Manufactured by Antony Croucher Ltd. in Holybourne, England, the Labormil, was an ingenious adaptation of the last lathe made by the Nottingham-based Raglan company, their splendid if rather expensive "Five-Inch" model. The rear of the heavily-modified and strengthened headstock held a long "back bar" (supported at its far end by a slender rod) designed to carry a sliding No. 2 Morse taper tailstock and a motorised surface-grinding attachment. The headstock with its 11/32" bore Timken taper-roller bearing supported spindle, the bed-ways, complete carriage assembly, screwcutting gearbox and the variable-speed drive system, with its expanding-and-contracting pulley design, were standard Raglan. However, the bed, instead of being cast as-one with the head as on the original lathe, was separate and supported on a knee that could be moved up and down a substantial column and so employed as the Z (vertical) axis for milling and grinding jobs. It appears that, although the standard rise and fall was by a handwheel working through worm-and-wheel gearings, as an option an electrically driven drive was also available. Even when elevated or lowered, the screwcutting and feed changewheels were kept in mesh by an ingenious mechanism that carried the gears on a scissor-action bracket.
It is believed that the concept and design of the Labormil was closely based on the Metalmaster, a combination machine invented by W. D. Urwick C.Eng., M.I.Mech.E. Certainly the design included the (unacknowledged) use of Urwick's patented Triangular Gib Key - an important component of the machine that locked the knee to the vertical column with great rigidly and perfect alignment and yet, upon it's release, allowed the assemblies to move with perfect smoothness.
Also capable of being pressed into service as an ordinary 5" x 23" backgeared, screwcutting centre lathe, the Labormil's variable-speed drive was driven by a motor far more powerful than the standard lathes 0.5 h.p. unit, a 3 h.p. 3-phase motor being fitted that gave a range from 38 to 1750 r.p.m. The screwcutting gearbox was standard and able to generate the same range of pitches from 4 to 60 t.p.i. All versions of the lathe had a 4-Morse taper headstock spindle (with a square-thread, 1.75" x 6 t.p.i. nose) that ran on taper-roller bearings and was capable of passing a 1" diameter bar. A standard Raglan swivelling top slide (a copy of that used on Atlas lathes), could be mounted on the generously proportioned T-slotted boring table - and the power sliding and surfacing arrangements of the original lathe could also be used in the normal way. The carriage sliding movement was supplemented by a graduated handwheel fitted to the end of the 0.75-inch diameter, 8 t.p.i. leadscrew.
For the ordinary Raglan a wide range of accessories was offered, those being applicable to the Labormil including fixed and travelling steadies; collet sets (draw-in and spindle-nose mounted); a large faceplate; American style and 4-way toolposts; micrometer carriage stop; T-hand rests for wood turning and metal spinning; angle plates and, possibly, the taper-turning unit.
The Labormil certainly looks to have been a very useful and compact machine - and it would be interesting to know how many were sold. Croucher advertised themselves as Designers and builders of special-purpose machinery for any industry and possibly this machine was one of a small batch built to test the market: the first production machine was numbered 1001 and the highest so far discovered stamped 1105.
In addition to the Metalmaster, two machines that make an interesting comparison with the Labormill are the Swiss built Meyer and Burger UW1 and the English "Rindis", made by Lorant Ltd., in London.
If you have a Labormil the writer would be interested to hear from you.