Although Woodhouse & Mitchell were better known for their range of heavy industrial machinery they also manufactured (or re-branded) a little 3" x 10" plain-turning precision lathe the history of which is unknown - although an identical version was sold with the letters B.W.C. cast into the bed.
Lathes of this type began with the American Stark, in 1862, and continued* in much the same form until somewhat modernised in the 1940s - hence dating them can be difficult, if not impossible. For example, the headstock of the B.W.C. carried a 4-step V-pulley that might have been intended use with either a heavy round leather belt or an ordinary V-type; if the former was the case then the lathe would have been from the period 1900 to 1930 and if the latter, from the 1930s or 1940s. However, the tiny micrometer dials on later models do suggest a pre-1930 date.
Most lathes of this type, being for use by toolmakers, had an exemplary finish (even to beds being form-milled and then hand scraped) but, in this respect, the Woodhouse & Mitchell fell short, with the main castings being left in a comparatively rough state. However, despite this cosmetic failing (possibly as a consequence of manufacture during the 1914-18 war) the lathe was well made with the headstock spindle running in parallel-bore, conical outside bearings whose clearances were finely adjustable by pairs of opposed castellated rings that drew them into tapered seats. The headstock spindle carried a 4-step cast-iron pulley - with a very distinctive cone angle at its left left-hand end - and with the outer flange carrying a ring of indexing holes located by a good-sized pin that passed through the face of the headstock casting. The pulley was not intended to accept a V-belt - the use of those on small lathes began in the early 1930s with their adoption by Atlas in the USA - but a round leather belt, sometimes known as a "gut" drive.
Although some precision bench lathes like the American Waltham relied upon a vertical surface to locate the compound slide assembly conventional wisdom dictated that such a lathe required a bed with a narrow, flat top and bevelled sides to ensure that the headstock, carriage and tailstock were all clamped across its full width and maintained in perfect alignment The Woodhouse & Mitchell departed from this orthodoxy and employed a conventional, flat-topped design with 90-degree sides. The carriage was clamped by two studs with its sliding fit - against the two front inner vertical surfaces only - adjusted by two gib screws that bore against a bronze gib block. The simple, lever-action tailstock and the headstock were both aligned by a tennon that fitted into a narrow slot that ran down the bed's centre line, with the headstock retained by two through bolts and the tailstock by an angled block that was drawn against the inside of the bed slot by a bolt.
With two T-slots, the top slide sat on a crudely calibrated swivelling base (the engraved marks in the example shown may not be original) with the mounting in the form of a circular T-slot cut into the cross slide. The latter casting was very short - leaving (like the top slide) the Whitworth-form feed screw exposed at both front and back - and also rounded off on its corners so (unnecessarily) reducing its contact area with the base. In common with many contemporary lathes of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, on early versions of the B.C.W. no micrometer collars were fitted to either feed screw. However, what must be later machines did have them fitted, although there is, of course, the possibility that they were an optional extra.
If any reader has a Woodhouse and Mitchell precision lathe, or a B.W.C., or literature concerning them, the writer would be very interested to hear from you.
*Derbyshire, Levin, Bottum, American Watch Tool Company, B.C.Ames, Hjorth, Potter, Pratt & Whitney, Rivett, Wade, Waltham Machine Works, Wade, Pratt & Whitney, Rivett, Cataract, Hardinge, Elgin,, Remington, Sloan & Chace, Crystal Lakes and (though now very rare) Ballou & Whitcombe, Crystal Lake, Frederick Pearce, Sawyer Watch Tool Co., Engineering Appliances Co. and Fenn-Sadler. They were also widely copied in Europe and developed as, amongst others, the Schaublin, Lorch, G.Boley, Wolf Jahn, Carstens, Mikron and Simonet..