I have fond memories of growing up as a child, taking trips to my grandfather’s shop. He was a shoemaker and I was a curious pre-teenager, fascinated by anything that moved. I recall spending hours at his shop watching him replace heels on boots, restitching leather, and just hanging out. What I loved most, besides spending time with an amazing man, were the numerous tools he had on hand. You see, he inherited the shop from his father and kept many of the same tools his father had used. The tools he used were nothing like what we have today. Just looking at them you could tell they’d last generations. I fondly remember an old electric table saw he had, likely dating back to the late ’40s or early ’50s. Rusted and dinged up, I have a feeling it worked just as well in the late ’80s as it did brand new.
As an adult, covering the 3D printing industry, I often wonder what 3D printers would have looked like had the computer processing power of today been made available 60 to 70 years ago. What if my grandfather had had an old 1950s 3D printer in his workshop?
Thanks to one Wisconsin man named Chad Bridgewater, I have been able to better visualize what my grandfather’s 3D printer would have likely looked like. Bridgewater, a graduate student in the Peck School of Art and Design at the University of Milwaukee Wisconsin, is currently majoring in metalsmithing and jewelry. He also teaches metalsmithing workshops and a welding class at his school. He uses his skills to create his own pieces of art, many of which will have you staring at them in bewilderment.
One such piece that Bridgewater has recently unveiled is quite incredible. It’s a working 3D printer he build inside the shell of an old post-WWII Craftsman table saw. The saw, which he purchased at a rummage sale for just $5, did not work any longer, as the motor was shot. He proceeded to remove the motor and gut out other components, getting it ready for a transformation which those who originally built the power tool could never have even fathomed.
At the internal base of the saw shell, he bolted in two laser cut panels which were used to affix other important electronic components to. He then added in an LCD screen, a power supply, SD card slot, and an Arduino board. As for the main components of the printer, he pretty much machined or 3D printed these himself. He took the stepper motors apart and powder coated them white for an added touch, and used a 1941 lathe (my grandfather would approve) to machine pulley shafts, aluminum spacers, and motor shaft extensions.
When it was finally assembled, the 3D printer, which included parts from my generation as well as those from my grandfather’s, was simply a sight to be seen, as you can see from the images below.
Bridgewater didn’t stop there though. He continued with his retro-mechanics by also turning an old post-WWII Craftsman table saw into a working laser engraver. Now I only wish my grandfather had been able to stick around a few more years to see these incredible pieces of art/engineering.
Let’s hear your thoughts on Bridgewater’s creations. Discuss in the Retro 3D Printer forum thread on 3DPB.com.