Swasey Craftsmanship
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  1. #1
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    Jan 2003
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    Tulsa, OK, USA
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    Perhaps the following will shed some light on JimK’s questions in his posting Mar. 16 about W&S manufacturing methods:

    All of the sliding surfaces of W&S Turret Lathes were carefully hand-scraped to a specified bearing of 6 to 10 “points” per square inch, as I remember. To check this, a light and even coating of Prussian blue paste was applied to a straightedge or a flat mating surface which was rubbed over the surface being checked. This then left bluing on the high spots of the surface being checked, which could be used to estimate the approximate bearing.

    Perhaps the best example of the art of decorative handscraping was found on the saddle ways of cross-sliding hex-turret machines. This surface was first scraped to the required bearing, and then artfully flaked to an unique and distinctive pattern that could be used to identify the scraper hand, much like handwriting. Actually the finish flaking was not at all difficult to do as it was purely decorative; even I was able to do a little during my apprenticeship.

    As nearly all the workforce were paid on an incentive plan with timed standards for all operatins, it was important to do each operation as quickly as possible to earn more “bonus”. The standards were based on the amount of effort involved on the part of the worker, so operations where not much effort was involved, such as gearcutting and automatic machines had little opportunity for bonus, but operations such as cutter grinding and especially scraping were wholly manual, so those with the most skill that and/or worked the hardest; a number of scraper hands consistently earned 100 percent bonus over their base wages, which were only about average for hourly people. As you might imagine, these men all had massive arm and shoulder muscles! Some early models of motorized scrapers were tried, but as they slowed the work down, we didn’t use them. One of the few examples of a John Henry beating the Steam Hammer!

    Another interesting operation involved finish boring the headstock spindle bearing diameters, which was a highly-skilled process that was a closely-guarded secret for a long time, but perhaps this is best left for another time and/or someone else.

    BG

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Location
    Berkeley Springs, WV, USA
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    I have taken apart some "Swasey's in my time. I have never found fault with their workmanship which is one reason that I made my post about turret lathe making.

    Now, I am not the dullest tool in the shed, but I have wracked my little brain trying to figure out how they bored the head stock for it's spindle bearings and got it right time after time.

    I imagine that they used the finished bed ways as the guide for the boring machine. That ought to do it.

    When the headstock is a separate casting, there is a chance for correction of the spindle's alignment when tthe head casting is scraped to the ways of the bed. Not so in Warner and Swasey's design.

    Of course with the heavy torque and the sudden erversals of the machine's spindle, there is a chance of loosening the joint between a separate headstock casting and the bed ways. Warner and Swasey didn't want that.

    OK, Am I on the right track here??


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