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Flather & Co. Lathe

M.B. Naegle

Diamond
Joined
Feb 7, 2011
Location
Conroe, TX USA
So I was at the point of "no more projects".... "oh look at that one!" This lathe was close and cheap enough to entice me, and does fill a couple gaps in the line-shaft shop's capabilities.

I picked it up yesterday afternoon and still figuring out what I got. Approximately 14" swing and 30" between centers (need to take the tape measure to it on Monday). It didn't come with any alternative chucks, cutting bits, steady or follow rest, but has a decent 4 jaw, turret style tool post, tailstock, and most all the important bits for an interesting taper attachment design. I think the cam arrangement on the end is for setting the taper. The back side taper attachment ways remind me of the old pratt and whitney lathes. There's no compound rest, but from what I've read these lathes were known to be heavy cutters rigid enough for carbide (when it first came out), though still with slow spindle speeds.

This lathe seems to be a later model with a lot of improvements for the company so I think it's a 1910's design. It actually shares a lot in common with my Whitcomb Blaisdell of the same period. The leadscrew on/off function and no threading dial are some of the commonalities, as well as having split plain spindle bearings. The under-bed chip pan is a handy shop improvement that seems well executed and will likely stay. The single tumbler QC gearbox is nearly exactly the same as my Heavy 10 South Bend.

It came with a Western Mfg. Overhead motor and gearbox arrangement. Though I want to go back to the line shaft flat belt design, the gearbox may yet get put to use. The upper cone will need to be replaced, but on the bright side the lower cone is mostly intact, just having a V pulley welded over the top of one step. They actually used an old Coca-Cola sign for part of a belt guard, but not sure how salvageable it is. It's funny how cyclical value is, with things start with intended purpose, become garbage, then have value again. The 25 cent price on the bottle of coke at least puts a date on the conversion.

The ways have some ridges, but honestly don't seem that bad. The rest of the lathe seems intact with nothing broken (so far). There is rust, as always, but still lots of oil between pieces. I think a full tear-down, clean up, and paint and polish is warranted, but will have to wait its turn.

In the meantime, I'll be looking for or fabricating a steady, overhead pulleys, and some other chuck options.
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I have a 20" Flather that I date to around 1917. My father picked it up in 1972. It is a really sturdy machine. I can see some of the same design features in the two machines. I believe mine is the next generation because the castings seem to be of a heavier design. It should be a nice machine when you are done restoring it.

Thread 'Bringing the Flather Home' https://www.practicalmachinist.com/forum/threads/bringing-the-flather-home.207517/
 

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I have Edition No. 25 of How to Run a Lathe, copyright December 1925. In it is the statement: "The Quick Change Gear mechanism on South Bend Lathes is the famous Flather patent."

This same arrangement, a gear box with a single tumbler and a three position lever plus a sliding in-and-out end gear was used by Clausing on their 12 inch lathe (plus other models?) from the 100 series introduced in the 1940's through the 5900 series (discontinued in 1979). By the 5900 series the three position lever had been replaced by a three position knob.

David
 
Thinking about this lathe over the weekend, I want to set it up beside my Whitcomb Blaisdell lathe in the line-shaft shed I'm building. While the WB has the capacity to be used as a general purpouse lathe, I'm thinking it would be best suited for longer parts, and the Flather would be the general purpose lathe. I think both would benefit from some kind of threading dial to speed up that process, but the lack of a compound would be less than ideal for threading and chamfering on the Flather. If anyone knows of an old compound from a 14"ish lathe to be had, drop me a line. I'll get some dimensions posted. The current turret arrangement would still be useful however, especially for heavy rigid turning.

The swing measures 7 1/2" to clear the ways (15") so given manufacture's tendency to derate swings, I'd call it a 14" to be safe, and I'm measuring a tight 36" between centers (figuring measuring face of spindle to face of tailstock and subtract a couple inches for the centers). Overall bed is 73", so I'd call this lathe a 14x6 by the old classifications.

