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Manufacturers Index - Buss Machine Works, Inc.

Buss Machine Works, Inc.
Marlboro, NH; Holland, MI; Grand Rapids, MI; Benton Harbor, MI, U.S.A.
Manufacturer Class: Wood Working Machinery

History
Last Modified: Mar 6 2019 12:15PM by Jeff_Joslin
If you have information to add to this entry, please contact the Site Historian.

Charles Buss left J. A. Fay & Co. in 1848 to establish a machine shop in Marlboro, NH. There is a patent, issued on May 6, 1856, to Charles Buss for a non-racking handheld vise. This is the only evidence known for what Buss was making before 1867. It does seem, though, that he operated briefly under his own name, Charles Buss, and then as Charles Buss & Son.

A historical survey of woodworking in 1955-56 Hitchcock's Wood-Workers' Digest Directory says that Buss Machine Works was founded in 1862, and an ad in the same place says likewise. In 1867 Buss's eldest son, George F., joined him and they began making the first planers designed for fine work. The company relocated to Grand Rapids in 1878; by that time Buss's other three sons—Henry C., Edward, P. and Wendell R.—had joined the firm as well. By 1889 they employed 55 workers.


The Buss delivery wagon (1872)

This company was reportedly the first North American woodworking machinery maker to use ball bearings, sometime in the first decade of the 20th century.

By 1959 Buss was a division of Greenlee Bros. & Co. Buss seems to have disappeared in the 1960s or thereabouts. The 1964 Hitchcock's lists them, but there are no ads or listed distributors. Buss's super-heavyweight planers are still a common sight on the used market, and some parts are still available (see below).

The rights to Buss planers were owned by Micromatic Textron. In April 2005 the rights were acquired by Kenrie Inc.

A tablesaw in the Photo Index labeled as "The Buss / Pentwater Machinery Co. / Pentwater, Mich" suggest the possibility that some Buss designs were acquired by Pentwater. That tablesaw is very similar to a Buss tablesaw in our Photo Index.

Parts and Service for Buss Machinery

Parts and service Buss planers are available from Kenrie Inc. in Holland, MI. Kenrie was founded by long-time Micromatic employee Ken Vennesland.

So far as we know, all Buss machines except planers are now orphaned: parts and service are not available.

Serial Numbers

The first two digits of the serial number gives the year of manufacture.

Locations

  • Marlboro, NH: 1848 to at least 1875.
  • Grand Rapids, MI: 1886 and likely earlier, to 1916.
  • Holland, MI: 1916 to at least 1957.
  • Benton Harbor, MI: 1891 and likely earlier. This location was their factory not their headquarters.

Information Sources

  • The following quotation is from the 1891 work, History of the City of Grand Rapids, Michigan, by Albert Baxter, and is available online.
    BUSS MACHINE WORKS—Charles Buss, the founder of the Buss Machine Shops, was an early inventor. It is stated that while learning his trade he invented the revolver or six-barreled pistol from which Colt took the idea and obtained the first patent, Buss not feeling able to patent his invention at the time. The Buss Machine Works have yet the old revolver which he afterward patented. Early in life he developed great mechanical ingenuity, making a complete steam engine that a thimble would cover. After acquiring his trade, the J. A. Fay Company of Cincinnati [actually, the Cincinnati branch did not exist when Buss worked for Fay.], manufacturers of wood-working machinery, employed him to help develop some of their machines. In 1848 he established at Marlboro, N. H., a machine: shop which was the foundation of the present business of the Buss Works, and in 1867 George F., the eldest son, became a partner, and they began the improvement of planers, making the first panel planers for fine work, which took a first prize in Massachusetts in 1869. In 1878 they removed to Grand Rapids and established the present works at 36 and 38 Mill street, opposite Hastings; the firm then comprising Charles Buss and his four sons, George F. Buss, Henry C. Buss, Edward, P. Buss and Wendell R. Buss. Here they began further improvements in wood working machinery, and made a specialty of machines adapted to the manufacture of furniture, organs, pianos and fine cabinet wares; and with such success that they have constructed machines for 400 or more factories in the United States. Their improved special furniture planer, the first of its kind; carving machine for free-hand carving, and patent carving machine; the patent dado machine of George, F. Buss, and the glue jointer, have met with phenomenal favor. George F. Buss, who has been at the head of the firm since their location here, is a native of New Hampshire, who learned his trade thoroughly, in all its details, and at seventeen years of age was able to command high wages as a skilled mechanic. The Buss Machine firm has grown to be known in every large city and town in the United States. The buildings are of brick, 48 by 100 feet, three floors, and 35 by 100 feet, one floor; pattern room, 48 feet square. Capital invested, $80,000; annual output about $86,000; men employed, 55, with a monthly pay roll of about $3,000. George F. Buss is president and treasurer (1889), with Wendell R. Buss as manager and superintendent.
  • Listing in the 1874 work, Wiley's American iron trade manual of the leading iron industries of the United States as follows: "C. Buss & Son. Machinery"
  • Listed (as Charles Buss & Sons) in a work published by the United States Centennial commission, Official Catalog of the 1876 International Exhibition, as a maker of "rotary bed paneling planers, band saw, lathes, slotter, slitter, cutting up machines."
  • An 1896 city directory of Benton Harbor lists several people as employees of Buss Machine Works.
  • An ad in a 1920 issue of The Wood-Worker lists a used dowel machine from this company.
  • An ad in a 1957 issue of "Canadian Woodworker" gives their Holland, MI, address. Their exclusive Canadian representative was Preston Woodworking Machinery.
  • An ad in a 1959 issue of "The Wood-Worker" indicates that Buss machine Works, Inc. of Holland, MI, was a division of Greenlee Bros. & Co. of Rockford, IL.
  • A correspondent reports an 8" Buss jointer, made in Grand Rapids, and with a brass dealer's label showing it came from Wardell & Hinckley Machinery, Chicago. That firm was in business from 1875 to October, 1884.
  • Thanks to correspondent Tom Salisbury for bringing our attention to the Kenrie purchase of the Buss parts and service business.