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Britannia Lathes - Page 2

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A Britannia publication is available - a wonderful 225 page technical book detailing the lathes and how to use them - with an emphasis on ornamental turning of which the author, J. Lukion B.A.,was an acknowledged expert. The back of the book has an additional and well-illustrated 194-page advertising section.

Britannia Shapers, Planers & Milling Machines   
Britannia Lathe Photographs  Ornamental Turning Attachments   

Britannia Lathes 8 &13
Recognisable by its distinctive tailstock, possibly unique to the model, the No. 8 Britannia lathe was numbered out of Model sequence - being designed to fit between the No. 3 and No. 4 machines. The centre height was 3.5 inches and the capacity between centres 16.5". It was intended only for light, amateur use, but even so the 5/8" Whitworth threaded headstock spindle was hardened, as were the bearings it ran in. The lathe was supplied complete on a cast-iron stand with a rear-mounted wooden tool tray and was delivered ready to run with steel headstock and tailstock centres, a hand rest with 2 Tees, a wrought-iron crankshaft and treadle (that was supported on hard-steel centres instead of running in bearings),  a turned-finish flywheel, driver and drill chucks - and a leather driving cord. The weight was 180 lbs and the cost, at the turn of the century, 6 : 10s or, with a 3-foot bed, 7. A screw-feed compound slide rest was an extra 3 - an astonishing sum in comparison with the lathe's basic price.

No. 8 Britannia Lathe

Britannia No. 8 lathe with a compound slide rest as shown in the Melhuish Tool Catalogue of 1898.

Illustrated above and below the No. 13 Britannia was the smallest of the company's products to combine, in the terminology of the day, the features of  "sliding, screwcutting and gap-bed". The centre height was 3 inches and the capacity between centres either 19 inches with the standard 3 ft bed, or 25 inches with the optional (1 Guinea extra) 3 ft 6 in version. A gap in the 3.5-inches wide and 2.25-inches deep bed was also on the options' list, adding another guinea (1 : 1s) for a facility that allowed a disc of metal 10.5 inches in diameter and 2.875 inches thick to be swung within it.
Backgeared, the headstock carried a pulley with three grooves cut to take an ordinary "gut" or cord driving band that passed down to a 20-inch diameter flywheel with 4 grooves - so allowing a little juggling with belt lengths and alignments to produce a total of five spindle speeds.
Fitted with ungraduated feed screws, the compound slide rest had a top slide marked with degree intervals for up to 50 either side of centre. The drive to the 7/8" diameter, 1/4-inch pitch leadscrew was through a tumble-reverse mechanism - with full set of 22 changewheels from which to built the necessary thread-cutting train. The clasp nuts were of the proper double-closure type, in gun metal , whilst the carriage was fitted with a usual-for-the-time fast-action-return by rack and pinion; there was no provision for moving the carriage steadily under hand control.
One interesting option was the 5-guinea "overhead motion", built on cast-iron uprights at the rear of the stand. An "overhead" was (and remains) a very popular fitting amongst highly-skilled turners; it allows the lathe to be converted into a miniature, precision grinding, drilling and gear-cutting machine by providing a drive to high-speed heads clamped in the position normally occupied by the toolpost; in ornamental turning the use of an overhead is essential if more advanced work is to be done. The drive to the overhead was from the flywheel, the belt passing through holes in the stand in front of and behind the headstock; a pivoting arm, tipped with a jockey pulley at one end and a weight at the other, performed the essential task of keeping the drive belt tight whilst driving the cutter, or grindstone, at high speed. The lathe was very-well presented, and sold complete on a treadle stand with a polished-wooden top and tool drawer; the weight was an appreciable 252 lbs and it cost, in basic short-bed form, 15 guineas - a guinea being a 'one pound and one shilling'.

Britannia No. 13 lathe on the maker's treadle stand with "Overhead".

Britannia Lathes 14, 15 & 16
Britannia No. 14  3.5-inch centre height backgeared, gap-bed, screwcutting lathe on the maker's 20-inch diameter flywheel (treadle) stand and fitted with a (5-speed) light-duty "cord" drive.  The drive from spindle to leadscrew - as on all screwcutting Britannia lathes - was through a tumble-reverse mechanism (in the language of the time leadscrew feed, a rack-driven feed was also fitted to the carriage and this, as on Britannia lathes of the time (and most others of the era) was of the "directly-geared" type and designed so that a fractional rotation of the long operating handle produced a disproportionately large movement linear of the carriage - rendering it useless for feeding the cutting tool by hand. However, as a means of quickly resetting the carriage between cuts it was ideal - and advertised by the company for that sole purpose.
4.75 inches wide and 3.75 inches deep the bed was only available, when first advertised, in a single length of 42 inches (although shorter examples have been found) - that allowed a maximum of 25 inches to be accommodated between centres. The generous gap admitted a piece of material up to 3.5 inches thick with a maximum diameter of 14.25 inches.
22 "as-cast" changewheels of 1/4" pitch were supplied to drive the leadscrew - that was connected to the apron by two gun-metal clasp nuts. The compound slide rest had no micrometer collars on the feed screws - although the swivelling top slide did carry markings for 50 degrees either side of its central position.
In 1899 the price was 18 : 18s : 0d., but if taken as a bench lathe this fell to 16 : 5s : 0d.
a "reversing motion") a most useful system, forms of which were even seen on the comparatively primitive lathes of the early 1800s.

