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One other curiosity I found among the wreckage of my friend’s garage was this old Craftsman 18-inch belt sander. It’s in surprisingly good shape considering it’s older than I am. What I found to be an even bigger surprise was when I plugged it in, it fired right up.

It’s seen better days — the cord would need to be replaced and it’s leaking oil from within, but all in all I’d say it’s a pretty good find. All the adjustments still work and it looks uber-sweet. It’s funny to see it doesn’t look all that different from the models of today really.


22 Responses to Antique Tools: Craftsman Belt Sander

  1. fred says:

    Our go-to heavy-duty belt sanders are all probably 40 years old – not Craftsman – but PC chain-drive “locomotive-style” machines – that with some TLC will probably last another 40 years. There seemed to be a different ethic back then – in making tools that were meant to last – and maybe thinking that new features would not supersede good tried and true designs.

  2. Toolhearty says:

    It’s funny to see it doesn’t look all that different from the models of today really.

    That’s like saying a ’56 Buick Roadmaster looks similar to a new Toyota Camry (both have a body, 4 wheels, doors, windows, etc.). Camry is woefully lacking in running boards, though.


  3. LennyNero says:

    One thing to be VERY aware of on older tools with metal cases (as they all seemed to have back in the day), is that they can, if not properly restored, pose an EXTREMELY large electrical hazard due to the fact that they are not double insulated. The often rubber jackets on the wires crumble to dust after many years of service. A friend of mine picked up an old Milwaukee hole-shooter at a garage sale, promptly plugged it in and almost killed himself because gripping the drill tightly and hitting the trigger caused all the power to go through his arm. Luckily i was there to yank the plug from the wall. After we opened the case we saw the cracked insulation had made a very effective drill, into a very effective self electrocution device.

    Please if you find tools like this, I urge you to pull them apart completely, and install new wires or jacket the existing ones in heat shrink or slip-on fiberglass/silicone spaghetti tube, and install a new electrical cord. It may be your own life that you save.

    On a somewhat related note, one should also disassemble any gearboxes that these tools have and remove the caked and dried out grease in them, the tools will run cooler, quieter, and heck, may even outlast you!

  4. h-bomb says:

    I’m gonna second what LennyNero said. Replace the cord with a modern one *rated for the proper amperage* before you do anything else. Fortunately, vintage tools were actually designed and built to be user-serviceable, so you shouldn’t have too hard a time with it. Be extra careful with the grounding, too.

    And the body on that tool is all kinds of gorgeous. The streamline moderne cast-aluminum look is a definite classic. Back in the day, tools were as pretty as the cars and buildings they were used to build and maintain. I’m jealous of the find.

    Bring it out in the field one day! One of my favorite drills is a 1952 Craftsman single speed I picked up at a yard sale. I’ll get compliments every time I pull it out.

  5. fred says:

    I was around when double insulated tools started appearing on the market from folks like Rockwell-Porter Cable, Skil and Milwaukee. I recall that Milwaukke made an advertising point that they still had metal housings with fiberglass reinforced plastic handles.
    As I said we still have many well-maintained Porter Cable sanders with some mix of metal and plastic – but not double insulated. All sport 3-prong cords and the the metal cases are grounded. I have seen older tools where some idiot cut off the grounding prong on the plug – and these would never be safe to use. Even with the grounding prong intact – if the tool is plugged into a faulty (poorly grounded outlet) or use with one of those 3-wire to 2-wire adapters (with grounding wire supposed to connect to the outlet screw – on the theory that it provides a low impedance path to ground) – you may be in for a rude awakening. We like to bring portable GFCI protection with us to jobsites – to provide an extra measure of protection.

  6. Brau says:

    I have a beauty of an old Craftsman jigsaw of this vintage that still works … but it only sits on a display shelf. I really love the cool art deco look of these old metal bodied tools but have to admit the newer ones are safer and in most cases better.

  7. PutnamEco says:

    I’m a big fan of tools made before planned obsolescence was factored into production. I wish I had kept a lot more of my old tools. I’m still kicking myself for some that I let get away. I still use some of the one I didn’t let get away from me in the shop, I don’t usually take them to jobsites unless I’m working alone.
    I have a slightly different recollection of when we lost the metal bodied tools. Guys I know thought the plastic tools were the manufacturers trying to save money. (On some tools they where correct, Black & Decker did make a less durable version of their circular saw with plastic a component in its price cutting, but in the case of their new line of Sawcats was an improvement) I for a long time thought that new has got to be better, was first to be willing to try this new wave of tools, quickly learned some of the benefits of these new plastic handled tools. One of my favorite reasons where that they tended to stay away from the extremes in temperature, when it is hot out, you don’t burn your hands, when it is cold, your hands don’t go numb as fast. You also don’t live in fear of a rain or dew soaked tool. It is to bad that in the long run my associates have proven themselves to be right, and many of those old metal bodied tool brands have evolved into a sad lot of cheap Chiwanese garbage not fit for any jobsite.

