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Boxford C Lathe

Boxford not able to engage reverse gear

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Steve Jones 2018/04/2020 14:15:21
17 forum posts
13 photos

My 1958 Boxford C Lathe is not letting me select reverse, am I doing something wrong or are the gears faulty. I can use the lathe normally but not in reverse.

When I select what I think is reverse (as I’m a novice) the gears seem to just lock up.

What advice can anyone offer?



Martin Cargill18/04/2020 14:42:44
131 forum posts

I'm guessing that the reverse lever (the red knob) is there to reverse the direction of the feed shaft by introducing an extra gear into the train, it wont reverse the direction of the main spindle. On my Viceroy (a similar machine) you have to reverse the feed shaft in order to use the saddle and cross slide in their normal dirctions.


On the viceroy there is a separate lever for locking the main spindle to remove the chuck, looking at the photo you have provided it may be that the red knob is doing this job as well and it may have three positions - Forward, Reverse and Spindle Lock. look for a pin that's engaging in the holes that can be seen in the main spindle.



I just had a look on youtube - there is a video showing the controls on a boxford lathe, don't know if its the same as yours but its worth having a look   

Edited By Martin Cargill on 18/04/2020 14:47:07

Edited By Martin Cargill on 18/04/2020 15:00:49

old mart18/04/2020 15:36:07
1740 forum posts
138 photos

Most lathes reverse the motor ,not the gearing to reverse the spindle. If you are new to lathes, be aware that your chuck is screwed on and selecting reverse brings the danger of it unscrewing as soon as reverse is selected. A spinning chuck bouncing off the bed of the lathe and onto your toes is not something to look forward to. Reverse is usually only used in the very slow speeds. It would be a good idea to get hold of a manual for the lathe before you have an accident. "lathes UK" have a list of useful manuals and parts lists for sale on their website.

Clive Brown 118/04/2020 15:53:59
426 forum posts
12 photos

Can't add much to Martin's reply, but "locking up" sounds a trifle worrying in case of damage. Do you mean the main spindle or just the gears themselves. The red knob has three positions, each with a spring detent.

For a Boxford "C", with no power cross-feed;

1, carriage moving right to left; 2. neutral; 3. carriage moving left to right.

To reverse the main spindle, the motor must be reversed by its switch.

The change gears should be set up with small but definite free backlash between each stage, otherwise they might bind up at some point in their rotation. This backlash on the banjo gears can be adjusted by small movement of the axles which are clamped by a nut behind each gear. The mesh of the topmost gear can be adjusted by slackening the clamp bolt behind the gear on the leadscrew and swinging the whole banjo.

 Put the red knob in neutral and see if you can turn the gears by hand in both directions.

Hope that helps.

Edited By Clive Brown 1 on 18/04/2020 15:55:21

Bob Brown 118/04/2020 16:12:31
1010 forum posts
127 photos

If we are talking about reversing the lead screw then the reversing system is quite simple.

The double gear drive on the lever pivot about the shaft that shows two gears, there are three positions fwd, neutral and reverse. In its current position the headstock shaft drives through the left gear and then to the right and down the gear train. In the opposite direction the left hand gear becomes redundant and drive is direct from the right hand gear.




Edited By Bob Brown 1 on 18/04/2020 16:16:59

Sam Spoons18/04/2020 16:47:50
80 forum posts

As has been said, the red lever reverses the lead screw not the spindle. Like you I'm a novice (not done any lathe work since school days) and my 'numpty moment' was engaging the back gear while the lathe was still in direct drive. The direct drive lever is the one on the front of the headstock close to the chuck, the back gear lever is the grey one between the spindle and the counter shaft pulleys in your pic. I'm guessing this is not the problem you are having but just in case I thought it worth mentioning.

Edited By Sam Spoons on 18/04/2020 16:48:31

Clive Brown 118/04/2020 19:16:04
426 forum posts
12 photos

Ah!! Sam's comment has prompted me to wonder if the OP is indeed thinking that the back-gear lever is for reversing the spindle. This would indeed lock thing up until the lever by the chuck , not shown in the photo, is operated.

Oldiron18/04/2020 19:28:12
442 forum posts
22 photos

Get yourself a copy of Boxford's "Know your Lathe" book. Available on the internet or if you have trouble getting it PM me.


not done it yet18/04/2020 19:34:08
4630 forum posts
16 photos

It seems as though the ‘back gear’ needs explanation to the OP. It is for selecting a lower range of spindle speeds - whether in forwards or reverse - not for changing rotational direction of the spindle.

