The Woodworking Shop at Boeing’s Red Barn Part 1: Power Tools


The Museum of Flight in Seattle Washington

Today I traveled to the Museum of Flight in Seattle with my wife and daughter. Although I’ve lived in Seattle my entire life, and I can count at least three relatives that have worked at Boeing, and I have at least three relatives that were aviators during World War II, I’ve never been.

The fact that I hadn’t been to the museum yet was pretty shameful, so I fixed that today. And I’m glad I did.

The Museum is located just South of Seattle at the Boeing airfield and has a ton of military and commercial aircraft from the dawn of flight to today, including vehicles from the space program. Airplanes old and new, large and small are stationed inside and outside for you to explore and some times touch. Many planes actually hang from the ceiling, and today there was an active duty Navy patrol plane in the parking lot and the crew was giving tours. They have a mockup of the Destiny module of the International Space Station, and are working on getting a Space Shuttle. It’s a top-notch museum that is affiliated with the Smithsonian, when you come to Seattle you definitely need to visit.

But that’s not what this blog post is about, because this is a woodworking blog.

The Boeing Red Barn

At the dawn of aviation airplanes were made of wood, canvas, and wire by very skilled craftsman working to strict tolerances. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the Museum of Flight feature the original Boeing workshop known as the Red Barn. It’s well restored and although the entrance is adjoined to the main museum when you walk in the sweet smell of wood helps you transition back in time to 1909 when the workshop first opened.

Red Barn Exterior2

Natural light floods into the building through plenty of tall windows, and the wood inside imparts a glow that every woodworker would appreciate. The building has been expertly restored and maintained, including a tool area that includes some of the original tools that were used by Boeing employees decades ago to build not only a company, but an industry. Dear Santa, please bring me that woodshop for Christmas.

The Antique Power Tools at Boeing’s Red Barn

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From right to left, you can see a bandsaw, jointer, the motor, a man working at a planer, and then a table saw in the corner.

The tools are powered by the 6hp Fairbanks Morse engine to my left which turns the shaft on the ceiling, and the tools connect to the shaft with belts. The shop must still work at times (probably for demonstrations) because there is a red emergency stop button near the engine, and it’s a new install. The tools are definitely big iron, and besides the lack of electric motors and safety guards they are the same ones you’d find in my shop.

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This bandsaw can definitely handle material with those big 36 inch diameter wheels. Notice that the wheels and backside of the blade are not enclosed, but it’s essentially the same saw we use today. The wheels are not cast iron, but most everything else is.

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Next to the bandsaw is a Perine Machinery Company Jointer. The signs in front of the tools were a little inaccurate, but I they usually listed the tool manufacturer. I hope when this guy worked around all those tools, pulleys, and whizzing belts he didn’t wear clothes that were so loose fitting. I like the hat and dress shoes though.

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The Fay Planer here has had some repairs, there’s a plywood piece to keep the belt from riding off a pulley, and a weld repairing the cutter head assembly. Fay planers are still available on eBay for sale. Again, note the exposed pulleys, belts, and gears. This is a 24 inch model so it has plenty of capacity, about twice the capacity of my lunchbox planer.

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The manufacturer of this table saw is not identified, and it’s clear that this saw was used for ripping and not cross-cuts. There is no miter slot or miter gauge, and the table is long and narrow. Although the sign lists this as a 12 inch table saw, I’m not sure that’s a 12 inch blade.

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The last power tool in the display is this lathe, which is really two separate pieces (headstock and tailstock) on a very stout bench. The manufacturer isn’t identified here, but I believe many of the tools were made locally. In a search I found that Perine Machinery (makers of the jointer) was likely local and could have made the lathe and other tools. This guy really should use a tool rest.

More to Come

Keep checking back to see the hand tools that were used in the shop, as well as some of the parts the shop produced and how they produced them.

Have you ever been pleasantly surprised by the role of woodworking during a museum visit? Have you been to a boat building museum, or seen a cooper at work? Share that experience by leaving a comment.

8 thoughts on “The Woodworking Shop at Boeing’s Red Barn Part 1: Power Tools

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention The Woodworking Shop at Boeing's Red Barn Part 1: Power Tools | Upper Cut Woodworks -- Topsy.com

  2. Alexis (the wife)

    Such a fun day and an added bonus to see the Red Barn! Glad I thought of the idea to go and visit it! Now if we can figure out how Santa can bring you that HUGE wood shop life would be great!

  3. Ian Mackay

    That’s pretty cool.

    I’m a little worried about the ‘wood’ workers. (ya, I went there) The guy on the jointer is doing it all wrong….he needs pressure on the outfeed side! 🙂

    Really nice that they tried to do a sort of recreation of the workshop environment.

    Thanks for sharing…

    Ian

  4. Matt Post author

    Hey Ian,

    Yeah those guys were not using proper technique, and their clothes were too loose. It was weird though, they were hollow and waxy. Unlike the real woodworkers I know, these guys don’t bleed — or breathe, or move, or eat, or actually get any work done.

  5. ecrusch

    That was a nice tour & article.
    Thanks a bunch, and if I’m ever in the area, I will be sure to go & check it out.

  6. Pingback: The Woodworking Shop at Boeing’s Red Barn Part 2: Hand Tools and Flying Machines | Upper Cut Woodworks

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