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Ames Lathes: Stands & Drive Systems

Ames  Home Page   Chase Screwcutting   Stands & Drive Systems   
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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.

Early Ames No. 3 lathe on the oak cabinet stand with gearbox drive


As with other makes of precision bench lathe, the Ames could be driven by a conventional wall or ceiling mounted flat-belt drive countershaft unit, the layout drawing for which are at the bottom of this page, or fitted to a 48" long, 25" wide and 36" self-contained and rather elegant cabinet with either a 3-speed gearbox or 2-speed plus reverse. The stand was sturdily constructed from oak with a top surface edged with hardwood and covered in thick linoleum - an early form of plastic flooring very familiar to an "earlier generation". Two cast-iron uprights carried a cross member in hardwood on which was mounted the speed-change gearbox and, optionally, a drive for grinding and milling attachments carried on the lathe's top slide.
A 0.5 hp motor was fitted in the left-hand compartment, behind two doors, and the stand was either cut away on the right-hand side to allow space for the operator to sit down while working - or fitted with a nest of drawers. The motor drove upwards to the gearbox, the front of which was removable; inside the bronze casing were three sets of constantly-meshed helical gears, running within an oil-tight bath and each fitted with a heavily-built steel friction cone clutch that allowed an instantaneous change of speed. The drive from the motor entered from a 7" diameter pulley on the lower shaft and passed, via the gears and clutches, to an upper shaft that carried a cone pulley to match that of the lathe beneath it. Unusually for a countershaft of this era, the shafts ran on double-row ball races whilst the clutch thrust bearing was also of the ball bearing type.
Controlled by foot pedals, the clutches were connected by wires to the engagement mechanism. Later stands were built on heavy, pressed steel legs with linoleum-covered, hard-wood faced wooden tops and used an underdrive system with either a 3-speed gearbox or a mechanical infinitely variable-speed unit.
An owner of an original stand writes:
I recently found , after a long search, an Ames lathe (dated circa 1928) still mounted one its original oak bench; although externally the stand looked fine, internally it had been badly damaged and one must presume that the only reason it hadn't been reduced to firewood 40 years ago was it's tank-like build quality. Of course, the original the linoleum top was missing and had been replaced by several sheets of tacked-down roofing tin - this was replaced by some stainless steel that I had handy.
Fortunately the complex overhead drive transmission was complete and is currently being rebuilt - this mechanism including a 2-speed, plus reverse, constant-mesh gearbox with shafts running in ball races. On the back of the transmission system are control levers activated by cables that run three holes in the tabletop down to floor-level pedals. Unfortunately the original motor was missing, this being of a type -  judging by the relationship between the holes for its mounting in the floor of the stand and that for the long flat belt to the gearbox - must have been rather weird. Possibly long and skinny with an extended drive shaft, or fitted to some sort of adjustable mounting system, the motor's location was dictated by the need to avoid the control cables, even then the makers even having to build a pulley rack to guide the control cables around it.  I did some CAD modeling of the cabinet internals to see if a modern motor could be made to fit, but sadly it can't. However, the CAD work did tell me a couple of things:  the "best fit" size for the drive pulley on the motor is roughly 4"OD .  According to some of my sales literature, the driven pulley on the transmission was 7" OD so, assuming a 1725 RPM motor, that would give an input speed of 986 r.p.m. As the drive belt is 1.5" wide and the smallest step on the standard Ames flat-belt sheave is 4.19", it seems likely (to keep speeds within what might be expected for a lathe like this) that they may have used a similar size for the motor pulley.
I do have pictures and information from tearing down and rebuilding the transmission, but I'm not done with that yet and am trying to track down one of the bearings which, though still listed, are rare. Cast in bronze (no expense spared there) through with a rather rough external finish, the gearbox casing was painted in a prosaic gray.

An almost completely restored Ames cabinet stand with the drive mechanism, drawer handles and latches still to be fitted

By the 1930s the No. 3 lathe was mounted on the AB1000 stand with heavy pressed steel legs and a much more compact and efficient 3-speed gearbox drive system.

Standard two-speed countershaft as offered from the earliest days of the Ames Precision Bench Lathe.
Described as being of the "Wall Rod" type this unit was designed to overcome the limitations of traditional countershafts were the wall brackets also formed the supports for the pulley spindles. The system relied upon two 1-inch diameter cold-rolled steel bars set 4 inches apart that connected together two cast-iron wall brackets. The castings that held the self-aligning bearings for the 3/4"-diameter ground finished pulley spindle were separate units and could be easily and independently slid along the bars until the drive and driven pulley were in line with their respective mates both above and below. In the picture above the two pulleys to the left are both of the "tight and loose" (UK fast-and-loose) kind where one pulley was free to rotate on the shaft (the idle pulley) and the other fastened to it (the drive pulley). By operating a foot pedal the machine operator could cause a striker rod on either the larger (7") or smaller (5") pulley to flick the belt across from idle to drive and so change the speed from a high of 720 rpm to a low of 160 rpm. Despite some makers offering an interconnecting control that pushed one belt back  onto its idle pulley before moving the other, Ames appears not to have offered this refinement on their countershafts. Although the unit could be used as a stand-alone fitting it was really designed to be connected together in multiples along one wall - all joined by long steel rods - and drive a number of lathes and milling machines from one power source. The countershaft
As an alternative, a "three-speed" countershaft was offered that gave the same high and low forward speeds as the ordinary unit plus, by means of an additional twisted belt, one reverse speed of 160 rpm..

The "3-speed" countershaft with an extra fast-and-loose pulley to provide a reverse drive

For grinding and high-speed cutter work some means of driving at high speed was required and for this Ames offered the above attachment. It consisted of an extra pulley alongside the 3-step on the ordinary "Wall Rod" countershaft together with a pair of cast angle brackets (mounted on the top rod and a third rod above)  that carried a very large diameter "gut" round-rope drive pulley.

Never mind the lathe, look how it's driven ..
A schematic diagram to help the installation of an Ames lathe with an "instant-change" countershaft unit and ceiling-mounted electric motor.
The complexity, cost and time required to assemble and set up this type of drive forced manufactures to design compact, self-contained stands of the type shown at the top of the page - and which can also be seen in that used by Cataract for their bench lathe.

Ames  Home Page   Chase Screwcutting   Stands & Drive Systems
 
Headstocks & Tailstocks   Ames Slide Rests and Attachments

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

Ames Lathes: Stands & Drive Systems

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