Of classic form and almost certainly dating from the 1870s, this Lathe & Morse Co. lathe survived until 2017 in remarkably unmolested condition. No major parts were missing, all the "balanced" handwheels were intact, the giant weight hung beneath the saddle was present as was the maker's brass shield-like screwcutting chart, an item often stolen by souvenir hunters. Happily, the example illustrated retained a contemporary (possibly original-to-the machine) wall-mounted fast-and-loose, clutched and reversing countershaft, an assembly that is increasingly hard to find. Developed in New England from 1853 onwards - when the first of its type with power-shaft drive for the longitudinal feed was displayed in 1853 by Thayer & Houghton at the Mechanics Hall Show - this version of the "engine lathe" (as they are known in the United States) was an important milestone in the development of the type.
Typical for its time, the lathe has a "box" type tailstock, a 3-speed flat-belt drive to a front-mounted powershaft (that drove the carriage sliding feed) with the screwcutting leadscrew mounted to the rear of the bed - the clasp nuts being held in a downward extension to the back face of the saddle. Tumble-reverse was fitted to the changewheel drive, a gear to the left of the smaller headstock spindle backgear engaging with a set of gears held within a cavity below. Control was by a long handle, pivoting from the headstock's left-hand face, the mechanism held entirely inside the headstock casting.
Instead of a combination of V and flat ways, the wide, gapless bed had four V-shaped ways - two guiding the tailstock and the other pair guiding the saddle. As the ways ran on past the front and rear faces of the headstock, the carriage (with its long, equally proportioned wings) was able to bring a cutting tool right up to the spindle nose.
Instead of rectangular blocks of bronze, bored through for the spindle and sitting in straight-sided cut-outs, the Lathe & Morse headstock bearings appear to have been circular in external form, the top section cut away on top to register the two-bolt clamping plates.
As with many lathes of that era, there was no compound slide rest (a separate swivelling top slide above the cross slide) instead, the cross slide was arranged to hinge about a pivot point at the front, a rear-mounted screw being provided to elevate the assembly.
The Lathe & Morse Co. of Worcester began as a partnership in 1864 between one Martin Lathe and Edwins Morse, this concern being a successor to a previous undertaking, Shepard, Lathe & Morse. By 1971 the Company was renamed Lathe Morse & Tool Co. with stockholders putting in capital and some 40 to 50 men employed. By 1891 the firm was bankrupt, the remaining assets passing to William Draper of the Draper Machine Tool Co. During their most productive years Lathe and Morse produced a number of different machine tools including 15, 20 and 24-inch swing lathes and a variety of planers.
One of these lathes looked at by a member of the Antique Machinery Forum that been in storage from some time and appeared to have faint white lining on the legs. However, when wiped over with an oily rag it the white finish appeared to have been caused by the oxidation of lead in the paint - for the colours changed with the pin striping turning to red over green paint. - quite possibly the maker's original finish.
If you have a Lathe & Morse machine tool and would like to contribute photographs, the writer is keen to extend this section of the Archive.