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Getting my Britannia No.13 into use

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Tony Jackson16/07/2021 13:35:43
11 forum posts
10 photos

Hi, I'm a newcomer, so please correct me if I make errors of style or etiquette!

I've retired to a village in France where I’ve a house within walking distance of the shops, but with a smaller workshop than the one I had in the UK. I'm 78 years old, and I speak reasonable French, but I've taken the view that driving to the shops may get less sensible in another decade or two.. My 6-inch Harrison and my magnificent double-headed Pollard 15AX are sold– I wasn't sure about the local 3-phase, and anyway there wasn't room for them here!
I found a single-headed Pollard Corona 1AX which is now in use, and I brought my (1890-1910?) Britannia treadle lathe, which I now want to put to use.img_0958.jpeg
The main problem I have is that the end-float control/rear mandrel bearing arrangement prove to be damaged. What I presume had a tapered point has none,img_0920.jpeg and the mandrel-end has a small conical centre (I think).img_0926.jpeg If the damaged part can be found that would be a solution, but the piece is not hard, so I could drill it and insert a suitable piece made up from silver steel perhaps, or maybe some one knows of a cone-shaped piece of tungsten carbide which would be suitable?

When I bought the lathe, a good many years ago, a tool-maker friend kindly took the flywheel and its connecting rod to get then blast-cleaned and powder-coated. Months went by while I got on with other things, before I called to ask how he was doing. Alas, he had died, and the parts were lost! I've bought an old French sewing machine which had the right-sized main pulley, albeit with only one groove, and much less mass. img_0960.jpeg Plan A is to make up a shaft which will fit the bearing hole in the stand, and pick up the flywheel/pulley. The lathe came with an additional flywheel, which clearly was fitted on the outboard side of the stand, img_0959.jpegso the shaft would need to be longer to carry that, too, if an original flywheel cannot be found. Perhaps some one with a Britannia which they've electrified might have one? (as indeed the PO of the sewing machine had done with that).

Does anyone know whether this additional flywheel was correct? I've hunted on, and among pictures I've found online without seeing one. It looks to be about the right period and style?

There are some other things – the handle of the backwards/forwards pinions hs been broken off, so I need to repair that if the part cannot be found. I've also got only six change-wheels, so I'm interested in topping them up, including, of course, finding/making a 127 for metric work.

I've a fair few details to address, a few on the Pollard, too, but getting this mandrel bearing sorted is an early priority!

Best regards, Tony.

old mart16/07/2021 19:48:18
3316 forum posts
203 photos

Hi Tony, welcome to the forum, it looks like you will be having fun just getting the lathe running, metric threads can take a back seat.

Bill Davies 216/07/2021 22:18:07
242 forum posts
11 photos

Hi, Tony, and welcome. I have what I think is a Britannia No. 14. There is a large ball bearing (a ball, not a ball race) which takes the axial load. I don't know whether it is an original feature. It's under a load of 'stuff' (a future project...) but I can check the details if it helps. Mine would have been a treadle lathe but someone (short?) cut the bottoms of the legs off, so it sits on wooden blocks to bring it up to a suitable height - I'm 5'10''.


Nigel Graham 216/07/2021 23:13:59
1676 forum posts
20 photos

The original treadlre-pulley was quite likely heavy enough to be flywheel as well, but I don't think mating the sewing-machine pulley with that round-rimmed flywheel will compromise things too much even if not original. It's good to see the lathe is back in good hands!

I had a Drummond early-B type for a while and wondered about making a foot-motor for it, only to discover some previous owner had gone to the trouble of hacksawing the treadle-shaft journals off the legs!

Tony Jackson17/07/2021 08:28:49
11 forum posts
10 photos

Hi all, thanks for the kind replies.

Bill's Britannia 14 gets a good many photos on the site, which are a good reference for many things, but the rear headstock bearing arrangement is different from mine (though no less surprising!)

Mine is the same as is described thus on the site for the 2 and 3: (see )

This very early, possibly pre-1880, plain turning Britannia lathe Model No. 3 shown above and in the photographs below has an overall length of 29.75", a height of 5.25 inches and a bed 2.5" wide. The centre height is 3 inches and the capacity between centres 18".
The headstock spindle is carried in a single bearing - with its left-hand end held against a pointed support carried in an adjustable holder that fits into the space normally occupied by the left-hand bearing. This was a popular way, at the time, of arranging the headstock of a light-duty lathe and, despite its shortcomings, was a design that many makers persisted in using for several decades.