  8. johnnyp says:

    I have dad’s old Craftsman which is quite similar. This machine takes 3 x 27 paper was gear driven and has 3 rollers. A friend had told me in shop class they attach 100′ cords, sit on top and drag race. He is an old friend that stands 6′-3″ at 250 and that thing had no problem pulling him around

  9. fred says:


    I’m with you in the thought that some recent changes in tools have been made not in the name of improvement – or even to provide different options – but rather to cheapen things up. Some tools have improved considerably. I think that when the Germans (Bosch, AEG et. al.) introduced better blade support on their jig saws it started a wave of improved models. Electronic speed control on routers, soft start on routers and grinders, better/safer PATs , cordless nail guns, easier blade changing on jig saws and reciprocating saws and the whole revolution in battery-powered tools have all been improvements that I’ve seen in the nearly 50 years of my work life. BTW I still have 1 B&D Super Sawcat that was way ahead of its time with its flash of light electronic blade brake.

  10. PutnamEco says:

    fred says:
    I still have 1 B&D Super Sawcat
    I still use mine on occasion, Next to impossible to find parts for now, Does have one weak spot, fan separates from armature, surprisingly seen most often on the regular (builders) Sawcat without the brake.

    I dream of one, made of titanium and carbon fiber.

  11. Steve says:

    I just got a old fury sabre saw. I am nervous to plug it in and I don’t think its worth replacing the cord. It is in great shape, but it lacks saftey features of modern power tools.

  12. fred says:

    One more observation about older tools – particularly saws –
    We try to keep our older Skil 77’s going – some sporting Big Foot attachments – because I see nothing better (and a lot worse) in the current market to replace then. In contrast – we recently replaced a Makita 16+ inch beam saw with a new one – and the new one seems to be better made.

  13. dreamcatcher says:

    What, nobody mentioned the weight of those old behemoths!?!!?

    I think that the arm and joint destroying weight of the old metal bodied tools was a significant factor in the cheapening, a.k.a. plastic-ification, of those tools. As a modern day professional remodeler and daily user of these tools, I am thankful for the weight savings over their ancestors. I will happily accept that my tools are made cheaply if it means that I will still be able to painlessly move my arms when I am 65.

    Sometimes in our romanticized memories of “the way things used to be”, we forget the way things used to be.


  14. Gary says:

    I do like the looks of the all metal bodied vintage power tools. But for using, I’ll stick with modern portable power tools, vintage hand tools and north american made stationary power tools. Weight being the primary driver for me. I also recall a guy getting beat up by a big metal bodied drill that got stuck. Thought it was going to break his wrist. It was a sad thing to see the art deco body styles go though.

  15. fred says:


    I don’t think anyone but Paul Bunyon or John Henry – would want to use one of our old PC belt sanders to sand a vetrical surface – but on the horizontal – the weigt and the power combined together actually help

  16. PutnamEco says:

    Gary Says:
    I also recall a guy getting beat up by a big metal bodied drill that got stuck.

    I’ve got an old B&D drill that I break out on occasion, when someone starts bragging/complaining how powerful/dangerous Hole Hawgs are. I have not met anyone who can hold it back when it binds up a bit. Makes the Hole Hawg feel like a toy.

  17. fred says:


    We have an old Thor Drill – use it strictly for mixing mud – I swear that it looks like they just repackaged a washing machine motor and put some pipe handles on it – it would be an armbreaker too if we used it where torque reaction were a possibility.

    The old B&D’s that I recall sort of look like a blimp – and ans i recall used a toggle switch to turn them on and off. The newer Milwaukee 3/4 inch chuck drills are also pretty torquey


    BTW – we als have an old Thor rock drill which is a beast

    Years ago – I learned an old lineman’s trick for avoiding torque-reaction when using big ship augers – just chuck them in a auxillary chuck mounted on a 1/2 or better yet 3/4 inch electric impact wrench.

  18. Andy says:

    I have the identical belt sander. Cord has been replaced, and motor rewound some years back, but works fine. The challenge is finding belts. If you have a source where you don’t have to buy min. 50 of one grit, please advise.

  19. Chris says:

    I just found the exact same belt sander pictured above (but in pristine condition in a metal case) in my deceased Dad’s shop. Any idea how old it is?

  20. silvia says:

    hello. i have a 1947 sterling 1000 electric sander. can anyone give me an idea of its value…

  21. Dean Darby says:

    I have a locamotive wolf bs3b belt sander could any one give me an idea of what its worth

  22. David Tipton says:

    My girl found an old Rockwell 3×21 Belt Sander ofher dads. Whats it worth. Its like brand new in origunal box.

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