Ancient tools for ancient machinery

The last couple of weeks I have been playing with a new toy. Well its not ‘new’ to be honest, it has probably been owned by quite a few people. I mentioned a while back that I was going to keep an eye out for a old lathe. The Myford light engineering lathes are very popular which unfortunately means that they command an inflated price. I was looking at the Drummond lathes which were less popular, probably because they are older. I found a few Drummonds on Ebay, all looking a little rusty and unloved, then I found one that had been refurbished which I sniped in the last few seconds for less than half the cost of a Myford. Result. The downside? It was quite a way from me in Otley near Leeds and not just round the corner. Still even factoring in the cost of fuel, it was still good value. So I am now a proud owner of a working 1924 Drummond round bed lathe which will enable me to fabricate a lot of the fittings that would otherwise have cost good money.

Drummond were based in Guildford, Surrey and started making lathes in 1902 moving through a number of designs and versions until WW2. In 1942 Myford took over the manufacturing of the Drummond lathes enabling Drummond to concentrate on other tools critical to the war effort. Despite the age of these lathes, a surprising number of them are still in use. There is a 1/2 horsepower electrical motor driving the lathe through a number of pulley’s and belts. The choice of pulley alters the speed.


This lathe also came with a full set of gears enabling the cutting of threads to be made. They fit onto the left side of the lathe in various combinations and depending on the choice of gears you can cut threads from 2 teeth per inch up to 120. Naturally the threads this lathe cuts are the same as the threads used on the Riley! One day I will pluck up the courage to cut a thread but right now, I am learning to use a lathe from scratch. You tube is very helpful in this regard. The basics though are fairly straight forward so after sharpening the tools and setting them into the right position (thanks to YouTube) i had turned my first piece of steel. Next I tried some brass – also straight forward.

I have now made my first item – its not exciting. It is merely a short tubular section of steel with a grub screw threaded into it that will locate the main gear onto the drive shaft. The point is – I made it and didnt have to ask someone else to make one!

Back to the Riley. The sump was off and cleaned up. The sump plug was a very tatty brass plug that some idiot could not undo so he drove a chisel into the side of it and ‘loosened’ it that way. This of course thoroughly mangled it. Initially I had sanded it down so that it looked a little tidier then I thought… hey I have a lathe now. So the plug is now refaced and is usable again. I also took the opportunity to drill some locking wire holes into it because this is a requirement for Vintage cars used in competitions…


The refaced sump plug is not perfect although it IS now round again – there was far too much damage to it but it is now fully functional. The sump can now be refitted then I move onto cleaning out the gearbox…


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