Today’s woodworker, carpenter, builder or machinist have a very wide selection of machines available to them. Many of them are easily moveable, can be set up in a home shop or garage and some can even be transported to the jobsite itself.
Before electricity became readily available in the 1920’s and electric motors became common, line shafts were the predominant means of powering machinery. These set-ups typically had a single line shaft powered by a large steam or gas engine running the length of the shop to provide power to all machines via flat belts. Such an operation was fairly costly to set up, did not offer any real flexibility to move or relocate machines and required the large engine be started in order to run even one piece of machinery. This was certainly not very conducive to the small gunsmith, cabinet makers, builders or hobbyist to have in their shop.
Perhaps this was one of the reasons that a relatively short lived but very effective type of machinery was developed and many, many thousands of them were sold between the early 1870’s and the 1920’s. These were Foot & Hand Powered Wood & Metal Working Machines (from here on referred to as Foot Powered Machines.)
While many people have seen examples of line shaft driven operations at historic sites or restored factories, foot powered machinery is much less common today. They were typically characterized by graceful castings that were often decorated with ornate pin striping influenced by the Victorian age. Literally anything you can buy today, except perhaps for the biscuit jointer, could be purchased in foot power. This included scroll saws, table saws, shapers, bandsaws, wood and metal lathes as well as mortising & tenoning machines and others. They were offered in both commercial as well as hobby sizes to address everyone’s need from women to children to home shop enthusiast to professionals.
This site is dedicated to preserving and sharing information about these machines and the companies that made them. It will likely always be a “work in process” as more and more information is found and added. So whether you are a woodworker, collector, historian or just interested in “old stuff”, you are invited to come on in and join us.
We are always looking to hear from you and we are interested in pictures and serial numbers of machines regardless of condition. Catalogs, articles from older publications such as Scientific American or others on machines or their manufacturer and basically anything that relates to foot powered machinery is of interest. Questions, ideas and suggestions about foot powered machinery or the website are encouraged – just click on the Contact link above.