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Brown & Sharpe No. ? Horizontal Milling Machine


Dec 15, 2010
Cranston, RI USA
I could use some help identifying this old B&S, as well as some advice on what to do with it. I tried to donate it to the New England Wireless and Steam Museum in East Greenwich, RI (which is local to me). I thought it would give those old steam engines something to do, but the owner was not interested. :(


You came to the right place. (Welcome to the board!) And while NEWSM (Hi Bob!) has some machine tools and a shop set aside for their use, they're of a more modern kind and which they use for restoration/maintenance of the steam engines. They just don't have the time, money, or the volunteerism to carry yet another historical sword into battle.

What you have is a B&S "Plain" milling machine. It's so called "1895 Design" which simplified considerably the major casting just below the cone pulley.

You can see pix (and do a comparison) at a couple of catalog places on the 'net. I would recommend the following. http://www.owwm.com/pubs/detail.aspx?id=3713 which is the 1904 B&S Catalog upload from Joel Havens who is a frequent and voluminous contributor over there at OWWM. (Thanks Joel!)

Yours looks like a No. 1 on page 20 in the book or page 44 on the pdf. No. 2 was basically the same machine with a longer overarm, longer table, and back-gear.

No doubt if you put this up for sale on this board (a good place), someone will raise their hand. You won't get rich, but you'll take assurance that it will be saved and appreciated.

(owner of B&S No. 1233 Pattern of 1862)

Wow! Thanks so much for that info and the link to the B&S Catalogue.
Paging through, I now see that I have a few things that go with this machine as well, like a fly cutter arbor, indexing attachment, vise, wreches, etc.

Is this something that another place (other than NEWSM) would be interested in having? Any recomendations on who to contact? I would love to see it somewhere special if it is of historical value.
Well, like Joe said it is a nice machine but when you say special, I think you better be willing to wait a very long time. Occasionally, a steam & gas engine club looks for something like this. A knowledgeable museum would want an earlier example. This design goes back 30 years prior to your example. A lot were made both prior and after. Earlier more primitive and later more improved.

If you have a sentimental attachment (along with the very desirable original vise and index attachment) then you might try and figure a way to keep and display it yourself. Its a pretty nice piece and not a lot of floor space. If it means a lot to you then keeping it may be the best way to go. If not that then a gift to a local personal friend?

There is some demand for these, so I think you can find a good home with a individual.
That's a nice looking machine with a number of nice remaining features, possibly in good condition and with a well engineered motor conversion. What make is that gearbox, by the way? And look at that nice casting that holds it up: it might be little top heavy, though.
What make is that gearbox, by the way? And look at that nice casting that holds it up: it might be little top heavy, though.

Not that top-heavy at all - it is identical to the conversion on my Fox mill. Works very nicely once the leather belt was replaced with a multi-rip serpentine from my random-stuff-bin.

Only thing slightly odd is the tension adjuster - fairly limited range of motion.

I have a little later #1 and mine has the model number cast into the machine right where your electrical box is bolted to the side. Take a peek under that box to see if yours is there.
For whatever my two cents are worth-- if the machine is fairly tight, you may find that this could easily convert( with the use of an old m head bridgeport) to a very usable vertical mill

mtimperley ,
Your machine looks very much like my # 0 which may be a bit newer than the one in the link Joe just mentioned .

Thanks to Joe for posting the link. since I hadn't seen it before.

I can't tell by the picture but as Joe said the size of yours is probably hidden behind your switch if you haven't already taken it off to see.
You can likely tell by the size of the table and the spindle taper if the size isn't marked .
There is a comparison of the diferent sizes of pre 1900 plain machines here.
A treatise on the construction and use of milling machines made by Brown & Sharpe mfg. co., Providence, R.I., U.S.A., manufacturers of machinery and tools
I would imagine it would apply to your's as well
Here is a link to the text and others .

You can read more about some older but similar B&S Machines here .

I have posted a little about my # 0 and you will find it if you follow the links .
My over arm and arbor centre are the same style as yours as are the overarm clamps but they are not on my machine in the pictures .
The handle on the right hand end of the table with the internal gear for rapid travel on mine has a hand wheel instead bu tI have taken mine off

I hope you can find someone to aquire your machine it looks very nice .

