Fielding lathes were built by A. Fielding & Co. (Keighley) Ltd., a company little known outside their native area - and certainly not famous in the way that Colchester and Harrison were. Incorporated on the 14th of July, 1941 as a private limited company (Registration Number 00368112) share capital was issued and their operation declared as powered tool makers. The last annual accounts were returned on the 30th of June, 1991, when it had 24 employees, and the final returns on the 3rd of November, 1991 - though what was made during the final twenty years is not known.
Now seldom encountered, few details of the Company's machine-tool range have survived - though in the final years of production two types appear to have been manufactured, one with an ordinary English-style flat bed and the other, the "Canada", a flat and V-type. In addition to these industrial-sized machines, they constructed two models for the turning of dental amalgam and began to diversify into the building of special-purpose machine tools built to order. With this change of direction, lathe orders fell off and that side of the business eventually closed. By the 1970s spares for their lathes were still being produced and a relocation made to the old Mitchell factory in Parson Street
Although a smaller manufacturer, and therefore ideally placed to offer niche products or special features (that would have been unprofitable for the volume producers with their "flow-line" production methods) Fielding lathes, though described in their advertising literature as "Refined High Speed lathes" were simple but heavily-built general-purpose workshop models for use in industry or repair departments. Their smallest lathe may well have been a 7½-inch centre height machine marketed as both the "Cygnet" and "Swan", with the only difference being the capacity between centres - 38-inches for the former and 62-inch for the latter. Their mass, for a medium-sized lathe, was considerable: the shorter-bed model weighed 22 cwt (2464 lbs) and the longer 28 cwt (3136 lbs).
In close-grain cast iron, to approximately Brinell 150, the 10-inch wide bed had diagonal webs between the front and back walls and was constructed in traditional English-pattern with a flat top and narrow 90-degree flat vertical guides As part of the standard specification an open gap was fitted able to accept a job on the faceplate of 23-inches in diameter by 9 ½-inches deep. The saddle, which had traverse cast-in T slots across each wing, could be adjusted to the bed with tapered gibs whilst the massively-constructed and very deep apron was a model of mechanical simplicity: a decently-sized handle for manual traverse was fitted whilst its double-walls supported all the gear shafts at both ends and provided a sump of lubricant in the base. Unusually, on this class of lathe, instead of a bolt and self-hiding spanner to lock the carriage to the bed, a lever was provided, conveniently positioned on the front face of the apron. Sliding and surfacing feeds were driven from a separate shaft beneath the leadscrew (leaving the latter for screwcutting only) with a keyway driving the usual kind of worm-and-wheel mechanism on the inside face of the apron. Power sliding and surfacing feeds were both selected and engaged by a single large "quadrant" lever in the middle of the apron. Unfortunately, this basic design had a flaw - stopping the cut at a precise point was difficult, especially at heavy rates of metal removal. Because the lever was connected directly to that part of the mechanism that took the cutting load, as those increased so did the lever's reluctance to return to the central "neutral" position. When it did move there was also a tendency for it to overshoot, and catch the other setting. In addition, without any form of automatic stop, accurately machining up to fixed point would have been difficult.
Instead of being left as a simple rectangular for its full length, the cross slide was radiused both in front and behind the flat section that carried the top slide and, even as late as the 1940s, Fielding was supplying a very old-fashioned English-style toolpost with four bolts and two serrated plated lifted on light springs; an indexing 4-way toolpost was offered as an option.
A massive structure, with all shafts running on ball or roller races, the headstock had its fast-running gears in 65-ton nickel-chrome steel and both the Timken taper roller-bearing supported spindle and heavier gears in 0.5 carbon steel. Drive to the headstock was by either line-shaft to an external flat pulley or by multiple V-belts from a motor mounted on an adjustable plate within the headstock-end cabinet plinth. Whether driven externally, or from the lathe's own motor, the input pulley contained a combined clutch and brake unit operated by a conveniently-placed long lever held on a shaft that passed through the lathe bed just beneath the gap. A 2 h.p. 1425 rpm motor was recommended (one was not supplied with the lathe) in which case the spindle speeds ran from 10 to a rather slow maximum of 382 r.p.m.
Of the Norton quick-change type the screwcutting gearbox used a single lever to select between screwcutting or power feeds and a conventional tumbler assembly for individual settings. With the standard set of changewheels in place 32 feeds and pitches could be generated and, though not listed separately in the catalogue, it was hinted that a set of metric transposing wheels was included in the standard equipment.
For a medium-sized lathe the maker's choice of a tailstock spindle that passed clear through the handwheel was unusual, though it did mean that its 1¾-inch diameter was fully supported within the casting even when fully extended - even if it did make it difficult for the operator to apply enough force to drill large holes.
Equipment supplied with the lathe was sparse: a 12-inch faceplate, drive plate, travelling steady, two Morse centres, a set of spanners and an oil gun being the only offerings. The usual range of extras was available including a 20-inch faceplate, taper turning attachment and a gear-driven belt-drive suds pump with associated piping and a chip tray.
If any reader can add to the Fielding story with catalogues, handbooks or pictures of their machine the writer would be pleased to hear from you..