Asked on Jul 06, 2017

The Things I Get Involved With?

John Biermacher
by John Biermacher
In April 2016 a large commercial developer announce they were re-developing a brown field into a commercial building and a restaurant. The site consisted of a very large red iron building clad in corrugated metal and an attached brick building and once was The Kalamazoo Foundry. I contacted them in search industrial relics that I could repurpose.
q the things i get involed wit, This is the band saw when I first saw it
This is the band saw when I first saw it.

They had considerable number of work tables, desks, sinks, and fixtures. But in the end I could rationalize the cost and space required to put them in my already too large inventory of future projects.

The construction supervisor did give me permission to salvage as many  galvanized corrugated panel as I could before actual demolition had started for a very cheap price. I was able to get about 12 2 ft by 8 ft panels that were old but never used on the building. I also pulled about six panels off the outside of the building, They were somewhat difficult to remove and still fastened together after I freed them up from the building. They were cool- aged and some had graffiti, but not worth life and limb to get them down. I was able to sell all of the used corrugated and most of the “new” to local decorators. I kept a couple of the new pieces and plan to use them as bar fronts. In hindsight I should have contracted an actual demolition company and obtained much more of the siding. 

During this process I had a conversation with the Project Supervisor about an antique industrial band saw that was on site. We agreed it was as HIR (historical industrial relic)  and it deserved to be rescued. 

Sure enough, almost a year later the supervisor called and asked if I would be interesting in restoring the band saw for display in the commercial part of the development.  How could I beg off- he had given me a shot at the siding and I like to think of myself as one who “walks the talk”.

It was a mess, huge, and heavy. I said I could clean it up but would not get involved with the moving. 

It is cast iron and probaly dates to the early 1900s. It has 36 inch  diameter drive wheels and almost a 16 inch throat. Being in a foundry, one would expect it to be a metal cutting saw. But much of the grime was sawdust so it was probably kused to cut wooden patterns for the castings. 
q the things i get involed wit, This is an after photo
This is an after photo.
I removed a guard and a motor mount that I am confident   were not part of the original saw. The saw was probably driven by a flat belt from a drive shaft that ran multiple machined. The drive shaft could have been driven by an electrical motor, or maybe even steam. 

q the things i get involed wit, Another view
Another view.
Once the saw was cleaned/rinsed down with mineral spirit, scrubbed with a wire brush, steel wool, and Scoth-Brite pads it was clear-coated with polyurethane. In homage to it’s original purpose I fabricated a faux band saw blade out of nylon strapping.

q the things i get involed wit, Why I believe it was line driven
Why I believe it was "line driven".

It now sits in the entry foyer of the commercial space and the restaurant  is scheduled to be completed by October 2017. 
q the things i get involed wit
Google 'west side iron works Grand Rapids' and get a history lesson.
q the things i get involed wit
Google 'Fox Machine Company Grand Rapids Michigan' for an additional history lesson.

Just wanted to share a story of the places and projects repurposing can lead to.


  8 answers
  • Hillela G. Hillela G. on Jul 09, 2017
    Wow! John, what a fantastic story- thank you so much for sharing!

  • Wendy Wendy on Jul 09, 2017
    How intriguing! Wow!

  • Ron Ron on Jul 11, 2017
    From a woodworker who loves the smell of sawdust and anything which makes it, 'Thank You' for that story.

  • S. Haynes S. Haynes on Jul 11, 2017
    Love that it was saved and will be in a public place for people to enjoy. It definitely was worth preserving.

  • Thanks for saving a piece of history for all to enjoy. Great story!

  • Kathryn Sanderson Kathryn Sanderson on Jul 11, 2017
    What a great story! Thank you for sharing!

    • John Biermacher John Biermacher on Jul 12, 2017
      Thank you. Also I offered a comment on your file cabinet project. Are they done or still on the to do list? Best wishes either way.

  • Kathryn Sanderson Kathryn Sanderson on Jul 12, 2017
    Thanks! The file cabinets are still on the to-do list. I'm moving in a few weeks; it's definitely a project for after the move!

  • Linda Nadbrzuch Linda Nadbrzuch on Jul 15, 2017
    My grandfather was a pattern maker (carpenter) back in the early 1900s up until 1960. He used this saw all the time. It sat idol in our barn until recently when some Amish neighbors asked if they could convert it back so that it didn't use electricity. It still works and they are very happy using it. You brought back wonderful memories.

    • John Biermacher John Biermacher on Jul 16, 2017
      Linda, Thank you. If your grandfather was like the pattern makers I have known- he was part of a special breed. Their craft requires detailed woodworking skills , (very close to a machinist) yet they also have a sculptor's eye that allows them to visualize and create in 3D. I am very Pleased that your Amish neighbors have put it back into service and that required a level of commitment way above my "clean-up". Glad we could connect thru Hometalk.