Thursday, July 15, 2010


Ok, after months in storage (see my Dec. '09 post here on the blog for the history and acquisition story), Part-timer Steve and I finally loaded up this lathe, and brought it down and set it up. Actually, I would have done this a long time ago, but I was just too busy putting out jobs this year to clear out all the motorcycle parts and stuff one accumulates over the course of years of building bikes, and fabbing things up. Well, I finally dove in, and got everything re-organized, moved, and tossed out to make room for it.

While this lathe, made by Harper & Reynolds in L.A., Ca. is well over a century old, it's still solid, and the tolerances of all the moving parts are as tight as a gnat's ass. In other words, it'll still turn out some pretty nice work, and it'll probably be turning out parts long after I'm gone. Originally it saw service in somebody's steam powered machine shop (look a couple posts back for an idea), it was converted over to electric power around 1924 or so, as many of these old lathes were.

We've done some peliminary cleaning and de-greasing, and as I go along, I plan on doing a full cosmetic restoration on it, as time permits. Who am I kidding? I think once I start running this lathe, it'll be hard to tear it down for it. But, there's plenty I can do,and still run it at the same time. I'll post up when I get more done on it, and get it all wired in and running. In the meantime, check out these photos of what it looks like today......

Here we see the bronze nameplate of the manufacturer Harper & Reynolds Co. Los Angeles, Cal. , and the screw and thread pitch guide plate, which is brass.

Harper & Reynolds made lathes, milling machines, drill presses, and also sold wholesale and retail blasting supplies and other mining equipment. They had two big warehouses/manufacturing plants within a couple blocks of City Hall, right in the heart of downtown Los Angeles.

Look at the Patent dates, cast right into the lathe bed Pats. Sept 21 1880 Feb 15 1887.

This is the contraption that holds the lathe pulleys, and doubles as the electric motor mount. It mounts to the back of the lathe on a 3/4" dia. bar that runs the length of the lathe's bed. While it functions, it looks like a farmer with three fingers and one eye put it together, and welded it with a blowtorch and a coathanger.

You can also see the woven fabric drive belts (I'm keeping them), one of which needs to be replaced. Fortunately, Western Belting is right here in Denver, and they can make me any belt I need for this application.

I wish my setup was like this........
......but it isn't, and so I'm going to fab something similar in style and function out of steel plate, tubing, and flat stock.

This is how everything gets rolling. There is a belt that runs from the motor to the main pulley on the left, marked with an * in the above photo. That pulley freewheels under power, until you grab the lever (A), and pull it to the left. When you pull that lever, it moves a shaft that has the throwout arm/tapered bearing on it (B). The tapered bearing moves into the pulley hub, and forces the pulley's spring loaded lockup hub arms (C) to engage the main pulley and shaft, and away you go!

To disengage the lathe, you move the arm (A) to the right, and it'll coast to a stop. Too cool, right?

This is the big-ass motor that powers everything. It runs like a champ still. It weighs in at about 35-40 lbs., is single phase, and you can wire it for either 110v or 220v, I'm going to run it on 220. I believe this is the original motor they used when they electrified the lathe. The date stamped on it is April 14, 1924.

Here's the gears that drive the two travel and threading screws. It came with another set of different ratio gears, too. No mercy if you get too close to these teeth. I may have to make some type of guard to cover these, but I really hate to do that. Maybe one with a plexiglass end plate, so you can see them whirling around?

I still need to pick up a 5/16" lathe chuck key for it (it has a nice four jaw chuck), have a new pulley belt made, and a couple drill chucks, of which I'm fortunate in that it has the standard Morse taper. Those are my goals for the next couple weeks. After that, I'll start running the electrical wiring, the breaker, and the new on/off switch for it. I'll also be scouring the steel yards for rems to make the new back hanger for the pulleys and motor.


By Hand and By Brain said...

Rich-Love that shit...we just got an old tube mandrel at the shop. Its shooting fluid, oil everywhere...TRIAGE!! good times.

glitterfist said...

Could not have possibly found a better home.