April 2, 2014

Do you know what this is?

The Oskaloosa Herald


This past week's artifact from the Nelson Pioneer Farm is a Post Drill Press.

Several people ventured guesses as to the identity of the artifact.

Richard Van Weelden wrote a letter in which he writes: “ The picture in Herald of March 26 is a Hand operated drill press.”

Dorothy Vos wrote via email: “The artifact is a hand operated drill press.  It is attached to a wooden studding in the Nelson Barn.  When the first Craft Festivals were held in the early 70’s it is one of the antique pieces of hand tools that were used for demonstrations.  The Nelson barn is full of old hand operated tools.

Pat Ancell also wrote in an email. He said, “This is a hand operated drill press. Side crank turns the drill. Top ring has a ratchet that drives down the press. We had one like this where Larry attached a motor and belt to the flywheel to drive the drill.

Dan Kalbach wrote via email: “I'm betting you get a lot of correct answers on this one.  Pictured is a "post drill", which basically was an early hand-cranked version of the modern drill press.  Very handy indeed, a ratchet/screw mechanism applied pressure to the drill bit as the crank was turned.  Because of the low speed, and great force applied to the work piece, a post drill was capable of drilling hardened steel.

Jay Bruxvoort also wrote in an email: “ This is an early version of what we call a drillpress. While you turn the handle on the right to turn the bit; the wheel on the top is rotated by the cam arm to move the bit down.  My grandfather had one of these in his barn and we had a lot of fun playing with it.”

Nelson Pioneer Farm Curator Kelly Halbert has done some research on the artifact. She wrote: “Post Drill Press

This artifact hangs in the wood working shop in the Nelson Barn. Called a Post drill or Wall drill, these are a modification of the drill press for use by the small workshop. Manufactured around the end of the 19th century through the 1940s, these hand-powered tools were manufactured by many tool companies: Champion Blower and Forge, Rockwell Manufacturing, Silver Manufacturing, Canady & Otto, and Acme all built post drills for sale to farmers across America. There is no manufactures name on the drill in the Nelson Barn.

Post drills are basically hand cranked drill presses that resemble modern drill presses without a floor stand. These drills were very popular because a drill press has a number of advantages over the hand-held tool. Both were powered by hand, but the post drill was easier to use. Many small improvements resulted in the post drill being more convenient that both the floor press and the hand held press. Size was a factor, the first requiring floor space, the second was too small to use efficiently. Technological improvements lessened the work load - a fly wheel to maintain momentum from the hand crank and ball bearings to reduce friction. In addition the drill had a fixed position which allowed the worker to drill holes accurately and consistently. Purchased through a catalog at the general store and shipped to shop or farmer, it was easy to set them up on a board and bolt them to a post or beam in the barn.

Rural power meant electricity to the barns and the end of the post drill. Some were adapted with pulleys and belts to be run from a small engine. Eventually corded power tools and hand drills replaced the post drill.


The Oskaloosa Herald and the Nelson Pioneer Farm are teaming up to test your knowledge of historical artifacts.

The Nelson Pioneer Farm has about 15,000 artifacts in its collection spanning in age from the 1840s to the present.

The Herald will take a picture of an artifact and publish it in the Herald section of the Oskaloosa Shopper, The Oskaloosa Herald an the Herald's Web site, www.oskaloosa.com. People can make a guess on what they think the object could be.

People can either email their guess to oskynews@oskyherald.com or mail their guess to The Oskaloosa Herald, P.O. Box 530, Oskaloosa, IA 52577. You can vote from Wednesday through Saturday.

The identity of the artifact and the vote breakdown will be announced in each Wednesday's Herald Shopper along with the week's new artifact.

Herald Editor Duane Nollen can be reached by email at oskynews@oskyherald.com