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N.D.C. Co. Lathe - Nottingham

Carrying a plate across the tailstock end of its twin-bar bed proclaiming "Patents Applications Nos. 7370, 7371, 7372 of 1921 N.D.C. C0. Nottingham", the NDC lathe is rare - with only a single example known to exist. With an overall length of around 450 mm, a centre height of around 80 mm and weighing 17 kg, the lathe exhibited an unusually fine finish that hinted at a high-standard of construction with the main castings in aluminium being smooth, crisply detailed and the many small ferrous fittings knurled and plated. From their appearance, the major castings appear to have been pressure die cast, a process that had moved to encompass aluminium alloys by the early 1920s - and possibly what the patent applications referred to. Could the N.D.C. Co. have been "Nottingham Die Casters"? Is so they were not alone in the field, for numerous examples were also made including, also in 1921, the little Wade C.A.V. by C.A.V. Small Tools of Hove in Sussex, this having what the makers described as major parts in: "..pressure die-cast, tough copper-aluminium alloy". In Austria the Emco Company, once their tiny multi-function  Unimat had proved successful from its introduction in 1954 with its major parts in cast iron, switched in 1964 to a pressure die casting in ZAMAK and later to an aluminium alloy. Not to be left out, a French concern of specialist die casters used their skills to offer, during the 1970s and early 1980s, the clever, inexpensive but rather fragile Minilor TR - while Bosch, during what is believed to have been the 1960s, produced a very simple, plain-turning metal lathe. Amusingly, by 1933, the American South Bend lathe company were advertising that their lathes were: "...built entirely of steel, cast iron and malleable ironů.No die-cast metal is used..."
Mounted on a heavy base in cast iron with a machined top surface, the N.D.C was of an unusual design with, for example, the headstock split into forward and rear sections. While the forward element held the front spindle and formed a support for the pair of bed bars, the outer, with the second spindle bearing, was carried on the bars and arranged to hold the end of the central (Whitworth-threaded) leadscrew. As the screw could just as well have finished inside the front section of the headstock, the arrangement hints at the possibility of screwcutting being available with longer bed bars provided to support a suitable bracket to which the changewheels could be mounted. Another clue to this possibility might be the plain extension to the headstock spindle, this serving, in the form surviving, no obvious purpose. The N.D.C. was not unique in using a "split" headstock in conjunction with a bar bed, for one more is known, the Caley, a wood-turning lathe made in Glasgow during the 1950s.
Resembling in appearance - if not size - that used on many watchmakers lathes, the tailstock was fitted with a screw-driven spindle, the end fitted with what appeared to be either a built-in rotating centre or some system - using a knurled, screw-on ring - of holding a short centre in lieu of a Morse taper type.
Rather out of scale with the lathe, the rather clumsy-looking, screw-feed compound slide rest assembly was equipped fitted with graduated but unnumbered micrometer dials. Of the American "lantern" pattern, the toolpost on the lathe illustrated has lost its dished washer, into which sat a curved-base, flat-topped rocking tool support the angling of which adjusted the tool height - this part surviving.
Also fitted was a small hand T-rest, a common accessory on this class of machine, though in this case perhaps rather short for the effective turning of wood.
If the lathe really was made during the early 1920s, the aluminium three-step headstock pulley cannot be original: V-belts were not fitted to small lathes until the very early 1930s, the 1932 American 9-inch Atlas being the first to employ them effectively. In addition, instead of straight sides to the V-grooves - as would have been provided for round-rope drive - the flanges are machined in that typical V-belt style. Fitted with a period -circa 1920s to 1930s - ring-scroll 3-jaw chuck, perhaps instead of the former decade the lathe was made in the latter, though this does seem unlikely.
While using a twin-bar arrangement for the bed is a long-established and economical way of constructing a lathe - the bars can be simple, cheap, off-the-shelf-parts - it can still be highly effective. Many wood-turning lathes still employ the system and even some makers of metal-turning lathes have continued the practice into the 21st century, amongst them the German firm of Wabeco with their Model D2000.
Do you have an N.D.C. lathe? If so, please do contact the writer.

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