How do I date and identify this old lathe - what tells the story
Close
Login to Your Account
Results 1 to 10 of 10
  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Ohio - USA
    Posts
    153
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    18
    Likes (Received)
    63

    Default How do I date and identify this old lathe - what tells the story

    This is the lathe discussed in a prior post - "another odd old lathe to ID". I bought it and had it picked up - and no - I did not pay the asking price. I will have it in my possession in about a month or so. Until then, I want to start researching it and learning what I can in the process. When I have it in hand, I can make some detailed photos and measurements available for further analysis and discussion. I think it would be useful to see this develop into something of a tutorial on how to go about dating and identifying a lathe, sources of information to research, key factors in determining date of manufacture, use, and identity of the manufacturer.

    Some of the more obvious features that seem important to my beginner eye:

    Four V ways - no flat ways.
    Brass flat belt pulleys.
    Head stock and tail stock castings appear to be brass too - will verify when I have it in hand.
    Hex head fasteners vs square headed ones.
    Presence of a compound top slide.
    It has a lead screw with half nuts?
    Head stock has a back gear.
    Supposedly the spindle takes a collet - collet type should help.
    The shape of the short legs.
    The profile of the head stock and tail stock.
    The Whiton chuck - when did they stop making them?

    Lots of other features can be listed and measurements made once I have it in hand, but what does the above seem to indicate?
    Where do I start looking for more information?

    The seller states the following: "base of bed is 30 1/16in and 26 1/2 in over all length and base width is 5 1/2in and top 3 3/4in.chucks od is 4in and Id is 1in.to be honest all the gears look like they are in good condition no missing teeth.collet draw tube is 5/16 od."

    So, where do I start?

    00m0m_elepuu56wwd_1200x900.jpg
    Last edited by aninventor; 11-05-2019 at 10:18 PM. Reason: additional info posted

  2. Likes Giglio_A liked this post
  3. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Virginia, USA
    Posts
    3,446
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    87
    Likes (Received)
    624

    Default

    The place to start was to ask this question in the existing thread about this lathe

  4. Likes Paolo_MD liked this post
  5. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Country
    UNITED STATES
    State/Province
    Indiana
    Posts
    12,882
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    674
    Likes (Received)
    3838

    Default

    The 5/16" collet draw bar would suggest a collet thread of around .250 to .275 diameter. There are several watch lathe collets threads within that range, some common and some not. A common pitch is 40 TPI (or .63 mm pitch) and a common body diameter is 8 mm. Lengths can vary. The WW style is the most common and the Moseley is the second most common. Both are plentiful if you want to buy them.

    Here is an old Hardinge collet listing to help with identification. Save and print them to make them easy to read.

    Larry

    collet-list-p1.jpg collet-list-p2.jpg

  6. Likes Giglio_A liked this post
  7. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Ohio - USA
    Posts
    153
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    18
    Likes (Received)
    63

    Default

    Thanks Larry.

    As is the seller told me the collet draw tube does not pull out. He did not attempt to unscrew it. One of my first acts will be to unscrew the collet draw tube and determine if there is a collet in the spindle that is hidden by the chuck that may be screwed onto the spindle nose, or if the chuck is mounted on a collet type threaded arbor that is pulled into the spindle by the draw tube. Either way, I can get the collet dimensions and look for a match. If I am lucky any collet may even be marked. Is there a comprehensive list of lathes which used specific collets?

    I can also determine the spindle nose geometry and any details about the threads - diameter, pitch thread form, etc.

    Were USA made lathes of old all inch pitch threads on the spindle nose, or were other European origin or metric threads common as well? What characteristic would indicate German or French or English etc. origin? How can I decide which country is most likely the country of origin?

    Is there a good history of spindle nose design details published somewhere?

    Is there another web site that deals with these issues more so than here?

