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Smart and brown model 'L' lathe- opinions, please?

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OldMetaller17/05/2015 12:30:35
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196 forum posts
25 photos

Hi, I've just seen a lovely Smart and Brown lathe for sale that I really fancy. I've looked on the excellent 'Lathes' website where there is a huge amount of information, but I wondered if somebody more knowledgeable than myself could comment on how suitable it would be for me, given the type of work I do?

I make small steam locomotives, normally 16mm but I've got a 'Tich' on the go too. I'm using a ML7 at the moment, but don't feel any need for screw-cutting or power feed on the small items I'm turning.

The S & M is a model 'L', plain-turning lathe. I assume this refers to the lack of feed screw and thus the lack of screw-cutting facilities. I've had a little play with it unplugged, what I love about it is as follows:

  • Cross slide and top slide incredibly solid and smooth.
  • Viewing window on the tailstock so you can see the indexed scale
  • Built-in coolant, machine light and a big, solid stand.
  • Lots of collets and a drawbar with a handwheel.
  • A spindle lock operated by sprung push button.
  • No play obvious anywhere.
  • They only want £325 for it...with tooling!

As I mostly make stuff like loco wheels, axles, bushes, chimneys, domes etcetera, the collets in conjunction with the drawbar and spindle lock really appeal to me. The one time I hurt my back in the workshop is doing up the ER 32 collets I use now on the ML7, with the lack of a spindle lock and heavy hauling on the 'c' spanner.

I would really appreciate informed comments and suggestions, I don't even mind being told I'm an idiot, as I've only been machining for a short time and know that I have much to learn!

indecision

Regards,

John.

Bazyle17/05/2015 14:18:55
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6085 forum posts
221 photos

I would call this a clockmaker's or indtrument maker's lathe also used for the bigger bits of watches. Very nice for smaller work, even though your Myford would be sufficient for everything larger than N.

Any missing collets and attachments might be hard to find but if you have the space and cash it would be fine as I think I would be tempted if it were on my doorstep.

I'm assuming you intend to keep the Myford but this S&B would be even better paired with a slightly bigger machine like a Boxford.

KWIL17/05/2015 15:47:21
3447 forum posts
66 photos

First lathe I ever used in an Industrial workshop, very solid, just right for making model brass cannons!

I had an as new Myford ML7 at homesmiley

norman valentine17/05/2015 16:24:20
280 forum posts
40 photos

I have owned seven lathes, I have built a steam loco. I have never had to use the screw cutting facility on a lathe that I have owned. I did need it once to make some parts for a camera lens but fortunately I had access to a lathe at the school where I worked.

I nearly bought a Smart & Brown model L but ended up with a Loughborough lathe which is similar. I find that it serves most of my needs but I would like to have automatic feed as it does get a bit tedious at times.

Bob Stevenson17/05/2015 17:22:10
576 forum posts
7 photos

Here at the Epping Forest Horology club we have a line of S&B 'L' lathes that are used by members to make clock parts in steel and brass....you can see some of them on our website; http://www.efhc.org.uk/ ...along with our larger S&B 'A' model screwcutting lathe which takes the same collets and chucks.

The 'L' model was essentially developed from a German lathe, possibly a Boley, at the start of WWII by government directive along with some other key German machine tools. Some of the 'improvements' included the massive headstock bearings which are designed to defeat the friction of the drive belt. This, combined with the integral bed and stand casting, offers a lathe that is in effect beyond the normal wear and tear of machine tools, and which spins with ultimate precision to allow the tiniest 'skim' cuts with perfect ease. The downsides include the inability to disassemble the lathe which is essentially one single large casting, the lathe bed being permanently attached to the stand piece.....so these lathes have to be moved as a single 'lump', although 5 men can 'walk' them to a slightly different position.

The 'L' model was first intended for wartime production and could be supplied with just about any adaptation for the particular task intended. As such, fast collet release, lever feeds and much more were available,...these sometimes turn up on auction sites and can usually be fitted to an existing 'L'...although you need to be mindful that there were/are two spindle bore sizes used.

S&B's can still be refurbished, should that be important and, I understand are still available new at around the £15k mark for basic item. Spare parts and bits etc are also available, or should be, if my info is correct!

As regard comparison to Myford;...these are very different animals and the myford is essentially best viewed as a small lathe system for light engineering. The 'L:' will certainly surpass the myford for quality of cut (using the same cutting tool) but cannot compare in versatility.

Hope some of this helps!

Lionel Titchener17/05/2015 23:18:22
26 forum posts
5 photos

I had four of these all bought from Bracehand in Bigglewade, as reconditioned I think about £6000 each then.

At the price you mentioned, I'd buy it if only to have set up for a particular job when needed or as a spare when other machines are tooled up for other jobs.

One of mine have type 21 collets that go larger than the smaller collet machines, Used to buy collects from Crawford in Witney but they went some years ago.

Enough!18/05/2015 01:26:02
1719 forum posts
1 photos
Posted by OldMetaller on 17/05/2015 12:30:35:

Hi, I've just seen a lovely Smart and Brown lathe for sale that I really fancy.

That would be enough for me right there smiley

Bill Pudney18/05/2015 04:18:22
570 forum posts
24 photos
Posted by OldMetaller on 17/05/2015 12:30:35:

Hi, I've just seen a lovely Smart and Brown lathe for sale that I really fancy.

Like Bandersnatch, this would be more than enough for me to leap in.

Best of luck!!

cheers

Bill

OldMetaller18/05/2015 06:53:22
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196 forum posts
25 photos

Wow! Thank you all very much gentlemen, I knew you'd come up trumps!

The next step is to go and see it working on Wednesday, then I've just got to get Madam to clear some of her antique stuff out of the garage, to make room for the lathe!