On edit I some of the links to my pictures in the other threads on Photobuket no longer go direct to the picture http://s220.photobucket.com/albums/...&current=BrownSharp0FrontBearringDainPlug.jpg

and click next skipping one and you will have and easier time
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And I might add for the sake of mtimperly that museums are not the "end all - be all" for a machine destination.

Someone with a machine which they sense as old usually tend to want to send it along to someplace where it will be "preserved." A museum of some kind usually heads that thought. However, museums while advertising themselves as preservers of the past are actually in the business of marketing "the past." And not so much the past as it was but rather the way the marketplace (i.e. people today) want to see the past. Thus museums most recently have had more marketing and the box office in mind than preservation or even an "honest" display of their acquisitions.

This is not to poke museums in the eye: they serve a useful purpose which is education of the public at large. But sadly this is preceded by paying the bottom line: you have to give the people what they want or they won't pay at the box office, or in turn pay the staff salary, or the maintenance and upkeep, or the taxes if they don't have a local agreement.

Museums have been accused of "sugarcoating" the past in political correctness. They have also been accused of acquiring donations and then selling them off to generate funds for the continuation of the museum - or to provide an honorarium to a retiring director. Or sell objects to conflicted interest Board of Director members which they in turn re-sell at considerable profit at their own antique technology sales business. (all of these cases I have heard tell of through the grapevine, but I disclaim in entirety any factual knowledge.)

Currently even the APM has adopted an "in your face" policy of "full control" of acquisitions; to include re-selling that object if it results in a situation "in the best interests of the museum." (Read the fine print.)

On the positive museums DO provide the rest of us an opportunity to see what is desirous and worthy of our attention. A lot of smart museum people put their time and attention to problems of concern to us private users - and with few exceptions are very free and liberal with their information. And provide answers to questions of application and or maker/provenance. A lot of information comes to the media/internet sources from research done at museums.

On the other hand private collectors also serve a purpose in keeping machines in active use. This is the "keepers of the flame" effect. You don't know the "nuance" of a machine unless it is used. Museums don't do that too well, sometimes out of concern for preservation, mostly through lack of manpower (read money.) Private collectors also do well in spreading the word via the Internet (and this board) regarding the non-industrial preservation and use of our coveted machines.

A recent variation to the museum/private collector theme worthy of mention is the "club." Tuckahoe and Zagray Museum come to mind (although their organizations may be entirely different.) There are others. These sort of entities skirt both worlds: private collectors with a common museum interest.

In reality it takes both a public museum persona/presence AND a private collector presence to make for an active antique machinery hobby. Some machines in private use or collection SHOULD end up in museums. Other machines in museums SHOULD be sold to private collectors. The trade back and forth is part of what gives our objects VALUE - and thereby increases their chance of continued survival and a widening of the appreciation of old machines.

Thus if I were mtimperly and wanted a suitable place to "save" my machine, I would give both ends of the disposition spectrum some thought - or even the middle ground if it can be made to pass. You just have to keep in mind that 1. Nothing is forever, even a sale to a private collector or a donation to a museum. 2. While it's your machine you can do with it as you wish. 3. Even in case 2 above, case 1 applies. We are but custodians for a future generation.

Just one private collector's thought. And as I'm not in the market for this machine, I can make these comments without reservation.

Amen Joe... as one who spent 15yrs of love and hard work to build a respectable museum, only to see it reduced to a glam and glitz "science center" type high dollar amusement park with no regard for historical accuracy, honest curatorial practices, or proper preservation of artifacts.... I'd rather know my machines will go to an owner that will care for them and use them when time comes for them to leave my posession.

