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1920s Floor Sander a Daunting Reminder of the Old Days

Ryan Kushner
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Photos by ferd@ferdworks.comPhotos by ferd@ferdworks.com

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"The men that carried that thing? They don't make men like that anymore," Keith Graff of Fenton, Mo.-based Graff Floor Sanding LLC says of his prized solid-steel 1920s American Universal big machine. A lover of vintage tools, Graff was scrolling Craigslist when he stumbled upon the still-functional piece of wood flooring history listed for $220. The seller was just about to scrap it before Graff messaged him. "It was my last 200 bucks," Graff laughs. "I didn't care if I ate that week, I was getting that sander." The historic big machine, the design of which Graff incorporated into his company logo, had almost all of its original parts and wiring, missing only one leather belt. "The dust bag that's on it is actually stitched together in some spots with somebody's blue jeans," Graff says. "There's still some dust in it." The steel beast has oil reservoirs for each moving piece, and Graff's favorite part is its intimidatingly large chain. "Just looking at that chain and thinking of how dangerous of a machine it would have been to run with an open-faced sander … you'd probably have wood chunks flying at you along with that chain growling at your leg," Graff says. He hasn't dared to plug it in since buying it, and he considers it retired. It's currently displayed in a flooring supply store in St. Louis, a reminder to pros of how far the industry has come. "I know how hard this job is with modern tools," Graff says. "To do it when 1920s guys did it? Holy shmoley. It's just insane."

 

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Even before purchasing the sander, Graff had incorporated its vintage design into his company logo, along with a drawing his grandmother had done of his grandfather years ago.Even before purchasing the sander, Graff had incorporated its vintage design into his company logo, along with a drawing his grandmother had done of his grandfather years ago.

 

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