Blast From The Past: Wood Floor Tools and Machines from Yesteryear

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As we showcased our Tools and Supplies Product Focus June/July 2021 issue of WFB, we decided to take a glimpse at hardwood flooring tools and machines from yesteryear, too. We asked wood floor pros to share photos of their old tools and sanding machines to give a sense of, and appreciation for, what pioneering pros were using back in the day and, in many cases, the present day, too.





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T.J. Haas says he still uses this 1959 American bowling lane drum sander. "My father sold it probably sometime in the '80s or '90s, and I bought it back from a guy who got out of the business," he says. "The bowling drums have a dual wheel setup that keeps them from falling off the edge of the lane."

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T.J. Haas is also restoring a 1930s-era American 12-inch sander. "It's got a 1.5-hp GE polyphase motor," he says.





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This 7-inch floor sander shared by Roy Reichow is a product of S.C. Johnson & Son, originally known for their Johnson floor waxes. Reichow estimates the machine to be pre-1940s. "My boss had it, then retired and gave it to me," he says. "It was kind of a joke sander because it had no machine weight. What we used it for was lofts, as it was easy to hoist it up a ladder and faster than edging the whole loft. It was a 7-inch paper machine, so we had to cut the paper down to get it to work."





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"My vintage American/Lincoln 7-inch spinner is a 1940s-era machine that just passed on after daily use for over 50 years," T.J. Haas says. "It just recently went down, possibly due to a smoked armature."





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"A 1966 Clarke 8-inch split drum," Brandon Letkiewicz says. "Cuts like new, or actually better than these light machines they are making today."





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Pete Helton Jr.'s 1960s American Super 83 is the same one he learned to sand with. "Still making money," he says. "I break it out for tough jobs where no belt dares go."





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Clint Fudge's 8-inch Vinco split-drum sander was manufactured by Australia-based Vincent Bros., which, along with sanding machines, manufactured boat engines back in the day. "The age is tricky, I'm made to believe it's from the late 1940s," Fudge says of the sander. "Her name is Big Bertha. I have another one as backup, that was made by a fella called Barry Russ from Floor Sanding Supplies in Melbourne, Australia. We call that one BoB—Brother of Bertha."





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This Vinco Floor Sander, another product of Vincent Bros. of Australia, has been in Bendigo, Victoria, Australia-based Artcraft Floors Bendigo's business since 1992. "Before that, a bloke used it after Hurricane Tracy" in Northern Territory, Australia, in December 1974, the company says. "Because there was no power it was converted to a petrol motor to sand school classrooms so the kids could go back to school sooner than later."





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Daniel Boone of Sparta, N.C.-based American Sanders has amassed an impressive collection of historic wood floor scrapers over the years.





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"The old Whippet I learned on. It was old when I started in 1985!" Jim Hyde says. "I bought it from my old boss's estate for $100."





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John Highlander's electric Cavanaugh nailer was also used by his uncle in the 1960s. "We used it until about 10 years ago, when getting nails became a problem," he says. "Wayne Highlander took this picture about 20 years ago. It served us well! It was hard to master at first. Great old machine."





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Tony Horsman shared a vintage Lägler Randmeister, first introduced by Lägler in 1974. He also sent in a Clarke Sanding Machine Co. MV-8, which dates back to the early 1940s and can be seen here in a 1952 edition of Hardware Age.





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David Durr, who retired last December after almost 50 years in the industry, shared these Cavanaugh nailers from "days gone by." The Cavanaugh nailer was patented in 1951. "I collected them to use them," says Durr, who ran San Rafael, Calif.-based Victorian Hardwood Floors. "They have been passed on to our daughter and son-in-law, Nicole and Xavier Guerra of Pure Wood Floors."





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Mindy Westfall, marketing director and CFO at Kalamazoo, Mich.-based P.A.W. Enterprises Inc., shared some of what she said were the most interesting pieces in the "miniature museum" of flooring history on display at the company.

This American Universal machine (above) is the oldest piece in the collection—Westfall notes they aren't sure of its exact age. The machine, built by The American Floor Surfacing Machine Co., dates back to the 1920s. "It is chain-driven by a 1-hp, 110-volt, 11-Amp Repulsion Induction Motor made by The Jeannine Electric Co. in Toledo, Ohio," Westfall says. "The vacuum system is run by a leather belt."





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The Clarke E-17 Edger on display at P.A.W. (above) was manufactured by Clarke in Muskegon, Mich., in the 1930s. "Its unique design adds quite a bit of weight to the machine," Westfall notes. "The information on this one is much more limited because it oddly lacks serial numbers of any kind."





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This particular Rapid Floor Resurfacer Improved Schlueter machine (top) is what Westfall calls "a true reflection of the spending-conscious contractor." It was manufactured by Lincoln-Schlueter Machine Inc. in Chicago and can be seen in an ad (above) from a January 1925 issue of "The Carpenter." Over the years, the machine has picked up some new parts. "The motor is not original to the body of the machine, and a metal wall gang switch box has replaced the original switch," Westfall says. "In addition, a handmade belt cover is definitely one-of-a-kind and features many ripples and dents from shaping it out of two pieces of aluminum that have been welded together."





RELATED: A Wood Flooring History Timeline: Ancient Times to Today

RELATED: 1920s Floor Sander a Daunting Reminder of the Old Days

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