This is an American 6″ moulder. An advertisement refers to it as new and improved in 1889 and as a 7″ machine. The top head will accept a 7″ head. This model is from the Levi Houston line. It dates from the short period of time after 1897 when machines of the various companies merged into the American Wood Working Machine Co were double “badged”, both names cast into the machine frames.


Shown here in a new location, with a fresh set of belt and motor guards. I drive it with a 5 hp Century motor. I enjoy using this machine. It is not my favorite but it often surprises me by being pretty easy to use and by doing a nice job.

Machines of this age were not necessarily intended to have dust collection. That is why the chip breaker hood is curved to send chips into a pile on the floor beside the machine. The side heads generally make light cuts. The bottom head delivers chips to the floor.

I use this machine for small patterns. The men who ran it before me also preferred it for small patterns, some quite intricate.

The large pulley against the wall was on the lineshaft once and is sized to drive a dust blower for a Berlin sander.

This machine is very similar to the 1871 Houston except that this has a single piece frame. The movement toward a monolithic frame was an effort to prevent racking with it’s consequent negative impact on the bearings. In an advance from other early machines, this model has an inside head which can be adjusted. The 4 ” Houston had a fixed inside head which requires the extra attention with the setting of the knives. At that time, I believe the inside head was mostly regarded as somewhat a jointing head with not much expected of it. Many machines were made with out inside heads at all.

This is the inside head of a 4″ Houston. It is completely fixed. Got to get the knives set perfect with this arrangement. Like I say, inside heads kinda seem like an after thought. But it’s useful nonetheless. And the outfeed fence adjusts in advance of the bottom head.

The 6″ machine addressed this by providing lateral and elevation adjustments. Not as sophisticated as the outside head but a big step towards the apex of sticker evolution.

Another improvement was to make it possible to remove or add knife bolts as needed. The little 4″ shown above has its t-slot bolts captive between bearing caps. the 6″ machine addresses this with additional spindle space.


This machine excels with small details. Glass bead is a fussy little pattern that has to be just so. Little patterns like to break up so I try to get them on top and bottom only and leave the side heads alone. This is a short dab I needed for a special project. So I put the pattern on the top and sized at the bottom.

These machines were built when most men ran patterns on the top. In this case, where I am getting a side as well from the top, It is necessary to run proud of the bed. Some machines have slotted bed plates for side swiping. Not these older ones. But, no problem, just slice away at the bottom too.

This is a look at obsolete tooling. Except for static museum displays, this kind of tooling should never be used.

These are called spikes. W H Rohr in “Machine Molder Practice”, 1919, Indianapolis. gives a good accounting of the use of spikes. They alow for an infinite variety of work. These are carbon steel. The man who made these was very good at the forge and at the emery wheel. Carbon steel can develop a super nice edge.

There are two kinds of caps. These, which require a partner and single side which have a forged and ground shoulder that bears on the head in place of a knife. Knives must be the same thickness and knives, cap, bolt and nut from one side must balance on the scale with those from the opposite side.

Here we see how the spikes work. A good look at the Houston feed rolls. Unique. Usually the same size. The little one gets a little closer under the hood which is lifted out of the way here.

Here is the bottom head finishing the part. The bottom head gives a real fine finish and the work is so firmly supported that it is a good place to run against the grain and still get a good back on a pattern which is important here with glass bead used at eye level and which needs to fit perfectly. I run the show side with the grain which means that the back must run against it. Against the grain is where the small parts like to shatter in the machine. It is less frequent to shatter here than against the grain on top, and, big and, it is easier to un-jamb the machine here than at the top head.

The more selective one is with stock for small parts the better. Small parts are not necessarily the best use for rippings if there are a lot of reversals in the grain or knots or pitch — any of which will make running small moldings a headache.

The moulder has been moved to operate at the line shaft. So I had to put the tight/loose pulleys back on and build a shipper. This is the back of the shipper. Used part of an old one.

Here’s the other side. Running. Works good. This machine fires up well off the line shaft. Better that the bigger 8″ machine. I have more distance in the drive from the line shaft with this machine.



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