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The olden golden lathes could be crap too

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  • The olden golden lathes could be crap too

    I was reading a copy of a 1935 Model Engineer mag. on the weekend and in the postbag there was a letter stating that the author had a Randa lathe, 3" centers (6" swing) 12 " between centers, a BIG lathe for the model engineers of the times, and could not believe that a lathe that produced such fine work could be sold for only 4 Pd's Sterling, about 20 dollars at the time.

    This was in reply to another letter from another man stating that his was basically a POS.

    Does this sound familiar to anyone. We have people complaining that the Chinese made lathe they bought is a piece of junk and someone jumps up and claims that there identical model is a great machine.

    I guess what goes around comes around as they say. (who are THEY anyway)
    The shortest distance between two points is a circle of infinite diameter.

    Bluewater Model Engineering Society at

    Southwestern Ontario. Canada

  • #2
    The Asian lathe I have is nothing to be proud of but the work I've turned out on it is. I do wish it had a larger spindle bore and bigger chuck, though. Couple old timer machines I'd still like to get are a bench top horizontal mill and a larger, more capable lathe. If I sell my house any time soon I'll have room, too.


    • #3
      I have a fair amount of Chinese stuff. I live in an area that wasn't especially industrial and used American iron is rare. Quality varies a lot. I have one small lathe that got disassembled and it's a doorstop now. It was useless. Got one that's nice. Takes a lot of experience and some mistakes to sort the better ones from the worse ones. My new lathe looks impressive. A lot of iron for the money. Also a lot of the finer details missing that I'll have to add. No thumbscrews on the dials. No carriage locks.

      I wonder how much of this stuff is sold within China rather than exported and what they think of it?


      • #4
        Have a freind in Malasia who uses Chinese machinery and you would not belive the price he has to pay for "local" goods, - expensive. Not many people over there make "Toys" cos they're too busy making export goods. Was the same in the UK just after WW2, even toy engines etc.were mainly export only.
        Regards Ian.
        You might not like what I say,but that doesn't mean I'm wrong.


        • #5
          i really dont care who makes the tools as long as they have quailty and work as they should and there is parts support as well when something goes wornge with it.

          My drill press is a trades master 13 inch floor model and its the bomb to me and handles anything i dish out to it , my band saw is a wood and metal one can't remember the brand off hand but it great ,, my lathe is a busybee 10x18 and it also been realy good to me , my mill is also busybee and were sorting out the bugs on my latest driliing problem thats poping fuses but as for the millng part it, it rips threw anythingi i do to it so far and does it rather nicely , busy bee stuff comes from china so iam not complaing in fact most of my stuff is all made in china,,

          now my index cutters are made in china and iam not overly amused with them but they function as they should just hate tighten down the dame cutter screw all the time gets annoying..

          i do belive you do get what you pay for weather its american made canadain or china or even russian it really does not matter in all who makes it. but its how well they make it..

          the popular saying i like is. does not mattter how much you know its the quaiilty of what you know and how you use it that counts..


          • #6
            I had a little generic chinanian lathe that I sold in disgust, the guy I sold it to is delighted with it (he paid half what I did).
            It all depends on personal preference and pre-purchase expectations.


            • #7
              Re: Chinese tool quality

              Back in the early 80's I bought a HF 12 speed table model drill press. It cost me $169 delivered. When I received it, the shipping copy showed that it cost them almost $100 to ship it to me. Gadzooks!!! It must have cost them about $40 to make, if they made the usual profit on it. Anyway, once I got it out, cleaned it up, and assembled it, I noticed that the quality of the cast iron was very good (no holes or slag inclusions visible). The column was not pipe but rather a casting with a ground finish. That blew my mind, being used to what I saw being sold at Sears. The only place where they obviously cheaped out was in the locking screws, knobs, and handles. Some folks had trouble with the motors not working well but mine has been going strong now for 27 years. I use it almost every day and have had no trouble at all. I have seen identical machines from other suppliers that are not nearly as nicely made, even some from HF. I guess it is just the luck of the draw.
              Jim (KB4IVH)

              Only fools abuse their tools.


              • #8
                When the Myford ML 7 came out in the late 40's it cost about 50 Pounds, I saw one a couple of years ago, new $11,000, on this side of the pond. Is Myford still in business, do they still make the ML 7? Chinese competition must be killing them, not to mention the price.

                Would anyone like to make a guess what the 1930's 4 Pound lathe would cost today.
                The shortest distance between two points is a circle of infinite diameter.

                Bluewater Model Engineering Society at

                Southwestern Ontario. Canada


                • #9
                  The Randa [ actually Ross and Alexandra ] was typical of the small hobby machine that were being put out at this time.
                  There were many of them because casting were dirt cheap and they could be knocked out on the crudest of machinery.