The saddle doesn't have T-slots like other lathes of the era, but does have a couple big tapped holes in the tailstock side wings, probably from a previous owner. While I'd take one If I could find one, I'm not going to worry about making a follow rest for this lathe, as those operations IMO would do better on the longer WB, so I'll make a follow rest for that one.

Still trying to find a serial number. Checked the usual places with a razor, and I read that on other Flathers it was stamped on the saddle/cross-slide area, but nothing there yet.
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This is the only OEM documentation I've located for this lathe so far. Everything else has been older, pre-quick-change, or for larger more modern designs. I'm really diggin' the smooth apron look. Mine's rusty and painted, but I'll see if it will polish up. If it's really banged up, I might give it the engine-turned effect.

Does anyone know what spindle thread this lathe should have? I'll try to unscrew the chuck to be sure, but I'm curious if it's cross compatible with any of my other lathes (2 1/8x8 on the WB, and 2 3/8x6 on the Hendey). Also curious what the original recommended RPM's would be. Between the cone and the back-gear I've got 8 speeds.
 
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The serial # on mine is in a few different places. Remove the cross slide and look on the saddle. I think it was by the threads on the spindle too.
 

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The serial # on mine is in a few different places. Remove the cross slide and look on the saddle. I think it was by the threads on the spindle too.
I havn't removed the cross slide, but sliding it all the way back hasn't revealed anything yet. I'm sure it'll turn up when I start taking things apart. I'm just curious where this one falls in relation to the others.
 
Tonight I got a skid made under the lathe and slid it into a storage container so it's out of the weather.

I also did a little dismantling of the Western overhead drive. The motor plate and gearbox are pretty well integrated, so I don’t think using the gearbox alone with the line drive would be very elegant. It'll stay in storage in case my plans for the Flather change to electrical power, but if someone's in need of a way to drive their old lathe, I might be willing to part with it. The gearbox is a 4 speed plus neutral, and the current motor is a 3hp 220v 3 phase.

I did my best to surgically dissect the Coke sign from the overhead weldment and it came out better than I hoped. It had been painted grey with the rest of the lathe except for parts that were under electrical boxes, but some scrubbing with a wire brush and mineral spirits stripped most of the grey off with minimal damage to the original coke paint, so It'll make a good wall hanger. What I thought was 25 cents a bottle was actually 25 cents a carton and 1 dollar a case, so it's a bit older than the 1980's, pre-1950's at least, and it will go well with my 1930's Coca Cola wet cooler.
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It's got a maker's stamp on one corner of "C&H Fan Co. Atlanta GA" which I'm thinking is a refrigeration company, so likely part of some kinda vending machine. Dunno how prolific this company was in the south or if the Flather was out in Georgia at one point.
 
Thinking about this lathe over the weekend, I want to set it up beside my Whitcomb Blaisdell lathe in the line-shaft shed I'm building. While the WB has the capacity to be used as a general purpouse lathe, I'm thinking it would be best suited for longer parts, and the Flather would be the general purpose lathe. I think both would benefit from some kind of threading dial to speed up that process, but the lack of a compound would be less than ideal for threading and chamfering on the Flather. If anyone knows of an old compound from a 14"ish lathe to be had, drop me a line. I'll get some dimensions posted. The current turret arrangement would still be useful however, especially for heavy rigid turning.

The swing measures 7 1/2" to clear the ways (15") so given manufacture's tendency to derate swings, I'd call it a 14" to be safe, and I'm measuring a tight 36" between centers (figuring measuring face of spindle to face of tailstock and subtract a couple inches for the centers). Overall bed is 73", so I'd call this lathe a 14x6 by the old classifications.

The saddle doesn't have T-slots like other lathes of the era, but does have a couple big tapped holes in the tailstock side wings, probably from a previous owner. While I'd take one If I could find one, I'm not going to worry about making a follow rest for this lathe, as those operations IMO would do better on the longer WB, so I'll make a follow rest for that one.

