One item of machinery that is common to the 1890's workshop and today is the lathe. Model engineers of the past would be at home with today's machine, the design concept has changed little proving that the designer of yesterday got the basics right from the start. The modern machine is heavier and sturdier and with current manufacturing techniques more accurate. One advantage is that with electric drive there is a constant, even power available over an infinite period unlike the treadle operated machines of yore. One thing that the manpowered workshop taught was the ability to sharpen tools accurately, if a cutter was incorrectly sharpened, set or was allowed to get blunt, it meant more leg power for the operator. You soon learnt the benefit of properly ground and honed lathe tools.
The milling machines common in today's workshop, were unusual in the early workshops. This is not to say our predecessors did not carry out milling operations, they did, but they used the time honoured procedure used by model engineers today using the lathe with a vertical slide mounted on the cross slide. A large number of amateurs' workshops had either a shaper or planer, often hand or treadle driven, although those with overhead shafting meant it was an easy matter to provide a belt drive, especially to a planing machine.
It is easy to see why the shaper and planer were so popular. They were easier to manufacture, the accuracy being in straight slides, they were easy to maintain, the adjustments of the gib strips being similar to that of a lathe and, of course, it did not require any expensive cutters, the common carbon steel could be forged and ground as required.
I can see why the planer has fallen out of use. A medium sized machine requires a lot of room, which, in the average model engineers' workshop
is not available. If the machine is to be of a useful size the table has to be substantial which increases the momentum and energy stored in the table while it is in use. However, it is a most useful piece of workshop equipment, although I have not seen a second-hand example available for many years. Dr. John Bradbury Winter had a 24" stroke example for many years and he records that when he acquired his machine he spent six months refining parts of his model locomotive "Como" taking the merest shavings from the components to improve their finish. This shows that fine, accurate work can be carried out on such a machine.
If you cannot find such a machine, a shaper is a good substitute and they appear regularly in the adverts of second-hand tool dealers. For the production of flat surfaces they have no equal and I am surprised that they do not feature more in the enthusiast's workshop. They have the same advantage as the planer, cheap and easily sharpened cutters. Most types have a self-acting transverse feed which means you can get on with other work while the machine is in operation, and we all know that time is precious for most model engineers.
The milling machine has gained a wide foothold in the amateurs' workshop in the last few years and the reason is not hard to find. There are available relatively compact machines designed with the smaller workshop in mind, and imports of reasonably priced machines from the Far East which suits the pocket of the average model engineer. There are also large quantities of good quality end mills and slot drills available at small cost. For clearing up castings or milling large flat surfaces a fly cutter employs a high speed tool bit which can be produced easily on the off hand grinder.
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