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Goodell-Pratt Lathes
a Company History and Overview
Goodell-Pratt Home Page   Goodell-Pratt No. 700 
Goodell (Millers Falls) Miniature Treadle Lathe
Goodell-Pratt Milling Machine 
 Goodell-Pratt: Company History & Overview
Massachusetts Tool Co. No. 1   Video of 494 in Use

Whilst no manuals are available for these lathes, a collection of
interesting sales literature is available 

Andrew Webster and Tony Griffiths--October 2009




Build Dates of Goodell-Pratt Lathes
It is extraordinarily hard to narrow down the build year of a particular Goodell-Pratt lathe - the difficulties stemming from the complex history of the manufacturer and the near absence of any changes to the lathes during the decades of their production.
Manufacturing History
Goodell-Pratt lathes were made during the 32-year lifespan of the Goodell-Pratt Company (1899-1931) of Greenfield, Massachusetts.  With the information presently to hand it is impossible to pin down the dates of introduction of the three models - the 700 'Precision' lathe, the polishing lathes, and the 125/494 bench types - though it is generally believed that they were first manufactured soon into the firm's existence - if not slightly before. One very fine original example has been found in a boxed set - with the box carrying a label inside the lid marked: "Massachusetts Tool Company Greenfield. Precision Lathe No.1" . Started by Pratt in 1900, as a subsidiary of G-P to make precision tools in Greenfield, the Massachussets Tool Co. had a factory built on land leased from G-P - alongside the G-P plant.  In 1901 the new firm bought out the Coffin & Leighton Company of Syracuse, NY (who manufactured fine-quality steel rulers) and in 1901 added micrometers to their catalogue when they bought out the Lavigne Micrometer Company of New Haven, CT.  Massachusetts Tool's line then grew quickly to include all manner simple engineer's tools and retained its own price list until absorbed by G-P in 1912.  Although the Massachusetts Tool Co. appeared almost simultaneously as our first knowledge these lathes - in say, 1900 - given that they specialised in precision tools, but not complex machinery, it is open to question as to whether they were responsible for the design and initial production.
With production of lathes (i.e. beginning with the larger types) possibly spanning the decade immediately preceding 1899 and that following 1931, let us first consider the implications of this: many observers assume that Goodell-Pratt was formed in 1888 because
Established 1888.  Incorporated 1895 is inscribed in Goodell-Pratt's catalogues. However, 1888 is when, after 18 years in the employ of the Millers Falls Company, the two Goodell brothers, Henry and Albert, launched the (unimaginatively-named) Goodell Brothers Company (1888-1898). Lacking any early catalogues, we cannot exclude the possibility that this firm introduced the familiar Goodell-Pratt lathes before 1898, when the remaining Goodell interest was sold to the former General Manager and Treasurer Mr. William M. Pratt, the new owner renaming the firm Goodell-Pratt. To further complicate matters, various members of the Goodell family continued in the tools business, generally staying on good terms with William Pratt.  For instance, in 1892 the tool design genius Albert Goodell left Goodell Bros. to establish (with his son) the Goodell Tool Company (1892-1918).  This firm went public in 1907 and, not surprisingly, half its shares were bought by Goodell-Pratt with Albert continuing as President, his son as Clerk and Pratt as Vice-President.  Shortly after Albert's death, Goodell-Pratt absorbed the firm (in 1918) becoming Goodell-Pratt Company Plant Number 3.  Henry also maintained connections with the Goodell-Pratt Company and, in 1902, formed the Goodell Manufacturing Company (1902-1930).  Goodell-Pratt ascribed some of the capital for this modest, Greenfield-based project and, in exchange, obtained sole distributorship of Goodell Manufacturing's products.  Henry retired in 1916 and died in 1923, William Pratt then assuming the presidency. In 1930 the Goodell-Pratt Company bought the remaining shares and absorbed all the equipment into the main Goodell-Pratt plant - immediately before their financial collapse and subsequent forced merger with Millers Falls. 
One wonders, as a result of these intricate manoeuvres, if the key Goodell brothers, Albert and Henry had a hand in designing, improving or just inspiring Goodell-Pratt lathes - despite the clear ownership of Goodell-Pratt by William Pratt.  The only certainty is that the first lathe to reflect their influence appeared during the 18 years when the Goodell brothers worked at Miller's Falls. A diminutive treadle lathe, of no technical distinction, its full-length hand-rest was marked with
Goodell's Improved cast prominently on the side facing the operator but Miller's Falls cast into the stand. Although primitive, even crude, it was equipped with saw attachments and was to continue in production for another five decades. Albert Goodell, who rose to become a Master Mechanic and then Plant Superintendent, was responsible for the design of various tools during his tenure at Millers Falls and would almost certainly have been responsible designing the lathe or at the very least overseeing its conversion to production. Henry Goodell meanwhile, rose to the rank of foreman and was a master machinist.
On the other hand, there is no hard evidence of Goodell family influence in the design of the 125, 494 and 700 lathes, for all represented a radical engineering departure from anything the clever Albert had previously conceived.  Furthermore, William Pratt, ever the entrepreneur, purchased a number of small engineering firms - and the precision manufacturing expertise that came with them - and it is entirely possible that the design for the lathes came from an employee of one of the absorbed companies.   
Returning to the question of when lathe production ceased: after the merger, on desperate terms, with the powerful Miller's Falls Company in 1931, we know that production of some Goodell-Pratt tools continued at the former Goodell-Pratt factory at Greenfield--but it has not yet been possible to inspect the combined Millers Falls/Goodell-Pratt catalogues circa 1931 - 1940. Until that research is complete we cannot say whether lathe production stopped after Millers Falls assumed control. If any reader has catalogs from that era, the writer would be delighted to hear from them.

