Dating from the early 1960s (the only mention of the lathe was in the Model Engineer Magazine of 11th October, 1962) the Allanson 23/8" (63 mm) x 11" (279 mm) miniature precision lathe was manufactured by David Miles Allanson Hick who ran Allanson Engineering at 9, St. Matthew's Road, Ealing, in London W5. Allanson were makers of various high-precision products including a number of special lathes for the optical trade.
To successfully market a new design of miniature precision lathe there must have been either restricted supplies of the similar-sized, long-established, expensive and very successful Schaublin 65 and 70 and Lorch LAS - or the Company had spotted a gap in the market for this class of machine. Perhaps it was reckoned that customers would rejoice at the price advantage of a home-produced item, the Model Engineer magazine mentioned that it was very moderately priced in relation to its quality. However, such lathes are seldom bought on cost, the user instead requiring an absolute standard of accuracy and access to a wide range of specialist accessories some of which Allanson were able to offer with, amongst other items manufactured, two sizes of vertical milling slide, a backgeared milling, drilling and grinding attachment - and the facilities to design and make any special items that a customer required. Having owned an Allanson and spoken to David hick during 2011, the writer can confirm that the lathe was very well made and finished - fifteen coats of paint being applied, each rubbed down by hand. Just over forty examples of the lathe are believed to have been made - the odd one turning up for sale every few years.
Of delicate proportions and resembling a scaled-down precision bench lathe of the original Stark type (and looking larger in photographs that it really was), four versions of the were offered - all of which shared the same bed and centre height: A, B, BT and S. The "A" had been developed originally by the Company for use in their own workshops and had a headstock that took 8 mm Lorch collets. Identical in all respects save for a larger headstock, the "B" had a spindle to take 10 mm collets with a 11/16" x 16 t.p.i. Nose, a 3/4\\2 register and provision to mount a thread-chasing attachment of the usual kind.
Intended only for thread chasing and designed for the production of small screwed optical components such as lens mounts and microscope bodies, the "BT" used Lorch long-type 8 mm collets (made by Crawford) and had the necessary threading mechanism built into the headstock. This version of the lathe (just six were made) was delivered complete with a set of six hobs and a star nut - of which further sets must, presumably, have been available to cover other pitches. The last "BT" was delivered to the Ophthalmic Department of Manchester University (who also had two Allanson SP4 optical lathes in use) upgraded to take 12 mm Schaublin collets.
A short-bed version, the "S", was designed as a chucking and polishing lathe for second-operation work and had a headstock fitted with a 3-step combined clutch, brake and collet-closing mechanism, presumably not unlike that offered on Pre-WW2 Ames and similar lathes. Whether the headstock spindle moved forwards and backwards to tighten and release collets (as on the Ames) is not known, but a similar foot-operated control was included that left operator's hands free to manipulate the compound slide rest, or other attachments, and feed material into the collet. The bed was long enough to accept the standard compound slide rest - but not a tailstock.
With its flat top and bevelled edges, the bed of the Allanson followed established WW watch-lathe with the headstock and compound slide rest being located on the bevels. The headstock was held in place by a full-length T-headed bolt (the socket head of which could be reached through the bed foot), and the compound slide assembly by the usual through stud with an edge-knurled handwheel. However, the tailstock location differed, combined locating and clamping plate being used that bore against an angled surface inside the gap between the bed ways. The plate was held in place by a single screw that could be adjusted to allow the clamp lever's locking position to be set correctly. Locked by tightening a long split in the casting, the barrel took a No. 0 Morse taper, with self ejection by the feed screw, this being equipped with a zeroing micrometer dial of the same design as used on the compound slide rest. On some examples the tailstock casting was cut away to reveal a barrel with ruler scale graduated in inches.
Running in adjustable tapered bronze bearings, the 0.4" bore, double-cone hardened and ground headstock spindle carried a 4-step V-belt pulley for 1/4" wide belt that, together with the 2-step drive from motor to the neatly-constructed cast-iron countershaft, gave a range of 8 speeds from approximately 200 to 3000 r.p.m. Instead of using the expected wick-feed oilers to provide a steady flow of clean lubricant into the spindle bearings, the units fitted were merely dust caps with a straight drilling through their base.
Fitted with an enclosed cross slide that gave complete protection to the cross-feed screw, the compound slide assembly had the usual type of long top slide (with an unusually generous 4.5 inches of travel) but with the feed screw running along the forward edge and completely exposed. The small micrometer dials were in brass or bronze and locked by a second, full-circle wheel that pressed inwards without disturbing the setting - both elements being machined with a narrow band of beautiful, old-fashioned convex knurling. "A" and "B" lathes were supplied complete with a simple hand T-rest, compound slide assembly, catchplate, centres, collet draw tube, chuck backplate, a countershaft unit with two V-belts and a motor pulley. It's also likely that a 2-way tool post and faceplate would have been supplied, though the latter was unusual in having circles of plain rather than tapped holes.
Excluding an aura of quality, upon inspection many parts appear to have been flame or induction hardened (rather like Smart and Brown lathes), and not ordinary steel or cast iron.
Allanson also listed a number of other machines that they intended to supply as sets of castings including precision backgeared and screwcutting lathes, capstan lathes, bench-model turret and precision universal milling machines and a 1/4" sensitive drill. Although non of these ever have come to light, the screwcutting lathe is known to have had a backgeared headstock, a single V and flat-way bed and a 5/8" diameter 8 t.p.i. leadscrew.
If you have an Allanson lathe of any type, the writer would be interested indeed to hear from you.
A list of other English-manufactured precision bench lathes, with links to articles about them, can be found on this page..