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Turnell & Odell Lathe
Manufactured by a company still trading - and now known as Turnell & Odell Precision Engineers - the backgeared and screwcutting lathe pictured below is a rare survivor. Better known until the 1950s for their range of woodworking machinery - sold using the Wellin brand name - the Wellingborough-based firm was founded as a private concern circa 1909 and incorporated as a limited company in 1943.
Many machine tool makers from the 1800s and into the early years of the 20th century - literally dozens of them - failed to put any identifying marks on their products and, if the screwcutting nameplate had not survived on this, the only known surviving Turnell & Odell lathe, it too would have joined the ranks of the "Unknown".
From its general appearance - and one or two smaller design features - the lathe can be dated as having being manufactured between 1910 and the early 1920s. As such it incorporated both early and later features from that era, the most prominent "Victorian" one being a headstock spindle thrust bearing mounted on a pair of posts outboard of the left-hand bearing. Also supported on the thrust plate was a tumble-reverse mechanism, the 16 D.P. stud gear (first in the screwcutting train) mounted on the outside and detachable from its shaft.
At its left-hand end, the spindle ran in a roller bearings, the arrangement locating it longitudinally. At the front a bronze bearing was fitted, located in a parallel bore and threaded at each end with castellated nuts used to adjust its fit onto the tapered end of the spindle. Thrust was taken out by against a ball race.
Enormously deep - but with its relatively thin walls lacking any form of cross bracing - the bed had the usual flat-topped English ways with V-edges. A huge, detachable gap piece was provided that, while allowing huge jobs to be turned, would have cut away a good deal of the lathes torsional rigidity. At the tailstock end of the bed, protruding from the vertical face and cast as part of the structure, was a large rectangular pierced by two horizontal holes - its purpose remains a mystery.
Arranged so that the cross slide was situated at its extreme left-hand end, the saddle was of considerable depth front to back, the arrangement allowing the cross slide sufficient travel to turn the very large diameters that the bed gap was capable of holding. Single-sided but strongly constructed, the apron held reduction gearing between the very large-diameter handwheel and the bed rack - an improvement on the direct connect and crank-handle fittings that would have been commonly found 20 years earlier on such a lathe.
Equipped with a proper compound slide rest assembly, the cross slide had is ways "sunk" into the saddle - another design quirk found on some early lathes (and even much later ones such as the 17-inch Harrison) that allowed swarf to accumulate with unaffected ease in the gap so formed.
Although the original changewheel studs are missing, the retaining nut on the end of the leadscrew is present, this resembling those knurled-edge, screw-on types found on early Drummond small lathes. Held to the bed by just two bolts each, at a first glance the leadscrew hanger bearings appear to be insufficiently rigid - however, the design was not as flexible as it looks for each was also located by diagonally set dowel pins.
Of conventional design, the set-over tailstock had a barrel that ran right through the casing, its end section threaded and passing through a large-diameter handwheel that was secured by two semi-circular plated held in a turned groove (this design also being used on the Myford ML7). The barrel locking arrangement was by a proper "split barrel" arrangement - a far better solution than the crude "close-down" slot cut in the casting that might have been expected. If you have a Turnell & Odell lathe, the writer would be interested to hear from you.