Assembled from an assortment of standard "Picador" components - bearing blocks, a connecting tube to form the bed, pulleys, faceplates, a grinding wheel and guards, tool rest, a tilting saw table, drill chuck and wood-drive centre - the Picador lathe was listed as both the "Home Handyman Universal Lathe"and "Pup". Unfortunately the maker's advertising was hardly state of the art, proclaiming on the box in which the machine was delivered, the immortal words "The Poor Man's Pal".
Intended, originally, to be run from a 1/4" capacity electric drill, it was incapable of turning metal yet, nevertheless, proved from the late 1940s onwards to be a most popular and useful adjunct to the workshop of the impecunious enthusiast - of whom, in those austere post-WW2 years, there were many. Possession of a Pup, or components from it, allowed him or her to carry out a multitude of tasks that would otherwise have involved the purchase of several separate and very much more expensive and, in those times, difficult-to-find machines.
3/4" in diameter, the tube supplied was 24" long and passed through three supports that the makers referred to as "Tallboys" - these being held in place by cotter pins. Fitted with oil-retaining, graphite impregnated, powdered bronze bearings, two Tallboys acted as the headstock and held a 5/8" diameter ground steel spindle, its ends being machined with left and right-hand 1/2" x 24 t.p.i. threads and equipped with a proper ball thrust race. Fitted to the right-hand side was a small 3-jaw drill chuck - this end also being drilled and tapped 3/8" x 24 t.p.i. to accept a radially slotted faceplate and a disc to which could be glued the supplied circles of sandpaper. Also amongst the equipment was a saw table that could be tilted through 45°, together with a 4-inch diameter blade. The table was properly equipped with a fence and saw guard, the latter, as usual, designed to open as the wood was fed in and close as it left.
On the left-hand end of the spindle was a guarded, 4-inch diameter Alumax grinding wheel and U-shaped tool rest, the latter with a V-groove set at 59° to face the side of the wheel - this being correct angle for sharpening twist drills.
The third tallboy acted as the tailstock, this having a spindle in ground steel, threaded where it passed into the casting so as to provide a feed, aligned by a key and threaded externally and internally. The external thread was 1/2" x 24 t.p.i., to which could be fitted a drill chuck, and the internal 1/4" 24 t.p.i. , this being intended to accept, amongst other fittings, the supplied hardened cone centre, a faceplate or a tapered "false nose" to which could be screwed a polishing mop.
Also in the kit was simple T-rest to support wood-turning tools, this being held in place on a "footstock", a casting bored to fit around the bed tube and resting at the front on right-angle foot. Later kits might have included a pair of wood-turning tools and a "motor rail", a simple hinged bracket that allowed the use of an ordinary foot-mounted motor in place of an electric drill.
While one cannot claim that this assembly of steel and die-cast aluminium components represented state-of-the-art engineering, many tens of thousands of individual Picador parts were sold for owners to make up their own interpretation of useful workshop devices. Common in amateur workshops until the 1970s, such things as Picador polishing, grinding and wire-brushing rigs, simple wood-turning lathes and saw benches, lathe and milling machine countershafts and sanding discs, etc. were all to be found. Single and multi-step V-pulleys were a Picador speciality and of these - judging by their almost universal use on home-built machines - hundreds of thousands must have been sold. A surprising number of Picador assemblies are still in use today - or to be found tucked away under benches, covered in decades of dust and waiting to be revived...