The acquisition of Goodell-Pratt by Millers Falls eliminated the main competition - absorbing much of the competing market share - while transferring significant precision manufacturing capability to the Millers Falls Company who specialised in carpentry and general mechanic's tools.  The merger also greatly boosted Miller Falls' ability to produce genuine precision tools such as squares, micrometers, gauges and machinery.  In 1931 Goodell-Pratt's 150,000 sq ft Greenfield factory employed 400 men - a plant similar in size to that possessed by Miller Falls ten miles away in Millers Falls, Massachusetts.  The headquarters of the Millers Falls Company was immediately relocated to the Greenfield plant and the aging President of Goodell-Pratt, William Pratt, became a member of the Millers Falls board of directors.
Issued in January 1935 the first combined catalogue -
Millers Falls Catalogue No. 41--bore the names of both firms and, for a while, some Goodell-Pratt products continued in production with dual stampin. Naturally, as economies of scale were brought to bear, efforts were made to eliminate duplicated items - mainly in the competitive area of construction trade tools - and the size of the combined range of hand-drills, breast-drills, braces and hacksaw frames was halved.  In January 1939 the 70th Anniversary Catalogue (No. 42) also displayed Goodell-Pratt alongside Millers Falls on the cover and continued the listing of Goodell-Pratt tools and, in a supplement, described tools provided especially for the UK market. 
Although an immediate boost to the Company's profits, WW2 necessitated further, and severe, contractions in the range of products beyond those required for war production. One
Emergency Price List dated February 14th 1944, referring to Catalogue No. 42, showed numerous items as 'discontinued' or 'temporarily discontinued'.  The death in 1946, of William Pratt, eliminated any lingering nostalgia towards the Goodell-Pratt brand and by October 1949 Millers Falls catalogue page count had shrunk by over 60. Goodell-Pratt tools were now no longer listed and the Millers Falls Company commenced on a slow decline - its inability to shed its old-fashioned, hand-tools emphasis and become a supplier of the increasingly popular electric power tools sealing its fate.
Physical Clues About the Build Date
A clue to the date of a Goodell-Pratt lathe is provided by the prominent and rather decorative maker's plaque.  During the Goodell-Pratt period the badge was attached not only to each lathe but also to every major accessories (such as slide-rests) but all were usually bereft of serial or parts numbers.  However, at some unknown point, they did begin to carry number stampings - but at what date? Work to find out continues.   
One sometimes encounters late-production Model 125s and 494s bearing the usual metal plaque indicating the model number
and a lacquered Goodell-Pratt transfer centered on the bed facing the operator. Several inches wide, this large, horizontal oval had a wide yellow band around its periphery carrying, in sans serif black letters: Goodell-Pratt Company, Greenfield, Mass., U.S.A.  In the centre, on a black background, was the word Toolsmiths in the distinctive flowery red script also found on the metal plaques. 
It is possible, but unproven, that Goodell-Pratt lathes remained in production for a few years after the takeover by Millers Falls in 1931. It is also likely that they would have borne the marks of both companies (as did the hand tools) and a positive indication of this would be the discovery of a Goodell-Pratt plaque along with a standard Millers Falls transfer on the bed. Do you have such a lathe? Please email the writers if you do
Unfortunately, the livery of a Goodell-Pratt lathe offers no clues to its age; all major items were finished in a distinctive (and handsome) combination of gloss black and vermilion stove enamel.  Thus, tailstock and hand-rest castings contrasted sharply with the shiny black bed.  A finish adopted early in the Company's history, the firms' hand tools were generally all-black, with just enough Vermillion trim to convey the lineage. The introduction to the January 1926 Goodell-Pratt catalogue, under William Pratt's signature, pointed out that:

Goodell-Pratt tools have always been finished attractively.  This makes them less liable to be shopworn or rusty.  All enamel used is the best obtainable, and is baked on whenever practical to do so, giving a smooth and handsome finish.  The "Goodell-Pratt Red", which is used in the finish of many of our tools, is famous the world over.  This combination of distinctive high gloss Vermillion and black enamel constitutes a trademark duly registered in the United States Patent Office under dates of September 11, 1923, and December 16, 1924.
Continued below:




