Late-model English gearbox Chipmaster in its two-tone finish.
The actual centre height was 5.75"
The 15/16" (35 mm) bore headstock spindle ran in Gamet "micro-precision" taper roller bearings (made by another company in the Colchester group) with the lower part of the speed range obtained using hardened and ground gears. Because the high-speed range was directly by belt, and the comparatively short and rigid spindle so well supported, the lathe had a well-deserved reputation for being able to produce unusually smooth surface finishes. An American-type D1-3" Camlock nose fitting was used, that allowed the lathe spindle to be safely reversed at high speed, and the spindle was sleeved with a hardened 4 Morse taper short sleeve bored to accept a standard No. 2 Morse taper centre (this fitting is often missing, and expensive to replace - though sometimes cheaper replacements are available). Unfortunately, chucks with an integral D1-3" mounting are pricey to manufacture and it is often cheaper (although with only a little saving) to mount a replacement chuck on a new Camlock backplate. Certain precautions are necessary when mounting new D1 accessories on the spindle nose and it may be necessary, in order to achieve maximum grip, to re-set the Camlock studs within them - it's essential to read the maker's instructions on this point if you are unsure.
All Chipmasters were fitted with a full screwcutting gearbox that offered a greater range of threads than the Bantam. The drive to the gearbox was by changewheels for screwcutting or, for extra-fine feeds, via a V-belt on early lathes and a toothed belt (for a more positive drive) on later models. A lever on front of the headstock - annotated with a belt and gear symbols - selected the appropriate drive. For many years only an Imperial (inch pitches) gearbox was offered, with conversion gears to cut metric threads. However, from the end of 1970 onwards, a version with a dedicated metric gearbox was offered - though at extra cost this box could be provided with inch-pitch transposing gears, the set comprising: 20t, 24t, 28t, 30t, 36t, 42t, 44t, 46t, 52t, 56t, 57t, 60t, 65t, 69t and 70t. The Imperial box can be recognised by its sliding lever control with indent positions (outboard of the box to the right) whilst the metric box was similar to the unit as used on the Bantam with a joy-stick control in addition to levers. At the end of 1970 an "all-metric" version of the Chipmaster became available and carried the identification "Continental"; again, fitted with the appropriate transposing changewheels English to metric and metric to English conversions were possible.
Identical to that used on the Colchester Bantam, the tailstock spindle was equipped with a zeroing micrometer dial and has been found engraved with inches, mm and dual inch/metric markings. Listed as having a No. 3 Morse taper (and all examples seen by the writer have been on the size) some reports indicate that a slightly large size was used, though it's specification remains, for the moment, unknown.
Once in private hands, after hard industrial service, the Chipmaster could suffer problems connected with the drive system; the variator has always been enormously expensive to overhaul and, if it started to produce any untoward noises, would rapidly assume the volume made by a washing machine filled with ball bearings and scrap steel - and if you didn't stop using the lathe immediately, that's more or less what the variator turned itself into. If you are thinking of buying a Chipmaster it's absolutely essential to hear it run - if the seller cannot arrange this or has "disconnected the electrics" assume that the variator is finished and value the machine accordingly - no matter how smart the paint may look. However, ever cloud, etc. for, if the variator appears to be faulty, don't worry, you don't really need it. Dump it into the scrap bin (take it apart first and have a look, just in case) and couple the 3-phase drive motor to a 1-phase to 3-phase inverter. Inverters, unlike simple capacitor-based "converters", provide a variable-output frequency (giving variable-speed drive) and hence obviate the need for any mechanical speed-changing device. They are also inherently reliable - and prices keep falling. The Matrix multi-plate clutch fitted a standard to all Chipmasters not only makes the machine much more pleasant to use but also gives any 1-phase conversion (or electronic control, system) a much easier time.
