Although the name Tangye is synonymous with industrial Birmingham - and a famous maker of a vast range of industrial equipment - the maker of the 'Tangyes' lathes shown below carries the cast-in name: Tangyes' Machine Tool Co. Ltd. Birmingham. Hence, this maker's precise relationship with the long history of Tangye Brothers, James Tangye and Brothers, Tangye Brothers & Price and finally, Tangyes Ltd. is not clear - but one must reasonably assume that it was, indeed, by this very successful engineering concern. Examples of the maker's ordinary workshop lathes so far found all seem to have come from the late 1800s to early 1900s, the designs being of a period no later than that.
The first example of a small Tangyes lathe shown below is a carefully restored, light-duty one complete with its treadle-driven flywheel and - though lacking, as yet, the wood tool tray at the rear carried on cast extensions to the legs (this fitting being common on lathes of that era). Backgeared and screwcutting, the lathe carries a typical-for-the-time compound slide-rest assembly with the exposed feed screws operated by crank handles. The bed carries a cast-in badge proclaiming "Prize Medal Paris 1878". Instead of the usual feed by a "direct" screw, the tailstock spindle is moved by a second, parallel screw, a system also found on a number of other contemporary lathes.
Shown below the restored model is a Tangyes that was discovered complete, but badly neglected, in an abandoned building and still connected to its wall-mounted countershaft unit. Approximately 7-feet long, the lathe takes around 60 inches between centres and is constructed using a typically English style of bed with a flat top, dovetail sides and a detachable gap piece. The headstock spindle thrust is taken - in a typically Victorian manner - by an outboard plate mounted on two posts; the backgear ratio is 10 : 1 and the chuck fitted a period 8-inch diameter Taylor with its three dangerous, protruding jaw keys. At some point in the past, the headstock pulley was changed to a 4-groove V-type to take an A-section belt and, from the relative narrowness of this fitting, the original might well have been just a 2-step flat-belt cone pulley. With only four speeds available - two in open drive and two in backgear - the countershaft drive would almost certainly have been arranged to at least double the number.
Interestingly, the lathe is constructed to carry, at the tailstock end, a vertical milling attachment, the bed at this point shaped to form a mounting platform for the miller's main column. In front of the column is a 10-inch diameter rotary table, turned by worm-and-wheel gearing; a dovetail, screw-feed slide is provided for the X feed with the Y being both by sliding the whole assembly along the bed and under the control of a screw - the handwheel for this being mounted against the bed's end face. The drive is picked up from an extension to the lathe countershaft, a 3-step pulley mounted rotating a horizontal shaft with the motion turned through 90° by bevel gears to turn the spindle.
Another useful item is a "quick-retract" handle on the cross-feed screw, its aim being to provide a way of screwcutting at high spindle speeds - the mechanism including a very coarse thread with the lever locking into notches in the handwheel and overriding the action of the cross-feed screw. Happily, the lathe shown is now in the hands of a sympathetic owner who intends to restore it.
The third Tangyes lathe shown is a small 3.3" x 20", bench-mounted, backgeared, gap-bed and screwcutting type with its original 3-step flat-belt pulley replaced by a multi-step V-type. This too carried the Paris medal of 1878 - though from its appearance and specification - and clearly intended for use by an amateur - it is more likely to have been made in the 1920s
The fourth example of a Tangyes lathes is a complete contrast to all the others in being a huge "tyre-turning" type that's stored in the Crich Tramway Museum's off-site store in Derbyshire. "Tyre-turning" and "wheel-turning" were descriptions used by rail and tramway engineers for a lathe with two headstocks that could accommodate an axle and a pair of wheels, the idea being to machine both wheels so that they were exactly the same size and running on the same axle centre. Appearing to be mostly complete, it's in a neglected and rusty condition but, like all very large machines, so long as complete with no damaged castings will almost certainly be recoverable to working order. Similar examples of "wheel-turning" lathes can be seen on the pages devoted to the maker Deuthland Dortmund, a patent by G.G.Lobdell in the USA and a specialised journal truing and axle lathe with four independent carriages by the Bridgeford Company..
If you have a Tangyes lathe or other machine tool (or any Company literature), the writer would be very interested to hear from you..