Restoring a Magical Woodworking Machine

Reader Contribution by Tim Snyder
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Photo by Pixabay/Jurgen Sieber

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” here