Rehabbing an Historic Tool from Champion Blower and Forge Co.

Here’s a tale that warms our hearts. [Gord] is helping out the local living-history museum by rehabbing a historic woodworking tool that they want to add to their live demo woodshop. It’s a hundred-year-old manual drill press that has seen a ton of use.

acme-rod-tig-repairThere are three things that [Gord] has going for him. First off, the Champion Blower and Forge Co. built them to last. Second, he’s not really working on a deadline; the museum doesn’t need it back until May. And third, [Gord] has the tools he needs to do this right.

After cleaning and blasting [Gord] gets down to the really interesting repairs. First off, it wouldn’t be a drill press if someone hadn’t tried to drill through the table at some point. TIG welding filled it up and some milling brought it back. This same method was used again to make a beautiful custom replacement ACME rod. Throwing in a custom bushing replacement, turned wooden handle, and a several other fabricated parts, and [Gord] had the press working again. Check out the mechanism in the video below that shows the crank action turns the bit and a cam advances it through the work piece.

We’ve seen additive use of TIG welding before in the form of a 3D printing concept. So far, those parts have nothing on what [Gord] achieved here.

23 thoughts on “Rehabbing an Historic Tool from Champion Blower and Forge Co.

  1. Some would say ‘not a hack’, but you didn’t go out and buy new parts or pay a fabricator to do this for you.
    Props for working with what you have on hand and taking the time to do it properly.

    1. My family has one of these, They were mostly sold to professional blacksmiths, not woodworkers. For drilling in mild steel, these things can’t be beat. The speed is low enough that you don’t have to worry about damaging the drill bit due to burning through the material. The advance is well controlled, allowing it to work with other materials that might pull the drill forward in an uncontrolled fashion.

      It wasn’t until I saw this mounted in the right orientation that I figured out many of the features. Controlling the feed rate is built into the advance arm. There’s a thumbscrew that allows the dog on the end of the arm to catch one, two, or three teeth per revolution depending on the setting. The thumbscrew changes how much the arm follows the cam on the main crank.

      Finally, I couldn’t see it in the video, but some of these have two speeds. To get a different speed, you remove the handle from the machine and mount it on a different spindle, which makes it go slower with more torque. That feature was on those units which could handle drilling large holes, 3/4 to 1 1/2 inches in size.

  2. Excellent job on the restoration, [Gord]! I love old machinery, and love seeing it brought back to life and put on display for people to enjoy. There’s a certain magic to the machinery from that era.

    Again, very well done. (I wouldn’t mind a longer video, though)

  3. Beautiful work. Even the “period incorrect” parts are so well machined that one can hardly fault them. It just goes to strengthen my belief that gear that was well made to begin with can be maintained as long as someone cares enough to do so.

  4. This is cool! Amazing what we take for granted these days we just press a button and get 2,000 rpm on a cordless drill. This is an industrial hand crank drill must have been shitty running that round all day every day. Amazing machine all the same. I hope the museum allow kids to drill stuff with this and don’t have it as a stationary piece.

  5. I have an electrified post drill in the shop 8-9 years ago I had to stand in silence when 2 post drills with vey little wear when the yard of a metal salvager I guess time moves on an room has to be made the younger generation’s stuff. These old tools out lived their usefulness, and really no need to save each and every survivor, no matter how good of shape they are in a family can and keep them for decades and not find anyone interested in them. In the event I had control over the fate of those two units I would have gladly traded them for a quality imported modern bench top drill press, but I would have had a hard time finding anyone locally willing to pay that much

    1. I lost a lot of tools over the years. Either through poor choices or not realizing what they were until it was too late. This was before the internet.

      Part of the problem with old tools is practicality plays a very strong role in its value. An antique “widow maker” chain saw will have almost no takers as opposed to your safe-for-stupid-people chain saw that will be sold before the tag is written.

  6. For a job like that cleaning and blasting is a last resort. You can do so much more with a soda bath and a battery charger or preferably a controlled DC source.

    Blasting removes material, electrolysis will convert some of it back to iron and it should always be the first step for rusty machine tools.

  7. Right now on eBay is a historic machine tool. It’s a Barber Colman 1-1/2 gear hobber. At one time it was owned by Zebco to make parts for their fishing reels. The listing said it was from Zeb Co. and had been used to make fishing reel parts. Didn’t dawn on me until yesterday that it was Zebco.

    From 1932 until 1956 the company went by its original name, Zero Hour Bomb Company. They made electric time bombs for the oil drilling industry. When a hard rock layer was hit, the procedure was to pull the drill string out then lower a ‘bomb’ or ‘torpedo’ down the hole to break up the rock. Originally the ‘torpedoes’ were thin metal casings filled with liquid nitroglycerin. On top was an impact striker to set off the nitro. The torpedo was lowered into position then a weight with a hole through its middle was fit around the cable and dropped. No earth shattering kaboom? Drop a second weight. Still no boom? Pull up the torpedo *very carefully*. ZEBCO’s electric bombs took a lot of the danger out of the process.

    Why did the company change the name to Zebco? Because in 1956 they sent a fishing reel to the White House. When the Secret Service saw the box they submerged it in water and called a bomb squad.

    The gear hobber is on buy it now for $450 in Oklahoma City. If you have a need to cut gears up to a maximum diameter of 1″, that’s a real good price. Too small capacity for my needs and much too far away.

  8. Additive welding also gets used to refinish the surfaces of anvils, were they have chipped or been chiseled into.

    Also, Champion (or was it Buffalo?) historically made a great little forge, portable and with a hand-cranked blower built right into it, all on a stand. Kind of interesting that a simple tool like that could be used with coal or charcoal, and get steel to an easily maleable state. These days we thing of huge amounts of technology that go into 3D printing, only to end up with a kind of crummy engineering material. Not to knock 3D printing, but just reflecting on the abilities of tools and the technology that comprises them is interesting.

    The hand-crank blowers were really great, too. They would usually have a gear reducer in it, so you could easily get a lot of airflow and thus very high temperatures in the forge, and dial in exactly how much flow you wanted just by the cranking effort. I don’t think any company has ever reproduced them, because why would they.

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