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Alexander master toolmaker

Jamming in vertical travel

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David Broadbent21/12/2019 14:22:21
30 forum posts
30 photos

I have an Alexander Master Toolmaker milling machine which appears only able to travel about 4" up from its fully down position. This applies in both power and manual modes. Then a couple of days ago it jammed completely, (in the up position) unable to move up or down,.

Can anyone on here shed any light as to what might be the problem? I would hate to dismantle the machine just to find out I had made some basic error in settings which was causing the problem! ( I have already ensured the moveable stops are all well away from the saddle!)

By jiggling about with the crank that cancels the power vertical feed I have been able to restore its limited movement, but would like to have it working as it should if anyone here can offer some advice as to how to go about it?

Michael Gilligan21/12/2019 17:06:40
16422 forum posts
715 photos

Sorry, I can’t offer any advice, David ... but I wish you success with a mighty fine machine.

I believe it’s closely based on the Deckel FP1, so this link may be useful: **LINK**


not done it yet21/12/2019 18:34:45
5041 forum posts
20 photos

I know nothing of this machine, apart from a quick look at lathesdotco. Just thought I would ask: Are you persevering with your Raglan?

daveb21/12/2019 19:43:43
623 forum posts
10 photos

Don't know what the gibs are like on the Alexander but it happens occasionally with Bridgeports, it's caused by the knee gib breaking and locking the knee.

David Broadbent21/12/2019 21:22:35
30 forum posts
30 photos

The vertical gib on this machine appears tapered along its length. There are no screws along its run to adjust the friction as you might expect, just a cut out at the lower, thicker end which locates on the head of a screw. Tightening the screw pushes the tapered gib into position until all play is eliminated.

Whatever is stopping the movement of the machine is solid, like two gears coming together but out of mesh. The fact it does this consistantly at 4" from full down must be significant to anyone who has had one of these machines apart before I would think? I have my fingers crossed that such a person responds to this post!

But thank you all very much for your comments which are all useful when you are out of ideas of your own! And yes, I an still persevering with the 5" Raglan, which continues to surprise me with its capability. A fine machine.

David Colwill22/12/2019 07:48:37
654 forum posts
34 photos

On some tapered gib arrangements there is a screw on each end of the gib. These are used to keep the gib from moving once set. If it isn't properly held it can act as a wedge and I would suspect that this is what is happening on your machine. Try to find out how the gib is secured and back it off. If that frees it of readjust and try to look for movement of the gib when moving the slide.



David Broadbent22/12/2019 10:13:54
30 forum posts
30 photos

I can see what you mean about the tendency of a taper gib to wedge, but this machine definitely only has a screw at one end - the bottom end. Also, the saddle stops with a clunk at its limit of travel.

I am at the point of dismantling the machine, to get the saddle off and see what the problem is. Unfortunately I cannnot get the vertical gib out without being able to move the saddle to the top of its travel - which it clearly won't do. So I'm currently stuck. The only thing I can actually do is to try and get the cross slide off to see if that reveals anything of use? Watch this space.

Clive Foster22/12/2019 10:34:01
2389 forum posts
77 photos

Are the nut and screw still securely fixed in their rightful places?

I've met systems where one, or both, being loose and flopping around has severely affected movement. None actually jammed but often a lot of move a bit, back a bit, swear, wiggle and go further this time was needed to get things far enough along to sort therm out. Simple screw and handle or screw, handle & bevel gear systems in my case. I'd be unsurprised to find that the more complex drive on the Alexander had created a hard stop further down the system.


David Broadbent22/12/2019 10:47:47
30 forum posts
30 photos

I have yet to discover anything like a nut and screw arrangement as you describe. I suspect any nut on the vertical screw must be within the saddle, so would need to remove that to find out? This is my first shot at dismantling a milling machine so I don't have much experience of other machines to compare. Sadly haven't worked out how to post photos on this forum either - but there is another thread I found on Alexander milling machines posted by Mark Smith of a beautiful restoration job he has done on an identical machine that will show you what it looks like. !

Michael Gilligan22/12/2019 11:02:11
16422 forum posts
715 photos


I hope you found this, via yesterday’s link

There’s almost sure to be some differences, but all those lovely exploded views should help.



P.S. for advice regarding posting photos ... See this [the top item in FAQs]


P.P.S. Mark Smith’s thread:

Edited By Michael Gilligan on 22/12/2019 11:18:54

not done it yet22/12/2019 12:03:22
5041 forum posts
20 photos

From the quick read of lathesdotco, it directs one towards the deckel section. There it states:

... All table movements (around 300 mm longitudinally and 340 mm vertically) were fitted with automatic tripping stops with the upper one, to limit the table's vertical rise, ...

Perhaps that possibly has some significance?

David Broadbent22/12/2019 14:59:01
30 forum posts
30 photos

Regarding the notes in lathesdotco, I think I have safely removed all of the automatic stops around the saddle of the machine. When the carriage stops, it is nowhere near anything "external" to the carriage.

