the Carpentry Way: A Roundtable Discussion                                                          

A Roundtable Discussion

A little video to start off - really quite a boring one, but it does bring me around to the topic at hand, in a roundabout sorta way:

The above machine is a sort of relative of the super surfacer described in the previous post. The knife is fixed in a vertical table, and the table is spun with the work supported on a side table. This machine is called an en-ban-kanna (円盤鉋) and they are used in Japan primarily by box makers.

There used to be a video showing a box maker using one but it seems to have disappeared. I was able to find a few stills though showing some examples of this type of machine in use.

Here, wooden sake drinking boxes, masu, are being trimmed:

A coopered tub is trimmed along the grain of the staves:

And a larger box is worked on the disc:

I've also found this picture, showing the use of an en-ban-kanna with a lathe to trim spindle faces:

One manufacturer is Ban Machinery - here's their flyer, showing a 3-knife machine, the BC-800, presumably an 800mm diameter disc model:

Nicely made and heavy duty.

These machines come with 1, 2, 3, or, as in the following example, many knives:

I was thinking these disc cutting machines were unique to Japan, but through some recent correspondences with a fellow in upstate New York I obtained a tool catalog from 1914 which showed that this type of machine was produced in the United States at one point. The manufacturer of at least one product line was Trevor Manufacturing of Lockport New York, which specialized in barrel, box, and shingle-making machinery.

Their smallest model was fully enclosed, with a 36" disc:

Then moving up to the 'Eureka' model with 20" knives, from 4 to 8 knives as the buyer might prefer:

And then the flagship model, 'The Trevor', a whopping 62" diameter and 3400 lbs:

That must have been somehthing to see when going full tilt. As noted in the text accompanying the picture, they suggested the knives be ground a particular way:

The knives should be ground a little convex in the center to make the edges of the heading slightly concave to insure a tight joint. To do this, place a piece of thin metal, like tin, under each end of the knife when it is in the grinding machine to bend it a little. Extra knives are kept on hand.
In other words, they create the equivalent of a sprung joint.

The E.&B. Holmes Company of Buffalo New York seems to have many of the early barrel making machine patents, and an 1889 advertisement for their company shows a disc planing machine they call a 'stave jointer'  on the lower right side:

That company filed a patent, #141,003, in 1872, granted in 1883, for "Improvement in machines for jointing staves", which describes arranging the jointing knives on a circular wheel. Here's the elevation view of the machine section:

Also see patent #166,872, by the same company, where a fan is incorporated to remove the shavings:

A 1891 print of the E.&B. Holmes equipment catalog can be found online, and in it the above machine is depicted, along with the #17:

 They made quite a few machines actually. The number 24, featuring curved blades on one end:

The number 25:

The number 34:

The number 42:

Number 51:

Number 63:

Number 66:

And let's not forget #67:

Whether these American models served as inspiration for the Japanese machines, or whether it was a case of parallel development, is hard to say. The Japanese made and make wooden barrels, but i don't know if they adopted the western type of barrel at some point or produced them for export, or adopted such machines for their own type of cooperage.

As we see them employed in Japan, the Trevor machines were intended for use by barrel and box makers, for trimming staves and even the entire ends of larger barrels. I haven't come across any extant examples of these pieces, so presumably they were melted down for scrap, at wartime perhaps, and never reappeared afterwards. The disc sander replaced them, even though abrasive never provides the clean cut of a knife - however the abrasive disc sander, I'm sure, is less finicky to set up and operate. It would be really interesting to learn somehow of how well these machines from the 19th century worked.

All for now - hope you're not too dizzy from the, uh, whirlwind tour. Thanks for visiting!