Continued:
This was no exaggeration. Goodell-Pratt tools of all types were, and remain, distinguished by their gloss red and black finish to the extent that this finish remains intact. Pratt, who had an excellent sense of how to market a product, was probably responsible for this decision.  Indeed, it proved sufficiently attractive that woodworkers, who seek and use Goodell-Pratt tools today, often take great pains to restore them with exactly the correct shade of vermillion and the correct degree of gloss. It is a sad fact, for the handful of aficionados of the machine tools, that most lathes have been sorely abused by a succession of careless owners.  Curiously, one encounters many Goodell-Pratt hand tools that have been lovingly passed down from father to son - and sometimes carefully refinished with replacement of missing parts.  Goodell-Pratt planes and drills often fetch much higher prices in the antique woodworking market than entire lathe outfits.
Finally, dating a Goodell-Pratt lathe is complicated by the fact that the machines hardly changed at all throughout a long production run. The Model 125/494 seems to have altered the least, although two accessories did evolved - albeit slightly: (1) the earliest slide-rests employed (instead of conventional castings) steel bars as guides, along the lines of the tiny, crude Drummond Little Goliath of the 1920s and the sophisticated Emco Unimat DB/SL of 1954; (2) By the mid-1920s the table saw attachment's cast table had acquired a wooden insert whose removal allowed use of a wide dado blade. There is also a report of an increase in the spindle nose from a 1-MT to 2-MT.  However, this makes little sense if the tailstock barrel remained at 0.5" diameter with a 0-MT taper and would also necessitate the replacement of all 1-MT tooling with 2-MT and a concomitant increase in the spindle nose thread to 1.125" minimum.  It is possible for a user to bore out the mandrel socket to 2-MT but at the expense of resistance against dig-ins and radial loading.  Owner alteration seems, in this instance, to be more likely than a manufacturer's modification.
The Model 125/494 Bench Lathe in Perspective
It is clear that the Model 125/494 was popularly viewed as an amateur's wood lathe capable of small metalworking jobs.  However, despite some professional usage, model engineers never took it seriously, although, as we shall see, it was decently specified by the standards of an inexpensive plain-turning metal lathe with an optional slide-rest.  Accurate work could be coaxed from it, although many common lathe operations were difficult due to a lack of accessories. 
Today, with rarely any mention of Goodell-Pratt lathes outside of antique woodworking circles, it is doubly curious that any discussion fails to appreciate that the Models 125/494 were amongst the best specified and equipped miniature wood-turning lathes ever produced.  This makes a serviceable specimen an excellent candidate for restoration, not just as an
objet d'art, but as a genuinely useful tool. However, model engineers wanting to do metalwork, should pay careful note of a strange mix of glaring strengths and deficiencies. The Model 125/494 sold strongly during the first several decades of the 20th Century when amateurs in the United States had little choice in small, inexpensive lathes.  Starting in the 1880s, a few forgotten American makers advertised occasionally in the popular media, hopeful that amateurs would buy their lighter offerings - invariably models on treadle stands.  Examples were the Wells & Son plain lathe from Greenfield, the Narragansett sliding lathe for amateurs from Providence, Rhode Island, and the Acme BGSC lathe by Donaldson of Cincinnati (B.G.S.C. is an English contraction meaning backgeared and screwcutting, the American equivalent of an "Engine" lathe).  By the early 1900s, few were left and none had been any good. 
Likewise, a few treadle lathes of archaic design dominated the amateur woodworking scene.  In 1904 the well-known Millers Falls Company continued to sell the crude, early 1880s-designed Goodell plain treadle lathe (as described above) with firm boasting that:
this lathe is patterned almost exactly after the latest improved lathes used in the best machine shops and patternmaker's rooms. This claim was indeed a stretch, the machine being toy-like in appearance and weighing just 56 lbs when mounted on its treadle stand - the mass including a ridiculously light and ineffective flywheel. Astoundingly, it was still being made in the late 1920s with it, and the Model 125, being the only low-priced small lathes recognised nationally in amateur handyman and model-building circles.  In 1925, when a Model 125 cost $36, they could get, for $26.00, a little cast-iron treadle lathe in a ready-to-run form with drill chuck, faceplate, circular saw bench, 4" emery wheel, five chisels, and a surprisingly decent fretsaw with blower.  This was a desperate ensemble - but there still were countless thousands of satisfied customers. In comparison, the United States produced a vast range of very high quality watchmakers', precision bench, engine land other types of lathe during this time, yet the price or size of these machines ensured that few amateurs got their hands on one - other than well-worn examples. 
In Britain the landscape was quite different: early into the 20th century, UK manufacturers recognised a growing amateur demand for lathes.  These inexpensive B.G.S.C. (backgear and screwcutting) machines were soon regarded as a special class, the