Some few years ago a friend bought a new, still-crated Chipmaster which had lain forgotten in a store (that's another story). He removed the variator and arranged for the spindle to be driven directly from the electric motor through a 3-phase to 3-phase variable-speed electronic controller. He over-rated it, to give a top speed of over 4000 rpm, and rigged the DC injection braking to make it stop it in a couple of rpm or so (the first time he tried it the motor stopped dead, but the inertia of the rotating parts stripped the drive belt of its teeth.). This machine ran reliably for years, turning out thousands of critically-dimensioned and beautifully-finished aero-space components.
Although it took Colchester a little time to get the drive system right, the rest of the lathe (apart from the drive system) remained essentially unchanged throughout its production life - proof that the original design was well thought out and the concept - a machine that could be marketed as a lathe suitable for toolroom, production and general workshop duties - was absolutely right. Although the main mechanical parts of the lathe stayed the same the variator did not - this going through several undocumented changes with which the handbooks issued did not, sadly keep pace. The main difficulty appears to be getting the oil level correct - and its vital to put in only the amount stated on the body of the unit (if so marked) or 1 pint if the data plate is missing. Completely filling the unit will cause damage, as will the incorrect oil. The numbers assigned to the proper oils have changed over the years; the last-named in the following list being the one to use.
Headstock: Shell Tellus 15 = Morlina 10 = Morlina S2 BL 10
Gearbox: Shell Tellus 33 = Tellus 68 = Tellus S2 M 68
Variator: Shell Vitrea 21 = Vitrea 22 = Process Oil PB 33 = Morlina S2 BL 10
From this it can be seen that headstock and variator oils are now the same - and consistent with recommendations from Allspeeds UK, the manufacturers of the Kopp variator (and suppliers of Kopp variator oil)..
In addition to those drive systems illustrated and described there was also at least one "odd" or "interim" model - on this the mounting plate and variator was of the same style as the first models, but with the motor sitting under the variator plate - a second dual-belt arrangement being positioned towards the back of the variator. Arguably, this arrangement was as per the second-generation type, but with the output by dual V-belts - and with no oil filler on the front of the variator. The system was certainly a factory-built type, the mounting plate being of the original design and not having the newer-type support bracket. The earlier doors (i.e. covering the belt/headstock end) are in aluminium but on later models in fibreglass.
Inside the base, additional strengthening cross-sections are present in later models. This may relate to a very recent discovery found in the top of the base section: the later ones have a flat surface, while the earlier have ridges inset from the outside edge to locate on the inside edges of the bed section.
Later aluminium beds, while externally dimensionally identical to that of the earlier, had walls almost twice as think and, at 75 kg, were therefore substantially heavier and - one assumes - stiffer Annoyingly, because of the ridges, the later beds will not fit the early stands (unless you somehow grind away the excess metal...). Late stands, though similar in appearance, were constructed from welded sheet steel.
On the bed section, under the headstock, the later models lack the two large holes found in the earlier - a good thing as the holes caused coolant to draw swarf into the bed section Some Chipmaster beds have been found with triangular holes on both end faces - although that at tailstock end is obscured by the manufacturer's plates Additionally, on these beds are recesses both front and back; their purpose is unknown, but possibly used to clamp the bed down when the ways were finish ground.
Early beds are believed to have had their serial number stamped into the little circles of red-coloured aluminium and not, as on later examples, into the bed itself. It might be that early spindles have a far longer section of thread around the gear together with a toothed locking plate.
It has been noted by some users that removing the headstock spindle and bearings is largely a non-destructive and simple process. However, the oiling system might be a possible cause of premature bearing failure for, located at the top of the housing is a pipe that runs in the same orientation as the spindle. The pipe has its upper half cut off, this catching splashed oil and redistributing it, through small holes, into the bearing space. However, the recommended hydraulic oil tends to congeal with age and block this hole with one owner reporting that his rear bearing appeared to be receiving too little oil - although it had survived in good condition. Unfortunately, there seems to be no official guidance as to how the spindle bearings should be pre-loaded - and fitting can be difficult. However, heating the headstock casting and cooling the spindle overnight in a domestic freezer set on maximum might just help..