Goodnow & Wightman Lathe
Once well-known in the late 1800s as dealers in all sorts of industrial tools and modelling equipment, Goodnow & Wightman described themselves as: "Importers, Manufacturers and Dealers in Tools for Machinists, Pattern Makers, Carvers, Model-makers, Amateurs, Cabinet-makers, Jewelers, etc." Based in Boston, Mass., the Company have been found listed at various address including first at 23 Cornhill, then by 1892 at 63 Sudbury Street and finally, by 1879, at 176 Washington Street.
If the lathe was actually made by Goodnow and Wightman, or one of many machine-tool makers in the Boston area*, is not known, but its specification suggests it was something of an advanced design when first put on the market in 1878, the lathe being announced on July 27th of that year at $85 in the Scientific American Magazine.; however, by December the price had risen by a considerable 20% - to $100.
With a 4-inch centre height and 18 inches 20 inches between centres, the G & W exhibited a particularly fine finish with smooth castings and neat, finely-machined small parts. The 35-inch long and 5-inch deep bed was enormously wide with its V and flat-ways continuing on past the front and rear faces of the headstock - the result being to allow the toolpost, mounted on a single, non-swivelling slideway set centrally on the saddle, to reach right up to the spindle nose. Instead of the tumble-reverse mechanism being carried on the outside face of the headstock, it was rather better supported by being build against the inside, left-hand wall.
The leadscrew - one might have expected a lathe of this age to have one resembling a length of barley sugar - was of an unusually fine pitch, thus allowing the largest changewheels to be of a reasonable instead of huge diameter when fine pitches had to be cut or slow carriage feeds set-up.
Instead of the awkward-to-operate detachable crank handles usually found on lathes of this vintage, the C & W was fitted with "balanced" types to operate the rack-driven carriage feed and tailstock spindle - the chrome-plated, full-circle wheel on the cross-feed being, of course, a later addition.
There is evidence that the lathe, as arranged, might have been intended for heavy-duty production use, the fitting of a very wide, 2-step pulley on the headstock (one 1.5 inches in diameter, the other 5 inches) and with a 1.5-inch wide belt, allowing far more power to be transmitted than the more usual narrower three of four-step type. Using backgear, four speeds were available, the slowest being 100 r.p.m. and the fastest a rather astonishing (for the time on this class of lathe) of 1100 r.p.m. Aided by the slow-speed backgear, effective screwcutting would have been entirely possible, the set of changewheels supplied enabling pitches to be generated from 8 to 42 t.p.i. A split clasp nut assembly was fitted to grip the leadscrew, the closing and opening by a cam being under the control of a hand-turned, edge-serrated knob on the face of the apron.
Nine inches long and with a maximum diameter of 1.25 inches, the headstock spindle was bored through 3/8"
Notches in the underside of its bed confirm that the lathe was originally carried on a pair of cast-iron "standards" with drive coming from a "foot-power", treadle-operated 21.5-inch diameter, 60 lb., spoked flywheel - a cutaway in the bed, directly in line with smaller of the headstock pulleys, being intended to give clearance for the flat drive belt. The maker's publicity engraving, shown below, illustrated how the lathe was configured upon its introduction.
Able to be set-over on its baseplate for the turning of slight tapers, the tailstock had a 15/16" diameter spindle with a travel of three inches.
Still in remarkable good mechanical condition with little evidence of wear, as the existing, rear-mounted countershaft has a V-pulley in aluminium fitted, it's clear that the last owner - careful not to have his fingers removed by the protruding jaw screws on the contemporary 3-jaw chuck - still had it in active use.
* a centre of high-quality engineering, as well as hundreds of small machine shops, known lathe makers in the wider Boston area included Rivett, Seth Wilmarth, the original Wade machine Company, Burton & Rogers, Mattapan Iron Works, Waltham Machine Works and Hjorth..