Still trying to find a serial number. Checked the usual places with a razor, and I read that on other Flathers it was stamped on the saddle/cross-slide area, but nothing there yet.
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This is the only OEM documentation I've located for this lathe so far. Everything else has been older, pre-quick-change, or for larger more modern designs. I'm really diggin' the smooth apron look. Mine's rusty and painted, but I'll see if it will polish up. If it's really banged up, I might give it the engine-turned effect.

Does anyone know what spindle thread this lathe should have? I'll try to unscrew the chuck to be sure, but I'm curious if it's cross compatible with any of my other lathes (2 1/8x8 on the WB, and 2 3/8x6 on the Hendey). Also curious what the original recommended RPM's would be. Between the cone and the back-gear I've got 8 speeds.
Monarch in their early years design a quick change gearbox that infringed on Flather's patent. Flather traveled to Sidney Ohio with intention to confront Monarch have them stop building the quick change gearbox, but instead was so impressed with it, that he licensed it to them instead. This is why early Monarch Lathes have Flather's 1905 patent shown on their lathes when Monarch did not start until 1909.
 
Great looking lathe!

I have the same Western Mfg gearbox on my Hendey Lathe. They're still in business and (depending on the exact model you have) might have some gaskets available.
 
Great looking lathe!

I have the same Western Mfg gearbox on my Hendey Lathe. They're still in business and (depending on the exact model you have) might have some gaskets available.
Are they owned by another company now? It looks like the original corporation was dissolved in 2001.
 
Monarch in their early years design a quick change gearbox that infringed on Flather's patent. Flather traveled to Sidney Ohio with intention to confront Monarch have them stop building the quick change gearbox, but instead was so impressed with it, that he licensed it to them instead. This is why early Monarch Lathes have Flather's 1905 patent shown on their lathes when Monarch did not start until 1909.
I'd swear I remember seeing an old flat-belt Monarch with the same gearbox, though now I can't find it. I thought it was this thread, Lathes in AZ for sale, but different design.

But now that I went looking for that, on THAT monarch, it has the same lead-screw on/off function as this Flather, and my Whitcomb Blaisdell has a similar feature. Does anyone have any input about how that feature was intend to be used? It just seems odd that it was on so many lathe makers in this same era, then it disappeared, and you don't see it on older change-gear lathes. These lathes also have the gear train directional tumbler on the side of the head-stock, which is common on nearly all tool room lathes, as is the half-nut lever on the apron, so it just seems redundant to have an additional on/off function.
 
So my initial muscling on the chuck using the back gear to hold it solid hasn't been fruitful. Before I pull the lathe over on myself or break a gear, I'm going to see about making some kind of clamp to hold the spindle solid while I work on it. While the 4 Jaw will likely do a majority of the work, I'd like to have a collet tube and 3 jaw option as well, as well as a slotted back-plate and dog driving plate.

The tailstock taper is proving to be illusive. Morse #3 is too loose, Morse #4 only fits half way and feels like it's contacting more on the nose than the whole taper. B&S 9 is too loose, and B&S 10 fits halfway, but feels more solid than the Morse #4. I think my next step will be to take a cylinder hone to it to clean off any burrs and rust, but I'm suspecting that the B&S 10 is the one. I tested it with a mill arbor from our B&S #12 Mill, and even though half the taper is exposed, the quill screw will eject the taper when backed out all the way.

Looks like I need to find/make some B&S10 centers and drill chuck arbors.
 
Are they owned by another company now? It looks like the original corporation was dissolved in 2001.
I misremembered the story a bit. Western MGF went out of business in 1999 and Midwest Tool and Gear took over the product line. They offer sales, service and replacement parts for a select number of transmission. You can contact them at

[email protected]

 
I misremembered the story a bit. Western MGF went out of business in 1999 and Midwest Tool and Gear took over the product line. They offer sales, service and replacement parts for a select number of transmission. You can contact them at

[email protected]

Thanks for the lead! I'll see if this one's still supported or not.

