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Ames Lathes - U.S.A.

Chase Screwcutting   Stands & Drive Systems   Headstocks & tailstocks

   Ames Slide Rests and Attachments   Serial Numbers

Ames Millers   Ames Triplex Multi-Function Machine   Photographs

Ames 1940s to 1960s   Circa 1835/80 Ames Chicopee Lathe

Although no Operator's Manual was ever produced for Ames lathes,
a collection of interesting Sales Catalogues is available.

When Bliss Charles Ames opened his machine-tool works on Ash Street in Waltham, Ma. in the late 1890s, he was joining an exclusive club of manufacturers* who, though they produced relatively few machines, made a significant contribution to improving the standards of quality and precision employed in American manufacturing industry. Amongst Ames's fellow high-class machine-tool makers* in Waltham were Stark, the American Watch Tool Company, The Waltham Machine Works, Wade and F. W. Derbyshire.
Ames quickly became well-known (as the B.C. Ames Co.) for a range of very accurate machine tools and precision measuring equipment; they did not produce a huge number of machines - not only was the specialised marked for precision bench lathes and millers relatively small but competition fierce. In the early 1920 an average of just one hundred No. 3 lathes were being produced each year, a number that fell to a low of only two or thee at the height of the depression in the early 1930s; sales picked up to nearly fifty a year during the middle to late 1930s followed by an explosion in growth during the years of World War 2 when, if the serial numbers are to be believed, as many as 806 left the factory between 1942 and 1943. What sort of company would have been interested in an Ames precision lathe? Tow examples are, L.S. Starrett, makers of high-class measuring and inspection equipment, had over one hundred in the Athol, Mass. Works and, during WW2, numbers were sold to H.L.Norden in Long Island, New York, where they were used in the production of Norden bomb sights.
The entire range of No. 3 and EH3 Bench Lathes, Bench Millers, Slotters and Shapers continued in production until 1957, when production of the lathes only appears to have been continued using dual Stark and Ames branding - the catalogs from that point on (if not the lathes) carrying the names of both companies.
Today the Ames brand  name lives on in the precision engineering field being used on high-quality measuring and inspection equipment.
*Makers of American precision bench lathes included: *Levin, Bottum, American Watch Tool Company, B.C.Ames, Bottum, Hjorth, Potter, Pratt & Whitney, Rivett, Wade, Waltham Machine Works, WadePratt & Whitney, Rivett, Cataract, Hardinge, Elgin, Remington, Sloan & Chace, W.H.Nichols, Crystal Lake and (though now very rare) Bausch & Lomb, Frederick Pearce, Van Norman, Ballou & Whitcombe, Sawyer Watch Tool Co., Engineering Appliances, Fenn-Sadler, "Cosa Corporation of New York" and UND. A fuller list can be found here, with accompanying notes and explanations about how they were set up and used.

Ames machine tool Serial Numbers can be found here

Ames 83/8" x 21" precision bench lathe 1900 - 1930
The small bench machine illustrated above, typical of an Ames lathe, was available with a complete range of screw and lever-feed slides, different tailstocks, various quick-release collet fittings for the headstock spindle, relieving and milling attachments and special accessories for production engineering.
Like many other Precision lathes the Ames' 3-step cone pulley had its smallest diameter by the spindle nose - so allowing the front bearing to be increased in size and surrounded by a greater mass of supporting metal. Unusually, the spindle carried  two rings of indexing holes around the larger of the two pulley flanges - and a further ring of holes around the smaller flange designed to assist in the removal of chucks and collets, etc., from the spindle nose. Although the beds carried serial numbers, Ames claimed that - like Schaublin in Switzerland - any headstock, bed and tailstock combination would line up accurately, so allowing the easy transfer of specialised production equipment from machine to machine within a factory or toolroom.

Broaching a hexagon collet using a rack-feed tailstock.
Broaching is a fairly unusual process to carry out on a small lathe but it is perfectly possible, given sharp tools and some care, to make a success of it. The indexing holes that equipped the headstock of the Ames (and many other lathes) were, of course, an essential part of the procedure.

Drilling acetylene torch nozzles with the Tip Drilling Attachment

The Three-bearing, 2-step pulley headstock model in use at the L.S. Starrett works in Athol, Mass. where over one hundred similar Ames bench lathes were employed.

Once a commonly available accessory for small lathes, the tailstock-mounted indexing turret was a simple and economical way of producing small batches of components.
An ordinary screw-feed tailstock barrel would have slowed the process up more than somewhat, but if lever or rack-operated, and with light work, respectable rates of production could be achieved with very simple tooling.

Six-station, hand-indexing Turret  and Lever-action Cross Slide.
The indexing plunger by the rear pulley flange is clearly visible.

"Half-open" Tailstock in use in conjunction with a two-toolholder lever-feed cross slide.

Ames  Home Page

Chase Screwcutting   Stands & Drive Systems 

Headstocks & Tailstocks   Serial Numbers

   Ames Slide Rests and Attachments

Ames Millers   Ames Triplex Multi-Function Machine   Photographs

Ames 1940s to 1960s   Circa 1835/80 Ames Chicopee Lathe

Although no Operator's Manual was ever produced for Ames lathes
, a collection of interesting Sales Catalogues is available.

Ames Lathes - U.S.A.
E-MAIL   Tony@lathes.co.uk
Home   Machine Tool Archive   Machine-tools for Sale & Wanted
Machine Tool Manuals   Machine Tool Catalogues   Belts   Books   Accessories