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Early Watertown NY Lathe

enginebill

Stainless
Joined
Feb 17, 2005
Location
Plymouth Meeting PA
We went and picked up that early lathe from the Jefferson County Historical Society on Thursday and we put it back together today at Rough and Tumble. When we got there we found that they built a wall in front of the door that it had to go out of so we had to take the head and tailstock that were on it off. Then we had to turn the lathe on its side so we could roll it out on dollies. Unfortunately the museum has no documentation on the lathe so we do not know where it was in the area or even how long they had the lathe. The lathe is 22' long and must weigh 4000 pounds. The wood beams are built up of thee pieces for each length and the wood might be Chestnut.

At some point early in its life the lathe the lathe was "widened" by moving the shears to the outside of the bed from the inside. Then they made a new headstock, carriage and tailstock to fit the wider shears with the headstocks at opposite ends of the bed and the operators would be on opposite sides of the lathe as well. The big end of the lathe will swing 38" and the smaller original end will swing 26". The big end does not appear to have had power feed and only has a short rack for hand feeding.

The small original end has a rack feed with an adjustable rod which is clamped to the carriage with a set screw. There is a belt that runs from the headstock to a worm gear which drives a shaft with a pinion on it to drive the rack. There are two worms for forward and reverse, one worm is on top and the other is on the bottom of the worm wheel. The headstock has only one bearing at the faceplate end and a dead center for the left side. The dead center in the faceplate screws into the spindle.

I am guessing that the lathe was built circa 1820 so it is nearly or could be 200 years old. If someone has a different idea, let me know.
 

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dkmc

Diamond
Bill, I'm very happy I was able to assist you, and R&T in acquiring this amazing piece of early American industrial history by posting the link to the original auction listing that alerted you to the machine. Perhaps some day I will be able to visit R&T and have a look at the machine in person.

You're welcome.
 

Franz©

Aluminum
Joined
Feb 19, 2009
Location
South Ontario former USA
With the new pictures, and an approximate age along with an idea where the machine worked to earn its keep, I'm wondering more what it was built to do.

200 years back there was a lot of ship building and shipping on that river, even before the locks were built at Montreal.

I'm wondering if the Museum of maritime there would recognize the machine or have information on its function.
 

enginebill

Stainless
Joined
Feb 17, 2005
Location
Plymouth Meeting PA
The problem with "legitimate" museums today is that they are run by 30 something girls with no knowledge of industrial history. They have a college degree in conservation or art history then get a job with a museum and have no idea what they are looking at when it comes to industrial artifacts. So maybe 50 years ago someone could have had more information about the lathe, today they do not. I was told a story where a girl working at the Smithsonian asked a guy who had been working there for 30 years what a telegraph key was and she did not even know what a telegraph was.
I am sure the lathe was probably used for general machine work although the widened end might have had a specific job to do since the rack does not even go half way down the ways.
 
Joined
Feb 4, 2004
Location
Metuchen, NJ, USA
EngineBill,

Great photos! You clearly know how to document an old machine !

I really like that first photo - the room sort of "reeks of age" - the boarded walls in two-tone green and the dark maroon door are an attractive period combination.

Did you learn anything about the history of that room? If I had to speculate, I'd say it looks somewhat like the interior of a RR freight station.

John Ruth
 

Franz©

Aluminum
Joined
Feb 19, 2009
Location
South Ontario former USA
Bill don't even get me going on "legitimate" museums and Hysterical Societys. I've come to the point I don't talk to most of the people involved in the maintaining of barn finds and garage sale leftovers at proper temperature with correct humidity. They got a Degree they swiped off a thermometer and another one that fell off a protractor, and absolutely no ability to communicate in American Standard English.

90% of the dullards are into deascentioning anything they don't understand so they can make more room for old wedding dresses that will never be seen by the public. I'm still trying to understand why it was worth $30,000 to move a light bulb blowing machine and set it on a concrete foundation in a tractor & engine museum, to say nothing of the lardo woman in this town who writes fiction and is an X Spurt to the degree she pisses people off to the degree machines go to remelt so the demolition contractor doesn't have to contend with Marie.
Why a museum spends 5 grand on a computer system to scan and store all the photographs in their possession and then looks at the computer collecting dust because nobody knows how to use it is also beyond my understanding, especially considering RIT is 10 miles down the road, and there is a high school a mile away with a complete video production lab and instructors. Did anybody even make an effort to contact either, of course not. It's nothing but a bunch of bored old women drinking tea and spending money on somebody else's Master Card.

One of my great regrets in life is the arrival time of the cassette recorder and portable video camcorder. Entirely too much knowledge went in graves for want of both devices, and I could only make so many notes talking to old farts in my younger days. It damn sure ain't all on google.

