Selig Sonnenthal Lathes
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Founded in Victorian England during 1871, the Selig Sonnenthal company were originally known as "M. Selig Junior & Co.". As well as being manufacturers with a factory in Coventry, they were also very successful agents, importers and one of the leading retailers of engineering and associated products. They described themselves (during the period 1880 to 1910) as: importers of American & other foreign engineers' tools & machinery wholesale & export, hardware & machinery merchants & contractors for metal & railway materials of every description. Eventually, using the first three letters from each name, they took on a new and easier-to-market identity as Selson - a company that was to became a considerable force in machine-tool marketing and, in turn, the foundation of the large "600" engineering group. Amongst the first machine tools they handled was a wide range of lathes - from simple, lightweight plain-turning types to heaver, backgeared and screwcutting models for the repair workshop - and a variety of shapers and planers. These would have been provided from their own works as well as a number of contemporary English, European and American makers - and all appear to have been of better-than-average quality.
Typical of the period 1880 to 1910, the 4" x 24" Selig backgeared and screwcutting lathe shown immediately below was aimed not so much at industrial users, but garages and small repair and general engineering shops. Of utterly conventional design it nevertheless had an unusually wide V-way bed with the cross slide arranged to sit in the middle of a decently long saddle--the bed ways running on past the front and rear of the headstock in order to let the cutting tool reach the face of the chuck. Although screwcutting was through changewheels and a tumble-reverse mechanism, elements of late Victorian design can still be detected in the coarseness of the leadscrews' pitch, the very narrow cross-slide ways and a lack of micrometer. Although a relatively inexpensive product, detailing was exemplary with well-finished castings, neatly-turned smaller fittings and a particularly robust - and what must have been effective- treadle-drive assembly.
Although backgeared and screwcutting Selig-branded lathes are not rare, they are greatly outnumbered by surviving examples of simpler, plain-turning types, as shown towards the bottom of this page. If you have a Selig lathe - or other machine tool labelled as such - the writer would be very interested to hear from you..
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