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Pool Lathes
Pool 4-inch Major Lathe   Pool Milling Machine   Pool 3-inch Special Lathe 

Literature for Pool Lathes is available


Based in Carlton Street, Nottingham, the Pool Tool Company appear to have sourced their lathes from several sources Slack and Parr of Kegworth (a company still trading) and Ross and Alexander of London, whose lathes were also sold under the Randa label. They are also known to have assembled machines themselves - presumably from bought-in components - with a fitter, Ron Barry, recalling time spent on the top floor of the shop building up lathes and complaining about the difficulty of setting up and aligning the spindle in its split bearings. Pools lathes were frequently mentioned and advertised in the amateur-engineering press before World War 2 - but failed to reappear afterwards. Interestingly, some models were marked Pool and others Pools - and always with the possessive apostrophe missing….
With just three models on offer, the maker's range was simple: the lightweight "3-inch Special", the much heavier "4-inch Special" and the more-fully developed and sophisticated  "4-inch Major" - the latter introduced in 1935 and equipped with power cross feed.  The Slack-and-Parr-built "Special" had a useful 4" of centre height, a gap in which a piece of material 11.5" in diameter and 1.5" thick could be turned and a between-centres' capacity of 17". The bed, of seasoned-iron and finish-ground, weighed 50 lbs and was arranged in a "cantilever" form (exactly like of the Drummond 3
1/2") with four widely-spaced mounting bolts in the region of the gap. The long-bed version had an extra mounting foot at the tailstock end - an arrangement shown at the top of the page on the company's logo that used an illustration of  the rare "Major" model, rather than the more popular and affordable "Special". Interestingly, there seems to have been some "Pool" influence present in the design of a rare version of the Corbett's-Granville XL lathe, the apron and front of cross slide being remarkably similar (the connections between Corbett's, Granville, Grayson and Winfield can clearly be seen in several models from these manufacturers and distributors).
Raised at the front to be level with the centre of the bearings the headstock casting was of a generally more robust construction than found on most other small lathes of the time. The ground spindle was 1
1/8" in diameter, carried a No. 2 Morse taper and was bored through 5/8"; it ran in split phosphor-bronze bearings, the front one being 21/4" long. The tumble-reverse mechanism was unusual in being carried inside the headstock (and so away from swarf dropping from the hollow spindle) and employed noisy but reliable steel gears.  The large bullwheel on the spindle was released and re-engaged from the pulley by an eccentric and spring-plunger arrangement - hence no (lost) spanners were needed to engage the 7 : 1 ratio backgear and it was thus more likely that the owner would be tempted to employ it and use the correct speed for the job in hand.
Unusually long at 8" the saddle carried its adjustable gib strip at the front which allowed the solid casting at the rear to bear against the bed and take the cutting thrust.  The 7
1/2" x 4" cross slide was (in the best tradition of the English amateur's lathe) T slotted and the top slide could also be supplied with two transverse and two short longitudinal slots for an extra ten shillings and sixpence (10s 6d, or just over 52p). The cross and top slides were both driven by Acme-form screws with 41/2" and 4" of travel respectively.
At 0.75 inches in diameter the 8 t.p.i. leadscrew, was generously proportioned and drove the carriage through a pair of bronze clasp nuts which were closed by a circular guide. A dial-thread indicator was built into the front right-hand saddle wing - the Pool may well have been the only small, pre-war lathe ever to have sported this useful design feature. Eleven changewheels were provided of  96t,  90t,  60t,  57t,  42t,  36t,  33t,  30t,  27t and 2 x 24t with, available as an option at around six-shilling each, a further three: 66t, 78t, 84t plus (at ten shillings and sixpence) a metric translation wheel of 127t The carriage was fitted with a rack-and-pinion drive operated by a large handwheel on the right of the apron - away from burning-hot turnings - but its movement was counter-intuitive and turning the handwheel to the right caused the carriage to move to the left. (One can quickly get used to a foible like this, but it then causes further problems when you switch to a lathe arranged in the conventional manner). Of marginal strength the apron was just sufficient to carry out it duties - but unable to add any stiffness to the carriage assembly.
In 1939 the standard lathe cost £13 : 7 : 6; however, more than 50% more had to be added for the luxury of the all V-belt countershaft unit which (complete with a 0.25 hp motor) retailed at £7 : 15 : 0. Alternative drive systems included a cast-iron stand carrying a treadle-operated 230 lb flywheel at £6 : 15 : 0, a wall-mounted countershaft for direct drive with a 9.5" pulley (as shown below under the stand illustrated below) for £2 : 2 : 6 or a 'fast-and-loose' version with 7" or 5" diameter pulleys at the same price. A cast iron stand and chip tray was a modest £3 : 0 : 0.
Early machines were fitted as standard with 3 flat pulleys on the headstock spindle and driven either from a treadle stand or from the maker's countershaft, driven by a 1.25" wide flat belt from a 3-inch wide pulley on the motor,  incorporated fast-and-loose pulleys 7-inches in diameter..