model-engineer's lathe. Production of these, and good plain lathes for wood turners, rose sharply after 1918 and the end of the Great War and numbers were exported to the United States.  It is interesting that American US distributors could sell a fully-specified Drummond, Randa, Portass or C.A.V. Wade lathe (usually with a gap bed, backgear and a full screwcutting) for prices comparable to the Goodell-Pratt Model 125 equipped with just a hand-rest.  Fortunately for Goodell-Pratt, few knew where to look until the late 1920s when these machines started to be regularly advertised in popular magazines.
Goodell-Pratt's sales benefited from two characteristics of the new, pre-Depression consumer public.  Firstly, more Americans than ever before had a significant amount of disposable income, and society now looked favourably upon the acquisition of non-essential articles.  Second - many persons would order a machine, sight unseen and costing over a week's wages, on the basis of clever promotional literature.  Students of the discipline
Communications (once taught in universities as Propaganda) will tell you that, in America during the period from around 1900 to 1929, consumers were unrelentingly bombarded by the new mass media. Advertising claims were often fantastic; gullibility was endemic and things were bought on the strength of sketchy advertisements.  The Practical Mechanic overflowed with adverts on get-rich-quick training and investment schemes, effortless mastery of the fighting arts, hypnosis as a way to better employment, and ways to impress women (the latter always a sure-fire winner).  There must have been a lot of take-up - advertising occupying some 70-plus pages of this 250-350 page magazine. 
Both Millers Falls and Goodell-Pratt had sales departments that expertly exploited this consumer landscape and advertised strategically and effectively in order to occupy the correct niche in the hobby lathe world . Millers Falls, targeting men and boys wanting to work in wood, went so far as to introduce an even cheaper version of the Goodell lathe, the
Companion, named after a magazine called the Youth's Companion.  A deal was struck with the publisher and the machine was heavily promoted in its pages. Goodell-Pratt targeted the penny-pincher seeking a real lathe for small mechanical work.  Many tyro amateur mechanics were quite content with a plain lathe with a hand-rest, partially because cash was short and they were prepared to rough it, and partially because they did not know any better.  Goodell-Pratt offered a decent plain lathe - American made - with all sorts of clever accessories that could be bought as and when required.  Goodell-Pratt advertised regularly in periodicals like Practical Mechanics, but seldom if ever in professional journals.  The unremitting appeals to the tight-fisted tyro mechanic included a full-page advert with a cartoon character - Punch the elf - providing sage words on the merits of lathe ownership.  In one advert, Mr. Punch advised: If you have a bench lathe, you don't have to go running around asking favors whenever you have a turning or boring job to do.  Note that the manufacturer was appealing to adult hobbyists wanting to turn and drill from the headstock; there was no attempt to pitch the machine as complete home-machine shop. From these silly entreaties it is easy to dismiss these machines as inferior compared to dedicated metal-working lathes of the same capacity. 
Strengthened by the maker's consistent messages that their bench lathes were not precision instruments, but everyday machines built down to a competitive price and adequate for common requirements, the perception of inferiority was thus reinforced.  Certainly, no other maker was so effusively self-effacing.  It is true that the manufacturer's screw-on workholding devices, and the taper-mount drill chucks, did restrict the amount of serious metalworking that could be done.  It was also easy to twist the bed (by a considerable amount) just by careless installation.  Yet, with hindsight, we see that the maker's humility restricted the customer base by keeping away many of the model engineering fraternity.  It also was doubtless the reason why the vast majority of owners treated their Model 125/494 lathe indifferently or badly until, today, it is rare to find one that is not faded, chipped, rusted or sporting a permanently distorted bed.  Splendid specimens are thus rare, despite the huge numbers made over many decades. From this one should not conclude that the Model 125/494 was beneath professional use, it did have its place in some professional settings, as did the other models.  The Model 125/494 for example, was well-liked by patternmakers who did exacting work in hardwood and occasionally machined small iron and steel items such as locating pins.  The range accessories would have also have held great appeal, though one wonders why a turret attachment should have been offered, but not a filing attachment, a 4-jaw chuck or even a fixed steady.
As a small, compact and easily driven little lathe, the Goodell-Pratt lathes were featured in the catalogues of horological, instrument, dental and other precision tool suppliers for many years.  The 'polishing lathe' version was good for just that - and for drilling, grinding and for small wood turning.  Indeed it was popular as a versatile form of grinding head quite useful to the jeweller and dentist in the days before motorised flexible-shaft-tools.  The 'precision' Model 700 had a scraped prismatic bed with a tailstock hugging the outside surfaces - yet other deficiencies kept it out of the watchmaking class despite the manufacturer's claims.  The spindle lacked accuracy for watch pivoting, the hand-rest was huge, the tailstock barrel had excessive windage and insufficient standard horological accessories were available.  In particular the collets, while better than the 'compression bushing' of the Model 125/494, were nowhere near as good as good as a decent horological collet and the range of sizes totally inadequate. Also absent from the Model 700 was a circle of indexing holes drilled into the largest flange on the headstock pulley, a fitting that every horologist needs in order to file squares for stems and keys, etc.  However, it is possible that the 700 may have appealed to clockmakers with a tight budget, a few modelers with money to spare and the occasional goldsmith and silversmith for the fabrication and finishing of jewellery.