Britannia No. 14 3.5" centre-height lathe

Britannia 4-inch, 4.5-inch and 5-inch centre height backgeared, gap-bed, screwcutting  No. 15 lathe on a single-flywheel treadle stand and fitted with a (5-speed) light-duty rope drive. Because the leadscrew feed also provided, when driven by the correct arrangement of  changewheels, a slow-acting feed to the carriage, lathes of this type were advertised for many years as "self-acting".
A conventional, directly-geared  rack feed was fitted to the carriage which, like that on the No. 14, was not designed to allow the tool to be moved under hand guidance, but simple to reposition it quickly after a long cut.
The bed was 6.125 inches wide, and 4.5 inches deep, and available in two lengths of  4 and 5 feet - which gave 30 and 42 inches between centres respectively. The gap allowed a maximum diameter of 16 inches to be swung - which might have been hard work considering the limited power available from the relatively light, single flywheel and primitive gut-drive belt - though for 21 shilling extra, a set of flat pulleys was offered which would have improved matters considerably.
22 changewheels of 1/4" pitch and with an as-cast finish were supplied for screwcutting; fully machined gear wheels were extra throughout the range but the engagement clasp nuts were of gun metal and properly arranged in a top and bottom pair. An interesting option - for 4 extra - was the provision of power sliding (a feed along the bed) and surfacing (across the ways) by a separate "backshaft" which ran down the back of the bed. How the drive to this was arranged is not entirely clear - it is known that a worm wheel was used but no pictures appear in any of the sales literature; however, a set of connecting gears driving across the width of the bed, from either the headstock or tailstock end of the leadscrew, was the normal way of arranging this once common feature.
The compound slide rest had, like many competing makes, no micrometer collars on the feed screws - although the swivelling top slide did carry degree markings for setting the angle correctly.
In 1899 the price for a 4 foot backgeared and screwcutting 4-inch model on the treadle stand was 25 : 4s : 0d. , for the 4.5-inch centre height version 26 : 15s : 0d and for the largest, 5-inch model, 28 : 7s : 0d. The 5 foot bed was an extra 2.

Above and below - the 5-inch and 6-inch centre height backgeared, gap-bed, screwcutting Britannia No. 16 lathe on a twin-flywheel treadle stand and fitted with flat-belt drive - both this and the bolt-on leadscrew-hanger bearings distinguishing it from other Britannia lathes of the same capacity. Two bed lengths were offered, of 5 and 6 feet, which gave 35 and 46 inches between centres respectively.
This was the smallest of the firm's "serious" lathes (the flat belt could transmit a reasonable amount of power) and was available either on the stand illustrated or with a separate countershaft for drive by "
overhead or steam power". The bed was 7 inches wide (but only 5.5 inches deep) and carried a detachable gap 9 inches wide and 5.25 inches deep - a useful size for a variety of general work, but hard on the poor apprentice who had to provide the motive power in a workshop without an engine.
The headstock spindle could be ordered with either hard-steel or gunmetal bearings and was sized differently for the two centres heights: the 5-inch lathe carried a thread 1
1/4 inches in diameter whilst that fitted to the 6-inch version was all of 1/8" larger - which, for the tiny difference it made, could hardly have been worth effort of tooling up for.
A set of 22 changewheels - of 1/4" pitch - were supplied for screwcutting, with the clasp nuts of gun metal and arranged in a clamping pair - unlike many other (relatively) inexpensive lathes where only one was fitted, with the thrust taken on an opposing, plain pad. Like the smaller No. 15 (and all the larger lathes) the option was offered of power sliding and surfacing by a separate "backshaft" running down the rear of the bed. 
The compound slide rest had no micrometer collars on the feed screws - although the swivelling top slide did carry degree markings.
The lathe was relatively heavy, the 6-inch centre, 6 foot bed model tipping the scales at a little over half a ton. In 1899 the price for a 5-inch centre height "short-bed" backgeared and screwcutting model on the treadle stand was 35 : 14s : 0d., with an extra charge of some 4 : 14s : 0d. if the 6-inch throw "long-bed" version was required. For those brave enough to risk lengthening a 5-inch deep bed even further, a modest charge of 2 was charged for every extra foot of length ordered.
If the maker's stand was not needed, the basic lathe could be supplied on cast-iron legs (standards), and with a wall or ceiling-mounting countershaft, for a saving of thirty shillings.
A tailstock arranged with a separate base plate that allowed the top section to be set over for taper turning was an extra 1.

