Antique Whitcomb Mill in SF Bay Area, $1200 ... (photos)

by Thinkertoys

There is a place called Urban Ore, on Folger avenue (Folger is a two-block alley that runs parallel to Ashby street) in Berkeley California. Their business is that when someplace is being closed, or torn down, or whatever, they pay a nominal fee for the privilege of going in and breaking down the building for bits first. They take fittings and parts and windowframes and doors and toilets and tubs and tools and inventory that didn't sell, etc. Then they turn them around and resell them to builders or contractors or renovators or the general public.

They're also in the thrift-store business, accepting donations of whatever people are casting off and selling it second-hand.

As such, you really, REALLY, just never know what's going to show up there. One of my all time favorites was a coffin that had been rebuilt as a barbecue smoker. (I guess the guy got well or something?)

Anyway, I wandered through there today, and I discovered this lovely antique: The sign I didn't quite get a decent focus on says "Do not touch. This machinery is very heavy. Please ask for assistance." Yeah, I know what you're thinking. Your curious hands are not going to damage this machine. But that wooden pallet cart it's on could overbalance or collapse, and then it would probably crush the rice cooker.

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Anyway, it's not what a modern machinist would call "very" heavy. This type of machine is maybe a couple of tons, at most. You could move it with a heavy pickup truck if you can get it into the bed. It won't be as vibration-free as a modern heavy mill.

This was a feeling of very strong deja vu for me because my granddad had one of these mills, still running off a jackshaft across the top of his shop. The whole shop went to a museum when he died; it was one of the very last of that old-style ceiling shaft shops. This one's in a bit rougher shape than granddad kept his in, but to be fair it is about forty years later and it looks like this one's been in production work the whole time, not in a museum.

Somebody's done a very light makeover here to refit an electric motor to this one, but the electric motor is actually running its very own tiny short section of the missing jackshaft; the mill itself still runs off the original type of canvas belt.

[linked image]

Exposed gears on the left end.

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Feeds, Speeds and threads per inch table. I intended to get the blue tape in the image but I guess I didn't; The full text is "works but bearings are starting to go." There's also the remains of a small improvised oiling system on the back that looks like it got bashed when they were moving the mill and will need repair or replacement, but I didn't get a snap of that.

[linked image]

And I haven't seen one of these plates before. I guess maybe Smith, Booth and Usher were the dealers who originally sold it? Or someplace that serviced it along the line? Or something?

[linked image]

So anyway, if you happen to be on the left coast, have space in your shop for a genuine antique from a nearly forgotten era of machining which is also still a perfectly serviceable mill, and you have $1200 burning a hole in you pocket and confidence in your ability to repack some bearings, bring a pick-up truck to Berkeley and talk to the goth girl behind the counter at Urban Ore.

Posted on Aug 26, 2017, 10:06 PM

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  1. Lathe, not mill... :). Doc Nickel, Aug 27, 2017
    1. Heh. You're right.. Thinkertoys, Aug 27, 2017
      1. Babbitt bearings. Thinkertoys, Aug 27, 2017
        1. Plenty of YouTube videos. MarkT, Aug 27, 2017
      2. Babbitt bearings. TheFnord, Aug 27, 2017
      3. Values.... Doc Nickel, Aug 27, 2017
        1. Manufacturing costs. Kymation, Aug 27, 2017
    2. A correction, better lathe than never (n/t). Xheralt, Aug 29, 2017

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