Despite the curious design omissions, numerous tool-distributing firms listed Goodell-Pratt lathes in their catalogues.  Take for example the 48th catalogue of the A.R. Williams Machinery Company of Toronto, circa early 1920s.  This was the largest professional tools supplier in the Dominion, with seven branches, and such a firm would not promote a shoddy item.  The Model 125 was priced at C$36.00 and described as
moderate in price, yet they are thoroughly serviceable, practical, and reasonably accurate, designed especially for amateurs, experimenters, craftsman and designers. This firm also, typically, carried the full range of American Ames lathes for customers wanting a true precision bench machine. 
After all the advertising puff had helped to reinforce it, the era of popular gullibility ended with the stock market crash of 1929.  After this it is doubtful that the Model 125/494 lathes had sufficient merit to survive without radical upgrading.  Henceforth lathe buyers wanted more for their money; they were now less impressed by the advice of Mr. Punch and more inclined to research their potential purchases with greater care. By the early 1930s Walter C. Guilder of Toledo (20 years before Emco and their Unimat) saw the need, at least in regards to the scale model fraternity, and his remarkable
Guilder Model-Builder's Lathe included a serious, well-made little plain-turning lathe, drill, mill, jigsaw, circular saw and more in one useful (but expensive) package.  During the 1930s, American manufacturers - especially Atlas - were to introduce home-sized BGSC lathes as good as, and more compact than, the typical British product. In 1932 the ground-breaking all-V-belt drive motorized 9-inch Atlas was introduced (and also badged as by Craftsman) with the famous 9-inch Workshop Model from South Bend appearing in late 1933 as the "Model 5".  The latter was rather large, and not strictly for amateurs, though while pricey it was within reach of some - and of excellent quality.  It created a further sensation when, in 1934, it appeared (more fully developed) with the option of a V-belt countershaft and integral motor.  The next shockwave occurred in 1936 with the emergence of a smaller Atlas, the long-lived 6-inch.  This smaller, cheaper mass-produced lathe was supported by a wide array of accessories useful to the amateur and rapidly became the standard for American home machinists. Soon afterwards the Sears/Dunlap/AA BGSC lathes appeared, these being bargain BGSC machines (the backgears were epicyclic) of 6" swing and suitable for light-duty use by model builders (though some examples were so light as to be almost usless).  The Atlas and the Sears versions were to dominated the US amateur lathe scene for several more decades - until the appearance of the Chinese.   
No one in the amateur press seems to have lamented the quiet disappearance of the Model 125/494 although it was, in effect, one of the best-specified and best-equipped little wood lathes ever produced.  Its potential for metalworking was more complex, as we shall see from the following examination of a lathe in near-original condition. 
Examination of a Model 125
This specimen, in near original condition, had spent its entire life driven by the maker's "foot power table".  As a rule, lathes that have enjoyed this continuity of mounting (and gentle drive forces) tend to be well preserved.  For much of the time the lathe was used with a Millers Falls fretsaw attachment bolted to the bed and occasionally tackled between-centres woodturning.  As a result, the bed surfaces display no discernable wear and the spindle/bearing assembly is in outstanding condition.  This case study provides an opportunity to determine the metalworking limitations of the Model 125/494.
When it left the factory, a century ago, the alignment was well below the standard of a 'precision' bench lathe - but then, the maker was explicit about this in the advertising literature and made no claims to the contrary. Yet the alignment proves to be no worse, and at least as good as, cheap BGSC lathe such as a Winfield, Randa or 2-1/8" Portass.  The tailstock centre of the specimen measures + 0.0005" relative to the spindle in the vertical plane and + 0.0022" off in the horizontal plane.  Two thirds of the horizontal error was due to a bed twisted from years on a treadle stand bolted to uneven flooring; levelling, however, reduced the error to under 0.001".  A four-inch cylinder turned between centres, with the aid of a slide-rest, appears parallel to a 0.001" - a perfectly acceptable standard for someone building a model steam engine.
Suspicion of any lathe sporting an unhardened milled bed and a tailstock guided by a milled tenon is rife - and indeed, machines so specified tend to exhibit a loose factory fit to begin with.  As time passes and swarf files away at the surfaces, the problem is rapidly compounded, there being too little contact area to absorb the wear. The result is a tailstock that fishtails in its guide slot; however, in the case of the Goodell-Pratt 135/494, the tenon (5/8" wide, 5/32" deep and 4" long) affords a commendably large area of contact which, given regular oil and cleaning, has resulted in a fitting with no discernable looseness or shake. 
