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Restoring a magical woodworking machine

5/6/2012 6:20:23 PM

Tags: Woodworking, Tim Snyder

 I’ll admit to being a tool junkie. So it’s no surprise that I regularly cruise the “tools for sale” section of Craigslist. One Saturday, about 6 months ago, I struck gold (or what I hoped would be gold). The post just said “Zinken combination machine, inherited from an uncle. Not sure if it works.”

I knew about these Italian-made woodworking machines because I’d used one back in the 1980s, before the U.S. importer went out of business. These ingeniously designed machines pack multiple woodworking functions into a single compact unit. One motor, with a single toggle switch to change from tablesaw to jointer to shaper and back again. I was full of curiosity when I drove to check out the machine. Would it work? Was this the same model I used 30 years ago?

Combination woodworking machines have always been popular in Europe, mainly because woodworkers have much smaller workspaces. Packing the functions of several big stationary machines into a single unit really saves space. Here in the U.S. even amateur woodworkers usually have the luxury of a 2-car garage, a spacious basement or even a dedicated outbuilding. Consequently, combi machines have never caught on in a big way.

But I’ve always been fascinated with the economy of using a single motor and a single platform to power multiple woodworking functions. My Craigslist Zinken (of course I had to buy it) is even smaller than the one I used earlier in my woodworking career. Amazingly, this “MIA6” model has a meager 17in.X16in. footprint, but manages to include a 3in.X6in. thickness  planer, 6in. jointer, 6in. tablesaw (with a sliding table!), shaper and horizontal mortise. Yes, you read that right.

The photo shows most of these functions. It also shows the miter gauge I fabricated because the original was missing. Many of the steel parts were frozen with rust, and I had to disassemble entire sections  of the Zinken in order to get things working again. Turning the machine over revealed an astonishing arrangement of thin, flexible drive belts and a broken toggle switch (for changing functions) I had to replace with my own shop-made version.  

Woodworkers are a very collegial bunch. Soon after acquiring my Zinken, I posted the news on a couple of woodworking websites, asking for manuals, parts lists, etc. Within a couple of weeks I was corresponding with a woodworker in Italy and one in Australia. These guys helped me acquire a user’s manual and a collet that enables the Zinken’s shaper to hold router bits. Thanks guys. Today, after much work, the MIA6 is fully functional again. If you want to see a video that shows a present-day version of this amazing machine in action, check out the “Valentina 1500” at http://www.zinkendesigner.net/?lang=en  



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