My headstock is not identical to the one shown here (which has machined-flat surfaces on the sides of its sole), but the rear bearing appears to be the same

The next generation, 14, 15 and 16 all have an adjustable bridge across the back of the headstock and the mandrel extended to meet it. Easy to imagine a steel ball here. There is a good clear photo half-way down this page:

I guess if the mandrel were hardened a suitable centre-drilling and a steel ball could serve on my set-up (I don't know why they went to the trouble of the bridge?)

If I can find a used-but serviceable replacement for the pointed screw I'd prefer that – or even a photo, showing what it should look like!

Best regards (and thanks) Tony.

Edited By Tony Jackson on 17/07/2021 13:58:22

Mod edit: fixed the formatting

Edited By SillyOldDuffer on 17/07/2021 16:00:45

Tony Jackson17/07/2021 08:30:35
11 forum posts
10 photos

Sorry, the formatting has made my text look the same as the quoted stuff from the lathes site. From 'My headstock' onwards is me!

Howard Lewis17/07/2021 15:02:11
5237 forum posts
13 photos

If the end thrust and float is accommodated by a ball bearing in the end of the small item shown, and it is soft,(Assuming that the ball bearing was not help in an extension piece ) the location for the ball could be made by drilling a hole the same diameter as the ball, and JUST over half it's diameter in depth. (Say 0.025 - 0.030" ) With ball fully down in the drilling, the outer edge can then be peened over to retain the ball.

If the large pulley does not provide sufficient flywheel effect, the moment of inertia can be increased by clamping weights (equal ) to the outer end of each spoke. Obviously, ensure that the weights and their fixings do not foul anything (Your leg especially! ) when the wheel rotates.

Once the lathe is running, you will be able to make a replacement handle for the Tumbler Reverse.

The Centre Lathe is the one machine tool capable of being used to reproduce itself!

I hope that you took your Whitworth and BSF Taps and Dies with you! You are going to need them!



Tony Jackson17/07/2021 17:50:51
11 forum posts
10 photos

Hi Howard,

I did indeed bring my Whitworth, BSF, UNF, UNC taps and dies with me!

I've done a bit of a study of the available information about the rear bearings – pictures I've found, Tony Griffiths' accounts etc.

Text copied from in Bold

On the Britannia 2 and 3 the design of the headstock was initially pretty simple, a front bearing, and a centre spike and socket controlling both end-float and axial accuracy at the rear end of the headstock mandrel.
Both models could also be ordered, for £1 : 10s : 0d extra, with its headstock spindle and bearings in hardened steel

At half the price of the basic lathe the hardening, however it was achieved, was very costly!

Back-gear was also available on the No. 3 lathe but, as this involved an entirely different headstock with two spindle bearings, and the end thrust taken by a swan-neck casting bolted to the end of the bed (the arrangement can just be made out in the picture above), the cost almost doubled to £4 : 0s : 0d. When fitted with backgear the lathe could also be specified with a heavier pattern of bed, based on that used for the No. 13 lathe, where the section that bowed downwards as it approached the headstock held a proper detachable bridge - and all for an extra charge of just £1.

This arrangement was further developed for the 13, in that the rear of the headstock casting incorporated the end-float control screw (as it had now become) into a development of the rear back-gear carrier, rendering the interim bracket bolted to the end of the lathe bed redundant. Tony’s account suggests that the 13 was already available when backgear was made optional on the 3. This makes it hard to understand why they didn’t just use the 13 headstock casting?

I have the 1899 catalogue, which seems to list pretty much all the lathes, albeit not always in the form that one sees nowadays. E.g. the table between lathe and legs is not often show, but seems often to be visible today?

It would be very good to find out just when the different models became available!

From this and the pictures I've accumulated it looks to me as though a rear bearing was incorporated on the 13, and in my case it looks to have a means of moving it axially. But it looks to me that end-float was still controlled by a 'spike in the adjustable piece which passes through the modified rear-end of the headstock casting.