Described in the catalogue as "milled", the ways and the tailstock bottom were obviously fitted together with considerable care - each tailstock being mated to its particular bed. Indeed, the degree of standardisation was probably low, and tailstocks probably not interchangeable. However, as was usual then (and now) the makers did point out that that the (fascinating) little 3" diameter turret attachment, if ordered separately, had tool holes left undersized for finishing by the owners who had to bore them out using a tool in the headstock spindle. The machining of the slot and the tailstock's matching tenon were more sophisticated than the one-pass gang-milling that Fred Portass used on Adept.  With no CNC technology and carbide cutters - and without resorting to hand scraping--the fitter at Goodell-Pratt would have carefully shaved off minute amounts with a finishing cutter until the tenon was a close sliding fit in its slot, a process consistent with the maker's claims that each lathe was carefully made.  Once the fit of the tailstock in the bed was fettled, it was customary in lathe production to lock down the tailstock and, using a jig and a horizontal boring machine, machine the headstock and tailstock as a unit. The 0.5" tailstock barrel of the specimen was a good fit in its housing, something that could not be said of many cheap lathes of the period--they not infrequently exhibiting barrel windage of a 'thou' or more direct from the factory.  The large, cranked tailstock handwheel combined with a fine ACME thread (0.5" by 10 t.p.i) afforded a surprisingly smooth and sensitive feed, even without installation of the lever.  The handwheel feed was much superior to the more common 0.75" by 8 t.p.i ACME barrel propelled only by a handwheel.  The 1-1/2" stroke was considerable and, given the maker's 3" diameter tailstock drill pad, numerous drilling jobs were possible with little set-up time.  Altogether the tailstock was a clever design, particularly the locking lever that allowed interchangeability from screw to lever operation, the drawback was a barrel of 0.5" diameter instead of a more useful 0.75", so limiting the socket to 0-MT, a grossly undersized taper for a 3.5" centre height lathe. Knowing that taper tooling sometimes had to be forced in tight (i.e. hammered) the maker provided an oval hole for the insertion of a removal wedge.
A remarkably simple affair, the Model 125's headstock consisted of just three parts besides the oil caps: bearings machined into the headstock casting; spindle and a spindle locking collar (with set-screw and brass pad).  The spindle, apart from a threaded nose resembled that of a heavily-built WW lathe with the bearings formed from an un-split hole in the casting that accommodated the generous 1" diameter cylindrical end of the spindle.  The latter was a close fit, suggesting that the hole was carefully reamed and the spindle was built to laudable tolerances.  The spindle was not hardened, but manufactured from a tough cast steel that polishes up nicely.  This, and the self-lubricating properties imparted by graphite in the iron housings, was a good combination in resisting wear.  A substantial cone, machined into the iron housing, the tail bearing had a matching cone turned onto the spindle. A threaded, hardened steel collar, with a conical contact surface, screwed onto the other end of the spindle. With this assembly the endplay was adjustable down to limits closer than normally expected with a plain spindle running in simple or bushed split housings.  The cones were protected from the ingress of dirt by a flange on the spindle, this doubling as the seat against which screw-on fittings would abut.  It also eliminated most of the spray of oil customarily sprayed by a cheap lathe onto the left side of the operator's body.  Simple oil cups were fitted. 
To the uninitiated the headstock looks as if it needs a drawbar.  The 6-5/8" long spindle's 3/8" bore easily lends itself to a drawbar should the owner devise draw-in 1-MT taper tooling, but this is not something one comes across in surviving 125s.  The mandrel socket was carefully machined and reamed to correct 1-MT specification.  This is just as well because most users possessed no screw-on work-holding devices besides the little drive plate that came with the lathe.  They relied exclusively upon taper tooling, of which Goodell-Pratt offered a useful range, but the cheap taper-mount drill chucks severely limited the metalworking that could be attempted.  The average user probably had no idea that a taper-mounted precision drill chuck, like a Skinner No. 22, would hold small work perfectly true in the fundamentally accurate headstock.
While carefully machined, the mandrel nose constituted an impediment to accurate work.  It carried a stubby 1" by 12 t.p.i thread of 60 form that was cut several 'thou' undersized, probably on purpose, in relation to the thread tolerances on screw-on devices such as the maker's collet attachment and scroll-chuck back plates.  Goodell-Pratt, being a manufacturer of decent micrometers, would surely have been particular about the fit of these threads.  This care is also apparent from the splendid finish of the slide-rest feed screws and the tailstock ACME thread, and the nice fit in the threaded holes in which they operate.
Like most inexpensive American lathes, the mandrel nose lacked an accurate register between thread and abutment face.  While providing one would not have improved accuracy (the thread automatically align any fittings) it would have made for a more rugged assembly. 