    Lee W

  8. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Ohio - USA
    Posts
    153
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    18
    Likes (Received)
    63

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by kitno455 View Post
    The place to start was to ask this question in the existing thread about this lathe
    I intentionally chose to start a new thread here because I wanted to develop a more systematic approach to identification and dating based on observable design features and measurable characteristics, rather than one based on Looks like and I think I saw something similar in ............ although that approach has value too, especially when all you have to reference is one photo with nothing to indicate scale. I referenced the old thread so that anyone who wants to go back to that discussion can.

    While I am very curious and do want to know when this lathe was built and by whom and for what intended use or market, I am more interested in developing something of a time line to use in dating unknown lathes.

    I thought that deserved a new thread with a new subject line.


    Lee W.

  9. Likes Giglio_A liked this post
  10. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Ohio - USA
    Posts
    153
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    18
    Likes (Received)
    63

    Default

    The use of brass for the head stock casting, the tail stock casting, and the head stock flat belt pulleys and gears seems like a significant departure from normal practice. My Stark from the 1860's is all iron except for the bearing shields. My Sebastian from the 1880's is all iron too. So are all the other 1900's lathes I have had. None had significant quantities of brass in them. Was use of all this brass in this lathe unusual and significant? Was there a period in time when using brass was common, or was there a country where this was the norm?

    So why would some one use brass rather than iron? Lower casting temperature and easier to cast? Lower machining costs? Ability to integrate the bearing surfaces directly into the casting? More available than cast iron? Lower cost all considered? Actually better for this use in some other respect? What does the use of brass for these cast parts tell us about this lathe?

    Lee W.

  11. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Location
    Shandaken, NY, USA
    Posts
    4,310
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    1153
    Likes (Received)
    6848

    Default

    Lee W.

    My own thinking is that the use of brass for the lathe parts could be any, or all, of several factors:
    -the lathe was built for light duty work
    -brass, as you note, is much easier to cast than iron and machines easier (in the pre high speed steel or pre carbide cutting tool days)

    I've seen a couple of similar lathes to the one in this thread. They were/are owned by a friend who is an artist/blacksmith. One very small lathe of similar design was lost when the blacksmith's house burned down. The other sits on a display in the window of his blacksmith shop. My friend started out as a silversmith/jeweller, and worked into artist/blacksmithing ages ago. He is quite gifted at any metalwork he puts his hand to, and his present shop includes a Kuhn pneumatic hammer, forges, and a machine shop. The explanation my friend gave me of what the small lathe was used for was "turning waxes", something he was doing for lost wax casting at one point.

    The lathe is not built in the manner of the usual "precision bench lathes" such as Ames, Rivett, Hjorth, etc, in terms of how the bed is constructed, and the fact it does have a lead screw and gears to drive it. On the one hand, it appears to be a lathe built on the lines of a small screw cutting engine lathe. On the other, it is just too lightly built and small to do any serious work. Getting back to the brass castings: brass has much different properties than cast iron, as we all know. Brass has a coefficient of thermal expansion a lot greater than cast iron, and is a softer metal more apt to deform. In terms of dimensional stability and mass-dampening, iron has it all over brass for machine tool parts like a headstock or tailstock. Then, if we take a later example of the "Unimat", these were built using light zinc-alloy die castings for the bed, headstock and tailstock.

    My guess is the lathe was probably offered to model makers and hobbyists rather than toolmakers or machinists. The brass castings for the headstock and tailstock allowed them to be poured in small sizes with a lot cleaner detail than iron castings. The line of thinking that the headstock, being a brass casting, formed its own bearings would seem logical as well. Southbend, for many of their lathes, ran the spindle journals in bored fits right in the iron headstock castings. An iron casting for the headstock on this lathe would have worked as well as the brass.

    The lathe is something of an enigma. To my eye, it appears to be a scaled down version of larger screw-cutting lathes of that time period.

  12. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Ohio - USA
    Posts
    153
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    18
    Likes (Received)
    63

    Default

    Joe

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    The lathe is an enigma to me too - that is why I bought it I guess - no practical need or use for it - but it should make a nice display model. Really, the attraction was its unusual nature and the fun of the research trying to figure out what it really is, and when and by whom it was made. One the one hand, the four Vee ways say 1800's, but he hex head fasteners say probably 1900's, so what is it?

