Appearing to be absolutely conventional in design and construction and typical for its period - circa 1885 to 1900 - the Sheane Brothers lathe is unusual in having been made in Wicklow, Ireland by the three Sheane brothers. Just two other lathes native to Ireland are known, both from Dublin: Kennan & Sons, of Fishamble Street, well known for their range of high-quality machines aimed at the amateur market (including a number of superb ornamental-turning lathes) and Booth Brothers, who produced a simple, plain-turning machine.Some high-resolution pictures - may take time to load
All three Sheane brothers served engineering apprentices in Chard, Somerset, before returning to Ireland in the late 1800s to open a tool-making business their products including not only lathes but drilling machines and, possibly, shapers as well. The Sheane family are still in Ireland, the Sheane racing car being part of their interests.
Backgeared and screwcutting, the Sheane lathe appears to have had a centre height of around 4.5" and a capacity between centres of 30 inches. The relative lightness of its construction would mean its intended market was the smaller manufacturer, repair workshop or wealthy amateur. One unusual and very useful feature (variations on which have been widely employed by amateur modifiers over the decades) was an automatic disengage to the carriage drive; the mechanism consisted of a flat bar, bolted to the leadscrew hanger bearings, that carried a sliding wedge able to be locked in any position. As the wedge reached the leadscrew clasp-nut control it moved the lever so opening the nut and releasing the drive.
In the hands of one family from 1916 until 2012, the example below survives in full working order complete with what could well be its original wall-mounted countershaft. Like all similar lathes at the time it would also have been offered with a treadle-driven flywheel assembly, carried on the heavily built headstock end leg. Assuming a number to have been built, if any reader has another example - or any other Sheane machine or hand tool of any description - the writer would be pleased indeed to hear from you.
A treadle-powered Sheane drilling machine was discovered in 2018, this being a treadle-driven, floor-standing model with a novel form of construction. The base, formed by two sections right-angle cast iron set in an open V, sat on the floor. At the rear, a vertical upright used two sections of the same material, set back to back to leave a gap down their centre line. Into the gap was bolted a flywheel, adjustable up and down, and into the rim of which was machined a single groove to take the round leather drive rope. The pivot point of the foot treadle arm lay just beyond the apex of the floor V, the arm passing through the gap in the upright to end in a square plate just in front of the floor arms. Braced by two steel tubes connecting the outer ends of the floor V to a casting at the top, the whole of the base formed a rigid tripod into which the upper round column was socketed. As on many contemporary drills from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the belt drive from the flywheels passed upwards to be guided around two jockey pulleys before wrapping around the spindle pulley. With the thought in mind that the drill would not be treated kindly by its users, the makers - perhaps wisely - did not use a table clamp with a split casting tightened by a cross bolt, instead a crude but effective system was used: a direct-acting bolt being screwed into the casting at the back to bear against the steel column. With only one speed, and drive by a round rope, the drill would only have been useful for light work - but certainty, for a country workshop without electric power, far better than none at all.