Unknown Lathe No. 63
Beautifully constructed, with a solid feel and castings having an unusually fine finish, this 45/8" x 30" gap-bed and backgeared screwcutting lathe is probably of Yorkshire origin from the machine-tool centres of Keighley, Halifax or Bradford (the faceplate has square holes, a sure sign of a machine from this area). In some respects of its details, the lathe is similar to the Parkinson, a machine from a Company better known for its millers.
Conservative in design for its era - probably between 1890 and 1910 (before the advent of compulsory gear guards in circa 1908 and thinned-down Whitworth nuts in 1913) - yet managing to incorporate some modern thinking including a tailstock with a lever-operated eccentric clamp and the ability to be set over, but with an old fashioned screw actuation, a tiny Morse taper and lacking a through-hole to push the taper out. The upper barrel clamp is also in a most unusual position, the very early Harrison L5 being the only other English lathe found so equipped.
Of typically English design the flat-topped, V-edged bed incorporates a gap piece that, in a traditional mounting, is located on machined ledges and pulled down by one central bolt. However, the locating dowels, which would normally have been drilled across the joint of the fitted piece and then filed flush to act as unique locators during removal and replacement, are tapered in section. How this was done is a mystery as it appears, at first sight, that they could only have been fitted by drilling a hole from underneath the bed.
Fitted with parallel bronze bearings, the elegant headstock has castings of such a fine finish that must have come from an established maker with the fully-machined and polished backgears and bullwheel being worthy of special note. Also illustrating the very high quality of pattern making was the provision of finely sculptured tapped lugs (to adjust the headstock set-over) and the changewheel banjo arm - this being machined only to tidy up the edge faces and not on either the face that received the studs. Nor, astonishingly, was that face that bolted to the leadscrew hanger bracket machined, the finish being good enough without. Also of note is the fact that the top-slide's clamping nuts recess was also left with an as-cast finish. Even the changewheels received special attention with the larger sizes having spoked centres.
Of elaborate and well-engineered design, the changewheel tumble-reverse output-shaft (see the picture of the under-side of the headstock) had the associated gears clustered inside rather than outside the casting. With a shaped and planed finish -and the carriage handwheel shaft given a turned and polished housing - the apron was not dissimilar to that on a Birch ornamental-turning lathe, as was the saddle, with its distinctive T-slots set close to each side of the cross slide. The use of balanced handwheels might have appeared circa 1900-1910, a time when Milnes also adopted the same fitting, moving from a very Victorian design of detachable crank handles on square-ended shafts.
Mounted on its original maker's legs, this particular example was driven from a flywheel treadle assembly, the bearings being unusual in that their holding blocks were held between bolts of a type more typically used on a lathe countershaft.
The legs, or standards as they were once known, are heavily waisted and flare out relatively low down (no other known English maker is known to have used such an arrangement) with cut-outs of a most distinctive arrangement, a circle topped by a triangle. Just a single coat of what appears to be a black linseed oil/bitumen-based paint covers the castings (though now seldom found, this must be the original paint, for not a single trace of any other can be found). When new, with its polished metal parts, gleaming black paint and fine finish, this must have looked an impressive - and probably expensive - machine..