Regarding the Deckel link, Michael, I have indeed studied it and conclude that it is somewhere within pages 20 and 18 that my problem resides. All I need to do is be able to remove the carriage to look at it!

I will try to get some pictures up on this thread using the link provided.

Thanks again everybody - we shall get there.

David Broadbent22/12/2019 15:17:40
30 forum posts
30 photos

I have just uploaded several photos of milling machine being stripped to its carriage in an album called Alexander miller. The last photo shows it stripped down to only its carriage still attached. I need to know how to get the carriage off in order to address the problem of why it is jammed.

Ian Welford22/12/2019 19:26:29
294 forum posts


I too have such a machine but have never taken it to bits to the level you seem to be going. I do have the manual which has several exploded parts views if that would be helpful?


mark smith 2022/12/2019 20:18:24
671 forum posts
331 photos

Hi David have you checked the key that is in the vertical travel leadscrew, mine has a habit if slipping out which of course stops any movement , it may have jamed something.But may be wrong.


P.s i had everything to bits apart from the main gearing in the column which was all perfect.

Edited By mark smith 20 on 22/12/2019 20:19:36

David Broadbent22/12/2019 22:50:00
30 forum posts
30 photos

Mark, the problem I have is access to likely culprits. If you look at the photos I uploaded you can see exactly where the carriage is on the machine. It can move further down (maybe 4", but no further up. I can't see a key in the leadscrew that is currently exposed - unless I have misunderstood?

Having had all of the machine apart, how did you get the horizontal spindle unit off the machine? I have loosened the collar behind the main bearing (pictures in the album) and removed the grub screw from the gear wheel, but the whole thing remains as solid as a rock! If I ever get the carriage moving I was thinking I would need to get the horizontal spindle unit off in order to remove the carriage from the machine - is that correct?

As you clearly have a great deal of relevant expertise I will message you my contact details and perhaps we could talk on the phone?

Ian, I would be delighted to see exploded parts views of this machine if you can send them to try and figure out what it is that might be jamming the vertical travel mechanism.

Thank youeverybody for your help.

Phil P22/12/2019 23:12:23
658 forum posts
166 photos

From memory I think the horizontal head has to come off the front of the column, that means removing the rear bracket that carries the feed screw.

On mine the vertical power feed did not work and it was due to some missing or damaged dog clutch parts. There are also some bevel gears in there, and I think they have some sheer pins installed to protect it from crashes.

I am afraid it was nearly 20 years ago since my late father stripped it and rebuilt everything so that it all works, and my memory might not be spot on.

I have lots of hand drawn sketches that my dad did of the gearing inside etc, if you can use them I will scan them for you.


Phil P22/12/2019 23:38:58
658 forum posts
166 photos

I knew I had once seen something of use to you and have just found it again.


Have a look at this to get an idea what needs to be done, it does not answer your limited travel problem though.

I think I would be suspecting damage to the keyway in the vertical shaft for the horizontal feed, there is not much else that could prevent it sliding up, there is at least one plug on the vertical column where the internal shafts fit, I suppose one of those could have come loose and be protruding and catching on the back of the saddle.


David Broadbent23/12/2019 10:05:23
30 forum posts
30 photos

Absolutely wonderful! Thank you very much for posting this lot - I recognise nearly all of it! The only difference I have seen between my machine and this is that the rear carrier of the y axis leadscrew has just got two allen screws holding it in. Otherwise the same.

My problem remains my inability to get the carriage to move upwards more than 4 inches. I notice in your snaps the bottom screw carrier on the vertical spindle is still attached to the machine when the carriage is removed - you have simply wound out the vertical screw to free the carriage. I'm wondering if I could remove this bottom screw carrier with the carriage still in place? This would free the carriage - but that bottom screw carrrier is bolted and pinned in place? Is there enough rocking movement in the carriage with gib strip loose to allow those pins to clear? Otherwise I am at a loss to understand how I can get the carriage off to repair whatever has gone wrong?

Thanks again for the wonderful post!

mark smith 2023/12/2019 10:13:27
671 forum posts
331 photos

The carriage has to come of the top of the column its not easy its very heavy,i had to attach a make shift pully to the rafter in my shed roof and my wife held the rope (with much complaining surprise) whilst i lifted off the top of the column whilst standing on the base of the machine. Two strong people may be able to lift it off without needing a pulley or winch.

Of course the horizontal drive part has to be removed first.

The key i mentioned is in the keyway on the round drive rod in the first photo next to the leadscrew. Its supposed to sit  in the area within the cover where the nut is, lower down on the column. If you remove the cover plate  you can check the key is in place .

Edited By mark smith 20 on 23/12/2019 10:15:24

006_feed selector removal.jpg

008_feed selector removal.jpg

Edited By mark smith 20 on 23/12/2019 10:26:45

Edited By mark smith 20 on 23/12/2019 10:30:25

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