                  See the history of the Winfield lathe which was tied up with Randa.
                  They incidentally started in the same factory before Myfords did.


                  There is a section at the top called historic photographs that show some of the basic machinery needed.
                  The guy far left in the first picture, Clarence Thrumpston was the father of one of my local neighbours who gave me the pictures to copy for the site.

                  They were very crude as all that mattered in this period was getting goods out the door to get a living.

                  Myfords were no better at this time, their starter model the ML1 differed very slightly from their opposition at that time.
                  Apron handwheels that drove the rack direct instead of an expensive intermediate gear with the result the saddle went the wrong way !
                  Top slides either as an option or just held with one bolt, no guarding and everything else as an extra.

                  Myfords saving grace was WWII because during this time the Government decided who made what and the whole of the Drummond small lathe production was given to Myfords so Drummond's could concentrate on the larger machines and gear cutters.

                  This kick started a new range that turned out to become the ML7 and ironically was kept fresh by competition from Boxford who made the South Bend under license and then they took this after the war to become the Boxford range and this

                  Became this in later years.

                  Some features are still reconisable like the apron.

                  The ML7 is no longer made being replaced by the Super 7 and now by the 'Conisewer' or big bore lathe.
                  Myford's had on at the Bristol show last year, long bed, stand Newton Tesla VFD drive and a Rodney milling attachment fitted for £14,300 yup that's about $29,000 or three times what my new TOS cost.

                  Whether you like it or not the Sieg C3 lathe will be the next hobby lathe purely on world wide sales.

                  Think how many Harbour Freight and Grizzly sell per year, add in the others who I'm not sure of as I'm in the UK, Homier ? Busy Bee ?
                  Then add in the UK sales and Europe. Hare and Forbes sell in Oz as do countless Ebay sellers.

                  What made Myfords popular was price and the fact you could make or do many things on them.
                  Today they have priced themselves out of the market and if you read papers like MEW they are running series, just as ME did in the good old days on how to make this or tune this up for your C3.

                  And what fits here will fit in the US, Canada or Oz because it's the same machine.


                  Sir John , Earl of Bligeport & Sudspumpwater. MBE [ Motor Bike Engineer ] Nottingham England.


                  • #10
                    Golden Oldies

                    £4 for a Randa lathe pre-War and £40 for a ML7?
                    Nope the last figure was probably less but when I got to thinking about them the price was £65.

                    What did £4 represent in 1939? The wage for a top grade blacksmith was £2.50 per week- always assuming that he had a job. For £250 one could buy a decent house with 2 bedrooms etc and a little garden in the North of England. My parents bought one just like that in 1930- the year in which I was born. That house is probably worth £150,000 or more today. My present house is nudging the £500,000 mark but in 1939 it would be one which was £350 to £450.

                    I am quite proud to admit that that my first wage was £1.16.9 in 1946 or £1.66 in 'dismal' money. A few years later, I was a non-commisioned officer in the RAF and my wage had rocketed from 4shillings per day- £0.20 to £0.45 or 3 whole guineas per week and I was King of the Midden!

                    It is probably difficult for a younger generation to grasp the figures above.After all, I am ancient.

                    So let's move into the first Mini. It was sold for £459 in basic form whilst a Mini Cooper in 1963 was £565. Two years ago, I bought another and the quartz halogen light things( My eye sight is a not too hot) was the same price as the first Mini.

                    What was it like say in Spain? Well, I was diving with the French in Formentera which is a tiny island in the Balearics in 1963. I arrived in one of those DC4's which had been converted so that one didnn't have to jump out with a parachute. I was offered a newly built villa - to my design for £450.
                    31 years ago, the rough price was that of a a Volvo Estate car at £7500 and today a similar house near there is probably £200,000.

                    I am not 'flanneling'- I locked it up on Saturday! However,I never did get the Volvo.




                    • #11

                      You put it into perspective, ONLY if you have lived a long life.

                      So many are complaining about prices doubling in their lifetimes, or at least the part of their life that they have had to buy the stuff themselves.

                      Gasoline has more than doubled in the younger member's lives.

                      Gasoline has gone up 16 fold in my lifetime. Heating oil, 40 fold.

                      I would be hard pressed to find an item that is less costly, even after inflation is factored in (other than the cap to the Washington Monument, the largest piece of aluminum ever cast at the time, and ridiculously expensive, for something that would eventually scrap for 70 cents or less per pound).

                      Even some of them here who are older, evidently, never had to go buy anything but their tools. Bitch at the old woman when she brought home 6 bags of food for 9 dollars. No idea of grocery costs. Today, 2 boxes of cereal makes that 9 bucks.