Britannia No. 16 Lathe on the maker's twin-flywheel treadle stand. The detached gap piece clearly reveals the generous size of the 9-inch long , 5.25-inch deep gap.

Britannia Lathes 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 25 & 29
Above: Britannia 6" x 42" gap-bed, backgeared, screwcutting No. 17 lathe - the first in the company's range that was considered too large to be offered on a treadle stand. This was a substantial machine that, despite its slender appearance, weighed over 13.5 cwt. Just one centre height was offered, of 6 inches and, whilst a 6 foot long bed admitting 42 inches between centres was standard, beds of any length could be supplied for an extra charge of 2 per foot.
The design of the lathe closely followed that of the Nos. 15 and 16 machines but the bed - 8.75 inches wide, 6 inches deep and with a 10-inch long and 6-inch deep gap was very much more heavily constructed.
Included in the price of 44 : 2s : 0d was power sliding and surfacing by a "backshaft", a 4-speed fast-and-loose countershaft assembly, 22 changewheels for screwcutting, a faceplate, catchplate, index plate, spanners and centres.

Britannia Lathe Nos. 18 and 19 of 5-inch and 6-inch centre heights respectively. This was a special lathe whose origins can be traced back to a British Admiralty requirement for a self-contained lathe, suitable for shipboard use, that could take heavier-than normal cuts under treadle power alone and remove 1/2" off a 2" or 3" bar in one pass. This was achieved by building a second backgear assembly above the headstock spindle line - and meshing it with the normal one at the back. This was a system that Britannia - and many other makers, but not all - referred to a "Treble Gearing". The argument for using the term "Treble-geared" was based on the premise that a headstock driven directly by a belt was normally referred to as "single-geared" and with an ordinary backgear "double-geared" - hence, with a second backgear it must be treble-geared. As advertising hyperbole it certainly sounded impressive - even if it was untrue. Some lathes (but non by Britannia) did had a genuine treble-reduction headstock spindle assembly -  the final drive from the second backgear being to a gear formed on the inside rim of the faceplate. The American Hamilton lathe, seen here, was one such machine.
Besides it ability to remove metal quickly, the lathe was also able to swing 24 inches in the gap and, because of its ultra-low spindle gearing, would almost certainly have been able to use this facility to the full. In other respects the design of the lathe, and its equipment, were much like other Britannia models with tumble reverse, no graduations on the compound slide feed screws and solid headstock spindle. Supplied as standard with the lathe were 22 cast-finish changewheels, a faceplate and catchplate, two centres, spanners and a back (travelling) steady whilst the options list included a set-over tailstock and power sliding and surfacing from a "backshaft"

Britannia Lathe Nos. 20 and 25

Britannia lathes Nos. 21, 22 and 23; these were the largest examples advertised by the company - although bigger ones were made to special order; while all three were almost identical in appearance, their physical construction was sufficiently different to render each a special machine in its own right - there being very few interchangeable parts between them. The centre heights were, respectively: 10 inches, 12 inches and 14 inches, the bed widths 16 inches, 19 inches and 23 inches, the bed depths 11 inches, 13 inches and 14.5 inches, the bed lengths 12 feet, 12 feet and 20 feet, the capacity between centres 7ft 3 ins, 6 ft. 8 ins and 13 ft 6 ins - and their masses (they were no lightweights) 2.5 tons, 4 tons and 5 tons, with basic equipment.
In order to support the huge bed, the left-hand end of the machine was cast with a massive, integral foot; however, this must have been greatly weakened by the large gap cut into it that offered, in centre-height order, the ability to turn discs up to: 41 inches, 49 inches and 57 inches in diameter.

Britannia Lathe No. 29

An unusual slide rest designed by W.S. Brown and manufactured Britannia. The entire tool slide was mounted on a pivot - and the cutting-tool retaining T-bolt, appears to have been connected to a lever mechanism by which means it could be slid along its slot.

A standard compound slide rest supplied for fitting on the range of plain-turning lathes Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. There were no micrometer dials on the feed screws - but the (swivelling) top slide carried a base graduated 50 degrees either side of the centre line.

A circa 1880 combination wood-turning lathe and fret jaw manufactured for the wealthier amateur that has, unusually, retained its maker's original transfers. Several makers produced lathes of a similar kind, often on simple foot-treadle stands with cast-iron legs and a wooden top.

Britannia Home Page

Britannia Shapers, Planers & Milling Machines   
Britannia Lathe Photographs 
Ornamental Turning Attachments
A Britannia publication is available - a wonderful 225 page technical book detailing the lathes and how to use them - with an emphasis on ornamental turning of which the author, J. Lukion B.A.,was an acknowledged expert. The back of the book has an additional and well-illustrated 194-page advertising section.

Home   Machine Tool Archive   Machine-tools Sale & Wanted
Machine Tool Manuals   Catalogues   Belts   Books  Accessories

Britannia Lathes