers on his left hand held deep scars from a saw accident he'd had before I was born. He admitted that they were the result of carelessness. The apple didn't fall far because, in my early twenties, I earned the nickname, "Nine Fingers." We'll table that story for another episode. At first, I was only allowed to use the saw when dad was in the shop. My first build was probably a birdhouse. Once I proved I could be "fairly" responsible in the shop, I was shown where the key was, and as long as I asked, I could use it without supervision. I really enjoyed those quiet times building things. I loved using the bench vise and all the different hand tools. 

My father owned every tool imaginable. He also built a wall of shelves filled with Gerber Baby Food jars. The ones with the metal half-twist lids. Each jar was neatly marked and filled with every size nut, bolt, or screw ever made. If you needed it, it was there—somewhere. It wasn't a fancy shop, but it was functional.

Made in Milwaukee USA
With a year of retirement under my belt, I now have more time to tackle home improvement projects that have been neglected for years. Having the ability to visit places like Home Depot or my local hardware store during the week is a DIY'er's dream. Weekend visits are worse than Walmart on Black Friday. Now that Mrs. G. and I are at the tail end of our big projects, we have time to take on a few of those on the way, way, way back-burner. Today as I was rummaging around the cellar, I walked by dad's beloved bandsaw sitting neglected and cobweb-covered. I could hear my father preaching to me about taking care of my tools. It struck a chord. I decided to clean up the 75 year-old and take her for a spin.

I took my $30 Sears handcart and pulled the 300lb cast iron saw up out of the cellar, one cement step at a time. I'm not sure how I did it alone, but something tells me I wasn't. The old girl looked great in the June sunlight, but she needed a little sprucing up. She hadn't been out on a date in decades, so I grabbed a whiskbroom and some 3-In-One oil and got to work. The lead cord seemed okay, so I plugged her in. When I first flipped the switch, there was nothing but silence. I gave the belt a few turns by hand and wiggled the switch again. Suddenly like Rip Van Winkle (Goggle it kids) waking from his slumber, the electric motor began to moan and groan back to life. Another few hand-spins of the belt and the old Delta was singing once more. The sound of that old motor and spinning saw blade brought me back to dad's shop and the 1960s in an instant. The smell of pine sawdust, and that old musty shop filled the air. Best of all, I could hear my father breathe a sigh of relief. Maybe the kid finally gets it? It took a lifetime to grasp the impact of his lessons, but they all came flooding back like a tsunami. Cleaning up dad's old bandsaw had become a Father's Day gift I wasn't expecting. 

Work Light with old GE Bulb 
Once I had the saw cleaned up, it was time to try it out. I found an old piece of trim and flipped on the switch—nothing. I wiggled it a little, and as it snapped back to life, I suddenly remembered something. It had always been bad. It was 1968, and I could hear my father as clear as day saying, "I have to fix that switch someday." Well, dad, it's June 2020, today's the day! I ran back into the cellar and found a new one. It took less than five minutes to take something off a fifty-year to-do list. I'm sure I could detect a smile on the Delta/Milwaukee when I flipped her on this time. I'm guessing dad was smiling down too. It felt so good I even replaced the lead to the work light dad had mounted on the saw years ago.

Time to make a new key rack
I did leave the vintage socket and 60W GE light bulb intact as a reminder of days gone by. Bringing that 1945 saw back to life gave me more than good memories; it gave me the inspiration to tackle more long-overdue projects. I think the first one will be to use an old wooden pattern I saved from dad's shop. It's the cutout of a large key. You add hooks to it to hang your various keys on. My parents had one hanging in the kitchen for as long as I can remember. Dad had all the hooks marked with those plastic Label-Maker labels you made one letter, one squeeze at a time. The hook I remember most clearly was the one labeled "Shop." 

Happy Father's Day! 


* Founded in 1919, DELTA Power Equipment Corporation is still in existance and making bandsaws. The 2020 version of this saw is not all that different than the 1945 version I own. I was able to verify the year of manufacture by calling Delta Machinery's 1-800 number with the serial number. I was surprised to learn it was 10 years older than I thought.