Sometimes it’s fun to see where we’ve come from. So we thought we’d look through our collection of vintage advertisements and share a few with our readers. In particular, old wood floor sanding machine ads.
The vintage advertisements we found below are from way back in the 1900’s through the 1930’s and up to the 1950’s. It gives a small glimpse into the evolution of our two most used machines for refinishing hardwood floors – the belt sander and edger.
This first ad is from a ‘American Builder’ magazine. I don’t have the exact date, but it would be from around 1910 – 1915…
The FREE-O-DUST Super from the Electric Rotary Machine Co – what a beauty. From what we have seen, this is the first try at making a floor sander dustless. It’s not quite up to today’s standards for dust free sanding, but it was a huge innovation at the time.
From the same ‘American Builder’ magazine is this beauty of an ad below from the American Floor Surfacing Machine Co…
It’s a snapshot of the change in the industry at the beginning of the industrial revolution – “ONE MAN ON HIS FEET IS WORTH SIX ON THEIR KNEES”. This really was the start of a HUGE change in how hardwood hardwood floors would be refinished from this point on. Prior to these new sanding machines, workers would literally be on their knees hand-scraping floors.
This next ad is from a ‘Canadian Carpenter and Builder’ magazine in 1913…
The Elliot Floor Sander. It looks like it’s just a motor and drum attached to a dolly with a handle. Notice there’s no guards over the belt or drum. Safety sure has come a long way since 1913. There seems to be no way to collect any dust either so I’m sure it made quite a mess as it was being used.
The ad below is from 1915. The cool thing about the Schlueter Rapid Floor Surfacer is that it was made right here in Chicago…
Looks like it would weigh a ton.
You can see that they have added a few more features to this sander, including a guard over the drum and a dust bag collector. I’m not sure if the lever on the handle is to raise and lower the drum or a quick safety off switch, maybe one of our readers could help fill in a few details about this cool looking machine. Looks like the drive belts are still out in the open though. Check out the small castor wheels at the front holding up the huge drum. I would LOVE to have one of these old sanders… so if you know the whereabouts of one please let me know.
Now we’re in the 30’s, November 1936 to be exact. This ad is from the American Floor Surfacing Machine Co which were one of, if not the first companies to mass produce hardwood floor sanders all the way back in 1903. The great thing about this company is that it’s still going strong today – 110+ years later…
You can see quite a lot of advances since 1915 with this sander. First of all it is much safer with the drum completely covered. The lever for lowering and raising the drum in a more ergonomic position on the handle and the dust bag and stack is centered so it’s more user friendly.
Notice the early type of edger in the ad too. This one was a mini belt sander unlike the disk edgers we use today.
Here’s another ad from the same company (these days called Clarke American Sanders) in 1956…
You can see the addition of the belt guard in this ad. It also came with “variable speed drum transmission and drum speed dial selector” which would have been a huge advancement over the standard sanders of the day.
It’s funny but belt sanders haven’t changed too much since this time other than getting lighter, more ergonomic and easier to transport.
One of the biggest changes since this model was probably in the 1970’s, when the paper went from having to cut and fit lengths of sandpaper from a big roll, to easy to use belts instead. That’s when these sanders went from being called ‘drum’ sanders to ‘belt’ sanders.
In the ad above you can also see the ‘new’ type of edger that was being offered. Instead of a mini belt the paper was now a rotating disk, which is still being used today as well.
That was kind of fun to see the progression of hardwood floor sanding machines through these ads. Again, if anyone has any more in-depth info about any of these machines we’d love to hear from you in the comment section below. We weren’t around when these machines were popular so we’re definitely not experts on them.
And if you have any vintage, antique floor sanders in the Chicago area that you don’t know what to do with, we’d be more than happy to provide a good home for them.
Updated June 2020