Vidal Precision Lathe
Other Precision Bench Lathes
Manufactured by the Vidal Engineering Company of Gloucester Road, Croydon, the Vidal lathe was of the "Precision Bench" type and appears to have been made circa 1900 to 1920. Indeed, it is entirely possible that it was a product of WW1, when supplies of similar German Lorch, Leinen and G. Boley lathes would have been unavailable. The only known reference to the Vidal Company occurs during the period June 1915 to November 1918 in a publication by the "National Factories Controlled by the Ministry of Munitions". The Company was listed as makers of gauges (high-precision engineering slip gauges), and so would, presumably, have had the expertise necessary to undertake the manufacture a high-quality, toolroom-class lathe
Of around 3.5-inch centre height, and 20 inches between centres, the Vidal had a bed typical of its type with a flat top and bevelled edges to align the headstock, carriage and tailstock. Following convention, a very long-travel top slide was fitted, with the usual exposed ways and feed screw; however, the tailstock departed from tradition and, instead of a spindle fully supported no matter what its position (and a cut-out in the casting to reveal ruler engravings) was of a quite ordinary pattern.
A larger than average headstock spindle was employed, running in plain bearings, and with the 3-step flat-belt pulley reversed to allow a greater mass of supporting metal to surround the front bearings. Two circles of division holes were drilled in the end face of the largest pulley.
Complete with a changewheel-driven thread-chasing system, the Vidal illustrated below was equipped with an accessory normally used in clock and instrument work where short, highly accurate threads needed to be produced in one-offs or small volume. Believed to have been originally developed by Joseph Nason of New York, who obtained US Patent No. 10,383 on January 3, 1854, for an "arrangement for cutting screws in lathes." the "chase" system of screwcutting was widely used on precision bench lathes of all makes. The Vidal was arranged with a T-slot, running down the back face of the bed, that held supports carrying a sliding shaft on which was mounted a curved casting that ended in an adjustable toolholder. At the headstock end of the bed was a "master thread", driven by a selection of gears from the end of the main spindle in such a way that each "master" had its threading range extended by a multiple of four to six. A follower (with an insert carrying a few threads of the same pitch) pressed against the "master" and transmitted its form to the workpiece via the sliding shaft and threading tool held in the adjustable slide rest. Like some other makers, including Pratt & Whitney, the master hobs for the Vidal were double-ended - and supplied complete with a hob at one end for chasing a nut to suit the thread being generated in the lathe. A very simple form of this screwcutting mechanism can be seen on the Goodell-Pratt Pages and other pictures of similar mechanisms on the Stark, Waltham Machine Works, Ames and Wade lathes.
If you have a Vidal lathe the writer would be pleased to hear from you.