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Early Metal Lathe

This lathe is lacking so many of the advances of the late 19th century, that it likely dates to the 1850's or 60's. While there is no nameplate, it strongly resembles the lathes of Shephard, Lathe & Co, of Worcester, Mass. But, recently, someone sent me an image of an early New Haven Mfg Co. planer with identical legs. Early characteristics include a rear mounted leadscrew not incorporating half nuts or any other means of rapid disengagement. Also, it does not have a hollow spindle and has only a single 2" belt pulley driving the carriage feed. The carriage is fitted with a "raise and fall" tool rest, which generally disappeared during the 1880's although several manufacturers continued offering it for a while longer. Also, there is no reverse gear and no other apparent means of reversing the leadscrew other than, perhaps, adding another change gear to the gear train for cutting left hand threads. The lathe has a 6' bed, 39" between centers and 18" swing. The spindle and ram have identical tapers, smaller than MT 3. Two centers are included as well as a homemade wood turning center. The spindle thread is 1 3/4", 8tpi.

The semi-circular apron with a slide to engage either the left handed or right handed worm gears for the power feed. The knob just above the slide locks the carriage.

The headstock end. The leadscrew is mounted on the rear of the bed and used only for cutting threads. The belt driven carriage feed has only a single 2" wide pulley, rather than the usual cone pulley for this purpose. There is no reversing gear incorporated in the headstock. The power feed can be reversed at the carriage, but, there seems to be no provision for reversing the leadscrew.

The carriage fitted with a "raise and fall" rest. The rear hand crank tilts the slide rest upward. Note the t-slot securing the tool post base continues on the front of the carriage, allowing the tool post to be mounted over large diameter faceplate work without the cross slide interfering.

A rather ornate lever engages the backgear. The gear has broken teeth as well as very early repairs to other teeth.

The tailstock with large hand wheel.

Right end of lathe Note the unique leg casting

The leadscrew linkage on the rear of the carriage. Although the bolt is a replacement for the original stud, there seems to have been no way to quickly disengage the leadscrew while operating the lathe. The arm on the leadscrew nut is slotted and can be disengaged from the carriage after loosening the nut securing it.

A countershaft and motor mount.The previous owner used the lathe to turn wood and had temporarily removed the backgear and mounted the countershaft on top of the headstock.

The only obvious damage to the lathe are two cracks in the top of the tailstock, a crack in the apron, and the damaged teeth on the backgear. The small cracks don't seem to affect its use, but the backgear is not usable. All the bearings seem up to the task of demo turning. Engaging the power feed gears is a bit iffy. Sometimes it works and sometimes it slips out of gear. It may be a matter of locking the slide in exactly the right position or it may be wear to the worm gears. There is still a lot of oily saw dust on the internal parts. I haven't cleaned the leadscrew and ways well enough to try it under power (and there is no motor), but everything turns by hand.

Price: $295
Buyer must pick up or arrange transportation. It can be disassembled and hauled in a vehicle with at least 6'x 2' clearance for the bed. Safe storage until your next Maryland trip is no problem.

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Contact: Richard Van Vleck - Email:

© 2007, American Artifacts, Taneytown, Maryland.