Mystery Lathe That Followed Me Home
for an ID
George Langford, Sc.D.
February 4, 2005
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Most probably this is a
came to me in a trade at the February 2, 2003, CRAFTS of New Jersey
It caught my eye because it's nearly complete, and because the parts
all in good condition. It swings about seven-and-a-half inches;
a four-inch swing over the cross slide. Someone had invested
a bit of effort in replacing some key parts: the crossfeed screws and
nuts (both the longitudinal and the transverse), the tailstock spindle
& its feed screw, particularly. What's missing are the
and the bed. The main parts were meant to be clamped to the bed
wing nuts and washers (two sets of which were included) that bore on
underside of the bed. That means the bed had to have a clear slot
down the middle so that the crossfeed saddle and tailstock could be
at will. What's holding them in alignment in the images is a pair
The longitudinal feed slide only swings about thirty degrees off the
of the workpiece; it's shown below at one of the maximum
The bearing areas of the crossfeed assembly and the tailstock on the
are tiny; neither component was intended to glide accurately along the
ways. There is only one lathe in Kenneth
L. Cope's book, American Lathe
Builders: 1810-1910, that has back gears and a stationary cross
slide resting on double-Vee shears. That one was made by
Amor & Bowker of New York City about 1880, but it has a more modern
of the spindle of this lathe bears against a dead center, and the main
appears to be bored directly into the iron headstock casting.
is an oil hole above the front bearing, but it appears never to have
an oil cup. The back gear mechanism is engaged quite unlike a
modern lathe, because the engagement is effected by pulling
out a pair of taper pins and sliding the gear carriage for and aft.
lathe in has the eccentric & lever mechanism that is familiar
to most machinists. The lack of a hole through the spindle, the
stationary cross slide, and the archaic back-gear mechanism together
indicate that the builder of this lathe had limited resources - a shop
lathe not much bigger than this one with only a steady rest to support
the new spindle while its center hole was bored - no planer to true the
ways of the bed - and little experience visiting or working with other
machine tool builders. Furthermore, the lathe is driven by a
round belt, not a Vee belt, indicating that it was made before anyone
contemplated the need for the high power to cut with high speed steel
Rear of headstock
has only a stubby little taper which one twists out with a wrench -
is no through hole in the spindle.
handle looks original.
dovetails are inlaid steel.