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.