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Rivett 608 - is this a parts machine or not missing too much?


Aug 25, 2005
Malvern, PA
Bought for the change gears, collets and tailstock.

Not sure what's up with the compound and the cross slide lead screw is bent. Other assorted missing parts too. The 3 step pulley on the motor side is shop made aluminum.head2.jpgHead.jpgrear.jpgsaddle.jpgCG.jpg

Was surprised how heavy for the size too

Looks restorable to me ( I have one that is partly re-scraped.... still in progress, it's quite a "career" to do that).
Missing parts can often be found through the Rivett email group.

What type collets does yours use?
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Sure it's restorable, all you need is a set of collets, change gears and a tailstock. Seriously tho, looks like a good candidate to sell in parts to others restoring/hoarding 608s.
I thought it was the 608 because of the trapezoidal feet. Didn't see a plate which said the model though. The plate on the foot under the headstock only had the threading chart.

Is there somewhere I should look for another plate?
It may be a "mix" of parts between types. I do not know if that is possibly due to making an 8" precision later in the 608 era, or just someone putting together various parts to get a "lathe".

The carriage is 8" Precision, the bed supports are 608, the crosslide looks 608, etc.
The only machine I ever parted out was a Nichols mill modified for a specific production job that went to people here.

Usually the question is can I fix it or does the whole thing end up with someone that knows these and already has a parts stash. If it has to be hand scraped, it's probably beyond me.
If it is "assembled from misc parts" by someone more recently, as it might well be, there is no shame in "parting it out", because it was "parted together" in the first place. And not even with consistent parts.

Or maybe swapping, etc to get the right set of parts in one place. I bought a 608 headstock just to get a few parts. I'll probably pass the remaining casting and spindle on to another person once I get the machine working.

The only issue is that parted machines usually end up with the bed scrapped, since it is considered "too heavy to ship".
608 could be more demanding, yet, but..... there's enough "opportunity" for hand scraping in one of those to give the Devil herself muscle cramps.

There are 10 surfaces to get properly aligned in a 608. And that is on the bed. The parts that mate-up to them also have to be aligned. Then there is the crosslide assembly, and the "base" or "shoe between the "carriage angle" and the crosslide....

It's a career.... which is why Rivett ground them, and then touched-up by scraping for the past couple of tenths.
Forgive my ignorance, but what features/design/abilities make these lathes so desirable and sought after compared to other makes of early lathes? From pictures only [I have never seen one in person] they don't appear to be much heavier or more rigid than say a South Bend.
Wouldn't all the major parts like the carriage, bed, head and tailstocks have been marked and scraped in to match as a group?.
I'm guessing these were amongst the first tool room lathes with a carriage and built-in power and screw cutting feeds. It's quite a bit different from the earlier plain turning lathes in that now the carriage must slide over the bed with the same accuracy as a good cross slide, requiring many new dimensions of alignment.
I have been visiting the Henry Ford Museum since about 1954. For the first twenty or thirty years of that time, I used to gaze longingly at a display with no signage consisting of fine old oak cabinets/benches with neat old small (not miniature) machine tools. A friend who had connections at the museum told me that they were from Henry's personal hobby shop. I think that shop was over the garage at his Fairlane mansion. The lathe was a Rivett, either an 8" precision or a 608. Billionaires (in today's money) do not buy junk and Henry had an eye for good tools. The display disappeared in the 1980's along with dozens of old engines and was replaced by people with degrees in "modern" museum display theory. The new displays are very nice, but I preferred to see the stuff Henry had placed there.

Forgive my ignorance, but what features/design/abilities make these lathes so desirable and sought after compared to other makes of early lathes? From pictures only [I have never seen one in person] they don't appear to be much heavier or more rigid than say a South Bend.
It is not every lathe that is guaranteed to turn parallel within a couple tenths over (IIRC) 12" from the chuck. More than half the goodness and expense are in the scraped tweaks for final accuracy, and the design that allows the tweaks to last.

Rigidity? Have you LOOKED at the bed of a Rivett 608? In case you have not, here is the end view of one. It is basically a big chunk of CI with minimal cutouts etc. The red markings show the surfaces contacted by the carriage.

Forgive my ignorance, but what features/design/abilities make these lathes so desirable and sought after compared to other makes of early lathes?

I've considered that question off and on for a few decades watching & sort of studying them, while actually spending for Hardinge parts, accessories, and lathes. Mostly second ops, but also a couple TL's.

