Lee Valley Tools Woodworking Newsletter
Vol. 3, Issue 5
June 2009
Improving a Wonderful Wonder Tool

Wonder Tool: new (foreground) and old (background)
The original "Wonder Tool" is seen in the background. The replica, made by the author, is seen in the foreground.

Still going strong, this simple machine has meant so much to four generations of woodworkers. My dad started it all by purchasing a $14 Mead 1"x42" wonder tool.

In the early 1940s, the Mead Specialties Co. of Chicago, Illinois, made one of the first small belt sanders. Advertised as "The Wonder Tool", it profiled, smoothed, polished, ground, sanded, carved and cleaned—a large order for a small machine. Since it's a safe piece of equipment, dad entrusted me to use it with no supervision at the age of seven. Without the gift of this tool, I might never have become a woodworker. It opened a whole new world of creativity for me, giving me an open gateway for my designs, styles and ideas.

My dad was a super designer and an exhibit expert who built displays inside his 182' three-masted schooner with the help of this fine tool. I eventually ended up with his worn-out machine, which I rebuilt and gave to my son, another marine woodworker. I replicated one in wood to keep my shop going. After I made some improvements, it worked so well that I made a few more and gave them to other woodworkers.

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