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TAYLOR LATHES
Birmingham, England
Kennedy Bending & Taylor Cutting-off Machines
Taylor Capstan Lathes  Taylor Chucks & Lathe Accessories   Kennedy Hexacut Saws
Conventional Taylor Lathes  Taylor Trimming and Beading Lathes

Established in 1860, Charles Taylor & Co. of Bartholomew Street, Birmingham, never produced machines that could have been described as being at the cutting edge of technology - in either design or execution. However, during their long years in the city that used to be "the workshop of the world", acquired an enviable reputation for the manufacture of robust, hard-working products that could be relied upon to give years of honest service.
Having become too old to continue his bounty-hunting and pirating activities, the company's founder, a very colourful Mr. Charles Taylor, decided to join the industrial gold-rush of the English Midlands. His firm first took premises in Edmund Street, Birmingham, before moving, at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, to their well-known location in Bartholomew Street.
A practical engineer, Taylor knew that a large part of contemporary mass production centred around the brass-finishing trade where, with a simple lathe, sharp hand tools and a modicum of skill, workers were able to turn out, in their hundreds per shift, small everyday items that today would be moulded in plastic. The Taylor lathes developed for this busy market were not in any way sophisticated, or of radical design, but just well-built, reliable and easily-adjusted workhorses that could absorb thousands of hours of rough use by piece-work operators trying to put shoes on their children's feet and the occasional jam or butter on the family's daily bread.
Although Charles appeared to have been an excellent business man it was one of his descendants, George Taylor, who did most to develop the company's best-known products. Amongst these were the famous Taylor tapered-scroll 3-jaw Chuck, pull-down grip-rack vices and rotary cutting-off machines. The direct descendants of Charles Taylor were two brothers, William and Lew, who unfortunately did not get on. Lew, without a male descendant, was frustrated when his brother's son arrived to work in the company and, resentful of the fact that his efforts were adding to the wealth of  "the other side", took the chuck and vice manufacturing to another site in the Bull Ring where it stayed until the early 1960s. Even when the "Chuck Works" eventually returned to the main site the two work forces remained divided - chuck manufacture being associated with production batch work and the use of a slightly less-skilled workforce.
A graduate of Birmingham University Engineering Department, the next generation Taylor, L. W., son of William, was frustrated by the feud between his father and uncle (both of whom, despite having served well beyond their allotted years, refused to retire) and as a consequence his enthusiasm for the family enterprise was thoroughly dulled. A successful motorcycle racer both before and after WW2 he only outlived his father, who died in 1963, by 4-years. A privately published book with containing details about L.W. and his racing career can be found here.
Thus, it was in the mid 1960s before the next generation of the Taylor family, again two brothers, Michael and Colin, were to take control. At that time the company's SEO was a non-family member, one J.E.Cattell, an accountant who had joined the company shortly after WW2. Unfortunately the injection of new blood was too late for, like many Western machine-tool companies in the last two decades years of the 20th century, their products were in declining demand. Faced with the need to embrace expensive and fast-changing computer-controlled technology (and under pressure from low-wage, low-tax and minimal-regulation manufacturing centres in the Far East) they were gradually driven out of business - the company being dissolved on the 21st of September 1999. Although all trace of engineering has now disappeared the company continues, with the same shareholders, as Charles Taylor [properties] Ltd.

