Turning Archive 2005

Subject:
I've seen the future

Mike Swain
>Some months ago I mentioned in a post that I was visiting Silverdrive to look at the new lathes they were building, due to a number of problems and a factory move the visit was put back and eventually cancelled.

A phone call from Silverdrive reawakened my interest and all that I can say is the visit was most certainly well worth the wait. Arriving at Silverdrive's new premises I was greeted with something that looked more like a bank than an engineering company. The frontage to this 16,000 sq ft works was beautifully decked out with displays of flowers and plants in beds and hanging baskets, this has been achieved with the help of pupils from the local school, very impressive indeed.

A quick look inside the building was just as impressive too, a vast array of large, modern machinery capable of all kinds of close tolerance tasks was on show. One being used to surface the bed rails of a lathe with an accuracy of 1 thou over a 3 mtr (118“) length. As well as all the engineering facilities, the building boasts a large showroom area and a massive meeting room that it is hoped will be made available in the future for local clubs.

For those who don't know, Silverdrive were the company behind the development and design of the Euro range of direct drive lathes (Poolewood), so much loved by turners in the UK and the United States. What they've done with the new series of lathes is to take all the qualities of the Euro range and use these as a basis for the new lathes. The new designs incorporating many features developed by Silverdrive or suggested by turners from around the World.

Throughout the development stages, Silverdrive's main intention has been to build the best lathes available in the UK, this by using the best parts available to them and, wherever possible British made parts. One part I noticed was the bearing assembly for the nose of the lathe, this measures almost 3¼“ (80mm) in diameter, comparing this to a similar roller taper bearing that was due to go on the front wheels of Silverdrive's Transit van, the lathe bearing made this look tiny in comparison.

To start the range will consist of four lathes, the flagship Statesman, the Bulldog and two further lathes yet to be named. The Statesman will have either a 2½ HP or a 3HP motor and a 25“ (635mm) swing over the bed. The Bulldog a 22” (558mm) swing with a 2HP motor and the smaller lathes having 1½ HP and 1HP motors and 18½” (469mm) and 16½” (420mm) swings respectively.
The Statesman was on show and ready to run, this finished in the dark red colour now used by Silverdrive, to demonstrate the lack of vibration a 1p coin was stood on end on top of the large 3HP motor (a feat difficult enough on a stationary surface) and it never moved until with the Statesman at full speed it finally rolled along the top of the motor, being pushed by the air coming from the fan inside the motor housing.

It wasn't just the quality and features of the lathes that impressed me but the enthusiasm and the ideas that Silverdrive had. One innovation that has been tried and successfully tested is a dust extractor system that could actually be built into the lathe. Dust being drawn into ducts in the lathe's tool rest, down inside the post and out through the banjo to be collected in the main unit stored in the base cabinet.

At the end of my visit it was mentioned that these lathes will be in production in the very near future and for me anyone considering a new lathe would be well advised to hang on and take a serious long look at the Silverdrive lathes as soon as they're available.

Regards....Mike Swain RPT

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