A ‘make-do’ is a term often used to describe damaged items that are repaired to remain functional — usually due to a combination of what was available, economics and a sense of thrift. Some of the repairs were rather modest, some were ingenious. An archetypical example of a ‘make-do’ is a piece of mochaware or similar pottery with a tin handle grafted on. Nowadays some folks collect make-dos for their quirkiness, functionality and price relative to other antiques which I think is fitting.
Earlier generations seemed to have a better sense of worth — if you invested all that time and money into the item, why not try to get as much use out of it as you can? I wish more folks today had that sentiment — it would help us get away from our disposable society.
Several years ago I bought a Delta X5 ‘Professional’ 6″ jointer. It’s a nice machine with an extra long bed for a machine of its size and generally well built. One big shortcoming on this machine is the large knob used to advance or retract the fence.
Within a few months of owning the machine this knob developed a crack. Apparently the knob was formed over a pinion gear that engages a rack connected to the fence.
When the knob slips you cannot advance the fence. At first I made do with the tape solution — ‘It’s only temporary unless it works‘. I lived with this headache for several years, running out the machine’s 5 year warranty in the meantime as I knew a replacement knob meant pulling that pinion and getting a knob that would likely fail the exact same way.
While at NBSS I saw several of this same model jointer come and go as donations — units from the 1980s-present and all seemed to have the same affliction — broken or missing knobs. The really old iron stationary tools (including old Delta/Rockwells) we had, had knobs with metal handles that served their purpose for generations.
I figured there must be a better way to fix this knob and make-do. So I picked up a variety package of band clamps and test fitted them to the knob. The 1-1/16″ size fit perfectly. I applied some CA glue to the knob, attached it to the jointer and cinched down the clamp.
It’s not pretty, but it’s a a great make-do solution — I finally have a working fence adjustment knob again and it cost me less than a buck.
I wonder if my make-do will become a collector’s item for some future generation of tool collector.
P.S. Why did I finally fix this knob after all these years? Yesterday the spring pin on the tilt wheel of my table saw was sheared off. Not from cranking overly hard on it, I assume due to metal fatigue. Apparently spring pins are not as common as they used to be as Delta no longer stocks the part, and other online tool parts suppliers and my local Home Depot, Lowes and True Value all did not have any in the correct size.
When I was ready to give up and search more online sources like Grainger or auto part stores I found that Harbor Freight was selling a set of 315 spring pins for $7, so I bit the bullet, went over there and bought the spring pin kit and a band clamp kit which was on sale for $5.99. While I would have liked to have purchased American made hardware for both of these projects I could not find anything else locally stocked that would fit the bill, so for about $13 these machines are up and running again and I have a drawer full of spares for the future. The old spring pin was driven out by using a roll pin punch and a hammer and the new pin was inserted by compressing the pin with some vise-grips and some light hammer taps to insert it. Both machines are back up and running and the shop is humming again.
If you have similar make-do tips, please feel free to share them in the comments section below.