What's new
What's new

Seeking information on early wooden lathe

Bill Webber

Plastic
Joined
Nov 7, 2021
Gentlemen or gentle ladies,

I’m Bill Webber. I picked up a lathe at a recent auction. I’m looking for information that might help establish who manufactured it or perhaps when. Not many of these old lathes have survived and I find little detailed knowledge about the period. A friend suggested I try this forum. He assured me folks here were more ‘scholarly’ than some of the other forums I tried. Anyway, here’s a probably-too-long description.

The lathe is a work of art. I don’t know who might have made it or exactly how old it is. I’m thinking it dates somewhere between 1800 and 1870. It has threading capabilities and an indexing head. I think it was intended for instrument making, perhaps clock making. It was likely intended for treadle power but could have used an overhead pulley also. I don’t believe it was ever used. It is possible it was a work in progress and never completed. It sits on a narrow base that shows no evidence of ever being screwed or clamped to a work surface. There is no evidence of wear on the pulley wheel. There is no evidence the bearings were ever lubricated for useful work. In order to expand my knowledge of I’m it looking for documented information on old wooden lathes that have similar manufactured features. Many folks suggest measuring screw threads to determine origin. I haven’t done any of that because I’m not ready to start disassembling the lathe and I don’t have skills or equipment to measure odd size threads.

Here’s what I have. It is a wooden lathe made of rosewood, with brass and steel hardware. It measures 60” long, 26” high and the large drive pulley is about 10” in diameter. It weighs just under 100 lbs.
http://billwebber.galootcentral.com/2110-031.JPG
http://billwebber.galootcentral.com/2110-032.JPG
http://billwebber.galootcentral.com/2110-033.JPG

The tailstock holds the lathe center (duh).
http://billwebber.galootcentral.com/2110-001.JPG

A relatively crude post extends from the bottom of the tailstock assembly. A threaded ring and a wooden block allow the tailstock to be positioned and secured in place.
http://billwebber.galootcentral.com/2110-002.JPG

The metal parts that carry the lathe center appear to be overly elaborate. The metal box is hollow and is mostly wood inside. In this picture you can see the outside plate and the box that may be 3-sided or 4 sided. The three screws that stick out from the end do not appear to do anything by themselves. They have machine threads and are screwed into the tailstock until the screws bottom out on their shoulders. I suspect they were intended to hold some form of accessory.
http://billwebber.galootcentral.com/2110-003.JPG
http://billwebber.galootcentral.com/2110-004.JPG

Here’s a picture of one of the screws removed from the tailstock.
http://billwebber.galootcentral.com/2110-005.JPG

The clamp to hold the steel center pin is a steel ring folded around the pin and welded to a threaded rod that sticks out the back of the tailstock. When tightened, the ring pulls the lathe center against the holes in the steel box/frame.
http://billwebber.galootcentral.com/2110-006.JPG

The tool rest is held in place in a manner similar to the tailstock.
http://billwebber.galootcentral.com/2110-007.JPG

A ‘T’ bolt slides in a slot in the tool holder.
http://billwebber.galootcentral.com/2110-008.JPG
http://billwebber.galootcentral.com/2110-009.JPG
http://billwebber.galootcentral.com/2110-011.JPG

The tool post is brass and extends through the wooden holder. A steel thumb screw screws into the brass and tightens a steel pressure bar against the steel tool rest. Nothing special here.
http://billwebber.galootcentral.com/2110-010.JPG
http://billwebber.galootcentral.com/2110-012.JPG
http://billwebber.galootcentral.com/2110-013.JPG


The headstock is held in place in a manner similar to the tailstock and tool rest. Since the headstock is not normally moved often, the screws are tightened with a pry bar rather than having integral rings. The business end of the headstock has brass sleeve bearings and an adjustable oiler. (interesting to note there is no evidence on the wood the machine was significantly oiled)
http://billwebber.galootcentral.com/2110-016.JPG
http://billwebber.galootcentral.com/2110-015.JPG

