My Grandfather was foreman at a paper mill in the town where I lived. At some point the mill had retired a small machine which looked and acted just like a lathe. It was actually a Dexter Valve Re-seating Machine made by The Leavitt Machine Co. in Orange, MA. >>>>>>>>>>> My Grandfather took it home and "put it to good use". For me, sneaking into his garage shop left me memories of huge clumps of long steel curlies and the heavy perfume of machine oil.
When he passed away it was kept in storage across the street at his machinist neighbor's house. Here it stayed for about 10 years. He stored it for his son - my uncle - who lived in Hawaii and planned to move out to New England to retire and work on guns (his favorite hobby). As time went on, though, he decided to stay put. When he heard I was knee-deep in the clock world he wrote me to take the lathe and "put it to good use" (he too sadly passed away recently). So I rescued it from storage, completely disassembled it and soaked all the parts in kerosene, then re-oiled everything and set it up on a small bench in my basement shop, intending to put it to good use.
From a machining standpoint I can't really see why this isn't considered a lathe other than the compound slide has less than a 1-inch travel - and there's the rub: you can do a lot of things with this handicap, but there are a lot of things you can't do. To make it unfriendlier, the headstock does not have a hollow spindle; the threaded end only accepts the 3-jaw chuck that came with it. Finally, since it was not technically a lathe there were no accessories available to outfit it as a proper shop lathe.
Because I already had a Schaublin lathe and plenty of accessories I felt that designing and making accessories to fit the Leavitt would not be in my best interest of time or money. As much as I loved it, Craigslist began to cross my mind.........
A few months ago a clockmaker friend of mine was visiting my shop. I was telling him about my issues with the Leavitt and how I was thinking of getting rid of it. His wise words still ring: "don't ever get rid of anything like that...you'll always find a use for it".
I spend a lot of time at my basement desk; I like to do all of my "dirty" work there - pivot polishing, cleaning, re-bushing, laying out & making new parts, etc. - and using my upstairs desk for final assembly in a clean environment. Sitting at the basement desk, though, I stare directly at the Leavitt and while I work I'm always stopping and looking at it, wondering what I could do to make it a useful part of my shop.
Now, I love my Wheelcutter, but I wanted a simpler method of cutting gears without the time consuming set-up.
I acquired a Logan Lathe awhile back which gives me the ability to cut threads (which the Schaublin unfortunately does not). Although I love the Logan, the best part of the purchase was the 10 billion accessories and STUFF that came with it. Well, one day I was sifting through the stuff and I pulled out a 6" diameter steel faceplate with a 1/2" thread. I ran downstairs and pulled the back gears off of the Leavitt and found that the faceplate threaded on perfectly. From there I made up a threaded arbor and chucked the faceplate up in the dividing head, mounting it on my milling machine. The direct index plate was soon complete with divisions of 96, 84, 72, etc. and my Leavitt "Dexter Valve Re-Seating Machine" was beginning it's metamorphoses into my newest wheel cutting engine>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
More to come......................................
The New Wheel Cutting Engine An Ongoing Saga
Direct Indexing Plate with Spring-Loaded Advance Pin
I'm armed and ready if I ever need to re-seat a Dexter Valve