The Internet Craftsmanship Museum Presents:

Al Osterman

Machine Shops in Miniature

Al Osterman's work was recommended by Ralph Koebbeman, a purchaser of one of Mr. Osterman's shop models.  

Al Osterman poses with one of the 1/6 scale machines he makes for customers who demand the best in vintage miniature machine tool models. This particular model is a hand operated planer. (Click photo for larger image.)

Miniature tools and shops interest Al Osterman

Al Osterman was born in February, 1925 and has been making a living working in metal since 1949. Though he was raised in farming and nursery work, a change in the direction of his life and a love of working in metal caused Al to decide to make his living in his own shop. His shop now consists of lathes, milling machines, drill presses, welding and heat treating equipment. He also has a broad range of hand tools that relate to his chosen field.

Al’s main interest is machine designs of long ago. Most of his work is made to order for customers. Occasionally he will make a machine that really catches his interest on a freelance basis with the plan to sell it later on when he finds a buyer. Recently, he made a “Little Giant” power hammer that falls into this category. He generally builds to the scale of 2 inches to the foot, or 1/6 size.

When it comes to authenticity, Al is a stickler for detail. He insists on making all parts in the original material in which they were built. If a part was brass, it is brass in the model. If the original part was cast iron, it is cast iron in the project, and so on. Parts are not actually cast, as it is not practical to make molds for one casting. To duplicate the shapes of what were originally castings, parts are machined from solid cast iron stock and built up to match the shape of the original.

Al learned his craft by attending night school and observing work in progress at local machine shops while asking “a zillion questions.” He started working on miniature models late in his career and has no firm plans for the future. He still works full time in his shop and says he never tires of the work at hand.

The late 19th century machine shop project displayed on this page was built for Ralph Koebbeman and is now in his proud possession in Illinois. All the machines are functional, although the small scale makes demonstration difficult. Mr. Koebbeman says the shop most likely would have been powered by a gasoline engine, but he had a nice steam engine of the proper scale already on hand, so he fitted it up to power the overhead shaft and leather belt drive system. The steam engine sits outside the shop and is not visible in the photos submitted. Many small details also make the shop more lifelike. Study the details and you will see not only beautiful machines, but barrels for trash and scrap, hammers, vises, drills, a clock on the wall—all the things that make a shop look real. This shop took about a year to build. An article about it by Mr. Koebbeman appeared in the Miniature Arms Society newsletter in July, 1998.

Here are several examples of Al Osterman's work:

(Click photos for larger images.)

Detailed here is a typical machine shop as it might have appeared near the end of the 1800's. This photo shows a detail of the workbench where you can see drill bits, files, screwdrivers and a bench vise. On the wall you can see a hacksaw and a working clock. A modern quartz movement drives the clock which is of a style authentic to the period.

In this photo the overhead drive system can be seen. Leather belts connected to the overhead pulleys drive each individual machine. An engine outside the shop drives the overhead shafts and handles at each machine allow the operator to engage or disengage the drive and change the speeds.

A Brown and Sharpe horizontal mill is shown here on a separate pedestal before it was installed in the shop. On the mill table is a dividing head. On the floor are an oil can, mill vise, angle plate and various tools. A red pencil is used to show the scale of the machine.
Dial calipers give scale to the tools in this view of the shop. A Brown & Sharpe plain milling machine is in the foreground.
A detail of the Putnam planer shows it on a pedestal before it was installed in the shop diorama. Beneath it is the overhead pulley used to connect the leather drive belt to the shop's power system.

This 4" Charles Parker vise is like the one in Al's shop. Though made in the 1940's or 1950's, the design goes back to the late 1800's. A thimble gives you an idea of the small size.

Al once owned a Barnes lathe like this one and took drawings and dimensions off it before he sold it. This model was made from those plans. The original lathe was made in about 1880. Sitting beneath the lathe is the overhead pulley used in the shop which was an accessory for the lathe.
A drill press typical of the era includes a part clamped to the table with miniature clamps. A pencil shows size scale. The model was built based on an example from about 1900 that had no brand name on it.
This pedestal grinder is not modeled after a particular prototype but is typical of the many offered in that era. On the operator's left is a rough wheel and a finer grinding wheel is on the right. The bench vise and a thimble can be seen on the base.

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