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Do you ever wonder about the people who built your machines?

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  • Do you ever wonder about the people who built your machines?

    Sometimes, while using my machines my mind wanders to thinking about the folk who built them. Did they have good lives? Were the factories they worked in happy places to work? Did they have a real pride in the machines they built? Was the odd rough bit made while worrying about a loved one fighting a war far away?
    Have any of you any related stories to tell.?
    Regards David Powell.

  • #2
    I get a distinct picture inside the heads of the engineers what worked on designing my machines when I work on them. My 17" Colchester lathe for example, Things that make it a distinctly British design... The Norton threading box is cast as part of the headstock, with a cover to access the works. Also, the bearing block that supports the leadscrew and feedrod is also cast as part of the bed. Makes machining a new casting not a trivial venture. Likely the factory used some extensive jiggery or a huge HBM. Because the feedrod bearing block is part of the bed, to remove my leadscrew, I have to pull it straight out by the whole length. For this reason, I had so shuffle some machines in my shop in order to get a straight line path to extract it. Also the gear shift levers on the top cover of the headstock seem to be a British thing. Can't leak, so I like it. This lathe also has 2 inverted V ways on the front of the bed and 2 flat ways on the rear of the bed. Usually is one and the other and one and the other. Not sure if it is a British thing or just an eccentricity. The lathe's motor is a Brooks motor, British built. 2 speed. Huge ball bearings. One noteworthy feature is there is cooling vent holes in the shaded pole rotor. It has a massive centrifugal fan that sucks air through the spinning rotor. Never seen this, but I am sure that was the intent of this design. Very clever way of getting rid of heat.

    Another machine I have worked on and have gotten into the heads of the designers/builders is my Brown and Sharp #13 universal TC grinder. Interesting to note that it was built around 1983. A very late model machine. Also worth noting is that at that time, there was a huge union machinist strike at Brown & Sharpe. One of the longest this country has seen. There are old news papers where I have researched this. Scab labor was employed during that time, and there are a new items on my machine where the fitters clearly missed their mark.
    One such item was the table handwheel 2 speed clutch. It allows you to select fast or slow hand table feed. The clutch is a male-female sliding spline engagement spline. The female spline is in a plate that is screwed and pinned to the gear reduction member. Well 3 bronze bushings were completely worn out, enough to scar the hardened shafts that rode in them. I found that the female spline plate was pinned with dowels .015" off in one plane. This put the whole gearbox in a bind, and you had to force the 2 speed shift lever into position. To drill dowel pin holes .015" far off is ridiculous. So I have know way of knowing for sure, but I highly suspect this shoddy workmanship may have been due to the goings on during the machinist strike. Soooo my fix was to re-grind the worn shafts and make new custom size bushings from aluminum bronze. Aside from the little bit of work I had to do with that, my machine is in pretty much pristine condition. Because it was such a late model, all the hand scraping is still present on all the slideways. This machine has it's design origins in the 1890s. It was revised somewhat in the mid 1950's. They moved the motor from inside the base (was lineshaft before that) to behind the grinding spindle. Mechanical power feed had a small motor on the outside of the base.
    The workhead had the motor arrangement jockeyed a little bit, (was also lineshaft driven at on time). The workhead spindle carried the old legacy design to the end. It had 7 B&S taper center, face drive and chuck mounted on (I don't exactly remember the size) something like 1-3/16" 7 threads per inch, left hand thread. This odd setup was directly from the lineshaft days. My friend in NY converted his B&S workhead to accept a a 5C spindle from a Hardinge AHC lathe. It is almost a perfect fit. Front bearing is the same diameter and the rear needs the workhead casting bored out, although I think I could find a NSK or Kaydon thin section bearing to fit what is there. But it is interesting the design legacy that stuck with this machine over the years. Powerfeeds remained mechanical, even when most modern counterparts were hydraulic.
    Not going to go too deep into explaining it, but Boyar-Shultz grinders have their own style, and as do KO Lee grinders. Interesting KO Lee design is the O-ring belts for the spindle drive. Excellent idea for smooth drive with vibration isolation. It makes use of a single phase induction motor almost tolerable. Good design.
    Work on a Bridgeport head and you will see the fit of the parts is beautiful. Everything falls together in just a certain way. Not sure how many import copies have the same feel and fit. One note is the design of their power feed. It cocks like trigger in a gun. This assures when the feed trips that it is a clean disengagement.
    A wonderful design feature. One other note, is the geartrain is pretty fragile. It does have a Hirth coupling safety clutch, but still, everything is pretty light.
    The other end of the spectrum is Gorton mills. Everything is heavily built and very well thought out. A downside is maybe they are too heavily built and lack the feel of a Bridgeport. I have a 9-J in pristine condition and even with the gibs adjusted on the light side, it feels heavy. Maybe the 8 1/2-D or the 8-D is lighter feeling perhaps. Gorton has a very heavy duty quill downfeed mechanism. Nice for sure, but it does not have the cocking mechanism, and it slides.....out........of......engagement, not a crisp pop off like a Bridgeport.
    So when I work on machines, I very much feel like I am getting into the head of the designer or fitter.
    It is pretty awesome, and a journey of the mind every time I work on a machine.