I don't have anything very obvious with which to try and turn the cap on the rear bearing, but I'm guessing it is over-tight. While I've got the backgear spinning perpetual-motion style I'm still well short of that on the mandrel, even when the backgear and the tumbler gears a in neutral. I guess I need a bit of suitably thickish plate to drill holes in!

Here is how mine was:img_0917.jpeg

You can see what looks like a brass nut with nasty little radial holes for me to try and turn it with? This, and the integrated bracket holding the 'push from behind' object are characteristic of the 13, and the later No.3's

Here, on the other hand, courtesy of Tony Griffiths, is an earlier arrangement, on a No.3. You can see the cone and the simplified rear end of the headstock casting (which clearly, like mine, has a thread in it!).

Also, in this case there needs to be an adapter to permit a MT1 centre to be fitted (and something to drive the work). On my 13 I think the mandrel has a MT1 bore – it certainly has a big enough hole in it!


And here is the later arrangement, again depending on a ball as yu have described, but now differently supported on a No.14 (this also courtesy of the site. Actually this is more similar to mine than I initially realised. There is the brass – or maybe not brass – nut apparently holding the rear bearing in place, while the bridge-and-two-studs scheme does the axial pushing?


Best regards, Tony

Tony Jackson18/07/2021 10:18:52
11 forum posts
10 photos

Hi Bill,

I have what I think is a Britannia No. 14. There is a large ball bearing (a ball, not a ball race) which takes the axial load. I don't know whether it is an original feature. It's under a load of 'stuff' (a future project...) but I can check the details if it helps. Mine would have been a treadle lathe but someone (short?) cut the bottoms of the legs off, so it sits on wooden blocks to bring it up to a suitable height - I'm 5'10''.

Thanks for your note - bad about the legs! It would be helpful if at some point you were able to photograph the 'end-thrust-ball' arrangement. I'd been worrying about how to ensure that any drilling I make in the end screw of my 13 was exactly central, and I did wonder whether the later arrangement dealt with that problem. The two studs which retain the bridge (and its presumed captive ball) will probably be flexible enough to allow the bearing to deal with radial placing, while the bridge-and-ball deals solely with the axial load. Somewhere I've read an account which suggests that there is/was a taper-roller bearing behind the chuck. If so the bridge would want to be set so that there was Delta-nothing-much of clearance for everything to work smoothly, without loading the rear bearing sideways.

Alas, for the earlier, pre-bridge lathes there are two basic types. Both would presumably rely on a ball, if fitted, to be pretty accurately central in the end-screw to avoid it trying to pull the mandrel out of line insofar as it was not central. I guess one could make a jig, threaded internally to be snug on the tail-screw threads, then kept in the same chuck-setting while its outside was turned smoothly cylindrical... but even then you'd have to open the chuck to get the screw in, and then re-tighten it. Maybe making the position of the work in the chuck would be good enough – i.e. "Jaw number 1", and a mark on the jig showing how far it was entered into the chuck?

If the original was a spike I'm not sure that would be much easier! Just the hole would need to be deeper to take the spike. In fact if it were quite a lot deeper, and the spike were not too thick, this might deliver the bit of flexing needed, if the spike was located some way in, with a bit of clearance for the bulk of its length?

I've an idea I'm over-thinking this!

Best regards, Tony.

Tony Jackson18/07/2021 14:16:58
11 forum posts
10 photos

While I wait for some bits to arrive another question. I notice that some of the Britannias appear to have covered cup-oilers of various kinds fitted to some of their oil holes – notably the headstock bearings, feedscrew, backgear etc. I've put in for a bunch of them from China at modest cost. They describe themselves as '6 mm', so if they are to screw into the bearing housings concerned the existing holes will have to be enlarged. Is there any reason not to do this?

Best, Tony.

Edited By Tony Jackson on 18/07/2021 14:19:07

old mart18/07/2021 14:47:11
3316 forum posts
203 photos

If you don't mind offending the purists and there is enough metal to safely retap the holes, then it is entirely up to you. As the lathe is destined to be actually used rather than made pretty and looked at, then improved oiling is a good idea.

Tony Jackson18/07/2021 16:48:18
11 forum posts
10 photos

Thanks Mart! They'll be a few weeks coming and it may be there is enough metal to cut off the threads and have them a sliding fit, like on the Pollard. I will report!

Best regards, Tony.

Edited By Tony Jackson on 19/07/2021 10:16:53

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