View Full Version : Please help ID this tool, Thanks

09-17-2014, 02:02 AM
Please help me ID this tool, It appears to be a bender press for a ukulele. Thanks

09-17-2014, 02:32 AM
What a marvellous thing! It has to be from a major manufacturer of ukes as to engineer it for a small run would be too costly. I imagine it was heated somehow, possible with hot air from underneath, the holes in the sides of the form allowing it to vent. Where on earth did you find it and when are you starting production?

09-17-2014, 02:55 AM
I just purchased this tool last night from an older gentleman. He didn’t have any history on it but did tell me that he found it approx. 30 years ago at an estate auction located in Ann Arbor Michigan. He used it to bend veneers for clock making.
I have never made a uke before but have made some solid body guitars. This press was too cool to pass up, so purchased it!
I spent a few hours last night searching on the web and can’t find anything like it. Thanks for looking at the pics.

09-17-2014, 02:58 AM
From the shape of the lower part, it looks like a board bender/press to form half the body for a ukulele or small guitar. the vertical bars look like they get levered into providing pressure on the top part of the curven board press. It would be interesting to see if the curved press is removable and other sized presses can be used by the pressure arms.

Or it can be a juice squeezer - what do I know?

09-17-2014, 03:33 AM
It doesn’t appear that the form is removable. The original Gibson factory (Kalamazoo MI) is close. Maybe it came from Gibson??

Thanks for looking at the pics.


09-17-2014, 04:50 AM
Great get! Might be worth your while to post it over at OWWM.org (Old WoodWorking Machinery). They will enjoy it and may well be able to provide additional information. They love a got What Is It.

09-17-2014, 04:55 AM
thanks! I will check out owwm.org

09-17-2014, 05:07 AM
Tell ya what, it's not gonna break any time soon.

09-17-2014, 06:13 AM
Great get! Might be worth your while to post it over at OWWM.org (Old WoodWorking Machinery). They will enjoy it and may well be able to provide additional information. They love a got What Is It.
:agree: That site is amazing. I was able to print out manuals for my drill press, lathe, joiner and band saw which are all made in the 50's.

Pete Howlett
09-17-2014, 06:25 AM
I'd think it was a veneered side press but then this is only a guess. I'd love this tool in my workshop :)

09-17-2014, 11:24 AM
It had to have come from one of the manufacturing shops in that area. I, along with everyone else, would LOVE for you to shoot a quick YouTube video of the cam and lever action as it is actuated.

09-17-2014, 11:45 AM
I have seen a photo of one these before..It was on an old factory tour type web page of Gibson or Martin, that also showed a photo of the clamping carousel that glued plates together.....I remember thinking How over designed it was..it was most likely heated from below with Gas ..I spent a couple of hours today trying to find the pic ..But to no avail

09-17-2014, 12:39 PM
I will work on making a short video. Thanks

09-17-2014, 12:40 PM
Thanks for taking the time to research this.

Patrick Madsen
09-17-2014, 01:34 PM
I bet it's from Gibson being Mich. is where they made them. They may be interested in it for their museum... like a good trade for a good uke or two.

09-17-2014, 11:05 PM
I bet it's from Gibson being Mich. is where they made them. They may be interested in it for their museum... like a good trade for a good uke or two.
I agree the museum is where that machine belongs...it's unique.

09-17-2014, 11:18 PM
Having done some steam bending of wood in the past, and having the forms ready to go for the wood, I can't help but wonder if this was a press that was used to bend wood/sides after they came out of a steam box.

09-19-2014, 11:18 AM
Bill Halsey would be the guy to ask about it. He had an extensive history at Gibson Kalamazoo. I sent him an email, so maybe he'll chime in or get back with me.

Pete Howlett
09-19-2014, 12:26 PM
I hope so - this is the most interesting thread this year!

09-19-2014, 07:51 PM
Whatever you find out - keep it and use it!

09-20-2014, 04:19 AM
Bill emailed me to say that he had never seen anything like that at Gibson. He did say that his work was primarily with mandolins. He also said he has a drawing of some benders they used but they were using a burner under them to heat the sides. I believe that Steve Smith of Cumberland Acoustic has all the old molds etc from Gibson when they built uke's. Charlie Derrington offered Steve the chance to go through a couple semi trucks of stuff after the move from Bozeman to Nashville.

09-20-2014, 06:44 AM
That thing is awesome!! It makes all Fox style benders look puny and weak. And makes my hot pipe look stone aged.
Maybe some dimensions would help identify the guitar or uke model it made. Body length, widths at the boughts and waist are pretty good clues.

09-20-2014, 08:43 AM
Eurika!!!! :cheers: I found out where it came from at last..I knew i'd seen it before..I comes from "The Harmony Guitar company" It looks like it was for ukulele size..the factory closed down in 1975... see here and scroll down the page. http://orgs.usd.edu/nmm/News/Newsletter/December2010/ToolsArticle.html lots of other interesting stuff there as well....Note the curved gas/ steam pipe in the picture, it was used to heat the bender...This method of bending sides must have been successful co's acording to the company history, I read this... The company hit a peak in 1964-1965, selling 350,000 instruments, but low-end foreign competition led to the company’s demise 10 years later. Between 1945 and 1975, the Chicago firm had mass produced about ten million guitars, but finally was no longer competitive. more here http://orgs.usd.edu/nmm/Tours/LillibridgeGallery/HarmonyCo.html So the bender shown in the OP really belongs in the Lillibridge Gallery along with it's brothers IMHO ;)
http://i219.photobucket.com/albums/cc143/shiregreenbod/HarmonyGuitarExhibit_zps3c366e46.jpg (http://s219.photobucket.com/user/shiregreenbod/media/HarmonyGuitarExhibit_zps3c366e46.jpg.html)

Michael N.
09-20-2014, 11:57 PM
'In 1975 the Harmony Guitar Co. in Chicago ceased operations and had a huge three day auction. The auction was huge since it was two city blocks under one roof.'

I guess it was part of the said 3 day auction.
Harmony also state that in 1930 their annual sales figures were 500,000 units!

09-21-2014, 01:34 AM
In my experience at those type auctions, old machinary and anything metalic usually is snapped up by the local scrap metal dealers...I was at an auction once where a huge "Herbert 24" swing 6 ft bed Turret Lathe" complete with hydraulic copying devices went for 150 to a scrap dealer in Middlesbrough....so it's lucky that any of those benders survived.

10-01-2014, 08:27 PM
The name of your tool is a multi-action press. It is clearly a Luthier's tool. I would guess this is an early 20th century machine. If the bolts are metric size it is not American or British Commonwealth. Get out your socket wrench and check.The earliest reference to this type of machine I am aware of is in Diderot's Encyclopedia, first published in 1751. In Diderot this type of machine was used for working horn. The horn was independently heated. Your machine appears to be that type. Wood would be steam heated in a steam box then inserted into the press. If I wanted to use this machine today I would consult with a small boat builder for reccommendations on heating the wood. It is barely possible that this machine was used for whale ballina manufacturing purposes. In this case contact the the Curator of Education, Sarah Rose
srose@whalingmuseum.org, (508) 997-0046 x118 at New Bedford Whaling Museum.

Your best bet to get further info is The Smithsonian Institution. The American History Museum has one of the largest collections of musical instruments in the world. http://http://library.si.edu/contact. Ask a librarian. That is passion and purpose!

I hope this is helpful.