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F. Pratt & Co. Lathes

Founded in 1886 by Frederick Pratt, with his Eagle Iron Works located at 20 to 22 Winding Road, Halifax, Yorkshire, Pratt was to become best known to the public for their range of lathe chucks. By 1891 sufficient progress had been made to allow the opening of a London office and, by 1914, a résumé  of the Company stated: Engineers and machine tool makers. Specialities: machine tools and workshop equipment for engineers, shipbuilders, boilermakers, bridge builders, dockyards, bolt and nut making, wood working, etc. Unfortunately, very few of the Company's machine tools appear to have survived, with the only known examples being the simple treadle lathe shown below; a shaper, probably from the 1920s in Canada and a pair of backgeared and screwcutting centre lathes, one in England (shown further down the page) and another  in Australia. By 1961, with 600 employees, Pratt were making: lathe chucks, hydraulic equipment, pneumatic cylinders and fixtures. Eventually they were to merge with Burnerd to create Pratt-Burnerd, now part of the 600 Group.
If any reader has a Pratt machine tool of any description, the writer would be interested to hear from you..


Absolutely typical of the light, treadle-driven lathes made for amateur use from around 1850 to 1920, the F. Pratt & Co. 3.5" x 21" lathe shown above has survived in remarkably fine original condition - even to the wooden tool tray at the back of the stand and treadle foot-board.
Similar to the type produced in much greater numbers in the UK by Britannia as their models No. 2 and No. 3,  the Pratt version was unusual for an English design in having (instead of a flat bed) a flat and V to locate headstock, hand-rest base and tailstock. The headstock, lacking a speed-reducing backgear, was of the simplest possible design having just a single plain bronze bearing at the front to support the solid spindle with its rear held against an adjustable hardened point. This arrangement, despite its many potential shortcomings, was inexpensive to engineer, effective in practice and a design that many makers persisted in using until the 1920s. The 4-step headstock pulley was not intended to be driven by a V belt - it would be a long tine before they appeared - but a round leather "rope", "gut band" or "cord" as it was variously called, a type that severely limited the amount of power able to be transmitted. The rather light flywheel (owners often bolted weights to them) was equipped with three grooves near its periphery to provide slower speeds and two on the inside to give higher. As the spindle pulley was not wide enough to span the grooves in the flywheel, it was necessary to slacken the single bolt holding the headstock down and reposition it on the bed to get the belt in line - though in practice the latter's very thinness enabled it to tolerate a considerable degree of misalignment.
Although intended for wood turning, it is likely that Pratt would also have offered a compound slide rest for light-duty metal work..

A gap-bed,  backgeared and screwcutting F. Pratt lathe found in Australia

Backgeared and screwcutting Pratt lathe from circa 1890-1910. With a centre height of around 7 inches and a between-centres capacity approaching 7 feet this would have been one of the Company's larger models. Note the huge detachable gap in the bed and (shown in the picture below) the shaft to drive the power cross feed running along the back of the bed - a Victorian-era design used by many manufactures with examples shown here: a larger Spencer lathes, Pools Major, Mellor, Jones & Burton and Portass


A clear view of the rear-mounted powershaft and the gearing connecting it to the end of cross-feed screw

With relatively only ineffective cutting tools available the need for a massively built lathe was not such a great concern - hence the relatively skinny  proportions of this example

Restoration of the vintage Pratt lathe begins

Tailstock: like the headstock this had a taper of an unknown type in both ends of the spindle - two dead centres that fitted being found with the lathe, together with adapter from the unknown taper to MT3


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F. Pratt & Co. Lathes