Manufactured, or factored by, ''The General Radial Drill Co.'' of Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A. the interesting Schaffner ''9-inch'' bench lathe was over-optimistically described by them as "Beyond Competition". The origins of the model are uncertain, for it has also been discovered advertised in a German publication and, with its name, may well have originated in that country. Almost certainly first produced during the 1920s. the lathe's real swing was actually considerably larger at 11.25 inches and the between-centres' capacity 24 inches on a 4-foot long V-way bed. The machine was advertised as being designed "primarily for the automotive service field" and was available in both a plain-turning and screwcutting versions. At glance the lathe had all the hallmarks of being very ordinary indeed; however, in addition to an SKF taper-roller bearing headstock and screwcutting gearbox (at the time both unusual features for this class of machine) hidden inside the cast-iron headstock was an ingenious (and patented) ''friction-drive" system, the "Gibbs V-Disc". The mechanism as fitted to early lathes consisted of an electric motor, with a gear housing that moved the output shaft nearer to the headstock spindle. A friction disc of ''graphhitized micarta'', was attached to the shaft and, because the motor was pivoted on a stout bar, it was possible to slide and lift it so that the disc pressed against any of the three pulleys on the headstock spindle. After what must have been problems maintaining a good enough drive, later machines were considerably modified and used 6-step pulleys on motor and headstock with a friction disc (carried on a separate shaft) imposed between them. The modifications increased the number of speeds to six and also resulted in an ingenious and much neater engagement speed control mounted on top of the headstock.
For an 11-inch bench lathe the recommended 1/4 hp 1750 rpm motor (1-phase, 3-phase or DC) would have been hopelessly underpowered - but then the makers did claim the convenience of being able to plug into "any lightning circuit .. and the cost of operation is 21/2 cents an hour." Although the spindle drive was by friction it appears that this did not allow for infinitely variable speeds and, with the makers quoting the following fixed revolutions: 68, 103, 132, 173, 260, 334 and 600 rpm, it may well have been that some form of backgear on the headstock, or reduction box on the end of the motor, was also fitted. Whilst the headstock arrangements might have excited some interest the rest of the lathe was, unfortunately, absolutely conventional. The carriage carried a single-wall apron, with double leadscrew clasp nuts, a saddle with longitudinally slotted wings (not evident in all the publicity pictures) and a compound slide rest with cross and top slide travels of 6.5 and 2 inches respectively. The top slide was marked with degree calibrations and could be swivelled 90° either side of centre.
With a bore of 7/8-inch, the No. 2 Morse taper headstock spindle accepted collets from 1/64'' to 1/2''. The tailstock could be offset on its sole plate for taper turning and the No. 2 Morse taper, self-eject spindle was gripped by a proper "split-barrel" compression lock.
Supplied as part of the regular equipment was a motor with an overload-protection switch (and 5-feet of rubber-covered cabling), a small faceplate, two Morse centres, a simple, single-tool toolpost and a thread-dial indicator. Besides the expected chucks, fixed and travelling steadies, collets, a toolpost grinder and turning tools the list of accessories also included the surprising option of a taper-turning unit.
Complete with a 1-phase motor and its drive system, the lathe weighed 400 lbs crated for dispatch (about 350 lbs net) and was listed, in the 1930s, at a basic price of US$255.
If any reader has a Schaffner lathe, sales literature or any other machine tool by the manufacturer, the writer would be very interested to hear from them--certain points about the drive arrangement are still not clear ….