Even bought a Rivett 608 at auction earlier last month, QC, 5c, taper, steady, loads of tooling, etc & passed it on. There was a moment of chagrin. But also a sense of relief. Re-appraisal of how much less "delicate" & complex my Hardinges seemed in comparison, with a total building block approach to accessories that are backward and forward compatible across lathes of multiple styles made from the 1920's through the 1960's. The spindlenose tooling is compatible from the 1890's through current. Accessories are available & affordable the "everywhere" . Yet the Hardinges are just as capable and nearly as fine. They probably do wear out faster.

My take is that a 608 is a relatively large lathe to do very small work precisely, with some capacity for larger parts within the swing/ LbetweenC dimensions. A Hardinge TL is a small lathe (though bigger than a Rivett 608) for "medium" sized parts nearly up to the swing/LbC, that will also do small work very well. Hardinge also made a point of optimizing the threading experience.

Per mention of brand comparison, in 1901 the Rivett 8" precision back-geared lathe (prior model to the later 608) on oak cabinet/bench cost the equivalent of $21,000 today. Probably more in real terms, if you look at comparing trade wages on a yearly basis, with, say a modern skilled machinist putting in the same routine 5-1/2 day week. An 11" SB with 4' bed and automatic screw feed cost the equivalent of about $3,500 today in 1915.

Actually, the 608 also can use most anything in later 8" precision machines, as witnessed by the assemblage of different era parts in that one.

Bed essentially did not change for decades, so parts fit it. Crosslide and compounds did not change, so again accessories from a fairly long period will fit.

The biggest thing about it that is a downside is that it is an old design. Good, but old. Watch lathe thinking, applied to a larger lathe. Never intended as a real production machine, instead a machine for the modelmaker or specialty toolroom. Capable of nearly anything, given that you are willing to set up to do whatever it is.

It's the only lathe that I have ever seen advertised showing accessories capable of, and in the act of, fluting a drill. Nobody in their right mind would actually do that, when an existing drill can be modified. That rather clearly shows the philosphy behind it, which is not at all the same as for the Hardinge, all of which will happily do production work, and are intended to.

They still sell for rather large money if in merely good condition.
You guys above are making my points.
JST - sure, in 1901 you could buy any Rivett accessory from the catalog if you could afford it.
121 years later, they are scarce on the ground & tend to be traded expensively.
Hardinge accessories are available everywhere, going back almost to the same mists of time. And there are enough to be relatively inexpensive.

But my point was not to demonstrate one lathe being superior. The Rivett was that, when made, if you had a purpose for it. Judging by the companies that used them, most did. Hardinge was always more efficient, costwise-to-task especially when workholding and spindle nose tooling is considered. And still is for many of us.

A re-build candidate of either version is probably not a good or efficient solution for most hobbiest users, though. Unless part of the fun is the scrape and rebuild. Both are complex when contemplating that task, though Rivett might be easier despite having more surface area.

It's my guess that a 5c/QC Rivett 608 is probably one of the very few out there that would moderately well recompense a total rebuild (including scraping) effort, though. No other lathe has quite the same base of interest among people who often also have great means.

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As a PRACTICAL matter, Rivett has been "orphaned" for 50+ years. Hardinge is still around.

So, yes, accessories are not common. 1901 may be too early..... 1930's maybe.

A Rivett has name and "uniqueness/onrieness" value, so almost any 5C or even 4NS machine is probably worth the effort to get working, even if just for resale.

Older ones have "antique" value beyond usefulness. Some collector will want to try to assemble a "complete" collection of accessories to outfit the display case..................

Mine, I am gonna use. It's a 5C

As far as a "parts machine", it has the common parts that nearly all will have, so not a gold mine in that way. You also have collets and change gears apparently, so it's likely better to go the other direction and get it to working condition.
Yeah, some other stuff came up, and it had to go on back burner for a while. been out of town and busy.
I also need to make room, which means a major re-arrangement. That steel cabinet base is a big bugger. It's out in the "hallway" now, I need to move a wall and settle on a new layout.
For the most part the accessories are swappable between a 8" precision and a 608, the biggest exception is the first few 8"precision lathes actually had a bed shape like the 504 with the outside angle instead of the interior angle, but a standard saddle plate matches these accessories. Some VERY early ones after the bed change had a different height / depth to the center cut, and I've got a tail stock from one of these that, when resting on the center angles, leaves the two sides about 1/16th of an inch above a modern 608 bed, but the center is still in line.
Here is my 8" precision with a very late milling attachment fitted to it, which sits just fine. The turret that I have actually came off of one of the first 8" precision and needs a pair of saddle plates to sit on a modern 608 bed


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