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Atlas 9-inch Lathe
Atlas Models: 918, 924, 936, 942, 948 & 954

Atlas 9-inch pictures continued here

Atlas Home Page   Atlas 6-inch    Atlas 9-inch   Late-model Atlas 12-inch   Atlas Utility Lathes 
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A complete data pack is available for the Atlas 9-inch & other Lathes

Atlas made metal-turning lathes, in various styles, from the early 1930s until the late 1970s but this page deals with the Company first model, the 9-inch, with links above to take you to descriptions and pictures of the later and more common  6-inch, 10-inch and 12-inch models.
Although "V" belts had been widely available from the early years of the 20th century they were in the form of wide and clumsy sectional belts (identical in concept to today's "T-Link" type) and widely used on the final drive of less-expensive motorcycles where their "soft" action took some of the roughness out of the crude power delivery then common. However, in 1930/31 a revolution in transmission design was created when the first continuous-loop, narrow-section  "wedge" belt was introduced - with the Atlas company taking immediate advantage of its possibilities by introducing, in 1932, an entirely new lathe, the world's first with an integrated, all-V-belt drive system. With motor and countershaft attached to the back of the machine there was no longer any need for the new owner to find a location in the workshop where he could spend the best part of a day struggling to install a wall or ceiling-mounted countershaft; this machine could be dropped onto a bench, plugged in and used within minutes of arriving home. Described as having a "Compound V-belt Drive" the lathe was of light construction, with a 9-inch swing (4.5-inch centre height) and also appeared in that year's printing of the Sears, Roebuck catalog as the Craftsman "Metalcraft". The machine continued to be sold (and improved in detail) until 1938 when its status had deteriorated to being advertised on the same page and under the same heading as the "Utility" version of the 10-inch, the latter a simplified machine based on the much-improved model first offered in 1936.
In the first 9-inch catalog the lathe was not accorded a model number but, from the second and subsequent editions, the Type designation 918, 924, 936, 942, 948 and 954 were used with the units and tens digits denoting the bed lengths that gave, respectively 18", 24", 36", 48" and 54" between centres.
Although a revolutionary machine, everything about the 9-Series minimal appearance would seem to suggest that the management's instruction to the designer was, "Use the smallest amount of metal that allows a component to do its job" - and it is instructive to compare it to the later, more fully-developed, heavier and rigid  10-inch machines shown on other pages.  The lathe was not fitted with a backgear (unless specified with a simplified drive as one of the cheaper "Unit Plan" machines) but instead used a "double-reduction" V-belt system running on a Hyatt roller-bearing countershaft unit bolted to the back of the headstock. The lathe's ingenious drive was protected under a United States patent No. 1909522 in the name of James G. Collins - but assigned to the Atlas Press Company, by whom, presumably, he was employed. The application was filed on March 8th, 1932 and granted on the May 16th, 1933.
In the "high-speed" position the new drive system was entirely conventional; a small pulley on the motor drove a large pulley on the swing-head of the countershaft from which three direct-drive speeds, of 220, 370 and 600 rpm, were transmitted to a matching 3-step pulley on the headstock spindle. To obtain the low-speed range takes rather longer to explain than to set-up in practice. The countershaft-pulley shaft was formed in two concentric parts, the right-hand side carrying a large, single pulley that was driven separately from the headstock 3-step pulley by a small pulley fastened to its right-hand face. Normally the small right-hand countershaft pulley just idled, but a "shift collar", inboard of the left-hand countershaft bearing, could be moved to the right to bring it into action. When moved, the collar unlocked itself from the shaft and two pins, which extended from its face, went completely through the 3-step pulley and entered the single pulley on its right-hand side - and so locked the two together as a "floating unit". The eventual outcome of these various manipulations was that the drive went from motor to countershaft, countershaft to headstock, back from headstock to countershaft and then, using the 3-speed pulley, back to the headstock to give three slow speeds of 47, 80 and 130 rpm. Although the maker's instructions do not mention the point, some method of releasing the 3-step spindle pulley must also have been provided, otherwise it could not have acted as a drive transmitter. Scrutiny of the picture below should instantly make this interesting down-up-down 'modus-operandi' a little clearer. If you have one of these lathes, but no headstock-spindle drive belts, a good starting point is to try 30-inch belts on the two right-hand pulleys and a 31-inch on the left. The drive, although it eliminated costly backgears, cannot have been a success: with a drive using only belts it is difficult to get a really low gear ratio - and the slower the belts run the greater their tendency to slip. In addition it was, (and still is) surprisingly difficult to machine sets of pulleys, and purchase quantities of accurately-sized V belts, so that a multi-step drive works without the need for some small adjustment in tension when the belt is moved from one speed to another. A further problems comes with extended use for, as the pulleys wear, the difficulty of setting the belts "just so" increases. On the Atlas some compensation in for differences in belt length could be partially compensated for by adjusting the setting of the countershaft bearings in their simple but ingenious "floating" housings with, of course, the whole head further adjustable for belt tension against an over-centre locking bar.
Because the Atlas was (for so light a machine) capable holding rather large pieces of metal, the original low-speeds-through-belts design was almost certainly dropped because, in "low-gear", if the cutting tool was applied to the edge of a 10" diameter piece of steel, the drive would have been hard pushed to cope. A conventional backgear system was introduced on the later 10-inch lathes - and the problem solved.
Continued below:

