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Those were the days

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KEITH BEAUMONT01/08/2017 09:59:14
79 forum posts
19 photos

I recently found a South Bend instruction book, a 1932 publication aimed at "The Machinist Apprentice"The page I have scanned is interesting in that it shows and advises that the 9 inch(41/2 inch this side of the pond)lathe can be run from a light socket. No motor size is quoted, but it must be 1/2 horsepower at least, so I bet that uneathed wire got a bit warm!

This has reminded me of two connected instances from the days when I was a Patttermaker apprentice at Drummond Bros.

My Forman owened a cornershop, the back garden wall running adjacent to the pavement on the side street. He had a workshop at the end of the garden with no electicity supply. Conveniently,a street lamp was near to the wall and he would put a ladder up against this and take out the bulb and insert a cable to run his light and machinery.

All lead screws for the large Drummond auto lathes were finish machined on an ancient South Bend centre lathe,some 10 ft centres at least.A polishing cut of a few thou in slow back gear was taken. The Turner was as ancient as the lathe and was one of those recalled from retirement during WW2, He chewed tobacco continuously and from about three feet distance, with amazing aim ,he would eject a stream of brown tobacco juice directly onto the tool about every foot of travel..

He was eventually retired again and the machine replaced with a new item, but the Fitters who assembled the lathes all claimed that the lead screws were never as good as the "tobacco versions"


29-07-2017 20;03;142.jpg

Ady101/08/2017 10:11:54
3644 forum posts
514 photos

Thanks for that snippet, pretty amazing how much things have changed

A chap who died a couple of years ago (95) told me that the neighbour next door let him knock a hole in the wall and run his neighbours electric supply into his mums house so she could get some of that new fangled electric stuff connected

larry Phelan01/08/2017 11:26:20
544 forum posts
17 photos

Hi Ady 1

Can you imagine that happening today? Do nabours even talk to each other anymore? And what about the dreaded H/SE? ARHaaaaaaaaaaaa !

not done it yet01/08/2017 11:28:02
4501 forum posts
16 photos

I bet that uneathed wire got a bit warm!

How many 100W bulbs did you run on your lighting circuit, before the days of fluorescent or led lamps?. Four at a time would be more than running a 1/2hp motor. Modern UK lighting circuits are 5A rated. Earth is for safety, and would not normally carry any current or be at any other potential than earth!

So, not so outlandish in days before conductor sizes were minimalised - and they only gave a 120V belt if the frame went live, not like our far more lethal 240V.

Watford01/08/2017 12:20:21
126 forum posts
11 photos

Remember seeing mother ironing on the kitchen table with the flex plugged into one of those two-way adaptors that was itself plugged into the light socket. All swinging about on some ropey silk-covered twisted twin. secret


John Coates01/08/2017 12:36:28
557 forum posts
28 photos

In the 70's my dad went through a period of DIYing egged on by some publication that was printed at that time (there were also adventures into a veg patch in the back garden and walking as well) . He knocked down a wall and put in a decorative wooden arch. And wired in the extension built by our next door neighbour. They divorced and afterwards mum had some electrical problems so had to get an electrician in. He was astounded how the extension was wired up. Apparently taken off the cooker circuit. Dad's little adventure into DIY cost my poor destitute mum a lot of money she couldn't afford.


larry Phelan01/08/2017 13:06:45
544 forum posts
17 photos

Hi Watford I remember that too and sometimes even an electric fire !! Happy days,eat your heart out H/SE !

KEITH BEAUMONT01/08/2017 13:22:41
79 forum posts
19 photos

When I think back,my fathers shed /workshop was probably supplied with electricity from the lighting circuit. He had run a lead covered cable along the fence from somewhere in the house. We did not have any 15 amp sockets. The Zyto lathe had a 1/3 HP motor and I do not remember fuses blowing.


Howard Lewis02/08/2017 00:52:54
3146 forum posts
2 photos

As child, during WW2, I remember mum ironing with a lead into a two way bayonet lamp socket. Dad even wired a 5 am two pin socket, so that the radio could be run off the mains, rather than batteries, again tapped into a lighting circuit!

How did we all survive this long before H & S? Maybe Common Sense was much more common in those days!


Ian S C02/08/2017 15:03:56
7468 forum posts
230 photos

In F. J. Camm's book "Practical Wireless Service Manual" (mine is the 1960 edition, original 1938), the suggestion is to run the workshop for radio repairs from either a three way bayonet light socket, or a two way, and wire a third to a plug on the wall with a switch. Apart from running a radio or two, some lighting, and a battery charger, the only electric device would seem to be a soldering iron, probably a 65 W Solon or similar, that was my dads tool as a radio tech in the days of valve/tube radio.

Ian S C

Philip Rowe02/08/2017 16:57:58
181 forum posts
14 photos

Slightly O/T, does anyone else here remember valve radios being supplied with mains dropper cables? Where the mains cable was of a specified length and of high resistance that dropped the mains voltage down to about 80 volts and I think they were insulated with an asbestos covering of some sort. I recall that it did get quite warm but not hot although there must have been instances of unwary owners letting the cable become coiled and covered with a copy of the Radio Times! I suppose there must have been some instances of a fire developing as a result of careless use.

Not quite sure what H&S would make of that.


Ian Hewson02/08/2017 17:23:08
259 forum posts
24 photos

Still using my Henley Solon soldering iron, bought at Vallance and Davidsons shop in Briggate, Leeds in 1958 when I was 14.

SillyOldDuffer02/08/2017 17:43:37
5630 forum posts
1157 photos
Posted by Philip Rowe on 02/08/2017 16:57:58:

Slightly O/T, does anyone else here remember valve radios being supplied with mains dropper cables?


