One of America's finest-quality lathes, the Wade was manufactured by the Wade Tool Company of 53 River Street, Waltham, Mass., a city famous for its proliferation of makers specialising in high-class machinery (the design of the Wade plain precision lathe can be traced back to 1872 when it was sold as the "No. 3" lathe of the American Watch Tool Company). By 1961 the lathe business and Wade trademark had been sold to the Covel Manufacturing Company of Benton Harbor, Michigan, a firm who were engaged in the manufacture grinding and other precision machine tools. Using the wade name, Covel designed two new second-operation/turret lathes, the Model 94 and very similar but larger Model 98. Of very high quality, these machines competed with the Hardinge DV-59 and employed a variable-speed drive unit that employed an electronically controlled planetary-gear transmission that allowed an instant shift between high, low, reverse, neutral, and brake positions without stopping the spindle.
On the 24th of November, 2010 the building occupied by what had become, under the 25-year ownership of Steve Nalesnik, the Wade Machine Tool Mfg. Inc. was sold at auction and passed into the hands of Ernie Prete of Auto Engineering, Lexington, MA 02421. Unfortunately nothing further transpired and the building, at 120 Eastern Avenue, Chelsea, MA, was abandoned - leaving behind a quantity parts, collets, drawings and works records. Sadly, the Serial Number books were thrown away before Andy FitzGibbon (who runs the web site http://www.wade8a.com) was able to rescue the remaining stock and sort it out for sale.
Originally called the Wade Machine Company of Boston, when the American Watch Tool Company, who were in the ownership of the Metz Company, went into voluntary liquidation in 1917, their Precision lathe - including the "Precision Bench" plain turning types Nos. 3, 5 & 7 - was bought at auction by Wade in January, 1918. In the usual manner of trading, when large or long-term repeat orders were received from dealers or specialist traders, it is likely that the Watch Tool Company also sold their lathes with other brand names cast into the bed - an example being the model sold through the English-based Amalgamated Dental Company and their retail arm, Claudius Ash & Sons Ltd. for use by dental technicians. Precision bench lathes were, at the time, an important part of both ordinary toolrooms and those production plants that dealt with the manufacture, repair and maintenance of clocks, watches and other instruments; although the Watch Tool Company had introduced their design as early as 1872 this was a full ten years after the first of the type had been manufactured by Stark, also of Waltham. At the same auction sale Fred Derbyshire, an ex-Watch Tool Company employee and already established as a maker of watchmaker's lathes in the old Comet bicycle factory on High Street, Waltham, bought the 8 mm and 10 mm watch-lathe drawings, finished lathes, trade marks, trade names (Whitcombe, W-W, Webster-Whitcomb, Magnus and Elect) as well as the accompanying patents and copyrights.
When Wade purchased the rights to the Watch Tool Company's larger machines they were already making a backgeared and screwcutting lathe - the 8.5" x 24" Toolmaker's Model 8A. This was a very high-quality machine, beautifully constructed with a wonderful cosmetic finish and a full screwcutting gearbox and power cross feed as standard. Another lathe, a Precision Bench type, the No. 8, was also listed but, upon the introduction of the Watch Tool lathes, this model was dropped and only the fully-equipped 8A shown in the advertising literature. The customer for the 8A was given the choice of either a hardened and ground bed or one that was left in its natural state then hand-scraped and "spotted". Originally available just for bench mounting, later machines were fitted to cabinet stands with various drive systems including a variable-speed type with an electric spindle-speed tachometer.
Wade's last new conventional machine, the Model 94, a precision plain lathe designed for finishing, second-operation and light-production duties, was introduced in the 1960s.
In common with other makers a number of experimental machines would have been built - one example from Wade being the "front-way" lathe of the late 1800s. The final model offered by Wade, the $65,000 Model CNC 1000, was designed by Steve Nalesnik's son, Steve Jnr, in the 1990s. Five were sold, with orders for 15 more, but financial pressures from Asian competitors caused the project to be abandoned.
If you have a Wade, or American Watch Tool Company Bench Lathe of any type, the author would appreciate hearing from you..