email: tony@lathes.co.uk
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Pioneer Watchmakers' Lathe


Of conventional "Geneva" pattern design, with a D-section bed, the 8 mm collet Pioneer was described as "All-British" and distributed by Charles P. Wilson & Sons Ltd. Dating from immediately after the end of WW2 - the only known brochure is stamped February 1946  - the lathes used collets by the well-known Crawford Company, then an independent organisation and based in Tottenham, London. Although the majority of Geneva-pattern lathes are of very light build (and preferred by some experts for delicate or intricate work) the 13/4" centre height by 6" between centres was rather more heavily built with a particularly robust and elegantly shaped headstock.
Three variations on contemporary Geneva-pattern watchmaker-lathe design were to be found: instead of being at the back or on top (as was more common) the flat section of the Pioneer's bed was at the front; locking of components to the bed, slides and spindles was not by levers but rather large, knurled edged, full-circle wheels while the most remarkable was the advertised use (instead of the usual plain bearings in hardened steel or bronze), of a spindle running
on needle races in specially hardened phosphor-bronze bearings. The bore is of toughened steel of high chrome content. However, the only example of the lathe so far examined had bronze bearings, so the needle-roller races were probably an ambition that reached the publicity material, but not production. A 3-step pulley to take drive by a round rope was provided, the front face of the largest pulley being drilled with a ring of 60 division holes with, in place of the normally-fitted long and flexible spring-steel location arm, a robust indexing pin held in a housing bolted to the front face of the headstock.
Fitted with lever-action as standard, the collet-holding tailstock spindle had a travel of 3/4" and an unusually strong-looking locking screw.
Rather expensive at 37 : 15s : 0d. (about 10% of that asked for a semi-detached house in the steel city of Sheffield) the Pioneer was presented in an oak box complete with a 10-inch long bed, headstock, tailstock and a tip-up rest with two lengths of T. A set of six Crawford collets from 0.5 to 5 mm was also included, along with male and female centres and one "step chuck". Extra collets (listed in the usual way as "split chucks") were 6/- each and step collets, to take wheels from 5 to 25 mm, 12/6 each - or 3 : 2s : 6d for the set of five.
If you have a Pioneer lathe, the writer would be interested to hear from you..