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

A copy of the maker's catalogue is available   More watchmakers' lathes here

Of conventional lightweight "Geneva" pattern, with a D-section bed, the seldom-found 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 Pioneer was rather more heavily built with a particularly robust yet elegantly shaped headstock.
While of ordinary size and functionality, on the Pioneer 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 usefully-large, knurled-edged, full-circle wheels while, most remarkable of all, 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 might well have been an ambition that reached the publicity stage -  but not production. A 3-step spindle pulley, to take drive by a round rope was provided, the front face of its largest diameter being drilled with a ring of 60 division holes; in place of the expected long and flexible spring-steel location arm, a robust indexing pin, held in a housing bolted to the front face of the headstock, was provided instead.
Fitted with lever-action as standard, the collet-holding tailstock spindle had a travel of 3/4" and an unusually strong-looking, knurled-edged locking screw.
Rather expensive at £37 : 15s : 0d. (at the time around 10% of that asked for a new semi-detached house in the steel city of Sheffield) the Pioneer was presented in a fitted oak box complete with a 10-inch long bed, headstock, tailstock and a tip-up hand 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 shillings each and step collets, to take wheels from 5 to 25 mm, 12/6 each - or £3 : 2s : 6d for the set of five.
Mirroring the design of the lathe, the beautifully-finished, chrome-plated countershaft unit was of the usual watchmaker's type and able to be quickly dismantled into its component parts - each element being secured by the maker's "trade-mark" knurled-edged" wheels. A central, inverted-trumpet support was provided through which the bottom bar of the assembly could be slid in and out and raised as required, the horizontal adjustment being secured by a wheel fitted with a pair of ball-tipped levers.
If you have a Pioneer lathe - or any literature about them, the writer would be interested to hear from you..




A copy of the maker's catalogue is available    More watchmakers' lathes here

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