email: tony@lathes.co.uk
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Claudius Ash & Sons Lathe


Famous as a manufacturer and supplier of dental equipment, Claudius Ash & Son was a long-established company with branches of its Holding Company not only in most European countries but also Egypt, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, South Africa,  Turkey, Lebanon, Venezuela and the United States. Their hard-bound trade catalogues were packed with the materials and tools need by the dentist and his assistants and, during the latter part of the 19th and first half of the 20th century when good teeth were often removed to make way for better-looking false ones, the business flourished. Conventional "dental lathes" are just electric motors with some form of quick-release mechanism or taper-thread "false noses" (U.S.A. = spiral chucks) to hold polishing mops and grinding wheels. As the normal dental laboratory is a dusty, gritty place where lots of free-hand sculpting work is done quite what specific use a precision collet lathe would have had (apart from repairing other tools) is uncertain - but it could well have been used for polishing. With a family background in dentistry the writer can remember a small lathe in the workshop of his Grandfather's surgery, but cannot recall it ever being put to use. Dental supply houses were also sometimes patronized by others seeking things for fine work--jewellers, watchmakers, model makers, etc. - so perhaps there was some profit in carrying such a machine for the wider market. A clue to this possibility lies in the discovery of a pair of  "turns" marked "C. Ash".  As watchmaker's "turns" would never been used in a dental setting if  "C. Ash" and "Claudius Ash" were the same company the conclusion that other products were offered as well (the company had eleven well-stocked depots in the UK at one time) would be reasonable. However, a further interesting point is that, whilst lathe illustrated has the name "Claudius Ash Sons & Co. Ltd. England" cast into the bed, it also has "347 ADCO" and ADCO 116" stamped into the compound slide rest and  fore-end of the headstock - an interesting reference to the fact that Claudius Ash was acting as the U.K. retail branch of the Amalgamated Dental Company. The ADCO was a huge manufacturing and wholesale organisation with factories and outlets, as mentioned before, throughout the world. Although badged as manufactured by Claudius the lathe was, in all its main features, similar to those produced by the English Companies Holbrook and Vidal and the American Watch Tool Company (later Wade) during the first decades of the 20th century. With the building of these very fine lathes representing a considerable investment in state-of-the-art metallurgy, machine tool design and hand-fitting skills it is unlikely that Ash produced them; instead it is virtually certain that a long-term contract would have been signed that committed them to purchase quantities sufficient for their name to be included in the pattern for the bed. With the Amalgamated Dental Company having strong links into the USA via its financial interest and shared board members with the Dentists' Supply Company of New York (sole manufacturers of porcelain pin teeth), it is probably that connections there in the precision manufacturing industries might have led to a USA-made machine being chosen. It is known that the lathe sold for a premium price, the observation being contained in a report of a U.K. Competition Board from the 1940s investigating the risks to the public interest of the Dental Supply Company's almost monopolistic position.
Of 31/2" centre height, and with hardened-steel cone bearings, an example of the lathe has also been discovered in Australia - again with a dental connection and bearing the legend "NuForm", either on a label or cast in place of the Claudius Ash lettering.
If any reader has a Claudius Ash dental catalogue or lathe (or a NuForm)  the writer would be interested to hear from you.

Utterly conventional but well-made 31/2" x 10" precision bench lathe badged "Claudius Ash & Sons England". The bed, with the round feed cast integrally, was 24-inches long and 27/16-inches across the flat ways.
Besides the usual features found on this class of lathe (bevelled-edged bed, a hardened spindle running in hardened steel bearings, a long-travel top slide and a fully-supported tailstock barrel) detail touches included 4 bolts to secure the cross-slide end plate; zeroing micrometer dials to the 10 t.p.i. compound slide rest feed screws with conical faces and knurled setting rings; a felt wiper on the long-travel top slide and the headstock bolted to the bed by a single cam operated by a bolt with its head facing forward to allow instant small adjustments to its position. Collets to fit inside the 1" x 8 t.p.i. spindle nose were 15 mm diameter on their body, 56 mm long and with a 21.6 mm diameter head.

The end flange of the headstock pulley was drilled with 3 rings of indexing holes


ADCO an interesting reference to the fact that Claudius Ash was the U.K. retail branch of the Amalgamated Dental Company, a huge manufacturing and wholesale organisation with factories in the United Kingdom., Switzerland and Germany, trade distribution centres in Australia, France, Germany and the U.S.A and a retail outlet in France.

Claudius Ash Sons & Co. Ltd. England


email: tony@lathes.co.uk
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Claudius Ash & Sons Lathe