Thanks again, all!

Regards,

John.

Edited for this: The sheer amount of knowledge present on this forum still absolutely amazes me! smiley

Edited By OldMetaller on 18/05/2015 06:55:13

sean logie27/10/2021 18:30:19
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604 forum posts
7 photos

Bring this back to life . I've also found one for not much money . I have two questions. .

!...

is this a collet only lathe ..ie..no chuck can be fitted ?

2...

Does the lathe have power ?

Sean

Bob Stevenson27/10/2021 19:07:36
576 forum posts
7 photos

The nose is threaded and any chuck with the corresponding thread can be fitted....At EFHC we have collets, face & drive plates, large 4-jaw, various 3 jaw and also ER32 chucks.

If you are asking if the 'L' models have powered feeds then the answer is 'no'....these are instrument lathes and quite simple machines, but then, in turning as with much else, 'less is (sometimes) more'.

old mart29/10/2021 19:35:44
3418 forum posts
210 photos

The only drawback that would put me off is the absence of a saddle.

Howard Lewis30/10/2021 14:20:22
5562 forum posts
13 photos

The Lathes UK site shows a saddle in each of the pictures of the L lathe.

Capstan and Turret lathes have saddles. It would be difficult to do a wide range of work without one.

Having just a turret on the Tailstock would restrict the range of work that could be done, making it very much a specialised machine.

The absence of a Leadscrew would mean that it is essentially a training lathe, like the Loughborough.

Howard

old mart30/10/2021 20:56:56
3418 forum posts
210 photos

I beg to differ, Howard, the cylindrical turning is all done with the compound, that "saddle" is fixed in place while turning with the large hand tightened screw visible under the bed.

not done it yet30/10/2021 21:07:39
6444 forum posts
20 photos

I would arbitrate and suggest it is a saddle but not a carriage?

Howard Lewis30/10/2021 21:16:21
5562 forum posts
13 photos

We will have to settle for matter of semantics.

If it straddles the bed and moves along it, in my book it is a Saddle.

It may not move by means of a rack and pinion or Leadscrew, but it still fulfills the function of a saddle.

Being a training lathe it will lack the features of a more sophisticated machine, hence no Rack and Pinion or Leadscrew.

Having to push or pull it by hand will be a bit of a PITA , but it can be moved and carries a Top Slide, so if it "Looks like a duck and quacks like a duck"!

Thank You Richard (just as I was about to post )

Howard

Edited By Howard Lewis on 30/10/2021 21:17:24

old mart30/10/2021 21:50:31
3418 forum posts
210 photos

Are you suggesting that it would be in order to "push or pull it by hand" when taking a cut? I would call that an extremely foolish suggestion to make when a novice might actually try that not knowing any better.

Edited By old mart on 30/10/2021 21:54:34

AJAX30/10/2021 23:03:28
292 forum posts
42 photos
Posted by OldMetaller on 17/05/2015 12:30:35:

Hi, I've just seen a lovely Smart and Brown lathe for sale that I really fancy. I've looked on the excellent 'Lathes' website where there is a huge amount of information, but I wondered if somebody more knowledgeable than myself could comment on how suitable it would be for me, given the type of work I do?

I make small steam locomotives, normally 16mm but I've got a 'Tich' on the go too. I'm using a ML7 at the moment, but don't feel any need for screw-cutting or power feed on the small items I'm turning.

The S & M is a model 'L', plain-turning lathe. I assume this refers to the lack of feed screw and thus the lack of screw-cutting facilities. I've had a little play with it unplugged, what I love about it is as follows:

  • Cross slide and top slide incredibly solid and smooth.
  • Viewing window on the tailstock so you can see the indexed scale
  • Built-in coolant, machine light and a big, solid stand.
  • Lots of collets and a drawbar with a handwheel.
  • A spindle lock operated by sprung push button.
  • No play obvious anywhere.
  • They only want £325 for it...with tooling!

As I mostly make stuff like loco wheels, axles, bushes, chimneys, domes etcetera, the collets in conjunction with the drawbar and spindle lock really appeal to me. The one time I hurt my back in the workshop is doing up the ER 32 collets I use now on the ML7, with the lack of a spindle lock and heavy hauling on the 'c' spanner.

I would really appreciate informed comments and suggestions, I don't even mind being told I'm an idiot, as I've only been machining for a short time and know that I have much to learn!

indecision

Regards,

John.

I'm a sucker for old lathes, any lathes, actually!

You mention "big solid stand" -- I'd just want to check that you can get it home as even fairly small but solid things can be difficult to shift.

I would be somewhat concerned about the collets. It may include many collets, but does it include the ones you will need? Just for reference, I was recently quoted £82 each + postage for collets to be made.

Bob Stevenson31/10/2021 08:06:50
576 forum posts
7 photos

The S&B 'L' lathes are a quarter ton, which is 'heavy' considering the small size of the machine itself. The lathe bed is permanently mounted to the cast base which acts as stand, fluid tray, motor housing and storage cupboard.....it looks like one single massive casting but is actually a cleverly assembled collection of parts. I have seen 'L' lathes on ebay that have been separated from the base but this is not a task of a Sunday afternoon in the shed adn you should consider the layout design as permanent. The quarter ton mass gives these lathes great accuracy and turning facility.

.........New collets for S&B are avaiable but not for £82 as far as I know....if they are we will be keen to buy some so please let me know where!

AJAX31/10/2021 08:15:48
292 forum posts
42 photos
Posted by Bob Stevenson on 31/10/2021 08:06:50:

.........New collets for S&B are avaiable but not for £82 as far as I know....if they are we will be keen to buy some so please let me know where!

Bob, if you can PM me your email address I'll forward you a quote I received by email.

Brian

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