Having seen what I have seen, I will never donate an object or a penny of my money to another museum. Rick Rowlands is probably the only exception to this, but if anything were to happen to Rick, his organization could just as easily take on that sugar-coated artificial vanilla flavor with the installation of a greedy and unethical staff.
mtimperley sir,
Wow that sure brings back memories.. back in the early eighties I ran a very similar machine making feed lips for the ticket machines for the D.C. metro. Made 30,000 or so on the old girl. That machine didn't have as nice 'electric conversion' on it though... was a 'true' B&S conversion though.. still had the paper work in the little cabinet where our parent company had the conversion done.. Still had a bunch of change gears in the cabinet neatly packed in little dovetail walnut boxes.. Being a stupid kid I ask about as to what they went to and no one knew..... Just before I left that company I can remember them 'cleaning up' and watching 'my' mill go in the dumpster as nobody 'wanted to run that old thing'..... Didn't know a man could get that attached to a machine as I really felt bad.. Ahhh I guess it's one of the lessons of youth that one has to learn.. Thanks for posting the pic..
Stay safe
PS that machine doesn't need to be in a museum where folks gawk at it.. it needs to make chips ( how ever slow )
In my view both museums as we know them and collectors are unlikely to have long term success in preserving machinery. I don't believe there is a good answer at present.

I'm stumped, myself (and I own approx 40 tons of machinery, some very museum like).
That uni-drive probably sucks about half the useable HP out of that drive system!

Anyone who wanted to really run that machine, would rip it off the top of the
mill and simply belt (using the cone pulley) it up to a one, 1.5 hp three phase
motor run by a VFD. The belt would be an automotive serpentine belt.

Combination of the serpentine belt, and the removal of the varispeed drive, would
just about triple the power on tap at the spindle. That could be a nice machine
for somebody.

As for new england wireless museum, honstly I have to give them credit for saying,
"no thank you" rather than taking it, and selling if off to the scrapper.
Thanks again everyone

Thanks again to everyone for all the feedback and info. This site is fantastic. I had no idea.

My thought of donating this mill to a museum came from my experience taking my family to the New England Wireless and Steam Museum for Yankee Steam Up. Which by the way, I would highly recommend if you like steam engines. They have an amazing array of engines and the volunteers over there are just as impressive (knowledgeable, dedicated, true keepers of the flame). The New England Wireless and Steam Museum The New England Wireless and Steam Museum

From my perspective though, and I apologize in advance for being just a curious museum gawker and occasional contributor, I thought it would be nice to see, besides generating electricity, another application for these engines, i.e. running some locally built machinery! Particularly since B&S is/was actually just over a mile down the road from NEWSM, believe it or not. I imaged they could attach the mill to an overhead shaft to provide some perspective on the past (of course I’m only assuming that is how these things were run before electricity).

Alas, I don’t think Bob Merriam (the director of NEWSM) had the time or the space for this, and as Joe in NH points out, its not really their primary mission anyway. Oh, well. So that’s why I was thinking along the lines of donating it to a museum. I do appreciate the cautionary anecdotes/advice to the contrary though.

Calvin b, thanks for the tale. This was my father’s (1919-1987) machine, although I never saw him run it. I grew up in his machine shop (from sweeping floors to setting up and running B&S automatics when I was in college), but the part of the trade I learned as a kid, did not cover horizontal milling or much secondary machining at all (as we used to call it) since that was not our focus.

So it appears the machine may not be that special, just old. I do appreciate the help identifying it.

I will assembly the rest of the tooling that I think may belong to this same machine and post the pictures. If it turns out to be all related, then I will likely try and sell it all together.
. You don't know the "nuance" of a machine unless it is used. Museums don't do that too well, sometimes out of concern for preservation, mostly through lack of manpower (read money.) Joe

Ever been to the Smithsonian? An example is a camelback drill press they have. Nicely finished, well preserved but it is not a 'living' exhibit. No drill in the spindle. No work piece, vise or chips on the table. To the uninformed it is just a piece of painted cast iron. They could do better.

"Special" yes it is sort of special. In the following way: Most machines that
show up on this board of this vintage are rust-buckets and one step away from
the scrap dumpster. Seriously. See the photo and go 'ugh, how did they let
THAT happen.' Left out in the rain in the parking lot, or buried under junk
in an abandoned shop.

This one is in running condition, AND it's a fairly small horizontal as horizontals go.
I got my first milling machine (sloan and chace) which was in similar condition as
this one, cared for and running, from a local private owner. Get the word out and
maybe there might be somebody nuts enough to come over and buy the thing.
Any tooling to go with?