Conover Lathes USA
The Conover wood-turning lathe was originally developed by Earnie Conover Sr and Jr. as an adjunct to their wood-working hobby; it was produced in a well-equipped, modern factory operated by Alpha Fabrication Inc. and marketed by the Conover Company, P.O. Box 418, Mentor, Ohio 44061 USA (phone 440 350 4545 conover-lathe.com) though unfortunately it is now out of production. Being constructed on two wooden bed rails the design today might be considered highly unusual - however, this method of construction was once very common, and used not only for wood lathes but also simple, large metal-turning lathes. Many examples have survived from the 1800s and are often found to be "home-constructed" by isolated machine shops with their beds "plated" and iron brackets added to induce a little extra rigidity. The last wood lathes of this type to be widely advertised were probably the $15.50 11-inch "Chipper" and $38.13-inch "Progress" lathes in the 1929 Sears, Roebuck Wood Working Machinery catalog. The advantages of the design are considerable and for the amateur, or even professional turner, offer the opportunity to construct a machine to their particular requirements: the bed as can as long as desired (though some sort of mid-way support would sensible at longer lengths) or the 3-speed, V-belt drive headstock can be mounted in such a way as to produce a bowl-turning lathe of great capacity.
Although the factory offer various types of AC and DC motors with either direct-drive or variable-speed control, impecunious and enterprising owners can always select a suitable ex-industrial 3-phase motor and run it from a home-made 1-phase to 3-phase converter - details of which can be found here. In the case of non-variable speed AC motors the makers offer a traditional style of rear-mounted V-belt drive countershaft which is hinged from a bracket (made by the owner from wood) at the back of the headstock.
The Conover has a swing of 16 inches (centre height 8 inches) and all the main components are in 30 Gray cast-iron, the complete set of castings to fit on the bed rails weighing 130 lbs. The headstock spindle is a sturdily constructed item with a generously-sized 1.5" 8 tpi nose with a No. 3 Morse taper and 25/32" hole; it runs on Timken taper roller bearings and carries a 4-step, Poly V, cast-iron pulley which is ringed round its largest diameter with 24 indexing holes. A pleasing touch is the inclusion in the accessory list of a draw-in adaptor which can be ordered ready-threaded to accept Myford, delta-Rockwell, Powermatic or Sears accessories. Whilst a thin plastic or sheet-steel cover for the headstock belt and pulley would have saved the makers a good deal of money, they chose instead to use a properly-made one in cast iron. The tool rest is fitted with a quick-release, over-centre handle and the cast-iron T piece is grooved along its top surface to allow the operator's thumb to assist with straight-spindle turning. An optional kit is offered which allows the standard metal T rest to be replaced by a wooden one of unlimited length - the tailstock being adapted as an end support by the addition of a threaded right-angle pin which screws into a boss formed on its front face.
Mounting any sort of lathe is always a problem and Conover offer a pair of traditional-form, cast-iron legs weighing 73 lbs each. The legs are fitted with tapped holes in the feet for levelling screws and provision for either two shelves or a box which can be filled with sand to further improve the mass and stability of the machine; the legs also look as though they might be useful to owners of antique metal-turning lathes whose machines have lost their original supports. If the legs are beyond the means of the owner, the Conover instruction book includes a set of plans for a pair of (sand-filled) plywood legs which the makers claim will be just as effective, if aesthetically inferior.
The tailstock spindle (barrel) is of the "Myford" externally-threaded type having an 1-inch diameter, 5 tpi Ame-form thread and a No. 2 Morse taper; the outside thread leaves a good clear bore through which long-hole boring (gun-drilling) attachments can be operated. The tailstock base incorporate a machined boss which slides between the bed rails and the clamping arrangement is by a sturdy handwheel, threaded rod and T clamp which provided a direct pull to the middle of the unit.
At a time when the number of well-constructed wood-turning lathes seems to be on the increase, the Conover occupies a unique place as a successful interpretation of a very-old idea. If any reader has pictures of their Conover set up in an unusual or interesting way, the author would be pleased to hear from them..