    I would like to see us go through the features of this lathe and assess their significance and usefulness in dating this lathe. We all have something of a feel for dating these machines but developing a timeline of features to use would be an interesting and useful aid in doing so. Like four Vee ways - when did that cease to be the design approach? Or top slides - when did they first appear? Some guidelines would be a better approach than searching through thousands of photos looking for something similar. It wold be useful to put together a list of resources too - books etc available and useful for identifying and dating machines.

    To my eye, this lathe looks too highly refined to be an amateur DIY home brew project, so my bet is that it was a manufactured lathe targeted as a low volume and low price offering. The brass seems significant in that respect. I personally have not seen another small engine lathe with brass head and tail stock castings. I have seen small watch lathes and turns built from brass, but this is a screw cutting engine lathe. I seem to recall reading about small lightly built lathes made in the 1900's to the 1930's being offered to boys and young men as educational toys to stimulate vocational interest in prep for a life in manufacturing. As I recall they were termed "boy's lathes" along the lines of "the boy mechanic" publications.

    Before the turn of the century aluminum was known but was more expensive than gold, so brass was used where aluminum is typically used today. My thoughts are that this will turn out to be a "boy's lathe" built as a reduced size copy of a much larger engine lathe and meant to represent manufacturing lathes of the day and to teach the fundamentals of machining and to generate interest in the craft while possibly doing some useful work supporting some other hobby activity - like building model steam engines. The fit and finish seem to be much higher and the design much more refined than the early Sears Craftsman lathes, and unlike many of these small light duty hobby lathes I am familiar with it has half nuts and may have what looks like a tumble reverse gear train. When I get hands on it I will look to see if there is any indication of provisions for a thread dial. These extra features might indicate its intended use as a teaching aid demonstrating the typical features of much larger lathes. Just my thoughts.

    In any case having gone through about 1/4 of Tony's Lathes site so far, I did not see a single lathe with 4 Vee ways or any similar sized lathes with brass head or tail stock castings - so the use of brass seems significant as does the four Vee ways. Tonight I start through the section on small English lathes so who knows what I will find. So far, I got nothing!

    Any chance your friend can provide a few photos of his similar lathes?

    Lee W
    Last edited by aninventor; 11-06-2019 at 09:05 PM.

  13. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Country
    UNITED STATES
    State/Province
    Indiana
    Posts
    12,882
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    674
    Likes (Received)
    3838

    Default

    "Or top slides - when did they first appear?"

    American Watch Tool Co. made triple slide rests with an 1875 patent date for their watch lathes.

    Offhand, I can quote the Rivett Precision 8 engine lathe as having a top slide in the late 1890's. Page Title

    There could be better examples, but these are the ones I with which I am familiar.

    Larry

    dsc00500.jpg dsc01860.jpg dsc01861.jpg dsc00499.jpg

  14. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Ohio - USA
    Posts
    153
    Post Thanks / Like
    Likes (Given)
    18
    Likes (Received)
    63

    Default

    The Stark lathe I have has a pretty low serial number stamped into the bed and came with both a cross and a swiveling compound slide both with lead screws, and a double lever actuated slide assembly with settable travel stops. As I understand it, Stark started in business in the early 1860's, but little information seems to be available. I would guess my lathe is from the 1870's. No patent dates on what I have. These slide assemblies may be a later addition. The lever actuated slide may not even be Stark.

    In contrast, my Sebastian from the 1880's or early 90's did not have a compound top slide, swiveling or fixed - only a cross slide - and no calibrated feed dials on the axis cranks/screws either. It is difficult to tell from the photo I have of this lathe but it appears that there might be calibrated dials on this lathe, and that the dials may be zero settable. So that raises another issue: when were accurate lead screws and calibrated feed dials first introduced and when were they common? What about the zero set feature?

    Lee W


Tags for this Thread

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •