From the 1940s to the 1970s the Elliott Machine Tool Group made and marketed a number of different lathes - including late, angular-styled imported versions badged Omnispeed, Omnitool and Omniturn - but of the earlier models, the most popular seem to have been the 7", 7.5" and 8" centre height Major, 8.5" Senior, 9" Prefect and the 11" Crusader, all produced by an Elliott manufacturing subsidiary, the "Cardiff Lathe and Tool Works" with a factory in Taffs Well, a village six miles north west of Cardiff city centre. Constructed during WW2 as the "Patons Works" for the manufacture of ammunition, the building still stood in 2010 painted white but with the original green beginning to re-emerge. The chief designer during the 1950s was Charlie Robinson who, like many of his kind, had been trained at Herbert, in Birmingham. Until about 1954, the beds were unhardened, but after that the factory was equipped with flame-hardening equipment, though the process caused much trouble and proved a difficult process to master. Beds were hand scraped until the early 1960s when, at last, a full-length grinder was installed.
Most frequently encountered of these lathes is the 7.5-inch centre height Major, a model that was also produced in a rare 8-inch and well as unpublicised 7-inch versions. All three types were available with between-centres capacities of 30", 40" and 60". The two longer versions could be ordered with a gap bed, with the 30-inch capacity, non-gap type called, by a piece of meaningless advertising hyperbole, the "Chip Flow". This had a straight section of bed in front of the chuck with the centre opened up to allow swarf to fall through more easily. The bed was enormously wide, one-and-a-half-times the centre height, a figure better than many toolroom lathes whose beds only equalled or slightly exceeded it. The drive system was interesting and reflected, again, a practice normally reserved for toolroom and better-quality lathes where, in order to prevent the transmission of vibration-induced "gear-tooth" marks to the turned surface, the main transmission gearbox was mounted in the cabinet base next to its (3 h.p.) electric motor. The 9-speed gearbox was a very heavy-duty affair, oil-pump lubricated and containing forged-alloy, hardened and ground gears; the speeds were changed by two concentrically-mounted levers on the front face of the heavily-built stand.
Made from a ground-finished, heat-treated alloy-steel forging, the headstock spindle ran in a pair of precision grade, opposed taper-roller bearing on its nose and, at the rear, in a parallel roller race. The nose fitting was a No. 5 Morse taper and the bore 117/32" (39 mm).
Drive to the headstock was by twin V-belts on the 7-inch model and triple on the others, the belts wrapping around the headstock spindle between its bearings. On the 7-inch, the inside of the headstock was "open", the backgears and bearings being lubricated by grease and oiling nipples provide for the other shafts. On the other models, the headstock was more robust and divided into two compartments, the front containing the slow-speed back gearing lubricated by splash with oil fed to the front spindle bearings; those on which the V-rope pulley ran in the rear section (which was otherwise dry). The rear bearing was grease lubricated, the makers suggesting the application, weekly, of a grease gun to the nipple provided beneath the changewheel door.
Tension of the V-belts could be altered by changing the position of the (patented-design) eccentrically-mounted output pulley on its gearbox shaft. Combined with the conventional backgear assembly (as previously described, situated immediately behind the front bearing) a total of eighteen spindle speeds from 27 to 757 R.P.M were available, or, fitted with the optional high-speed pulley set, 35 to 1000 RPM. At first - on what appears to have been the just the 7-inch and 7.5-inch models - the spindle-end fitting was of a most unusual quick-release type with the spindle ending in a flange but with a narrow, knurled-edged "thrust plate" fitted immediacy behind it. The flange and plate were each drilled with four holes into which fitted threaded studs on chucks and faceplates; to remove a spindle fitting, the nuts were slackened and the thrust plate rotated slightly to line up the holes - whereupon the fitting could be slid off. A photograph below shows how the system worked. However, although found on may examples of these lathes, a more common fitting was an American long-key taper in a size L0 .
Double-walled, the apron had its gears lubricated from splash from a sump, with the selection of feeds by well-thought-out, patented snap-action controls; the electrical stop, start, forward and reverse of the headstock spindle could be controlled by two levers, one mounted immediately in front of the headstock the other on the right-hand side of the apron.
An oil pump forced oil around the screwcutting gearbox, a box that was able to generate either 45 English or 20 metric threads at the flick of a lever whilst additional gears of 30T, 66T and 21T were supplied as standard to extend the threading range to pitches below the 23/4 to 80 t.p.i (and 0.1875 mm to 5 mm) range offered as standard. A variety of Diametral and metric module pitches was also available and listed, together with their required changewheels, on a comprehensive chart above the gearbox. The shear-pin protected leadscrew was mounted in tension and could, claimed the makers, be reversed end for end to prolong its life. Unlike its Colchester equivalents, the Cardiff was mounted, not on a heavy, sheet-metal stand, but on large cast-iron boxes between which was a useful slide-out chip tray. If you have to install a heavy lathe in an awkward place, or several floors up in a building, the fact that a Cardiff can be broken down into smaller parts relatively easily makes it an ideal candidate for the job.
The set-over tailstock was held down by one central clamp, fastened by a single nut for which the maker's provided the usual self-hiding spanner. The barrel had a travel of 4.75" and carried a No. 3 Morse taper.
A strong, no-nonsense and easily-operated lathe, the Cardiff Major was capable of sustained hard work and popular with both self-employed engineers and larger jobbing shops.