Not quite sure what H&S would make of that.


I had one when I was a boy and it was far from new then, made about 1950 or so. Being interested I took it apart. If I remember correctly, it had a 4 core cable, Live, Neutral, and another Live pair made of Resistance Wire. Inside the radio the Live went via a fuse and a switch straight to a diode rectifier valve. The heaters of about 5 (or 6?) valves and a couple of torch bulbs were connected in series. The live resistance wire connected to that and dropped about 150V so the valve heaters & bulbs could run straight off the mains.

Was it dangerous? An 11 year old inside a mains powered radio with no earth, no transformer, a hot power lead, and a metal chassis? All this in a wooden box with a cardboard back with ventilating holes in it.? Absolutely NO. Small boys are famous for inbuilt common sense and that's all you need to be completely safe in any risky situation whatever.

Dave thinking


Edited By SillyOldDuffer on 02/08/2017 17:45:28

Speedy Builder502/08/2017 18:32:20
1985 forum posts
139 photos

When I wer a lad, I made crystal sets etc and then my Dad gave me a 110v valve radio (American). To drop the voltage, we put a 150Watt bulb in series with the radio - Looked a bit strange with a huge bulb mounted on top of the radio case - but it worked.

Speedy Builder502/08/2017 18:41:30
1985 forum posts
139 photos

The original French mains power was just provided for a single light in the kitchen, and you were charged for that. Then adaptors came on the market, so you could have lights "Everywhere" for the same price (No meter in the house). Then a 1 bar radiator - and you can imagine how things developed until the invention of the electricity meter. The house opposite me has no earth wire and 2 fuses, 1 on the live and one on the neutral. For an unknown reason, many systems switch the neutral and not the live. Changing a lightbulb can be "electric"
Of course we do not have fused plugs like the UK, and most of the spur systems are rated at 16 amps - can't see the logic in that either - but we love it here.

Bazyle02/08/2017 19:05:39
5139 forum posts
199 photos

We had a dual fuse system like that at school (uk) as a legacy from a lower voltage balanced supply probably. Made it fun to trouble shoot the first time when I didn't realise that.
In the 'common room' where 15 boys each had a desk light it was normal to daisy chain them using bayonet adaptors but off the single plug also feeding the Dansette and toaster. It was an unwritten rule that whatever the dispute nobody upstream would never disconnect their dependents. Also nobody needed to plug in charger those days except me (for my radio control) and I was the only one with a soldering iron. Nearly 50 years later, at work in an electronics company I am still the only one with a soldering iron, but now I can't see the components.

I have some rooms at home with a 5A round pin socket fed off the lighting circuit, typically positioned where you would want a light and at table height not floor level. Makes sense in a way in a radial wired house. We used to have some 2 pin sockets too.

V8Eng02/08/2017 19:29:33
1408 forum posts
27 photos

When I was a young lad growing up in 1950s London our power was DC at about 230v (I think), supplied from one of the many local power stations.

Dad used to charge his car batteries on the Kitchen Table, using one of the aformentioned lampholder plugs with a couple of wires to the battery, the voltage drop was achieved by putting a lamp bulb in series on the + lead. We were given strict instructions not to touch anything around it.

The sash window was wedged open a bit to get rid of the gasses, Mum used to complain bitterly about this going on in 'her' Kitchen.

All this came to an end when the wide spread conversion to AC power came about.

If my memory serves me correctly, the adapters for connecting to light sockets came in two and three way units (apart from single plugs), the luxury versions even had a push button operated switch built in for part switching.

There were also some widely used methods for getting around lighting circuit fuses that blew regularly, but I will not go into that!

All of this madness seemed to work, but I think in reality it was probably something of a miracle that so many of us survived the days gone by.

Edited By V8Eng on 02/08/2017 19:37:42

Edited By V8Eng on 02/08/2017 19:41:10

Edited By V8Eng on 02/08/2017 19:46:14

Samsaranda02/08/2017 21:33:34
908 forum posts
5 photos

When we bought our first house in 1980 the house was about twenty years old and the previous owner had carried out some dubious modifications to the electrics. When refitting the kitchen I discovered a twin 13 amp wall socket which was connected with lighting cable, following this back to source I found a joint box and it was connected to the immersion heater supply which was fused with a 30 amp fuse, it is frightening to think what could have happened if the socket had drawn any where near 13 amps. Also a friend of mine who was not clued up about electrics fitted an electric shower in his bathroom and was puzzled why his lights went dim every time anyone had a shower. Yes you guessed it he had wired the shower into the lighting circuit, he didn't suffer a fire before someone enlightened him but it could have had disastrous consequences.


Ian S C03/08/2017 03:43:58
7468 forum posts
230 photos

I still use dad's Solon. I also rember reading of battery chaging being done from the DC mains with a voltage dropper cable.

Ian S C

robjon4403/08/2017 09:00:14
119 forum posts

Hi all, I acquired a couple of enormous old electric soldering irons when I cleared out my father in laws shed, the sort that need 2 hands to lift them & the street lights go dim when you switch them on, did a few successful car radiator repairs with them in the days when people did that sort of thing, also good for warming bearing housings before dropping new bearings in.

However, to further my aeromodelling activities, at 13 years of age I purchased a DeeGee 25 watt soldering iron from Woolworths for the princely sum of seven shillings & sixpence, last week I tinned some wires with it, so 60 years later I figured it was money well spent. My building buddys father worked in the workshop of the local electricity board so we had 2 volt glass accumulators the size of a building brick that we used to start our glo plug engines, his dad taking them to work to charge them, none of them nancy boy Lithium Ion rechargeables in them days matey! I have long held the view that it is possible to die of nostalgia, but then I haven't got over Johnny Kidd & the Pirates yet,


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