    --Doozer
    Last edited by Doozer; 06-08-2021, 11:49 AM.
    DZER

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    • #3
      No stories, other than a grandmother who worked in an Electric equipment factory during WWII, replacing a worker who went off to war.
      I think the guys who worked at Hendy, Pond, Seneca Falls, Sheldon, Delta, etc, producing precision machines would be disgusted by people today who's first thought is to flip open the Grizz catalog when they want to buy a machine.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by reggie_obe View Post
        No stories, other than a grandmother who worked in an Electric equipment factory during WWII, replacing a worker who went off to war.
        I think the guys who worked at Hendy, Pond, Seneca Falls, Sheldon, Delta, etc, producing precision machines would be disgusted by people today who's first thought is to flip open the Grizz catalog when they want to buy a machine.
        Food for thought - how many of the people working at the companies you listed would have both the space and the funds to equip a shop with the equipment they were manufacturing? We are very fortunate to benefit from readily available and relatively inexpensive manual equipment due to the downsizing of manufacturing and transition to CNC/automated machinery within the remaining industry; but if we had needed to purchase these precision machines brand new from the factory floor it would be a much different story for many of us. That's a very expensive piece of machinery to have for a hobby for the average joe (such as someone working on a factory floor), and I think that's why the proliferation of brands such as Atlas and South Bend which would have been much more affordable. I think they would have looked at the Grizz catalogue a little bit differently than what you're assuming.
        Cayuga, Ontario, Canada

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        • #5
          The best machines are SEM.

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          • #6
            I had the opportunity to visit the Hendey factory in Torrington CT.
            It had been closed up in 1955 (I think) and it was being sub-let to
            some other enterprises. A welding fab shop I think and other
            storage or warehousing. One building used to store cardboard
            paper boxes burned down in the 1980s I think, but most of the
            complex is still there. I took a picture of myself standing in front
            of the office door, which is still there and intact. All the full bricks
            from the building that had burned were gone through, and I took
            a 1/2 broken brick as a souvenir of having been there. Beautiful
            old brick buildings. Amazing to remember the men who worked
            there.
            I also visited the Torrington bearing factory. It also was being
            sub-let for warehouse storage. One cornerstone read 1902 while
            another read 1896. I would have loved to walk around inside,
            but I was in Connecticut on businessClick image for larger version

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            -Doozer
            DZER

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            • #7
              I don't wonder about the person who built my 110 yr old hourse or my 5yr old car so no, I don't wonder about the person who built any of my machines either.

              I do sometimes wonder what the two WW2-era machines went through when they were built though. My 1942 Monarch lathe is stamped CARDANIC which I understand was a defense establishemnt, and my 1943 South Bend 10L (recently sold) had a flaming bomb (US ordnance corps) stamp and war department tags. Those machines are tied to an important moment in our history.
              Peter - novice home machinist, modern motorcycle enthusiast.

              Denford Viceroy 280 Synchro (11 x 24)
              Herbert 0V adapted to R8 by 'Sir John'.
              Monarch 10EE 1942

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              • #8
                I think about the guys who made my machinery, and they probably eat a lot of rice and grow pigtails. Ah So----
                Brian Rupnow
                Design engineer
                Barrie, Ontario, Canada

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by brian Rupnow View Post
                  I think about the guys who made my machinery, and they probably eat a lot of rice and grow pigtails. Ah So----
                  Wow.

                  -D
                  DZER

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                  • #10
                    Given the problems Mr Rupnow seems to have had with his machines I am not surprised that his opinion of those who built them does not seem to be a positive one.
                    I am bringing a 100 yr old Canadian made machine back to life, All of the original parts show that they were designed, made, and assembled with pride. resulting in a machine of lasting quality worthy of proper refurbishment when worn. The unguarded open contacts of the added on electrics are a little disturbing.
                    Regards David Powell.

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                    • #11
                      David--I meant nothing derogative in my post. My machines were made in China. I like my machines. I am a hobby machinist. Not a restorer of antique machinery.
                      Brian Rupnow
                      Design engineer
                      Barrie, Ontario, Canada

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                      • #12
                        I think my lathe was built by Rosie the Riveter, but then it was spared from the war production because it was completed in July/August 1945. Therefore it has no WPB tags, and very little wear. The fit and finish is good, sometimes too good. They were cranking them out by the zillions back then.
                        25 miles north of Buffalo NY, USA

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                        • #13
                          I wonder what the people who use the (electronic) machines I made think about me. Most of you older readers have probably watched a TV program carried by satellites I made in the late '70s.
                          I have always found people have little interest in about the end use of the products of the day job. Also engineers seldom service their cars themselves, electronics engineers don't make or service radios, slightly more professional programmers do actually do more at home than surf the net though.

                          On a slightly different tack of the original question when I got a 100yr old lathe recently I did wonder how the first owner felt the day he got it home. It would have been a big investment at £4 and been months of scrimping an saving. I wonder what he made with it, did he trade it in eventually or did his widow sell it or not want to clear out his shed until she too passed on and the kids had no interest in it.

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                          • #14
                            Sometimes I wonder what they were thinking. On my Delta-Rockwell scroll saw, the factory hole pattern for the motor is rotated by about 10 degrees (in other words, not parallel to the driven pulley). I have no idea how they managed to do that in a production setting.
                            Location: Northern WI

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Galaxie View Post
                              Sometimes I wonder what they were thinking. On my Delta-Rockwell scroll saw, the factory hole pattern for the motor is rotated by about 10 degrees (in other words, not parallel to the driven pulley). I have no idea how they managed to do that in a production setting.
                              Lowest bidder. Like too many other things.
                              25 miles north of Buffalo NY, USA

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