Manufactured in both "backgeared and screwcutting" and "plain-turning" models the Faircut lathe was made in Sheffield by the Freeman family from the late 1930s until approximately the mid 1950s. Although the full range of their products is unknown, one item that has come to light is a small saw bench, for mounting on a table top. The Company were also (and still are) the maker's of "Henderson's Relish", the original factory that produced lathes on the upper floor and the relish below still stands just below Sheffield University. The first known advertisement for the maker appeared in "Model Engineer" during 1937 and although the dealer, Buck and Hickman, gave a very brief (and unflattering) description: FAIRCUT British 31/2-in Centre. Bench Machine. This Lathe is a reasonable tool for general work required by the Model Maker, has already created a big demand. Priced at £12 : 15s : 6d complete with change wheels, face plate and driver plate." - there was no accompanying illustration - that had to wait until 1938. The Faircut entered a crowded market with, amongst others, Drummond, Myford, Tyzack, Gamages, Zyto, Winfield, Grayson, Pools, Portass, ETA, EXE, Patrick, Willimot Ideal and Relm providing stiff competition on price and features.
Although the "Faircut" name was used on most models (often in the form of a rather fine cast brass badge) the brand names "Truecut" and "Trainer" were also employed, the latter a seldom-found model that lacked some of the finer fittings of the regular type but fitted with comprehensive guarding and intended for school or college use. Although Faircut's heavier lathe was not officially called the "Senior" the smaller lathe was badged as the "Junior" and appears, from the numbers surviving, to have been the more popular of the two. 35 inches long, with a 31/2" centre height and 121/2" between centres the gap-bed "Junior" was made in both plain-turning and screwcutting forms with an actual centre height of 319/32" (some sales literature quoted 39/16") a capacity in the gap of 91/2" and accepting 121/2" between its No. 1 Morse taper centres. Although of simple design the lathe was very well made, heavy (110 lbs) and finished to a standard that was not only vastly superior to that of the other Sheffield maker of small model-engineering lathes, Portass, but one that would bear comparison with machines costing several times as much (the Portass had an appallingly poor finish and scrappy detailing). For example, on screwcutting versions of the Faircut the 16 D.P. changewheels were mounted on a proper 2-slot arm shielded in a sheet-metal covered, cast-iron box, the backgear guard and toolpost clamp lever were gun-metal castings, the finish of turned parts on every model was exceptional and castings properly fettled and smoothed.
Relatively wide (at 31/2") and weighing 40 lbs, the flat-topped, the 60-degree V-edged bed was cantilevered from a single, long foot that was (unlike many rivals) designed to minimise deflections caused by the gap in the bed and the left-hand overhang of the headstock. There was no tumble reverse on the changewheel drive (or apron clasp nuts) instead, a simple dog clutch was fitted to the 5/8" diameter by 8 t.p.i. leadscrew to engage and disengage the carriage drive. On some models the clutch was adapted to provide a very useful automatic knock-off for the carriage feed whilst others had the same mechanism enclosed, rather unnecessarily, in a housing formed as part of the bed casting. All models had a leadscrew of identical specification but with that on the plain turning models being properly supported in a bearing housing, cast as part of the bed at the headstock-end, instead of being overhung as so many cheaper rivals.
Detail design of Faircut headstocks varied considerably: some had bearings adjusted by being drawn into tapered holes in the casting, others had their right-hand bearing clamp screw at the rear and the left-hand at the back - while others had both clamps to the front. When fitted, the backgear assembly on the Junior was unusual in being clustered inboard of the left-hand headstock bearing, and (like the 2-inch long, adjustable split-tapered bronze headstock spindle bearings), of substantial proportions for so small a lathe. Although some contemporary British lathes of the 1950s still used a flat-belt final drive all Faircut Junior lathes seen by the writer have had a (cast-iron) V-belt drive headstock pulley with cones of 4", 31/4" and 21/2" diameters - and one can only assume that this was a standard feature from the start to finish of production. The headstock spindle was bored through to clear 3/8" bar stock, had a No. 1 Morse taper centre and a 3/4" x 12 t.p.i. nose thread.
Most Junior lathes, unlike the company's larger models, were not fitted with a T-slotted cross slide as standard - something of a drawback in a lathe intended for amateur use - but of the full-length type, some 73/8" long and 55/8" wide, it was of good proportions for its task. However, in the late 1940s a 4-inch by 6-inch slide with 3 T-slots was on the accessories list for £3 : 10s : 0d and occasionally lathes so fitted are found. Drummond-like in appearance, the top slide was fitted with a small, 2-handle wheel on the end of a feed screw off-set to the front side - the aim of both design points being to give clearance between handwheel and tailstock when the latter was drawn right up to the headstock.
Of robust proportions - and even on early versions far superior to those used on contemporary Myford lathes - the tailstock could be set over for taper turning and carried a barrel bored to clear 13/32" that was driven by a square-section 8 t.p.i. thread, fitted with a No. 1 Morse taper centre and locked by a proper compression fitting.
Topping the Faircut range was a heavier model, of 31/2" centre height and possibly pre-dating the Junior. Although the headstock bearings were of a smaller diameter than the Junior, this lathe offered a number of improvements and refinements including an unusually deep and rigid bed casting, a useful capacity between centres of 20.5", a conventional "full-width" backgear behind the headstock pulley, a T-slotted cross slide, automatic disengage to the carriage drive (only the more expensive Drummond offered the same most useful feature) and a bed supported on feet at both headstock and tailstock ends. The makers' stand featured a countershaft overhung from the left-hand leg with a V belt from motor to countershaft driving onto a narrow but large-diameter flat-pulley fast-and-loose system - a style reminiscent of the simple "V-belt-running-round-a flat-pulley" system used on many American South Bend countershafts. The writer's first decent lathe, a Myford M-Type, was fitted to a Faircut stand with this drive system and the whole assembly worked with efficiency - and almost silently.
Unfortunately the Faircut company appear to have invested in little advertising, either in the press or by issuing sales catalogues and, if you have any such literature, or own a Faircut lathe, I would very much like to make contact so that I can add more detail to the history of this little-known Sheffield lathe maker.
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