Original 1932 version of the Atlas 9-inch lathe with its distinctive splayed feet

When the 10-inch lathe was introduced (the 9-inch continued in production) its motor pulley, and the corresponding countershaft pulley, were both of the two-step type, so doubling the number of speeds; this arrangement was immediately made available as an option on the 9-inch lathe - and raised its top speed to 2750 rpm. Atlas must have been convinced about the effectiveness of the very light "wavy-spoke" countershaft pulley (though they are often seen to wobble on well-used machines) for it was employed on the larger Atlas lathes until the very last (new-model) 12-inch versions made in the 1980s. Another feature was also to become a trade-mark tradition: the use of "Zamak", a combination of aluminium, magnesium, copper and zinc pressure injected into hardened-steel dies and used for gears, handwheels, pulleys, clasp nuts and other small items--though on the 9-inch it was also used for the cross-slide casting and, on the early 10-inch, for the lower section of the top slide. "Zamak" (the name was a registered trade mark) was developed by the New Jersey Zinc Company and used from the beginning of Atlas lathe production until the end. Further details of this interesting material can be found on the Atlas 10-inch lathe page.
Hardened and ground, the No. 3 Morse taper spindle had a 8 U.S.F nose thread, a 0.75" bore and ran in "babbit" bearings, each held in place by a two-bolt cap packed up with shims that could be delaminated in 0.002" strips (just like a Myford ML7) to allow adjustment for wear. The headstock assembly, with the bearings sitting on top of unbraced columns, was typical of contemporary small-lathe practice and reference to the Series-10 illustrations will show how this part was greatly strengthened and improved on later models.
In place of a conventional headstock-mounted tumble reverse a "leadscrew-reverse gearbox", containing a bevel gear arrangement, was fitted at the headstock end of the leadscrew; this worked well, and enabled the carriage to be driven along the bed in both directions at the flick of a lever, however, it was unfortunately prone to damage by impatient, ham-fisted operators. No power cross feed was fitted on this, or the early 10-Series model.
Several "Utility" models were also introduced: stripped of the more expensive components, usually backgear and screwcutting, they were sold at a much reduced price (see below and here for early Utility models and here for later Utility models)
Beds with between-centre capacities of 18", 24", 30" and 36" were all available to order and, although this became a very popular lathe in the USA, no examples have yet been found in Europe.

Atlas 9-inch as it appeared in the patent application

Atlas 9" Model 936 (36 inches between-centres capacity)
By 1936 the bed had been fitted with longer and more supportive feet, the saddle, apron cross and top slides strengthened and their castings given a distinctly rounded appearance. The tailstock resembled that fitted to the early 10" lathes while both the changewheel cover and motor switch were identical to those used on the contemporary 10-E lathe.

Unashamedly advertised as the "Utility" model bench lathe, this rare 9" x 18" machine had a production run that lasted from 1934 until 1938. Although it  retained the screwcutting facility of the better-specified lathes, it had only 6 spindle speeds (202, 330, 530, 610, 1015 and 1625 rpm) obtained by the use of a 3-step pulley on the headstock and a double-step pulley on the motor to countershaft drive.
The original "918" version not only lacked backgear but a top slide was well - the latter being replaced by a toolpost formed as an integral part of the cross slide - a poor marketing decision that prevented the owner from ordering one from the accessories list.
Two other 918 models were available: the 918A, which came with a complete set of changewheels to cut threads from 4 to 96 t.p.i. and the 918B which had, in addition, the missing graduated and swivelling compound slide rest..

The well braced but lightly-constructed bed of the early 9-inch Atlas.

A rare survivor - an original "splayed-foot" 9-inch Atlas from 1932 still in its original blue paint. Only the electrical switch is missing. In addition to the photographs on this page, additional ones are here and detailed
pictures of the Craftsman version (showing different views), here

Pictures of the Atlas 9-inch continued here
- and detailed pictures of the Craftsman version here

Atlas 9-inch Lathe
Atlas Models: 918, 924, 936, 942, 948 & 954

Atlas 9-inch pictures continued here

Atlas Home Page  Atlas 6-inch    Atlas 9-inch   Late-model Atlas 12-inch   Atlas Utility Lathes 
Restored 10-D & 10F   Acorn, Halifax & Sphere Copies   Early 9-inch Metalmaster Lathes 
Atlas Screw-Machine (capstan)    Screwcutting Gearbox and Pick-O-Matic Threading   
Atlas Factory   Catalogue Covers   Accessories   
Countershafts   Atlas Miller   Atlas Shaper
A complete data pack is available for the Atlas 9-inch & other Lathes

If you have a 9-inch Atlas lathe in original condition, the writer would be very
much appreciate a set of detailed photographs to help expand this section of the Archive