Did new owners suffer frustrations with their new machines? They did: an inexpensive 3-jaw scroll chuck was fitted to the specimen lathe.  A makeshift backplate with 0.001" of freedom upon the mandrel nose was fitted.  Into this went a " centre-drilled rod, and into the tailstock socket, a decent condition Goodell-Pratt drill chuck with a new 1/32" drill.  The drill was markedly off-centre and wobbled alarmingly off-axis when drilling was attempted.  The exercise had to be abandoned before the drill broke. 
Another source of errors to an inexperienced owner was the combined headstock and bed casting - altogether the latter did weigh 30 pounds, this was around half the weight of one on the average precision bench lathe and much less than the 70-90 lbs of a cheap BGSC machine of similar swing and centre distance.  Nevertheless, the iron was in the right places and, when bolted to a heavy bench or the iron treadle stand, it was rigid enough for ordinary applications.  The key was proper levelling.  Few users paid any attention to this.  They must have suffered the consequence of a tailstock centre habitually deflected sideways by several 'thou' or more, further aggravating the problems of holding work true.  One then begins to understand the manufacturer's reminders that the lathes were not precision machines.
Although spidery-looking - and despite drastic sculpturing to permit under-bench drive - the headstock was adequately robust. Designed for 1" flat belts driving from below or above, some have been converted to V-belt drive. While appearing to offer some advantages, this modification, especially if using short belts run tight, can impose unacceptable loads on the bearings and course premature wear. It can even alter the
alignment and affect the rigidity of the headstock under the forces of cutting.  It is well to be suspicious of lathes that have been thus converted.
Besides this inadvisable modification, it is unusual to find a Goodell-Pratt lathe that has been altered by its owner.  This contrasts starkly with other, cheap contemporary small lathes, particularly those made in the UK.  The English
Model Engineer magazine and American corollaries such as Popular Mechanics, routinely carried articles on improving the cheap lathe.  A rich literature exists on how to modify the Baby Portass, Adept, Wade, Drummond round-bed, Randa and Atlas lathes. Goodell-Pratt lathes seem to have been spared this attention and, significantly, there is barely mention of the Company in either Model Engineer articles or editorials. However, even today a well-tooled Model 125 or 494 lathe remains an excellent woodworking machine if not worn out - and if a suitable flat-belt drive arrangement can be devised.  The Model 125, mounted on the No. 121 foot power table, is arguably the best-specified and tooled woodworking lathe ever produced in its size.
At 160 lbs (190 lbs with lathe) the maker's iron and steel treadle stand, with an 18-inch flywheel, was thoroughly over-engineered for such a small machine - its weight was double, even triple, that of one employed on the average treadle-driven 30-inch centres wood lathe. Able to provide a useful range of speeds for both woodworking and metalworking, the same stand was also sold, fitted with a broader pedal-plate and an under-slung countershaft, for driving other Goodell-Pratt products such as grinders and drilling machines. Unfortunately, as it had a usefully deep cast-iron chip tray, the stand placed the lathe centres at a relatively high 45" above floor level, though with most wood lathes of the same era it was necessary to stoop lower than this because their beds was mounted direct on the legs - or "standards" in the terminology of the day. Cast into the back, for storing tools, was a convenient rack with 11 small and 12 large holes
If properly levelled and powered, the Model 125/494 was potentially a decent little metalworking lathe - providing screwcutting or power traverse was not needed - a class that of impecunious necessity most amateurs of the time were forced into. While the lack of tailstock set-over was common, owners could work around this by rotating the slide-rest using the Protractor Attachment Part No. 639.
or by fitting (or making) a simple and adjustable offset centre. Unfortunately, the maker's work-holding devices were well below the capabilities of the spindle and the machining potential could only be realized fully if well-fitted 3 and 4-jaw chucks, a 6" faceplate, a decent No 1-MT drill chuck and a good 0-MT drill chuck for the tailstock could be afforded.  Without a screwcutting lathe to make custom-fit mandrel nose tooling, a Model 125/494 is apt to disappoint as a metalworking lathe, no matter how carefully set up and driven.
Lathe Accessories
Displaying a large range of hand tool, the catalogues of Goodell-Pratt from 1899 to 1930 are full of calipers, braces, breast drills, levels, gauges, squares, micrometers, mechanics tools, grinding heads - and even (by the 1920s) portable electric drills. Lathes were noticeable only by their rarity, a very limited range being produced - including a little you-must-be-desperate-to-buy-this combination high-speed grinder and wood lathe. However, while not principal products, and built down to a basic level of quality, the lathes proved popular and sold widely, but the firm's most famous product was the keyless Goodell-Pratt drill chuck.  Versions of this, the name long forgotten, continue to grace cheaper varieties of hand drills and the recently defunct Clisby lathe. 
When introduced, the original type with case-hardened jaws was a big improvement on other hand-drill chucks.  Goodell-Pratt also offered a second, improved and more expensive type, the "Greenfield". However, it was the cheaper variety, priced to sell, that was soon found fitted, on a taper arbor, to amateur lathes the world over. Unfortunately, when used as a lathe chuck in the tailstock it was rubbish. It lacked accuracy, deflected alarmingly under radial loading and gained a reputation for rapid wear and a tendency to wobble off-centre on its threaded arbor mounting.  Sparey's definitive 1948 work,
