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W. Gale Lathes

A previously unknown maker with no known surviving historical data, W.Gale is now known (according to the plats screwed to his lathes) to have been based at 105 Old Street, Lonon EC and (perhaps later) at  Cow Cross Street, London EC. The latter location, now named Cowcross Street, is in Clarkenwell, an area famous from the late 1700s to the 1950s for its concentration of light industry including many makers of watches, clocks and fine-quality machinery.
Built circa 1830 to perhaps 1890, Gale lathes were typical of the lighter type offered for amateur and small workshop use - and almost identical to other London-built light lathes, the R.A.Lee and Pfeil.
Neither of the two models of Gale so far discovered had backgear for slow speeds, nor screwcutting or a power sliding facility. Whilst the smaller and lighter of the two carried just a hand T-rest, the other, being much larger and mounted on a foot-treadle, 6-speed stand, was equipped with what appears to have been a robust, well-made compound slide rest with the usual long-travel top slide. Like many of its kind, the treadle-driven flywheel was on the light side - it's not uncommon to find ones with owner-fitted lead or cast-iron weights to improve matter - but properly arranged with two slower speed and four higher, separate round leather belts being provided for each. The centre height of the larger model seems to have been about 4 inches and with a capacity between centres of 24 inches.
Common at the time on such lathes in both Europe and America, the headstock on both examples had a smooth, polished front face with a flat top and waisted sides; it held a spindle of the simplest kind with the front running in a single bearing and the other end supported against an adjustable, hardened centre . Among many other contemporary makers who used the same design were Britannia, F.Pratt, J.Buck, Selig Sonnenthal, Jarratt, S.Holmes, Goodwin, George Hatch, Arthur Frith, Bottun, Weisser,and Pfeil - the latter a maker of better-than-usual quality machines. The headstock pulley on both versions was not intended to use a V belt - it would be 1930 before they appeared on small machine tools - but a round leather "rope", often referred to as a "gut drive" (as in catgut).
Both lathes were entirely conventional for the era with their beds having a flat top, narrow sides set at 90 and a slot down the middle that formed a location for the headstock and tailstock. Components, including the slide-to-set T-rest assembly and compound slide rest, were all clamped to the bed by through-bolts that ended in elegant, full-circle, oval-shaped handles. Each lathe had, bolted to the back of its bed, two cast brackets - these being used to support the then-common rear-mounted wooden tool board, just like the one fitted to the Pfiel, a handy fitting but now missing from modern small lathes.
It's possible that, for the smaller model, the maker would also have offered a stand with treadle drive, though if not, a compact and less-expensive "foot motor" might have been available, examples the type being shown at the bottom of the page..

The smaller of the two known types of W.Gale lathe. This one might have had a centre height of perhaps 3 inches and accepted around 12 inches between centres

The larger of the two models of Gales lathe for far discovered would have had a capacity of about 4" x 24" and was fitted a common-for-the-era treadle-drive stand.  Of rather light weight, the flywheel was arranged with two slower speed and four higher, separate round leather belts being provided for each.

Typical "Foot Motors" as supplied for Portass lathes

email: tony@lathes.co.uk
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W. Gale Lathe