This company was founded in 1948, as Henniker Machine Co., by Merle R. Patenaude, Sr., who designed the sliding-arbor tablesaw, the "Versatile Saw" that was their primary product. By the mid-1970s, Patenaude found he was not making much money from each saw and sold the business to a local man; in those days of very high interest rates, the buyer ultimately got into financial difficulties and the business failed by the late 1980s, by which time the company was operating as Henniker Machine & Fabrication, Inc. Another local man, Bob Garrison of nearby Bradford, had a personal interest in the Versatile Saw because his uncle had been involved in the design of the saw. Garrison bought out the company and worked with his uncle to update the saw's design. A new company, Versatile Saw Corp., was formed to make and sell the updated Versatile Saw.
Unfortunately, Garrison faced growing competition from low-priced imports as well as from the increasingly popular chop saws and the new sliding compound miter saws. The well-built Versatile Saw had to be sold for at least $1500 to make any money. At one point when the company tried to get liability insurance they were given a price of $1200 per machine. The company was shut down in the early 1990s.
- This information comes from a couple of email correspondents, especially David Doud, plus a telephone conversation with members of the Patenaude family.
- A correspondent, whose neighbour owns a Henniker saw, reports that the president of Shopsmith inspected the neighbour's saw, and Shopsmith subsequently introduced a similar, but inferior, saw. A web page on the Shopsmith SawSmith 2000 tablesaw provides a different take on the story: Shopsmith Inc. founder John Folkerth visited the Henniker factory where the Versatile Saw was made and was impressed by the idea. That visit led to the introduction of the SawSmith 2000, which improved on the Versatile Saw by moving the blade-sliding handle below the table, which was arguably safer. The saw, however, was so under-built that it was immediately recalled to fix a serious problem where side pressure on the blade-sliding handle could deflect the blade by as much as ¼"; the "fixed" design was still under-built and was not a success.
- A 1948 Report from the New Hampshire Bureau of Labor lists Henniker Machine Co.
- A 1950 issue of Woodworking & Furniture Digest has a news item on this company: "VERSATILE SAW—Sixteen different features of the saw that 'does everything' are listed in a folder by the Henniker Machine Co., Inc. Two attachments, portable extension platen and table extensions are illustrated. Dept. WD, Henniker Machine Co., Henniker, N. H." There is also an ad but but Google Books' "Snippet View" does not let us see anything more of the ad than the company name.
- A 1954 issue of American Builder lists brand names, including "Versatile Saw—Henniker Machine Co., Henniker, N. H."
- A 1970 publication of the New Hampshire Planning and Development Commission, Made in New Hampshire, lists Henniker Machine Co., Western Ave., Henniker. The 1984 edition lists "Henniker Machine Division 5 PO Box 716 Western Ave. Henniker, 03242 603 428-nnnn Pres: Robert Garrison SUB VP: Robert I Stearns 1985 $250-500k 3599 Machine components, custom & production machining, machinery fabrication ..."
- The 1983 New Hampshire Register and Legislative Manual lists, under machinists in Henniker, N. H., Henniker Machine Co., Western Av.
- A 1984 issue of Wood and Wood Products lists Henniker Machine & Fabrication Inc. as makers of The Versatile Saw. A 1987 issue lists "Henniker Machine Division Western Av PO Box 716".