email: tony@lathes.co.uk
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Pfeil Lathes - London, England

Pfeil Continued on Page 2 (of 2)


Pfeil were a firm established in the 19th century and based at 145, 147 and 149 John Street in the Clerkenwell district of London - with an associated company, Pfeil, Stedall & Son in Broad Street, Bloomsbury. By the end of the 1800s they had grown to become a major supplier of home-produced and imported engineering equipment (all illustrated in a large, beautifully-produced, hard-back catalogue) and also agents for several English and foreign machine-tool makers. They also "bought in" a range of shapers, small planers, drills and simple, plain-turning lathes which were sold under their own name and of which , dating from between 1870 and 1900, are shown on this page.
Supplied for either bench mounting or on cast-iron standards (legs) the smaller Pfeil lathes were available in at least two forms: one with a 3-inch centre height and 22 inches between centres, the other with a 3.5" centre height and 27 inches between centres.  Both were built along identical lines and were priced, in 1901, at 4 : 15 : 0d for the smaller and 5 : 10 : 0 for the larger. However, the compound slide rest was extra and added a substantial 3 : 17 : 6 to the price of the 3-inch lathe and 4 : 4 : 0 to the 3.5-inch, so nearly doubling the cost. The solid headstock spindle (a charge of 1: 12 : 6 was made for one bored through) with a nose threaded 3/4" x 10 t.p.i and a backing register of 3/32" x 3/4", ran in a single bearing - a hard-steel, conical bush (although later models may have had phosphor-bronze bearings) - while the other end was supported against a hardened-steel adjuster screw which passed (in traditional early-lathe style) through the left-hand headstock upright. The 4-step drive pulley was intended to be turned by a round leather belt (a "gut" drive) from the stand-mounted flywheel. The front face of the headstock, like that on so many small lathes of the era, was machined flat. The stand legs were 361/2" high to the bed surface, and the flywheel 20" in diameter with belt grooves of 19",  18" and 10" diameters.
Typical of its age and type, the compound slide rest was fitted with awkward-to-use crank handles, lacked micrometer dials and was fitted with a simple "clog-heel" toolpost that carried the inscription "PFIEL & CO LONDON". Surprisingly many surviving examples retain the original round tool-clamping bolts with their Tommy-bar holes.
Larger "
Plain Foot Lathes", as Pfeil called their more substantial stand-mounted machines, were available in centres heights from 3 to 6 inches with the smallest (3-inch) machine having (like it's bench-mounted companion) flat bed ways but with the other models, from 3.5-inch and above, available with a V and a Flat - or, to special order, with double flats.
If you have a Pfeil machine tool of any description  the writer would be interested to hear from you.

The elemental yet elegant simplicity of the Pfeil 3.5-inch centre height "Plain Foot Lathe".

The solid spindle ran in a single bearing at the front - a tapered, hardened-steel bush - while the other end was supported against a hardened steel adjuster screw. The 4-step drive pulley was intended to be driven  round leather belt - a so-called  "gut" drive.

Simple crank handles and un-graduated feed screws were typical of the era. The top slide had only two gib-strip adjustment screws.

Simple but effective treadle drive system. The fly wheel carries pulleys for both high and low speed ranges


A wooden tool-tray, mounted at the back of the stand and supported on
cast brackets, was found on virtually every similar class of lathe at the time

Intended for both wood and light metal turning, the lathe would have been supplied with a selection of T-rests of various lengths. With its solid spindle, the tailstock centre has to be twisted out of its socket--a small hole being provided for this purpose.

Remarkable, the toolpost on this particularly well-preserved example retains
both its original round tool-clamping screws with their Tommy-bar holes


A remarkable survivor  - a completely original Pfeil, even to the well-work wooden treadle bar. This lathe has a known history, having come from a clockmaker's/restorer's workshop in Clerkenwell, a business that was started around the end of the 19th century (though with master and apprentice links dating back from 100 years before. Hence, this lathe would have been made just around the corner in this area once famous for watch and clock work.
Now in the hands of a keen enthusiast, his plans are to clean it up mechanically and then put it into some light use, turning boxwood chuck blanks, etc. so it can carry on doing some horological-related work..


Pfeil Continued on Page 2 (of 2)

Pfeil Lathes - London, England
email: tony@lathes.co.uk
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