A brass threaded head with a swaged steel plate mounts to the end of the drive shaft. The mounting plate is extremely rough, inconsistent with other parts. The business end of the shaft shaft has both external and internal threads. Looks surprisingly modern.
http://billwebber.galootcentral.com/2110-017.JPG
http://billwebber.galootcentral.com/2110-018.JPG

The drive pulley is a 4-step affair that looks appropriate for a round belt.
http://billwebber.galootcentral.com/2110-019.JPG

The face of the pulley has a rather professional looking index plate. The plate is stamped in quarters. Also, I think, mis-stamped twice in one instance.
http://billwebber.galootcentral.com/2110-021.JPG
http://billwebber.galootcentral.com/2110-022.JPG
http://billwebber.galootcentral.com/2110-020.JPG

The rear (left end) of the drive mechanism has a brass bearing and oiler similar to the one in the front. There is a stop and adjuster to limit shaft travel to the left. There are six levers that control threading and positioning.
http://billwebber.galootcentral.com/2110-024.JPG

There are only two hex nuts on the machine. These appear to be user made. The flats are curved somewhat and measuring from flat to flat the thickness varies .015. Not manufactured nuts. All of the other nuts shown are user made brass square nuts with an integral washer.
http://billwebber.galootcentral.com/2110-025.JPG

Identifying the levers as 1 thru 6, left to right, lever #2 forces the drive shaft to the left into the end stop. Lever #2 has a brass face where it bears against main shaft. The other levers, 1 and 2 thru 6, engage threaded sections on the main shaft and impart threading motion to the work being turned. Levers 3 thru 6 impart motion for ‘approximately’ 8, 9, 10, and 18 threads per inch respectively. Lever 1 imparts motion for something finer than the others, finer than 18 TPI. Lever #1 does not work well, if at all. The thread for lever #1 is so fine it already appears to be worn away. Additionally, these levers are not readily replaceable. Note the threading length is quit short, perhaps ¾ of an inch.
http://billwebber.galootcentral.com/2110-028.JPG
http://billwebber.galootcentral.com/2110-026.JPG
http://billwebber.galootcentral.com/2110-027.JPG


This last piece is most perplexing. There is a post that sits just in front of the front bearing. The top looks like it should hold something on the clamp at the top of the shaft. The clamp has leather and brass washers tightened in place with a brass thumb screw. The clamping assembly does not move on the post. The brass base mounts through a hole in the lathe bed through the only hole in the lathe frame. A screw passes through the lathe front way and is tightened with a socketed screw headed rod. The rod is way too long for its purpose so there is an added brass barrel that acts as a spacer. The brass barrel has a turned wooden filler.
http://billwebber.galootcentral.com/2110-032.JPG
http://billwebber.galootcentral.com/2110-029.JPG
http://billwebber.galootcentral.com/2110-030.JPG
I thought for a moment this post could be repositioned for use near the indexing head, but cannot. There is only one hole in which to mount it and if the head is moved it covers the one hole.

So again, care to comment on its age or manufacturer? My guess, again, would be it was used for instrument making, telescopes, microscopes, sextants, etc. I think it was likely intended to be powered by pedal or an over line shaft of some sort. I was searching the internet for other lathes like this one. I’ve found pictures of two other lathes that appear to have a similar threading capability. Doesn’t mean much other than the threading design was not uncommon. The pictures I found were an advertisement for the picture only. No other info.
http://billwebber.galootcentral.com/Example1.JPG
http://billwebber.galootcentral.com/Example2.jpg

Another picture of a lathe with a similar threading box is here.
https://emuseum.history.org/objects...e;jsessionid=DBC19028BD4749958D2295F001B59FA3
The picture cannot be copied but can be nicely enlarged. Attributed to William Walters in England about 1804.

Anyway, looking forward to any comments folks be willing to provide.

Regards,

Bill Webber
 

Asquith

Diamond
Joined
Mar 3, 2005
Location
Somerset, UK
Bill,

Many thanks for providing those excellent and comprehensive photos.