We're currently blessed with another group here; Worn out newspaper reporters who arrived in town in the 80s, and currently market their lack of ability to report a truck parked on their foot. They deliver 2 hour presentations of "History" as best they remember it from old newspapers they read on microfilm at the Library in exchange for a check. Problem is they had no idea what they read. Sadder still is that they get away with making it up as they go, and their "presentation" is considered good because they get audience participation.

I'm still deciding which is my favorite, the 35 year old Diplomated turkey with the Conductor hat who is an expert on Interurbans and streetcars or the 35 year old genius college professor about Prohibition who expounds on rum runners using a surrendered German sub to launch torpedoes filled with booze onto the shore of Lake Ontario. I was shocked to learn my cousin who ran one of the fastest boats on the Lake had a twin 50 mount on his boat and shot at a Coast Guard boat to get away. I was asked to leave that presentation for questioning the college professor. He has a Degree!
 

Franz©

Aluminum
Joined
Feb 19, 2009
Location
South Ontario former USA
John, the fellow I spoke with at Jefferson County told me that room was an old horse barn for draft horses the museum came into possession of. He assured me the plank floor was more than solid.
 

cncFireman

Hot Rolled
Joined
Jun 19, 2013
Location
Seattle WA
Very detailed pictures. This one is a huge beast. An amazing survivor. Everytime I see these early lathes and compare them it tells a little more to the story of thoae early times.
 

esbutler

Aluminum
Joined
Oct 14, 2013
Location
Sloansville, NY
Bill,

Thank you and anyone who assisted for giving this lathe a good home. I look forward to seeing it at some point. What an interesting piece of history and a two-in-one lathe to boot.

The head stock with the wooden cone - does the back gear assembly slide front-to-back on the short rods to engage or disengage the back gears? It looks in the pictures as if some of these steps on the cone have a bunch of layers as if they are made of plywood. What am I seeing there?

The head stock on the other end with the cast iron cone - does the lever the comes out the front with the bent handle slide the back gears horizontally to engage the back gears or does it slide sideways for some purpose? What does the other shaft with the bent bolt in it do? Looks like the bar on the end might swing up and pin to the hole in the end face of the head stock to keep the back gears engaged or disengaged?

Thanks for sharing.
Eric
 

enginebill

Stainless
Joined
Feb 17, 2005
Location
Plymouth Meeting PA
Eric,
The wood cone pulley is laminated but I don't think that it is modern plywood, I will have to look closer at it. The back gears do slide on the pins to engage.
The back gears on the other headstock are engaged by the rod under the cone. The rod moves front to back and is attached to pivot arms that pivot on bolts in the headstock which moves the gears in and out. There are two holes in the rod that fit over a pin to keep the back gears in position. The shaft with the bent bolt in it operates a dog clutch that connects the cone to the spindle. The clutch is released to use the back gears. Unfortunately I did not take a picture of the clutch. The smallest pulley on the cone is built up with what looks like lead.
 

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enginebill

Stainless
Joined
Feb 17, 2005
Location
Plymouth Meeting PA
Thanks for finding that. Our lathe is indeed very similar and I would not be surprised if it was built by Wiley. The one in the cut looks like it has a back gear engagement like the later headstock on our lathe. I found an article that says that Wiley was the first person to have an iron working shop in Watertown but does not say when he opened the shop. He was born in 1796 and died in 1866.
 

enginebill

Stainless
Joined
Feb 17, 2005
Location
Plymouth Meeting PA
We found some initials and a date on the carriage of the original part of the lathe. It is stamped N M 1833. I emailed the curator of the museum in Watertown to see if the initials mean anything to her. There is also evidence that the lathe had an outer shear and that the carriage could have been moved out 3 3/4" to the outside way for turning larger work. Also note that the shears were chipped and filed to shape as there were no planers yet.
 

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cncFireman

Hot Rolled
Joined
Jun 19, 2013
Location
Seattle WA
An amazing find. Finally an early one with a stamp. 1833 looks about right as well. NM is going to be hard to nail down. Nathaniel Machinery? Nathaniel Wiley started somewhere from 1818-1820 and was the first machine shop in Watertown. There also is no garuntee this was made directly in Watertown. If it is not a Nathaniel Wiley lathe it was likely built by another firm not far off who had seen his design as even then many were copying others designs within general regions. The only other early NM that comes to mind is Nashua Manufacturing. Nashua Manufacturing was established in 1824 with Ira Gay as Chief Mechanic. Ira Gay started out in Pawtucket when he joined Larned Pitchers shop to develop a partnership of Pitcher & Gay. Nashua Manufacturing was a large textile operation. John H Gage eventually got his start in the machine shop of the Nashua Manufacturing operation. Ira Gay went on to establish Ira & Ziba Gay which eventually became Silver & Gay Co.
 








 
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