                      The dollar is going to hell, and the country doesn't seem to know it. All they know is that steel stock is rising, NOT that food stock, what the old woman brings home every week is going up at least as fast, and further, than their raw material.

                      Mebbe they should ask Mama what the household expenses are. They might decide to raise their rates to keep their heads above water.




                      • #12
                        Those were the days , my friend?

                        Greetings, George and all.
                        I've changed the heading to match because in a few hours, one gas for heating firm has put up the price by 35%.

                        Again, I have just told another forum to piss off and get into the world of reality because they cannot afford to pursue their hobby now and certainly will not have a remote chance in a few short months. I got the H*** out because I really am not on their wavelength.

                        You and me, me ole sunshine, have been through 'those days'

                        So, can I address the question of golden lathes? At the moment, lathes are just one item and for many of us, machine tools are a luxury, hobby item.
                        However, they come far lower in the priority list which ends up as you wisely point out at the food counter, the heating bills and rent/mortgage and rates.
                        At the moment, 800 NorthernRock employees face immediate sacking with a further 500 'voluntary' redundancies. That, George is within pissin' distance from the my idea of an Englishman's castle in the grounds of a lunatic asylum.
                        And, me ole sun, I really do live between TWO nut houses. One was of yesteryear and one of today with 1300 blokes and blokess's with no where to go. The old nut house hasn't room for them and no one can afford to live in the houses between.

                        I could go on but what of those whose machine tools are the things which bring in crusts? Does anyone want the products? Perhaps, I should re-phrase the question and ask 'Can anyone afford what is coming off them?'

                        I've been in Sunny Spain. You had my little epistle earlier. No one is going to my bit of Paradise. OK, I can afford it and rather welcome the idea of not having a stream of Brits puking over the parapet into my Spanish hacienda and pissin' in me pool when I am not looking.

                        I was having one of those daft thoughts. Some prick thought that I was oout of touch and getting old.

                        For those who might think the same, they might ponder what the British got as food supplies during the last war. In case they think it all a misprint, might I suggest that they actually try to live on it.

                        One thing is certain--- they will save enough to buy more than one golden lathe-- for the moment!

                        Bye, George, I'm off to Bonnie Scotland to clash me claymore and sing the Ball of Kirriemuir.

                        Norm and his pet haggis


                        • #13
                          I guess the point I was originally making isn't the rising cost of things, that has aways been here and will never go away, but that because of "priorities" most of the amateurs can only afford to buy small imported equipment (unless they get lucky and find a Southbend from 1935 still in it's original crate with no rust on it for under $500.00), which are all made to the same pattern, sold under many names and vary from good to very bad.

                          Back in the dirty thirties and probably a lot earlier, the same situation existed, the times were even tougher for many, but the tools were from Britain, the leading industrial powerhouse of the industrial revolution. They could build crap too, right along side high quality equipment, everything is built to a price. Only the source has changed, the situation hasn't. Don't blame the Chinese because the "greens" shut down the foundries and jobs are being shipped out because of corporate greed and supported by idiot politicians. The western world is burning it self down and when there is nothing left but the rubble, the people that got rich doing it will bale out and abandon the rest of us. That's the nature of the greedy beast.

                          For everyone seeing doom and gloom (myself included) and feeling the pinch of the present economical times, it's all been here before and it all went away and will be back again. There has always been war, disease ,famine etc. You just have to struggle through it and climb out the other side like many have before.

                          One good point of olden days was that your model engineer, HSM or whatever you want to call us, had to be resourceful to get what they needed for the shop. When a small dubious quality lathe, available for 4 or 5 pounds, was what you had, some inventive guy's decided to put a vertical slide on a second one and bolt it upright to the wall, a Rube Goldberg vertical milling machine, a knee mill at that.

                          "Don't worry, be happy!!!
                          The shortest distance between two points is a circle of infinite diameter.

                          Bluewater Model Engineering Society at

                          Southwestern Ontario. Canada


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Just Bob Again
                            I wonder how much of this stuff is sold within China rather than exported and what they think of it?

                            I just got back from China yesterday. I was in Suzhou, which really isn't a very nice place. But I did spend a decent bit of time in T&D shops (can't swing a cat without hitting on over there). And the answer to your question is that they're all using a lot of the machines that are pretty familiar to us. At least the lathes. The mills I saw looked like much heavier versions of a bridgeport. Bigger travels, but also just beefier castings. Wish I'd taken some pictures, but I was pretty focused on work.


                            • #15
                              The availability of Asian machine tools helps us all. They keep used machine prices for American and English machines relatively low, and the prices for machine tool accessories from Asia are unbelievably priced.

                              I wish China would start making CVA, DSG, and Monarch 10ee clones.