Bing (GBN) Model Lathes
- by the German toy maker Bing -
Bing or, to give the Company its full name Bing" ("Bing brothers") was a world-famous German toy company founded in 1863 in Nuremberg, Germany. The founders were two brothers, Ignaz Bing and Adolf Bing, their "Gebrüder original products, before the enormously successful range of toys, model trains and miniature steam engines was a range of simple metal kitchen utensils.
Intended to complement the various accessories offered for their extensive range of model railway equipment, these little lathes were often marked with the letters"GBM". Three of the lathes and one countershaft unit shown on this page have this marking which, when set in a diamond frame, indicates a production date from 1902 to 1907.
As the detailing and quality of construction is far in advance of others discovered, the first lathe shown below might or might not be by Bing. Just under 7 inches long and tiny in all its proportions (nothing being sacrificed to make handling easier), this newly-discovered sub-miniature backgeared machine must surely dispose the famous ManSon and Adept from their place as the world's smallest conventional engineering lathes. However, is it a "real" production lathe - or a scale model? - if the latter it must surely be the best commercially-produced model lathe ever made As no others have turned up (though it's possible that a similar machine was shown in a pre-WW2 Model Engineer magazine) the description "model" could well be accurate. However, no matter what its origins or intended purpose, its general appearance and design features point to a machine that would have been current between approximately 1870 and 1900 (the shape of the headstock casting being typical of the period) it even has a wooden tool tray at the back of the bed, a fitting once common on larger plain lathes of this type. In the pictures below, as the lathe is mounted the wrong way round on its feet, the tray should be at the back. With a relatively sophisticated backgeared headstock equipped with a faceplate-cum-chuck, one wonders if the maker of the model (of the original full-sized version) might originally have offered a screw-feed compound slide rest - perhaps one is hidden away amongst the other forgotten items in the tool shed from where the lathe was retrieved.
Driven by a thin, round leather belt, the steel spindle almost certainly runs directly in the cast-iron of the headstock - the free graphite in which actually provides a good, long-lasting bearing surface - with oil provided through miniature, beautifully-proportioned oil cups. Power would most likely have come from a "foot-motor", a treadle-operated device with a small flywheel; positioned under the workbench, this was once a common way of powering small machine tools in an amateur's workshop. The headstock pulley was most unusual, the three grooves having a coarse, grip-enhancing knurled finish - pointing to the fact that this was, perhaps, after all, intended to be used and not just a show piece. The pulley on a Bing countershaft has the same finish, so confirming that the knurling was, indeed, original.