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Melhuish 2-Speed Hand-operated
Metal-planing Machine

Established in 1828 by one Richard Melhuish, Melhuish & Sons was based in Fetter Lane, London (with a branch at 143 Holborn) and sold a wide variety of smaller machine tools and engineering and woodworking equipment. Melhuish was never a manufacturing company and appear to have sourced the majority of their stock from the UK, continental Europe and the USA.
Found in 2019, cast aside in a Chilterns farmyard and left in a superficially neglected state, once dismantled and cleaned the "Melhuish" 2-speed planer shown below proved to be in surprisingly good condition with evidence of little previous use. Although the model (maker's reference No. 2745
1/2)  has been traced to a Melhuish catalogue of 1913, the planer could have been manufactured at almost any point between 1880 to 1920 - or even earlier or later. Planers of this miniature type were once very popular, their ability to produce a flat surface on large components at very low cost proving an irresistible attraction. Even today they remain popular and are still a most useful machine to have in the workshop of the serious amateur. In addition, besides being a sound investment (they can command surprisingly high prices) they are an interesting and mechanically-delightful artefact and, as they work, they have a strange and rather beautiful hypnotic motion.
Strongly built - even a cursory glance confirms this Melhuish as a well-built, serious machine tool - the planer was clearly intended for use by the serious, ambitious amateur or even in a small professional repair workshop. The two stroke speeds were arranged by the simple means of two input shafts, held within a single cage of the right-hand face of the main body, each shaft carrying gears of different ratio that engaged with the table-drive, rack-pinion gear. For heavy, fast-removal cuts the geared-down drive was used and for lighter work, or finishing cuts, the more direct drive that gave a faster feed was engaged, the single operating handle being transferred from one shaft to the other.
Able to plane a workpiece up to 18 inches long, 8 inches wide and 6 inches deep, the planer had a bridge that carried, in conjunction with a hand feed, a ratchet-and-pawl mechanism to give an automatic, variable-rate cross feed to the swivelling tool slide.
Feed screws were all square thread and, instead of being "cack-handed" as might have been expected, these on the cross and vertical slides were left-handed so that turning them clockwise moved the slideway from the operator and ant-clockwise towards.
Although numbers of these machines are by known makers including (in the UK)  Milnes, Senior (and Firth), Selig, Hesketh Walker, Brittain, and Britannia many others remain unrecognised. If you have a similar machine, please do get in touch.

High-resolution pictures - may take time to open


As found in 2019 abandoned in a farmyard

Underside of the body casting showing, left to right at the top, the two table-drive speed-change gears and below, positioned centrally, the rack-pinion gear that drove the table

Restored to full working order - and complete with its original machine vice -  the planer is now capable, once again, of productive work and would make a most useful tool in the workshop of a keen model or experimental engineer.

Even a cursory glance confirms this as a well-built, serious machine tool intended for the serious amateur or even a small, professional repair workshop



At one time the planer was considered an indispensable part of any machine shop, large or small - often being used to machine several identical jobs "ganged up" on the table - machine tool beds and other larger castings being typical examples, as shown here in the American Hendey factory. Today, planers they are still in use machining huge castings for a variety of industries for, using inexpensive tooling they can machine large components with relative ease and considerable accuracy. Some examples are huge, with beds fifty or sixty feet long and able to accommodate work sixteen feet high, and fitted with either fixed or pivoting grinding or milling heads in place of the ordinary "clapper-box" tool holder - this type being known as "planer-millers" or "planer-grinders" or, in some regions as the "plano-miller" and "plano-grinder". On larger types it's common to find more than one toolbox fitted, the cross-rail can often carry two or more, side by side, with several others sometimes mounted at the bottom and sides of the cross-rail support columns.
Some planers are made open-sided, and able to accommodate even larger jobs and, as so many specialised machining operations can be undertaken, it is often difficult to differentiate between planers and true millers - examples made by the huge American Niles-Bement-Pond Company have included: Multiple Spindle Horizontal Milling Machines, Horizontal Slab Milling Machines, Horizontal Slab Milling Machine, Rod Milling and Fluting Machine, Duplex Milling Machines, Forge Milling Machines, Plate Planers, Rotary Planers and End Milling Machines. Although the name changed according to the specific use, the principle of operation remained essentially the same, a long table sliding beneath (or between) single or multiple static or powered cuttings heads.
Other variations on the theme include "Pit" and "Breast" planers where the workpiece rests in a pit (or on a table) and the columns carrying the cross-rail and toolheads travel over it. These massive machines are generally reserved for the heavier kinds of armour-plate work intended for nuclear power stations and warships.


lathes.co.uk
Melhuish 2-Speed Hand-operated
Metal-planing Machine


email: tony@lathes.co.uk
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