A couple of weeks back there was an interesting radio program about a tool expo in Dalton, Ohio that caters to Amish woodworkers. Although most of the attendees live off the grid and arrive in horse-drawn buggies, they are not there to look at retro tools — far from it.

Many Amish woodworkers use modern equipment, though they typically run air tools. The question that came up in web discussions of the radio program was: how do they power the compressor? Good question.

The Amish prefer to remain separate from the outside world and as they see it, you can’t be separate if you’re connected to the grid. Most won’t use electricity in the home but in many communities (each community makes its own rules) electricity can be used in a business, provided it is generated on site – which is done with propane or diesel generators or solar panels and batteries. This self-generated power can then be used to power hydraulics, compressors for air tools, and the overhead-shafts for belt-driven machines. A number of the exhibitors at the tool expo sell equipment for generating power.