At first sight, I would say that this 'gentleman's lathe' could have been made as early as the late 18th C. However, the stamped numbers on the division plate raise doubts in my mind. I wonder when number stamps in that 'font' first appeared? Incidentally, the font style suggests English origin to me, rather than French or German.

Is the hole in the spindle tapered? I know that round tapered drives were occasionally found in the late 18th C, but in my limited experience of early lathes, square tapered holes were more common in lathe headstock and tailstock spindles.
 

Bill Webber

Plastic
Joined
Nov 7, 2021
At first sight, I would say that this 'gentleman's lathe' could have been made as early as the late 18th C. However, the stamped numbers on the division plate raise doubts in my mind. I wonder when number stamps in that 'font' first appeared? Incidentally, the font style suggests English origin to me, rather than French or German.

Is the hole in the spindle tapered? I know that round tapered drives were occasionally found in the late 18th C, but in my limited experience of early lathes, square tapered holes were more common in lathe headstock and tailstock spindles.

Hi Asquith, Interesting observations. Index plates have been around since at least 1775. There was a numbered index plate on a gear cutting machine in the Dominy clock shop. With proper accessories, the index plate could be used to cut gears. FWIW, you can tell the numerals were stamped individually on my lathe index plate. I cannot even guess about the font.

No, the hole in the spindle is not tapered, it is actually threaded. The spindle with both internal and external threads is remarkedly similar to my 1970s Hegner lathe. I'm not suggesting this lathe is that new, only that the concept of internal and external threads for the spindle is a lot older than I would have guessed. I'm thinking the this type of spindle would be later than the tapered spindles used on earlier lathes? I'm still thinking 1800 - 1870, but closer to 1850 +/-?
 

Bill Webber

Plastic
Joined
Nov 7, 2021
At first glance it looks like the ways and legs are not original. They are a lighter tone of color and the beaded edge looks machine made.

Hi Frank, I agree, sadly :( . I looked the beads over carefully. They are different than the beads on the head stock. I don't see any evidence they were machine made, I mean nothin obvious. Neither here nor there, they are still not original to the machine.

It gets worse. The nuts that hold the ways together appear to be hand made, but they are a slightly different in style from the others. Worse still, the through shaft to hold the ways together is 5/16-20 all-thread.

This picture shows the through bolts in the bed ways, two through bolts at the bottom of the head stock, and two through bolts at the bearings. http://billwebber.galootcentral.com/2110-032.JPG
The through bolts at the bottom of the head stock are steel rods with cut threads that are 1/4-14. The through bolts at the bearings are steel rods with cut threads that are something between 1/4-24 and 1/4-27.

Looks like someone salvaged some parts, perhaps to make a display of some sort. A little disappointing but progress I suppose. I still want to date the 'real' pieces.
 

rivett608

Diamond
Joined
Oct 25, 2002
Location
Kansas City, Mo.
Look up Bergeron's Manual du Tourner and you will find a nearly identical lathe. They had a shop in Paris, I wrote about them in this post. The book came out in the 1790s but the 1816 2nd edition is the best. It was volumes plus a plate atlas. It is one of my favorite books.

Very Rare 1816 Vernier Caliper is now in my collection!

The lathe probably dates from 1790 to 1830. I saw it in the auction but have to be very careful buying big things because I am out of room. In Bergeron's book they show many detail plates of this type of lathe construction and what the base would have looked like.
 

1yesca

Stainless
Joined
Jun 1, 2004
Bill,

Many thanks for providing those excellent and comprehensive photos.

At first sight, I would say that this 'gentleman's lathe' could have been made as early as the late 18th C. However, the stamped numbers on the division plate raise doubts in my mind. I wonder when number stamps in that 'font' first appeared? Incidentally, the font style suggests English origin to me, rather than French or German.