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The Taylor works in Bartholomew Street, Birmingham
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Enormously wide, the Taylor product range included numerous varieties of lathes for spinning, brass-finishing, screwcutting, plain-turning, capstan work, pattern-making, thread chasing (including their Dellmac precision model) and wood-turning. Other machines listed over the years including a famous and unique rotary cutting-off machine (unique in as much as a pair of parting off tools were rotated about a stationary round component thus avoiding the need to encase the length material being cut) that was much used (world-wide) in the manufacture of tube components such as conveyor rollers. Besides ordinary lathes, ones were also adapted for specialist manufacture such as cock boring and hinge gapping together with suitable tooling (including that for capstan lathes) and a range of 3 and 4-jaw chucks (including well-known and very rugged "conical scroll" 3-jaw and some eccentric models). Cutting-off and sawing machines (in manual and automatic forms) were also produced for many years and reached an advanced stage of development with the Models 1620s and 1620b that featured rack magazines, automatic bar-end trimming and separation of  the bar ends.  Other items included machine and bench vices of all types, bending equipment, saw-blade grinding machines, face-driving centres, collets and feed fingers, brass-finishers' ordinary and double-head milling machines. A very well-known and successful range of bending machines and light-weight and portable metal hacksaws were marketed under the Kennedy name and  simple indexing and dividing fixtures and one-off machines built to special order. Some advanced machines of later years included a hydraulic spinning/flow-turning lathe with a 14
1/2" centre height (a logical progression of spinning-lathe design) and early types of plug-board capstans adapted from other manufacturers' model ranges.
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Taylor spinning lathes (probably the 12.5-inch model) driven from overhead line shafting in a factory whose floor-to-ceiling widows show that it was constructed before efficient artificial lighting was available.

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Although spinning can be done on almost any lathe, and was often the ultimate fate of centre (engine-lathes USA) lathes when worn beyond reasonable accuracy, a properly designed model, with the right speed range and equipment, was always a better prospect.. Most spinning workshops in the writer's home town of Sheffield, England (the city was and remains a centre for pewter spinning as well as cutlery and knife production) used a mixture of older, modified ordinary lathes together with a range of single-purpose machines - but there, as in other places, by far the most popular with the workforce (and so the most productive) were the ones made by Charles Taylor.
Taylor's spinning lathes were developed through three stages: the first examples, current from the early 1900s until the early 1940s, were really just heavily-built plain-turning lathes with little to distinguish them from any number of similar machines from a variety of manufacturers; second-generation models were a complete break with tradition and fitted to stands where the motor was mounted on a plate, low down at the back of the headstock, with the drive coming forwards via one or more V-belts to an external pulley fitted to the end of a shaft that, on the inside of the plinth, held a 3-step flat-belt pulley matching that on the headstock spindle. The third and final incarnation of the breed was an upgrade of the second version with much more massively constructed plinths and a "modern" angular appearance. Although the lathe was intended to be fitted as standard with a built-on drive system, because so many factories in the 1940s were still equipped with overhead line shafting, an option was available to order the lathe without the drive system and to simply leave headstock cover off to allow the belt drive to be connected. Having rationalised all their lathes around the new stands (though open-headstock models continued to be offered for a while) from the mid 1940s onwards only spinning, brass-finishers' and capstan lathes were listed in Taylor's sales catalogues. All the company's lathes were further modified at some point during the 1950s and fitted (like the spinning lathes) with even more massive bed-support plinths (this time under both headstock and tailstock ends of the bed) and a motor repositioned behind the headstock on a plate (supported both on lathe and ground) with the initial drive from motor to the (flat-belt) countershaft by multiple V belts. Five models of spinning lathe of this latter type were offered, all very similar in appearance but with a suitably increased mass as the centre height rose. The smallest lathe, the 7-inch centre height by 20.25" or 32.25" between centres  Model 1573 weighed 896 lbs, the three middle lathes in the range at 8.5", 10,5" and 12.5" centre height weighed, respectively: 1070, 1232 and 1854 lbs in standard bed-length form yet, oddly, all shared a common catalogue number - '1570'. The largest lathe, a monstrous beast with an 18-inch centre height, tipped the scales at just a fraction under two tons. If the capacity of any model needed to be  increased further - it was cautioned that this should be for light duty work only - raiser blocks of either 2 or 4 inches in thickness could be fitted under the headstock and tailstock of lathes up to 12.5" centre height and blocks 6 inches thick on the 18" machine.  On these late models (and on all but the largest lathe in the range where the spindle was driven by V belt directly from a 3-speed motor) the standard-fit 2-speed motor, in combination with the 3-speed countershaft, gave 6 speeds with the ranges as follows: 7" from 365 to 640, 730, 1120, 1280 and  2242 rpm;  8.5" and 10.5" from 435 to 610, 850, 860, 1205 and 1690 rpm; 12.5" from 410 to 525, 675, 825,  1060 and 1360 rpm. Speeds for the massive 18.5" model were 243, 320  and 483 rpm. The two motor speeds were controlled by pairs of duplicated push buttons; one set was at the headstock end of the bed the other, for the operator's safety, by the tailstock.
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Taylor's simple but robust 12.5-inch spinning lathe (Model 1570) as it appeared from the mid 1950s to the 1980s with massive plinths under both end of the bed and a flat top to the headstock.

