Little is known of the Childs Company, other than that they appear to have been, at one time, based in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and made a variety of small horizontal and vertical millers, the small plain-turning lathe featured here, table saws and at least one simple wood-turning lathe - all aimed, obviously, at the amateur and possibly the professional workshop dealing with small or lighter components. Other listed address for the Company include Conneaut, OH, where they were known to have been based from October 1948 until July 1949; Conyers, GA listed as being their base from 1971 until February 1973 and Winter Haven, FL.
Extremely rare (few can have been sold) and with a 2-inch centre height and admitting around 8 inches between centres, the plain-turning miniature lathe by Childs mirrored both the excellent build quality and tiny proportions of Company's milling machines.
Sturdily built from iron castings (complete with motor it weighed around 40 lbs), and mounted on a shallow cast tray, the lathe bed had a wide and flat top surface with 60° edges, these being used to locate the rigid, box-form headstock, the carriage and tailstock - with each employing a loose gib strip for adjustment.
Running in ball races, the headstock spindle was bored through 1/4", used a No. 0 Morse taper socket and carried a 3-step pulley machined to take a narrow V-belt. Drive came from a 1500 r.p.m., 1/15 h.p. rear-mounted motor mounted on a hinged baseplate, the weight of the motor being used to tension the primary drive belt - a system, when used, that invariably leads to "motor bounce" as the mass of the motor is usually insufficient. From the 2-step pulley on the motor, the drive passed to a small but robust countershaft arranged on a hinge and fitted with a tensioning screw to provide a positive drive. Although the arrangement gave 6 speeds, as the difference in diameter of the 3-step pulleys varied only slightly (1.5", 1.6" and 1.8"), with each of the two ranges the spread of speeds would have been rather restricted.
For a miniature lathe the carriage was of heavy construction with the bolt-on apron carrying a full nut through which the overhung leadscrew passed; a small, ungratuated handwheel, with a wide, knurled surface being fitted at the tailstock end. As there was no quick-action rack drive, repositioning the carriage meant much twiddling of the handwheel. Of plain construction and without T-slots, the cross slide was of the full-length type, with a rather short travel of just 1.5 inches, and fitted with an unusually wide top slide that could be swivelled through 360° - its mounting being an inverted cone with locking screws entering from each side face of the cross slide. Each feed screw was fitted with a micrometer dials of the non-zeroing type, though the engraving was clear and knurled faces provided to aid the grip of oily fingers.
Although heavily built as a one-piece casting, the tailstock included a number of crude features including a No. 0 Morse taper spindle whose thread ran in the main casting and a screw-down locking lever that bore directly against it.
In addition to their metal lathe and milling machines, Childs also offered a simple wood lathe.
Similar post-WW2 miniature plain turning lathes include the Centix Micro, Hector, Jason, Pixi and Sartglen, Perris, York and some late versions of the long-lived Flexispeed range and its derivatives.
Should any reader have a different lathe by Childs, or any publicity literature from the Company, the writer would be most interested to hear from you.
With thanks to the owner, Dave Trott, who supplied the excellent photographs below and has posted an interesting video showing the lathe in use.