Post By 4GSR
Axelson Machine Co and birth of Gearhead
The year is 1988. I am in Anaheim for a meeting. In the months prior to this trip I was persueing informatiion on Axelson Lathes. I was considering purchase on early 50's machine. A phone call to Houston dealer routed me to southern California. An invitation to drop in was extended. I arrived at a smallish building about a block from water front in Hunington Beach. I was greeted by Mr R. Axelson, grandson of Axelson Machine Co founder. He provided a level of machine after market care in form of document reproduction and small parts. Major machine items, castings, etc were provence of Houston licensee. Mr Axelson was consumate host, a gentleman of highest order. His son was in adjacent room editing a motion picture. During the hour or so I spent , I was shown a number of photos and documents. The most important an old bound essay type notebook. Contained within, serial number and build date of every Axelson lathe ever built. All hand entries in ink. Single spaced. The most impressive section about 3.5 pages of machines shipped to Soviet Union under provisions on Lend-Lease. About 200 machines, maybe more. A check of lend lease stats indicates around 6,500 American built lathes were shipped to Soviet allies under Lend-Lease. A few more Axelson factoids:
Company founded in 1896 as Axelson Machine Co. sometime between 1928 and 1936, relabled Axelson Manufacturing co
Company purchased by USI/Clearing Division 1954. 1100 employees. Shortly after purchase, employees voted to join International Association of Machinists. Prior, non-union. Two physical locations: Montebello where aircraft landing gear was produced. Vernon, location of foundry and build site for lathes and separate division for production of oil well pumps.
Lathes redisigned under USI. Squarish, trapezoidal headstocks. Sales were poor, lathe line
discontinued. Oil well pump production continues into present day.
As I researched for this post, I came across a remarkable document- the original pioneering patent submission of fully geared lathe headstock by Axelson employee Wilhelm Jardh. This is the quantum shift, the big enchilada. Submission year, 1924. Read the first few sentences, they say it all.
So, over the next few days, hoist a stein to Wilhelm Jardh and all his metal working brothers. Without their ingenuity and persistence, we would still be skiving cowhide.
I think the development of gearhead lathes significantly predated this Axelson patent- for two, L&S and ATW back prior to 1910 produced gearhead lathes, certainly by 1911 as documented by sales brochures. ATW if not L&S as well had fully geared trains as an option- no belts at all. I think Monarch was all gearhead by 1924. The drawings in the patent doc illustrate a design quite similar to those older Ohio machines; shaft positioning, sliding gear units, handle rotation driving a rack to move the gear units, etc. Which is not meant in any way as a criticism of Axelson.
It would be great to get some of those docs scanned and online for other Axelson owners & interested parties.
Lodge and Shipley was producing their fully geared "Selective Head" lathe by 1916 (and earlier, I think- but John Oder would know for sure). As Greg says, the drawings in the Jardh patent show a headstock remarkably similar to the L&S Selective Head design, which was in production at least eight years before.
The L&S "Patent Head" (which used a geared three speed countershaft, a three speed head, and one belt) was around until at least 1913, and additionally there was a more primitive geared head design in between the two.
Here is the fully geared (no belts) Lodge & Shipley Patent Head near its peak of development in the 1910 catalog. A 27" example of this lives in MO, and was offered a few times on Ebay.
A very few years after this the first ("old style" the L&S parts book says) fully enclosed, splash lubed, ball bearinged primary shaft Selective Head was for sale concurrent with the last of the belted Patent Heads.
News must of traveled very slowly to the left coast.
And as Andy mentioned, the "new style" Selective Head was in full production as of this 1916 catalog made possible here thanks to Mike C.
Last edited by johnoder; 07-04-2008 at 10:08 AM.
Reason: Add Link
And, of course, LeBlond also had full gear head lathes around 1910.
The Axelson pump company was later bought out by Guiberson in the late eighties early ninties and moved to Longview, Texas. Guiberson was later bought out by Halliburton and most of the Axelson pump division dissolved.
I have several Axelson brosures and a original operations manual scanned if anyone is interested in a copy of them. Please send a PM.
The right honorable gentlemen are of course correct with respect to gearhead chronicity. A more careful search of patent base yields submission by L&S assignor in 1904. Shoddy research on my part. A search of oil field services lists two companies with Axelson pump services; one in Ventura, the other Bakersfield. The Ventura location proclaims continual operation since 1892. Beyond that, I know nothing more.
Certainly I do not wish to imply that Mr R Axelson in any manner indicated credit was due his company for origin of gear head. He did not. Raises questions regarding patent submission process. Examiners likely were bedazzeled by all the levers on Jardh submission.
Here on the left coast we are an open and giving lot. Although Wilhelm Jardh is a native son, we are more than pleased to extend honorary brotherhood offer to N Chard of L&S. Gives us another opportunity to tip the bubbly.
Thanks for the link Mr. Holland! Chard would later manufacture his own lathes, but I never knew he worked for L&S. Helps tie things together.
Chard's name is on many patents assigned to the Lodge & Shipley Machine Tool Co., including that of the "Patent Head" lathe (filed in '04): http://www.google.com/patents?id=QNZ...ad=0_1#PPA1,M1
Lodge and Chard are co-inventors on most of them- they must have been quite a team.
Cope's book has the patent head being introduced in '03, but there are other mistakes in Cope's works. Or, perhaps they just didn't get around to patenting it right away.
Here is a big gear head Monarch working away in Axelson's home town of Los Angeles. Photo is from about when Axelson was getting their patent.
The owner, Harry A. Miller, would describe this teens machine only a few years later as "worn out".
I've wondered for some time of Nicholas Chard of L&S fame later had is own company, or was it someone else..?
Some of the cone head Axelson lathes built before they were building the geared head machines were quite impressive in their own right, in terms of sheer massive strength, meant for heavy cuts in steel.
I remember being shown one of these heavy Axelsons, which, at the time, was busy on some heavy steel forgings, taking some impressively heavy hogging cuts, then doing a reasonably nice finish on the finish cuts, and holding .001-ish where needed.
According to its owner's story, it was originally a cone-head machine built in 1918 or so, then returned to the Axelson works sometime in the mid '40's (presumably, its then owner had a pretty high priority level) to be re-fitted with a then-current style of geared headstock.
An old-timer I knew, some years ago, had worked at the Axelson works. He was one of the many workers who built the lathe line, and said they were some of the best lathes ever built, anywhere, anytime......but.....as he put it 'they are good lathes, but they will work the operator to death'. Operating an Axelson anywhere near its capacity is indeed a good bit harder work than operating an equivalent size Monarch.....try it, you'll see what I mean.