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All beds were machined on a planer with each - the sole exception being the 7" model - with a large, well-braced cast-in extension plate at the front to allow the hand rest a greater range of positions when larger diameters were being spun. The steel T-rest was hardened along its top edge and drilled with the usual series of holes to mount the "spinning peg" that provided a fulcrum point against which the operator could lever his chosen spinning tool.
Ground finished, the headstock spindle ran in adjustable, taper-roller bearings while the heavy flat-belt pulleys were machined all over to aid balance. Due to the unusual work-holding requirements, where many different types of spinning former were required to be mounted and dismounted rapidly, all models had an internal spindle thread that took a simple screw-in adaptor with a thread at one end (to go into the spindle) and another to mount the fitting. The internal spindle threads were all Whitworth form: 1" on the 7" to 12.5" models and 1.5" on the 18-inch version  So that the lathes could be used with conventional chucks and faceplates an external spindle thread was also supplied on all but the two smallest models; these threads were also all Whitworth form and sized at: 2 " on the 10.5-inch model,  2.25" on the 12.5-inch and 3.5" on the 18.5-inch models.
Tailstocks were suitably massive and all fitted with screw-operated spindles with very large handwheels as standard - although a lever-operated alternative could be had at additional cost. It was normal to use a heavy-duty rotating centre in the tailstock and Taylor offered a selection of their own manufacture for the purpose.
It was possible to adapt the spinning lathes to a variety of other uses and a range of accessories was available -compound slide rests, cut-off slides, rolling slides and trimming and beading attachments - that enabled them to be suitable modified as the need arose. Charles Taylor also built the lathes as special reversing "Brass-finishers'" models; mechanically these were almost identical to the spinning versions but fitted with lever-action tailstocks, reversing motors (or countershafts) and usually either compound slide rests or some other more specialised fittings for specific jobs..

Taylor's smallest spinning lathe the 7-inch Model 1570 as manufactured from the mid 1950s onwards. This was the only lathe in the range not to have the large extension plate along the front of the bed and was listed with an internally-threaded spindle.

Cross sectional drawings showing how a line of "Reversing" Brass-finishers' lathes could be arranged, bolted to both floor and wall - and driven from an overhead line-shaft system.

Taylor Spinning Lathes - Earlier Types

Taylor Models 468 and 509 spinning lathes of the 1920s and 1930s. During those years these lathes were available in both gap (Model 509) and straight-bed (Model 469) versions with centre heights of 6.5", 8.5", 10.5", 12.5" and 15". Each model in the range was not just built with deeper castings to lift the centre height but properly engineered with heavier castings, larger spindle bearings, wider drive pulleys and an appropriate speed range to suit its metal-removing capability..

Taylor Model 469 straight-bed spinning lathe showing the maker's fast-and-loose countershaft unit with swivel bearings to aid setting-up on uneven surfaces.

Taylor Model 1411 the first "Direct-Drive" spinning lathe manufactured by the company. These early models were distinguished by a round top to the headstock, the motor protruding to the left of the headstock plinth and a simple leg at the other end of the bed.

E-MAIL   tony@lathes.co.uk
lathes.co.uk Home Page    Machine Tool Archive    Machine Tools For Sale & Wanted   
Machine Tool Manuals   Machine Tool Catalogues   Belts

TAYLOR LATHES
Birmingham, England
Kennedy Bending & Taylor Cutting-off Machines
Taylor Capstan Lathes  Taylor Chucks & Lathe Accessories   Kennedy Hexacut Saws
Conventional Taylor Lathes  Taylor Trimming and Beading Lathes

Literature for the Kennedy Hexacut Saw is available