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A.E. Marsh Lathe - USA
Foot Power Cylinder Bed Lathes

If you have a Marsh lathe, the writer would like
To host pictures of it in the Machine Tool Archive

Manufactured by the Battle Creek Machinery Company, of Battle Creek, Michigan whose slogan was "There is Pleasure in it ! There is Profit in it ! There is Health in it !" the "Marsh's Cylinder Bed Lathe" was probably introduced around 1877; the glowing testimonials printed in the firm's tiny publicity circulars are dated from 1878, with awards at the 1878, 1879 and 1880 Michigan State Fairs of "Special Premium" and "First Premium" prizes. The lathe was also exported and the company received references from, amongst others, Duff Last & Co. of London, James M. Lyon of Singapore, Francis & James Smith of Glasgow and H.P.Gregory & Co. of Sydney Australia. A single patent (shown below) appears to have been taken out, this being granted to Elon E.Marsh on October 15th. 1878. Unfortunately, the patent did not cover some novel improvement, it simply claimed to combine an already-known number of mechanical ideas into one machine.
The basis of this simple machine was a turn-finished steel tube - 4 inches in diameter on the No.5 lathe, but of unknown section for the No.3 -  onto which slid the headstock, saddle and tailstock, each being "
bored to fit nicely".  The headstock was permanently retained - by one set screw - and the saddle and tailstock both sawn open along their bases and provided with set screws to lock them to the bed by "a single turn of the hand". The tailstock was kept in line by a guide groove in the bed, but the saddle, which had no means of being fed along the bed, was free to be both slid and rotated into position by the operator. It is interesting to compare the Marsh with the English round-bed Drummond screwcutting lathe, introduced some thirty years later.
The No.3 lathe was available on a typically over-ornamented stand described by the makers as: "
… stiff but light and graceful. The entire structure is ingenious, mechanical and elegant in appearance" - but which, whilst it kept the lathe off the floor and provided a drive platform, can have contributed little or nothing to its rigidity. The ends of the lathe bed were clamped directly against the top inside faces of the stand legs - so removing the need for separate bed feet - although if the assembly was dowelled or spigoted in some way as well, or just relied upon friction for its location, is not clear. The flywheel ran on an axle supported at both ends, instead of being overhung on a single stud (as was common on cheaper lathes built for amateurs) and the foot pedal was full length - which made work towards the tailstock end of the lathe a good deal easier in comparison with those supplied with just a single, centrally-positioned pedal.
The lathe was built in (at least) two sizes; of the known Marsh model numbers the smaller was the No. 3 and the larger the No.5.  Although earlier years may have seen a Model No.1, or a Model No.2, this is by no means certain - it being a common practice amongst machine-tool makers to avoid starting production numbers at 1 (11, 101 or even 1001 were popular) and to designate their smallest Models at something other than 1 - all ploys designed, of course, to give an impression of a firm rather larger and more successful than it really was.
The No.3 lathe, of 8-inch swing and 22 inches between centres, was designed as an amateurs' machine, able to turn both wood and metal; it was fitted with brass headstock bearings, a steel spindle and a 3-speed cone pulley for round belt drive. At an extra cost of 50 cents per inch, and to special order, beds able to accept up to 30 inches between centres were available. Various accessories were listed including a compound screw-feed slide rest ($10); circular saw priced ($6); a scroll saw ($6.50) and a moulding attachment ($10).
Supplied complete on its foot-power stand, also included with each new lathe were two sizes of T rest, a wooden tool shelf, one faceplate, two centres and a round leather drive belt; it weighed 175 lbs and cost, in 1880, $30.

Standard No. 3 Marsh's Cylinder Bed Lathe with a plain hand rest, full-length treadle bar and twin-crank drive to the flywheel. The three speeds were driven by a round leather "gut" rope.

A much heavier machine than the No. 3, at approximately 500 lbs the Marsh Cylinder Bed Lathe Model No. 5 weighed almost three times as much. Described by the makers as a "Mechanic's-size foot lathe", the bed was 4 inches in diameter and 5 feet 6 inches long; the swing was 11 inches and the capacity between centres 42 inches.
While the stand lacked the ornate curves of that fitted to the No. 3, it retained the full-length treadle foot-plate and the crank drive to the flywheel from both ends of the stand; however, in a bid to reduce friction and lighten the treadling loads, the assembly was not supported in bearings - but rested instead on what the maker called "
friction rollers" - a pair of which were mounted on each of the stand's legs.
Described as having a "V" shape, the flywheel belt groove and its belt were described as being of a "
heavy angular" type which "gives more power than any other shape". Putting aside the exaggerated advertising claim, it would seem that this was not a standard round leather "gut" rope, but some sort of special product - but just what sort of a belt it was, and how it was constructed, is a mystery.
The lathe was supplied as standard with a full compound slide rest assembly mounted on a swivelling bed bracket - the latter apparently having no provision for returning back to level once the setting had been disturbed. Although the slide rest could not be accurately reset, the screw-feed tailstock was provided with a guiding slot cut in the bed - while a vertical extension to its casting acted as a mounting point for the tension arm of the scroll-saw attachment..

The "friction rollers" supporting the flywheel and its axle can be clearly seen on this engraving of the A.E. Marsh No. 5 lathe.

Detail of the Marsh compound slide rest and its mounting bracket.

While the lathe was also available for bench mounting the maker's accessory list did not include a countershaft to drive it.

The Compound Slide Rest ($10, and 12 lbs in weight) was designed for brass and other light metal work - and fitted to a swivelling bed bracket; each slide had 61/2 inches of travel. Battle Creek also manufactured the same unit with a flat base - and in different sizes - to suit other plain-turning lathes.

Scroll Saw Attachment.
The large bed-mounted casting which held the sliding-saw retainer could be "
readily attached or detached without pulling the lathe to pieces" - which would indicate, despite appearances, a two-part construction. The oscillating plunger was driven from a crank-rod attached to a small faceplate on the end of the headstock spindle. A long bar, acting as a saw-tension spring, was retained on a bracket bolted to the tailstock and could be adjusted by a screwed rod anchored against the end of the bed; the circular table could be set over 45 degrees. The price in 1880, including the lathe and its stand, was $36.50.

The Bracket Moulding Attachment - a vertical moulding cutter was driven from the headstock pulley by a rope passing over a pair of jockey pulleys.

Saw Bench Attachment

The sad, incomplete and damaged remains of an E.A.Marsh lathe

The "water-tap" handle on the tailstock spindle locking screw is, clearly, not original…...

If you have a Marsh lathe, the writer would like
To host pictures of it in the Machine Tool Archive
Marsh - USA

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