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New Uses for Old Machinery

New Uses for Old Machinery: A modest proposal for the woodworking community
By Simon Watts

With the depressed price of scrap iron there is little point in loading up some ancient wood-working machine and taking it to the re-cycling. One ends up all bent out of shape and with only a few dollars to show for the effort.

For the boat owner, however, these relics present an unusual opportunity. Good moorings are scarce so why not simply put a chain around these retired behemoths and sink them where you plan to moor your boat?

Not every machine is equally suited for this purpose. Spindle molders, for example, are hard to get a grip on; steel stands rapidly corrode and cheaper models have too much plastic.

Here are some criteria when selecting a machine for use as a mooring: obviously you need mass; also some place you can wrap a chain around without any danger of it slipping off. Less obvious is the necessity of having the machine lie flat on the bottom so it doesn't snag fishing lines or tear the propellers off passing boats. That is why an old band saw (lying on its side) makes an especially good mooring.

A table saw or thickness planer will settle into mud pretty well but I wouldn't use one on a sandy or gravel bottom. Large joiners, especially those with cast-iron stands, make excellent moorings. You can slip a chain around the waist and they usually can be coaxed into lying down flat. Use heavy chain--at least 3/4 in.--with the same size shackle at the end.

The make of machine is not crucial but my two favorite brands (when it comes to moorings) are Quebec's General and Powermatic. The older the machine the more cast iron so better the holding power. You'd do well to avoid the Inca line altogether. I've nothing against the Swiss but the machines are just too light and aluminum castings corrode rapidly in salt water.

Be wary of sinking a popular machine in clear water—an old Delta Unisaw, for example. Some passing woodworker might be tempted to raise it—cutting your boat loose in the process. However, there are some well-known brands of woodworking machinery that are actually more use at the bottom of a lake or estuary than in the workshop. My attorney advises me against identifying them but woodworkers will know which ones I mean.

If scrap prices rise or the machine you've deep-sixed comes back into vogue you can always raise it and restore it to circulation. Barnacles and other marine growths are easily removed with a wire brush. However, before plugging it in be sure to rinse the salt out of the motor with a garden hose.

Simon Watts is our West Coast editor and has been researching this subject for half a century.

(c) 2002, Woodworkers Journal. All Rights Reserved.