Maker's postcard as issued circa 1938

A standard bed-length Pools 4" x 17" of the early 1930s on the maker's treadle stand. Between the legs of the lathe sits is the standard fast-and-loose countershaft supplied for wall or ceiling mounting. Later machines were offered with the further option of a neatly-built-on but very expensive all V-belt drive countershaft . The long-bed version of the lathe retained the four bolts in the region of the gap but added a foot at the tailstock end. Some of the later cast-iron chip trays were provided with a deep stiffening rib which ran along the full length of their underside.

1938/9 Advertising Brochure cover.

Pools 4-inch Special. The well-braced 4-speed (8 with backgear) headstock had its tumble reverse gears mounted on the inside of the casting.

Pools 4-inch Special. The tumble reverse lever was not spring-loaded, but had to be unscrewed before it could be repositioned.

The No. 2 Morse taper tailstock used a hollow barrel with the thrust from its square-section thread taken by a large "split washer". The tailstock was located on ways between the two halves of the bed - a far more satisfactory arrangement than sharing the potentially worn outer dovetails with the carriage.

The apron was reduced to the elements of simplicity - with just sufficient metal to support the bronze clasp nuts and the carriage traverse handwheel.

Substantial, cast-iron handwheels with well-shaped finger grips. The swivelling action of the top slide was locked by screws at each side of its base.

Above and below: T slots in both cross and top slides (the latter an optional extra) and the built-in threading indicator with its dial showing through the right-hand front wing of the apron.

By 1939 Pool were offering a heavily-built, 4-speed countershaft unit (obviously inspired by the American Atlas lathe) that could be bolted to the maker's stand or onto an ordinary bench. The bearings were supported in exactly the same (ingenious) Atlas way between adjustable studs and even the large drive pulley exhibited the same "wavy-spoke" appearance as the American machine.
Although a very convenient fitting, and far superior to wall and ceiling mounted countershafts, the design fell short in certain areas: the motor was bolted directly to the rear of the upright, instead of a hinged plate (which meant that to adjust the primary belt tension the motor had to me slid up and down its generously-long mounting slots) and whilst the belt-tensioning lever on early versions was a lovely, heavy casting ( later slimmed down to incorporate a short bar) there was no screw adjustment incorporated in its "cam action" - a design failing that meant a limited range over which to tension the belt which consequently had to be exactly the right length.
Despite these drawbacks all the pulley were, to the advantage of a considerable "flywheel" effect (and a reliable, long life) made from cast iron.

As was common on many small English lathes of the era, no changewheel, backgear or belt guards were fitted  - although most small lathes from America had had them for some time.

The belt-tensioning lever on early versions was a lovely, heavy casting ( later slimmed down to incorporate a short bar) but there was no screw adjustment incorporated in its "cam action" which meant a limited range over which to tension the belt - which, consequently, had to be exactly the right length.

The expensive all V-belt drive countershaft of the later models was bolted to the back of the optional cast-iron chip tray.


E-Mail Tony@lathes.co.uk 
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Pool Lathes
Pool 4-inch Major Lathe   Pool Milling Machine   Pool 3-inch Special Lathe 

Literature for Pool Lathes is available