The Amateur's Lathe, diplomatically recommends against the type in favour of the superior Jacob's chuck (fitted to the carefully designed and absolutely accurate and secure Jacobs taper).  Naturally, most Goodell-Pratt lathes came with a -inch Goodell-Pratt chuck as standard equipment.
Goodell-Pratt drill chuck on a taper arbor.  From the 1926 Catalogue.
Equipped with little in the way of accessories, most surviving Goodell-Pratt 125/494 lathes are of the plain type. Numerous accessories - some useful but others mere gadgets - were available, but most purchasers (judging by the items found with lathes for sale second-hand) appeared to have been content with a very basic and obviously less-expensive machine.  The fretsaw and table saw attachments were quite serviceable - and a scale modeller would have found them highly desirable before small, individually motorised yet cheap saws became widely available in the 1920s.  The tilting-table fretsaw attachment was small (6-3/4" table and 8-1/2" throat) but rigid and useful enough for delicate work.  Unfortunately it accepted only the standard type of 6" coping blades, having a cross-pin at each end, and would not take fretsaw blades that needed to be clamped. At $18.00 in the mid-20s, it was also expensive  Some Model 125/494 owners (two that we know) purchased the much cheaper ($5.30 in 1925) fretsaw attachment of the Goodell lathe from Millers Falls.  This device was quite useful - and by far the best-made part of the primitive Goodell lathe ensemble - it also fitted (with a little bodging) the Model 125/494 The 7-1/2" diameter table tilted, the throat was a useful 18", the blade reciprocated in a largely vertical plane and it took fret as well as coping blades. 
Presumably the marketing wizard William Pratt was responsible for the curious assortment of standard accessories supplied with a new lathe.  The Model 125/494, for instance, came with the usual two dead centres, a saw arbor (but no saw or saw table), a 1-MT drill chuck (but no drill pad) and a small slotted faceplate (but no carrier).  The purchaser was thus pressured to buy four more items immediately, not including some or all of the following to make the lathe useful for wood-turning: a screw centre faceplate, a prong chuck and a spur centre. 
While Goodell-Pratt ensured that the woodworker had an enviable selection of tools and accessories to choose from, the metalworker seemed to be treated almost with contempt.  Notable absences from the metalworking range included such essentials as blade-type parting tools, a fixed steady, travelling steady, four-jaw independent chucks, a proper faceplate of decent size or even a simple angle plate and vice to make the milling attachment useful.  The five sizes of "compression bushings" (1/8", 3/16", ", 5/16", and 3/8") were intended to tightly grip grinding wheels and milling cutters.  This they did, but it is difficult to call them a proper collet set. As compensation, the Company did offer a number of modestly-priced 3-jaw scroll chucks in body diameters of 2, 3 and 4 inches, together with a cheaper variety with outside jaws only. Perhaps most users wanted this simplicity, and were content with the poor concentricity inherent in such a fitment, though the case-hardened jaws were reversible. Astonishingly, no backplate was supplied with any of the chucks, these seeming to be an afterthought - though profits were increased by listing them as available if
specially requested when ordering a chuck.  Presumably they were not available as a separate item.
The outside-jawed 4-inch scroll chuck.  From the 1926 Catalogue.
Also listed was a peculiar No. 179 odd jobs chuck for $8.80.  This large and heavy item seems to have resembled the early faceplate-type dog chuck from which today's proper (and heavier) independent 4-jaw chuck evolved.  Unfortunately, only a brief description and an unhelpful little engraving survives: Holds almost any shape within its capacity.  Diameter, 5-1/4 inches, thickness, 1 inch.  Four studs with hardened set-screws fit accurately into five rows of holes.  Back recessed to fit 3-inch face plate and drilled and tapped for fitting.  Set screws furnished.  Weight, 4-1/4 lbs.
Slide-rest evolution:
One of the earlier bar-types survives partially intact and bearing a Goodell-Pratt plaque without a model number.  This Mk 1 slide-rest employed parallel, 7/16" diameter guide rods along similar lines to the turret attachment.  The Mk 1 top-slide travelled 5.5" along the bed and 2.75" at right angles to it.  At an early juncture this rigid and generally acceptable system gave way to a Mk. 2 type formed from conventional iron castings that, with 3.75" of longitudinal travel and 2.25" of travel across the ways was presumably cheaper to produce. Both types had feedscrews with ordinary, 60 V-form rather than ACME or square threads - this also applying to other accessories with feedscrews.  The handwheels lacked graduated dials, an unfortunate omission considering that the thread pitch was a useful 20 t.p.i., a figure readily divisible into 'thous'.  However, the primitive handwheels, equipped with elegantly waisted crank handles, were designed in such a way that an amateur could apply index markings by simple means.
One wonders why the manufacturer never expanded the range of metalworking accessories to include the important types. However, Goodell-Pratt appears to have been an intensely conservative firm: it seems not to concerned itself with short-term, fashionable items for even in the last catalogue of 1930, many dozens of its products appeared in exactly the same form as when patented in the 1890s.  For this reason it is extremely unlikely that Goodell-Pratt lathes could have evolved to stay relevant if the Depression had not forced the takeover by Millers Falls..

Andrew Webster and Tony Griffiths--October 2009




Goodell-Pratt Home Page   Goodell-Pratt No. 700

Goodell (Millers Falls) Miniature Treadle Lathe

Goodell-Pratt Milling Machine   

Goodell-Pratt: Company History & Overview

Massachusetts Tool Co. No. 1

Goodell-Pratt Lathes
a Company History and Overview

Whilst no manuals are available for these lathes, a collection of
interesting sales literature is available 

email: tony@lathes.co.uk
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