Automatic Machining's Last Issue

By Lloyd Graff

My daughter Sarah does funerals virtually every week as a Rabbi in Palo Alto, California. She has a knack for capturing the essence of the person who just died. She talks to the family, selects stories, brings in her own remembrances and embroiders the eulogy with texture and empathy. I thought about her eulogies before I started to write this piece about the death of Automatic Machining Magazine because I hope to strike a truthful and empathetic tone. Automatic Machining started almost 70 years ago under the name Screw Machine Engineering in Rochester, N.Y. Don Wood, its founder, had a background in the screw machine industry and saw an opening for a publication that catered to the people who produced precision components.

The magazine found its niche in the heyday of National Acme, New Britain, Brown & Sharpe and Davenport. Used machinery dealers, like Graff Pinkert and Co. coveted space in the back of the publication. It became the primary advertising venue for the business. Everybody read the back of the book and the Automatic Machining staff bent over backwards to accommodate a tribe of dealers and tooling guys who knew nothing about print advertising.

Don Wood was a machining guy who filled his pages with the stuff of the industry. People liked it because it was authentic and didn’t try to be more than it could be.

Simplicity and Don Wood’s personal and heartfelt columns gave Automatic Machining its voice. Its niche was small, but Wood and his advertisers defined it clearly enough to fend off larger competitors in the machining realm. Wood was a smart business person in his prime, staying under the radar of magazines like American Machinist and Modern Machine Shop while developing a following in the screw machine crowd with his folksy and sometimes whimsical approach. The competition finally found him around the year 2000 but Don continued to keep a following into his 80s. Don’s son, Wayne, worked in the business, but refrained from developing his own visible presence in Automatic Machining. The industry changed rapidly to one dominated by European and Japanese builders focusing on CNC equipment. Automatic Machining was a CAM operated magazine; a Davenport in a CNC world. When the bottom fell out of the market in recent months the magazine’s resources were depleted.

As a longtime advertiser and recent competitor, I mourn the loss of the Don Wood Automatic Machining era. I feel a sense of loss for his rugged and durable creation.

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7 thoughts on “Automatic Machining's Last Issue

  1. Angie Lourance

    Wow, that was kind of depressing but a sign of the times unfortunately. In the manufacturing business we have felt the pressure of the economy but still persevering. I was not familiar with this particular publication but from your article, those subscribers will I am sure miss the magazine.

  2. Dan Murphy

    I will certainly miss Automatic Machining magazine. I feared this would happen after Don passed. He was the magazine in so many ways.

    I’m wondering what will happen to the treasure trove of history he collected over the years. It would be a real shame for all of those old pictures, brochures, and press releases to get tossed.

  3. Noah

    Dan,

    Not saying it’s not an important loss but why would people want to see ancient brochures and press releases?

  4. Jeff

    It’s sad to see another company go under. As I contemplate the future of my own company, I wonder how long can this go on. I was not a big reader of the magazine as my business is geared to lower volume CNC specialty items, but the loss of Automatic Machining is another sign of the times that we live in. Hopefully things will get better.

  5. Nitin Shankar

    Dear Lloyd,
     
    This was a great editorial and brought a lump to my throat.
     
    I used to work for Brown & Sharpe and sold screw machines for them in India. Now, like the magazines mentioned in your editorial, it is just another brand name known only to old timers.
     
    Manufacturing provides jobs and I believe that a country that neglects its manufacturing base is doomed to die a slow economic death.
     
    I mentioned this belief to Gary Girdvainis, publisher of ‘International Watch’, a New England-based watch magazine and he agreed with me. We talked about the booming watch industry in Switzerland and the struggling one in the U.S., which once boasted names like Bulova and Timex.
     
    Times change and we can’t fight the tide…

  6. Rob Sandberg

    I am sad to see the end of automatic Machining. My company use to run adds it selling cam blanks under the River Point Co.brand name. Automatic Machining was our prefured choice because of the exposure and contact’s and friend’s we made. My farther Bob Sandberg Sr. bought the product line about 20 +/- years ago. From Mr. Bill Schultz founder of River Point Tool Co. I worker with Bill till He retired a few year’s later. Florida was calling. I have seen the good and rough times selling Cam’s. The last 4 Years were tuff. We thought we might drop the line. Around December I wade a friend at Southwick & Meister Mr Bob Meister He started to buy blanks from me. I thought this odd since he has made cams for year’s. But whatever I figured maybe he had a down machine and was unable to make them. He need them so I sold them. A few months later I was told by a new customer Southwick was getting out of the Cam business. And in his letter he told his customers to call me. I was quite honored be this the so called passing of the torch. I must say that sales have been great. It’s my personal opinion that there are still a lot of shops that still run screw machines just by the qty’s of blank’s and the varying sizes going out the door. When the UPS driver has to put on a weight lifting belt befor he start’s that’s a good thing. I was working on some new adds for Automatic Machining and was saddened by the end of the magazine. But in the sprite of Mr wood’s I will make them as long as our industry needs them.

  7. D, Bruce

    I would be interested in seeing the sections of the magazines where the different guys would offer solutions to some maching problems that they had encountered.
    That was an eye opening section that offered an opportunity for growth and vision.

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