They say that necessity is the mother of invention. Unfortunately, around my little home shop I seem to run into a heck of a lot more necessity than I do invention.

Like all us home-shop hooligans. I love this hobby. There's nuthin' in the world like hoppin' behind the wheel of a hot rod you've built with your own two hands-especially if it meets two important requirements: It really works, and it doesn't actually look like you made it in your home shop. Meet these requirements and you've got it licked. Regrettably, that's not always how it works out in my case. Now don't get me wrong, it's not for a lack of trying; it's just there are occasions when my efforts don't quite end up as successful as I'd like. I'll have to admit most times it's a result of my less-than-professional talent, but sometimes the blame lies with not having the right tool for the job.

We all know there are lots of tools available that'll help us accomplish any task we'd ever run across. Unfortunately a large portion of 'em cost way more than the average hobbyist is willing or able to spend-and lot of 'em, especially metal-forming tools, are pretty large and take up a lot of precious space in the average garage. It's for just this reason that I'm always on the lookout for practical and affordable tools and equipment for the home shop, especially ones that will fit in my two-car garage-and, more importantly, that I have a remote chance of actually operating successfully.

I recently had the good fortune of running into a fella by the name of Dave Williams. Dave happens to live right around the corner from me, and he also just happens to be the brains (and brawn) behind a company by the name of Williams Lowbuck Tools. Those who recognize the Williams Lowbuck name know Dave's wares well, but for those who apparently live in the same bubble as I, he manufactures all kinds of metalworking tools and equipment that are, as the name implies, affordable to the average Joe. A recent visit to his shop was quite the experience. Dave's not only a heck of a nice guy (I wish I'd met him 10 years ago), but he's without a doubt one of those guys who's not only intrigued by all things mechanical, but also with how he can either improve an existing tool or process, or create a new one.

After the nickel tour and a look at the selection of metalworking tools he's made his reputation designing, building, and selling since 1978, Dave led me over to a corner of the shop and lifted a sheet draped over his latest creation-the Metal Machine.

The Metal Machine is actually a tool that can perform any or all of 10 different processes. By this I mean its one central fixture has the capability of being mounted with 10 different tool attachments (Dave calls them heads), each performing a different metalworking task. These heads-an English Wheel, a planishing hammer, a sheetmetal shear, a louver press, a box and pan brake, a sheetmetal punch, a bead roller, a shrinker/ stretcher, and radius- and angle-forming die assemblies-all mount to a large floor-standing C-throat assembly akin to a miniature English wheel. The really unique thing about the Metal Machine is that instead of purchasing a rather large and heavy C-throat assembly and having it shipped to your location, Williams Lowbuck Tools provides you with the main component: the master front faceplate, along with instructions on how to fabricate the balance of the C-throat yourself, which saves Dave a lot of work and you a bunch of money.

The accompanying images will give you a good idea of just what I've been rambling on about, so check 'em out. I'm pretty darned sure you'll be as excited as I was with the Metal Machine's capabilities, and keep your eyes peeled because I'll be building my own Metal Machine in an upcoming issue, as well as taking an individual look at the various tool heads and how to use them. So, until then, check out the Metal Machine, and I'd strongly suggest taking a look at the Williams Lowbuck Tools Web site, because I'm sure you'll find some cool tools you just can't live without.

Williams Lowbuck Tools