Be Careful What You Wish For!


Having a job that we enjoy means there’s always a tendency for our work and spare time to become intermingled as we come up with new ideas or methods that we’re eager to put in to action. These ideas are often driven by principles and ideals rather than common sense and because of this many get put on the shelf and left within the realm of dreams. One such dream that Richard proposed to me several years ago was to run our workshop entirely from old line shaft machinery but I was quick to dismiss this as it sounded far fetched and I knew that it would be near impossible to source everything required. Richard hasn’t stopped wishing though and I regularly catch him scouring the internet for suitable hunks of cast iron to no avail. While he sits and searches I’ve had to ask myself “why a line shaft?!” Surely taking the technology back in time would only be a disadvantage; but as I’ve thought it over time and again I’ve made a few conclusions of my own as to why this set up might suit our particular business.

Firstly, they simply don’t make things like they used to and the large sections of timber that we work means our machines certainly take a beating! Large lumps of cast iron will be far more suited than pressed steel with flimsy aluminium fences. My second thought was about the pace; we need to handle large amounts of timber with heavy section but because our projects are built individually and much of the work carried out with hand tools the machinery becomes mainly a roughing aid where it would be impractical not to use it. I would expect a line shaft set up to be rather high maintenance but it would always be far quicker than ripping down a 6” thick beam by hand!

It’s a good job that I’d given this some thought already because about a month ago as though Richard had waved a magic wand he stumbled across an opportunity to purchase a full workshop of Wadkin machinery that had been installed and left in situ almost 90 years ago. This was better than he could ever have dreamed as each machine remained set up with the belts and pulleys in place. The owner was very keen for them to remain all together and for ourselves we felt that it would be a real shame for such capable equipment to remain out of use. After getting over the excitement of the find we sat and discussed the reality of taking on such a project; this was not something to be taken lightly but after thinking over ways to ensure that the set up would be practical and safe to use we realised that it was an opportunity not to be missed.

On visiting the workshop we were both in awe of how well preserved the machinery was and just a light pull on the belts brought blades and cutters straight in to motion. I can see how the principles of our business will be so well balanced by such a set up. Our workbenches are fit for purpose, built to do their job without compromise and to last for generations and this machinery has more than proved itself to achieve the exact same goals. We’ve always hoped to do our part to keep alive the history and skills of traditional woodworking and now we’ll be able to help preserve this small piece of England’s heritage as well.

Richard will be travelling down to Kent this Easter weekend to face the first hurdle – transferring the machinery in to our workshop in Lincolnshire. It’ll be interesting to see if he is still as enthusiastic about his dream on Monday!

11 Responses

  1. Ken

    What a fantastic find, so pleased they have found a new home, and they will be used once again.
    Good job guys.

    Very Best


  2. douglas

    I think this is the start of a truly amazing story. It may be quite a long one but every step will be worth following.
    There aren’t many would take this project on, but it will repay you both bundles I am sure.
    If those proud old Wadkins could jump for joy right now, they most certainly would.
    I’d be interested to see that primary shaft come out the ground…

  3. Paul Chapman

    Hi Richard and Helen. Just found this blog. I met you both at the last Cressing Temple show and was really impressed with your benches and new wagon vice.

    Really looking forward to reading about this latest venture – hope it all goes well.

  4. David

    Great story and wonderful to see a blog. I’m in need of a new workbench and stumbled across this gem whilst looking at the website. Lovely stuff.

  5. Mac

    What a great thought, and what a luck to find this find.
    Good luck with moving and installing, and enjoy using the machinery.

    I really do hope this will give you the “job fulfillment” you are looking for

    All the best

  6. Wilson E. Stevens

    What a find. When I was a younger man I wanted some of the old cast iron machinery. Please post more photo’s as this is a once in a lifetime for many of us to see this old equipment getting set up and being used. Good luck.

  7. bob putman

    i love this site and the benches that you make, they are first class, and to see you get this wonderful machinery, how wonderful is that, i cant wait to see this come to be, i know its going to be much hard work, but i think its all worth the try..

  8. Chris Buckingham

    I am sure the ex owner of this machine shop was delighted when you walked through the door! It is a very real worry for all that have ammassed a collection of old “real” machines,just because they know they are better tan the modern”made in China” rubbish,that when it comes to thier time to “fall off the end of the bridge” (die!)that thier beloved machines will be smashed to pieces,just because they are worth more in scrap iron!!
    You have saved this treasure,and I am sure made the sellers day,by taking the workshop intact,and to fulfill its original purpose.Very well done!

    • Richard

      Thanks Chris, it amazed us just how good their condition is even after years without being used. I couldn’t have let them go to scrap!


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