Side story: There used to be a Western Supply Co. That made mechanical die cut-out machines for the leather industry, mainly used for punching holes in the ends of belts and that sort of thing, and they went out of business around the same time as this Western, but were located in St. Louis, not Detroit, so not the same company.

We used to sell and repair a lot of those machines before their hydraulic counterparts took over the market. The old Western machines were stupid top heavy and everyone had stories about them getting damaged in shipping or hitting the floor. Ironically the guy I bought this lathe from had a similar story about almost getting hurt when he and a buddy were moving this lathe and the overhead motor and gearbox flipped over.

Since the Western machines were a flywheel driven mechanical press, it was easy to make them unsafe too, so everyone also had stories of coworkers losing fingers (slightly harder to do with hydraulics). The company stayed in business for a long time but missed the boat to innovate. The machines are still around but we probably scrapped 20 of those machines from our used inventory 10 years ago rather than assume the liability of selling and supporting them without an OEM to work with.
 
M.B. Naegele:

I read your post about the as-yet unknown tailstock taper on your Flather lathe. While Morse tapers would be the most common for lathe spindles/tailstocks,
some lathe manufacturers used the Jarno Tapers. Jarno tapers all have the same taper, 0.600" per foot.

Checking my "Machinery's Handbook" I found that The MT # 3 has a taper of 0.602" per foot (and a few more decimal places to the right), which is very close to the
Jarno Taper.
A MT # 3 has a mouth diameter = 0.938"

The MT # 4 has a taper of 0.623" per foot, and a mouth diameter = 1.2331"

The Brown and Sharpe # 10 taper is 0.516" per foot, so is a shallower or less steep taper than either the MT or the Jarno.

A Jarno Number 10 taper has a big end diameter of 1.000" & the same 0.600" per foot taper. This makes it a (at least in my opinion), a possibility for the tailstock taper on your Flather lathe. The Brown and Sharpe tapers were used on milling machine and dividing head spindles. If a B & S taper was ever used on a lathe spindle or its tailstock, it would be q
 
I have a steady rest which may fit your machine. I had a 14" Flather, an older model than yours I believe, no QCGB. I still have some parts from it. If you are interested, PM me and I'll send you some pics and dimensions.
 
Does anyone have any input about how that feature was intend to be used?
I have an old Monarch model A with a lead screw disconnect and it selects either the lead screw, “neutral” or the secondary drive keyed shaft that is belt driven off the 1:1 shaft, bypassing all gears but the reverse/forward tumblers. I just assumed normal turning would be done with the secondary shaft and bypass the change gears to save wear and tear, but now I’m wondering if there was another reason to disconnect the lead screw. Without any covering the lead screw does get a lot of chips - I wonder if it was kept disconnected to allow a simple fabric cover of some kind to rest on it.

Im impressed with how much heavier the castings are on your lathe compared to the early monarchs - and that taper attachment looks well thought out. Definitely a step up in overall beef and design. All early lathes look related - I bet old timers would say that about modern lathes. Lol
 
Thanks for the the taper data and input. Once I get it cleaned up I'll take some measurements and see what's close. I did the test fits first hoping it would match something more common. The spindle taper will be another to figure out, though if it isn't the same taper, I'm expecting I'll need to make a custom fit reducer bushing for between centers work. It looks like I can unbolt the chuck from the back plate to get it out of the way. I'd think that if it's like other lathes that use a reducer bushing in the headstock, you should be able to use matching centers on either side.

I might just take the spindle appart and see if I can wrench the plate off then (v block in a bench vise, heat, and a chain wrench might do the trick). It would be good to put eyes on the spindle bearings and other parts anyway to plan for any needed repairs, and get the v-pulley cut off of the headstock cone and get measurements for the upper cone replacement. Even If I went back to the Western gearbox drive, I'd rather use a flat belt and enjoy the cones symmetry.
 








 
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