Edited By not done it yet on 18/04/2020 19:34:31

Bob Brown 118/04/2020 20:00:37
1010 forum posts
127 photos

know your lathe link

Bazyle18/04/2020 20:20:22
5205 forum posts
201 photos

Maybe a bit more info about how you are selecting reverse would help us. If it is the red lever then a picture end on like Bob's would help us as perhaps your lathe has the wrong gears on this cluster.

To select reverse of the direction of the spindle and chuck you have to have a motor that does reverse and a correctly worked switch.

To select back gear you first move the lever on the front of the headstock to the left, then move the layshaft lever on the left of the headstock upwards and may need to slightly move the chuck and belt to get things into mesh, then test it by moving the belt by hand, then find the oil points for both the layshaft and the pulley block and oil them and the groove that is on the front of the bull wheel (biggest gear) and finally you are ready to go.

Steve Jones 2018/04/2020 21:55:39
17 forum posts
13 photos

So, I followed instructions from “Know your lathe manual” and advice from those above (thanks guys, much appreciated) but I’m still having some issues. If I want to do some screw cutting I cant reverse the lathe.

Apart from the neutral position, when I put the reverse lever in the up or down position the main leadscrew revolves in the same direction as the main spindle.

boxford gears.jpg

Sam Spoons18/04/2020 22:17:44
80 forum posts

Sounds like the tumbler gears are not engaging properly*, on my model C the lead screw turns the same way as the spindle with the lever in the up position (when using it for carriage feed the carriage moves towards the headstock) and 'backwards' with the lever in the down position.

* and possibly there is something else wrong if it is locking up/

Bob Brown 118/04/2020 22:24:12
1010 forum posts
127 photos

If you look at the two pictures I posted it shows the gears set in either direction, as I have a AUD the forward and reverse probably gets used more for saddle or cross feeds rather than cutting threads. Feed options are not available on a CUD.

Why would you want too reverse the lead screw unless you were cutting a LH thread?

I usually just quickley wind the tool out (noting the depth of cut) and stop the lathe, then depending on the length of thread either, leaving the lead screw engaged, wind back by hand or carefully reverse the machine taking noting that the chuck is screwed on.

Sam Spoons18/04/2020 22:40:52
80 forum posts

AFAIK the C doesn't have a power cross feed in any of it's versions. But yes, surely reverse feed of the lead screw would cut a LH thread?

Steve Jones 2018/04/2020 22:58:21
17 forum posts
13 photos

Thanks guys, yeah, I take the point of winding the tool out (noting the depth of cut) by hand. I just thought that if the spec says it has reverse then it should at least work or I’ve got to fix it somehow.

If the tumbler gears are not engaging properly then I’ve got issues.

All advice is welcome


Sam Spoons18/04/2020 23:06:56
80 forum posts

Have a look at Bob Brown's pics above the top pic the LS will turn the opposite way to the the spindle, in the bottom it will turn the same way. The only way this could be otherwise would be if both tumblers are not engaging in the 'down' position but the single tumbler was still engaging with the spindle fully and the top change gear. It's easy enough to check by turning the chuck by hand and watching the gears move.

If you're still stuck tomorrow let me know I'll post a couple of short videos of how my Model C change gear work.

Steve Jones 2018/04/2020 23:39:16
17 forum posts
13 photos

Thanks Sam.

Sam Spoons18/04/2020 23:39:46
80 forum posts

First pic is forward second is reverse. In the first pic the left hand tumbler gear is not engaged with either the spindle gear or the on on the lower idler gear, they are connected by the RH tumbler. The odd number of gears mean the Layshaft will turning the same direction as the spindle, the second pic the RH tumbler engages with the lower idler gear but to the spindle only via the RH tumbler giving an even number of gears and reversing the direction of the layshaft. Your lathe has an additional gear in there which would reverse the direction (as well as changing the thread pitch) but it shouldn't affect the working if the tumbler gears.

Paul Lousick19/04/2020 00:03:21
1405 forum posts
540 photos

Hi Steve,

Your Boxford lathe is similar to my Southbend which was originally fitted with a reversible motor to change the direction of the spindle. It does not have gearing to do this.

The lever on your lathe with the red knob is for reversing the direction of the lead screw.

The lever at the back is for engaging the back gears that turn the spindle at a slower speed. But when engaged, a drive pin (shown in the photo) has to be dis-engaged otherwise they will lock-up and could cauld cause damage to the gears.


back gear.jpg

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