Is the hole in the spindle tapered? I know that round tapered drives were occasionally found in the late 18th C, but in my limited experience of early lathes, square tapered holes were more common in lathe headstock and tailstock spindles.

also the treads on the screws and holes look way to nice as far as form goes and i was thinking the same thing about the stamped no.'s

screwhead.jpg
 

Bill Webber

Plastic
Joined
Nov 7, 2021
Pledge her up, display it on the coffee table in the living room and done.

Good idea, but there is no room on the coffee table; too many hand planes!

I think there have been enough folks looking at this lathe to confirm its authenticity, at least the authenticity of the working parts. I think a generally accepted date range is 1800 to 1850. The base is not authentic to the lathe and probably dates from sometime after 1890 when rolled threads became more common and could be used in making all-thread stock.

I’ve tried sending an email to the SOT in order to purchase the Manuel du Tourneur and the volume of plates. I’ve sent two emails but have not heard from them yet. Thanks to Rivett608 for the info. Is the book still in print?

There is a bulletin on the SOT page that states in part, “Following the French Revolution the centre of interest in this hobby transferred from France to England where it spread widely…” At least one person looked at the rear stop on the head stock and declared it ‘looked English’. Anyone else share that thought? http://billwebber.galootcentral.com/2110-025.JPG

Another question. The mounting plate on the head stock seems rather crude compared to the quality of the other parts. http://billwebber.galootcentral.com/2110-017.JPG The iron plate looks cast. Comment? Here’s a couple more pictures of the plate, crudely made, crudely drilled.
 

Attachments

  • 2111-005.jpg
    2111-005.jpg
    89.1 KB · Views: 21
  • 2111-006.jpg
    2111-006.jpg
    91.6 KB · Views: 21

dundeeshopnut

Cast Iron
Joined
Mar 27, 2020
Now admit it. While vintage hand planes are neat, this lathe is WAAAAY cooler,[and a lot more rare] for the place of honor in the parlor.:D
 

rivett608

Diamond
Joined
Oct 25, 2002
Location
Kansas City, Mo.
Keep in mind with old lathes, and the older the more this might happen. Each generation added and subtracted pieces parts and accessories to the tooling and set up so it is typical that some parts may not match the rest of the machine. Also dealers have been know to add parts to make them look more complete. So I wouldn't worry too much about a faceplate.
 

Bill Webber

Plastic
Joined
Nov 7, 2021
So I wouldn't worry too much about a faceplate.

I agree. Certainly true of old tool boxes.

Let me ask about the Manuel du Tourneur. I'm a little confused. Originally I thought there was a first version and then a later version (1812). The way the write-up reads on the SOT site they translated volume II and published the plates. Would have there have been a reason to translate volume I if volume II is the latest revision?

The SOT wants £87.31 ($117) for each volume, volume II and the plates. Appears shipping is more than twice the cost of the book. If shipping is £52 for one book, it doesn't seem reasonable that shipping for two books is £104? I'm not sure I could enjoy the books that much :confused:
 

rivett608

Diamond
Joined
Oct 25, 2002
Location
Kansas City, Mo.
It is complicated. The original edition was 2 volumes, these came out in maybe 1792 and 1794. The plates were in each of the books. In 1816 a 2nd edition was issued, it was vol. 1 and 2 (about 1,100 pages) with a plate atlas with all the illustrations plus some that had been in the first edition. These were also much larger.

Volume 1 of the text was translated into English by T. T. Aird in the mid to late 19th century. Volume 2 was translated by Paul Ferraglio but never released in the 1980s. Jeremy Soulsby finically got it done a few years ago. That is what the SOT sells, plus I think the plate atlas reprint. The book has also been reprinted in France but still quite expensive. Send me a PM and I’ll see about copying the relevant plates for you.
 

Jim Christie

Titanium
Joined
Mar 14, 2007
Location
L'Orignal, Ontario Canada

olderlathe

Plastic
Joined
Dec 30, 2004
Location
Thetford, Norfolk, U.K.
Manuel du Tourneur well worth investigating, ditto L'Art du Tourneur from Diderot Encyclopedie. I have a similar lathe to yours which I am in process of 'restoring'. I have sent you a message.
 








 
Top