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Old Lathe Project

I've been meaning to buy a lathe for a while - partly because one would be useful in camera repair/building and also because I've been fascinated in machining parts since I saw it done in metalwork at school.

Anyway I was all set to buy a little Chinese lathe when I had the money - when I was offered this old one instead for about a 10th of the price. Whilst it lacks screwcutting facilities I felt it might be a good introduction to basic lathe work. Also being a sucker for old equipment I had to give it a go!

Despite some investigation - I’ve not been able to find out anything about this lathe. The chuck and oilers appear to be English - so there is a fair chance the rest of it is too. Whilst obviously last used for metalworking - there is some doubt that it was originally designed for this. The cross slide is certainly a later addition - and the lack of any gearing limits its use for metalworking.

Old lathe previously used for metalworking

This is how it looked when I first got it home. Since then I've had a good look over it and started cleaning it up. The bed (about 17") is essentially sound - but needs some decent lubrication. Initially I used the same moly grease I had used to lubricate focusing threads - but I will clean this all off and use oil as this apparently collects less swarf.

This picture was taken with an Epson PhotoPC650 camera.

Lathe headstock with bearings, pully and 4 jaw chuck


Lathe headstock with bearings, pulley and 4 jaw chuck. Above each bearing are small brass oilers. The pulley transfers the power to the lathe by means of a belt to a motor.

The chuck (4") is almost certainly the best part of the lathe. Its a 4 independent jaw version and is in surprisingly good condition. Like the rest of the lathe it was covered inside with old grease/oil and metal particles (brass swarf) - all of which needed cleaning out.

Having thoroughly cleaned the chuck it also became obvious that 2 of the screws were hex allen key fitting and the other 2 square! Also the jaws got very stiff down around the 1cm mark - so not for use with very small parts.

Lathe rigged up to electric motor


After a good clean and several experiments with an electric drill - this is the motor arrangement I settled on. The minimum RPM available is 392 whilst in theory it could go all the way up to 1711. I expect to be using the range under 1000 RPM to try and minimise wear on the bearings.

In this picture the cross slide is missing as I had it disassembled for cleaning and relubrication.


This is a view of the lathe from the back showing the motor controls. These are taken direct from the Chinese bench drill - though I had to extend the cable to be able to place the controls within easy reach of the front

The yellow wire from the ‘foot’ is for grounding so there is no chance the lathe itself could become ‘live’.

You can also see that I’ve taped the back end of the spindle up. For some reason this had a free running metal tube on it which squealed badly when the lathe was run. The purpose of this tube is unknown but its probably a spacer to stop the spindle moving back and forth. The tape just forces it to turn with the spindle.


Click HERE to see how I experimented using an electric drill  to power this lathe.

Click HERE for details of my early experiments actually using this lathe.

Click HERE for details of the on going rebuild of this lathe to working order.


All text and images Copyright © 2000-2011 Roland Givan, unless otherwise stated. All Rights Reserved. Game artwork copyright their respective publishers.

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