Believed to have been founded in 1904 - with production finally ceasing during early 1964 - the lathes made by the American Sidney Company are, compared to the likes of South Bend, Monarch and Hendey, relatively uncommon. However, always very well constructed, they are considered by experienced machinists to be the equivalent of - or even better - than those by other high-class makers such as Monarch (built in the same town), Lodge & Shipley and American Pacemaker.
By the 1940s, all Sidney lathes were massive, squat-looking and especially powerful machines built to withstand very hard work. They were offered in two distinct versions: one with eight and later twelve spindle speeds with ordinary spur-gears in their headstocks - and a very heavy-duty type, with a choice of 16 or 32-speeds, fitted with very smooth-running and quiet double-chevron* (herringbone) gears. As herringbone gears cannot be slid into mesh, these ran in constant engagement with speed changes by dogs with internal and external gears sliding on splined shafts and being moved by the headstock controls so that they locked into the faces of the main drive gears.
From the early 1940s onwards, the twelve-speed lathes were described as "Sliding Spur Tooth Geared Head Lathes" and listed in seven sizes, the model designations being expressed in inches as: 14", 16", 18", 20", 25", 32" and 36". However, this was not a single type, but three distinct designs each intended for their expected duties: the 14" and 16" were, in effect the same, with both taking 30 inches between centres and with three spindle-speed controls levers mounted on a "frosted" rectangular plate on the front face of the headstock. The 18" and 20" accepted 48 inches between centres, the headstock having a large, centrally-placed, 4-position quadrant speed-control lever that hung downwards with two smaller levers, one to the left and the other to the left but above. The standard 24", 30" and 36" models had a capacity of 48 inches between centres, their headstocks being of massive construction with the three speed-control levers all of the quadrant type and arranged in a line across the headstock's front face. All versions could be had with longer beds in intervals of 24 inches.
The 16-speed with herringbone gears in the headstock - often listed with the 32" in sales literature as "Heavy Duty" - was available as the models 14", 16", 18", 20", 25" and 32". 32-speed models were available as the 14", 16", 18" and 20". In addition, two toolroom versions were listed: a 16-speed and 32-speed with models names of 14", 16", 18" and 20".
By 1958 the range had been slimmed down a little to the Type 16 - a very model very similar to those of the previous decade - offered as two Models, the 2717 (previously known as the 25") and the 3419 (previously the 32"). Also listed were General Purpose Model 16 lathes, described as being: - Heavy Duty Engine, Tool Room and Gap Lathes in three versions, the 14", 16" and 20". All had herringbone-type, 16-speed headstocks with a 3-bearing Timken-supported spindle. An interesting alternative was a newly-developed lathe, the "Model 32 Dial-Master", this retaining the herringbone headstock with 32 speeds engaged by sliding dogs, but with selection using a rotary dial and shifting by a hydraulic mechanism, this activated by a lever once the operator had dialled in the required speed. Two models were offered; the 2013 with a 21-inch swing over the bed and 30 inches between centres and the 2516, the latter with a swing of 25.5 inches and taking 48 inches between centres. Another late-model Sidney lathe, made from the late 1950s until the early 1960s, was the 1307, this version also being sold as a South Bend. The lathe was fitted a 3-phase motor driving a DC generator that supplied the lathe's DC drive motor through a Louis Allis Select-a-Spede Drive.Full details of these later lathes can be found here.