Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Monarch Lathe Survey

I had the opportunity to survey an interesting lathe recently. I appeared on our local Craigslist with a couple of sub-optimal camera phone pictures. Since it was local I sent the guy an email note inquiring about it to see if I could get a look at it. The machine is a 1964 Monarch Model 71 engine lathe. The lathe has a twenty inch swing (500mm) and  is seventy eight inches (2000mm) between centers.This particular machine has a hydraulic tracer attachment along the back side of the bed.
The first thing I noticed was the tailstock. What caught my attention was how massive it was. On closer inspection it has some very cool features.
Starting on the left the quill has very nice graduations engraved into a groove milled into the surface. The diameter of the tailstock quill was like a huge slab of baloney and over four inches around. Surprisingly the internal taper was only a #3 Morse which looked oddly small for such a massively built tailstock. The second cool feature was its own independent oiling system. I even gave her a pump for old times sake. Looking lower below the oiler we see a really nice feature for large lathes. The curved arm headed downward is a hand crank pinion that engages the rack under the ways and allows you to crank the heavy tailstock into position.
In this photo we see a couple of neat things. The lever on top is to change gear ratios for the tailstock. It has three positions, High, Low and Neutral. The lever shifts perfectly even though nobody has moved it in at least fifteen years according to the owner. I must have shifted it a dozen times playing with it. The angled handwheel is much more ergonomic than the standard type at the end of the tailstock.
It doesn't show very well but the cap on the rear of the quill has a graduated dial that reads to .001 (25 Microns). It does not move in and out with the quill it only rotates with no through hole to the quill ID. The lock levers, yes two can just be seen below the handwheel.
Moving along the machine we see some of the apron and cross slide. She shows some signs of rough handling on the carriage. In this shot you can see the pipsqueak Morse taper hole in the tailstock quill.
Looking down from the top we see part of the tracer attachment and control feedback. This side of the machine must have been bumped with a forklift as the spinning handles on all the handwheels were broken. Thankfully the shafts were not bent. I was able to turn everything even with fifteen years of dirt and dust on it.
I always liked Monarchs dual feed lever setup. No funky shifting required and you can engage both at the same time if you dare. Nice large diameter wheel with fine straight serrations on the rims. In this shot you can also see the center bed support. It has dual chip pans and a center foot support that wraps around. The chip pans are heavy duty and looked to be massive cast bits.
Up near the headstock now. The ways look rusty but in reasonable shape. Unfortunate on the rust but not the end of the world. At least there were no gouges near the typically heavily used chuck area. I believe Monarchs had hardened ways on many of their machines. Cam-lock spindle nose. The though hole was pretty small which is typical of many American lathes.
Here is some of the controls at the headstock. You can see it had electric range shifting and could go from 20 to 2000 rpm. Speed was controlled with the small black knob at the lower left. There was a hole above that housed some kind of electrical gauge not sure what it displayed as there were speed and motor load indicators to the right.
The ball end lever directly below the motor load meter releases the quick change gearbox and it operated probably as good as it did when this machine left the factory in 1964. In fact all the headstock levers moved and detented perfectly. For me this is a mark of quality, smooth operation of all controls with positive detents and engagement. I think the forklift did its damage up here also. The control panel was pushed in a bit. With the exception of the gauge it looked easily repairable.

Another shot of the headstock control area. Here you can see the Monarch badge. Their fonts changed over the years. Looking at this font makes me think fifties or sixties.

Now for the scary part, the electrical enclosure. This machine had some advanced capabilities and features. The tracer is basically a servo system controlled by a template and follower. This requires some control logic in an age of relays and contactors.
In addition to the tracer this machine could deal with changes in surface speed. I would guess it translated the template diameter and controlled the spindle speed to keep a relatively constant cutting speed on the work piece. It is also equipped with some hydraulic system that uses electrically controlled valves to change speed ranges. And it has infinite variable speed control within the major ranges. For all that you need a big box of electrical equipment.

It was a pleasant surprise to see the electrical panel in great shape and pretty un-molested. Monarch in their infinite wisdom even put a copy of the electrical schematic on the inside of the cabinet door. Real class and professional engineering.

I sure had fun going over this machine. Its for sale in the San Francisco Bay area. The price is $.19/lb Yes that's right, nineteen cents a pound. This once proud example of American ingenuity can be had for basically scrap metal price.

The bones of the machine are there and look to be in good shape. It is most certainly not a project for the faint of heart. Just the machine retrieval will be a major expedition. But hey, without expeditions and people willing to go on them where would we be? Somebody with some guts and mechanical aptitude would find themselves with a lathe made by one of the finest American makers with several lifetimes more work in her.

Thanks for looking.

Tom Lipton


  1. Yup a fabulous machine with a lot of potential, pity it's on your side of the world, but i guess a man can have to many machines.
    Thanks for the review and keep it all coming Tom.
    Mike Young, tekfab@hotmail.com

  2. Hi Mike,

    Thanks for the comment. He who dies with the most tonnage wins.....



  3. That looks like a nice machine, the controls look really good I like those 60 style contactor relays they seem to have a flair and style to them. The newer stuff seems much more sterile. Those timer motors are pretty cool, high tech stuff to adjust the spindle speed for the diameter reduction. Analog computing at it's best.

    It's easy to loose track of size when viewing photos, I just keep thinking 20" swing...Where I used to work we had 19" penetration plates so I think of those and being able to turn them.

    Good stuff. Thanks

  4. Holy moley, that thing *is* a great deal! For those having a hard time, it's a "Huge old Monarch Lathe" in Concord for $2k. If I still had a shop space, I'd probably jump on that thing. Though It would most likely violate my first rule: Only buy stuff you can move with the equipment you own.

  5. Hi Perry,

    The retrieval would be quite an event. Its in the boondocks and up a pretty steep hill. Where the lathe is happens to be flat. You would need a full day if you used the Egyptian method to get it out to load it.



  6. Thanks Tom ...I really like old iron like that

  7. Looks like it's still available (http://sfbay.craigslist.org/eby/tls/4253699176.html)

  8. Tom,
    That lathe was made just down the road from me in Sidney, Ohio. I've been talking to Adam and am planning on getting a few photographs of the old building, which still has "Monarch Lathes" in big letters on the side. They closed this plant in the early 80s, and I had several friends that worked there. One did final assembly on EE models, and one did bearing fitting on larger lathe spindles (17" ID bearings on a 7' spindle!!). It sounds like the main reason the plant closed was because of non-flexible union leaders. (and probably some management also) The world was changing, but they wouldn't budge to make the plant more efficient. I had a mentor living close to me (who died a few months ago) who worked there in the 50s and 60s. He was full of entertaining stories about the work there. He gave me a fair amount of items that came from the plant, such as left-hand acme taps and such (things I'll probably never use").


  9. Hey Jack,

    I would love to see some pictures of the old works. Somewhere on the web somebody posted some pictures of the building one time. I couldn't find them again. I thought it was on the Practical machinist forum.

    Looking forward to your photo's

    All the best,


  10. Love that Monarch. I'd love to have an old mule like that in my garage. If I only had the space.


  11. Great blog! I really love how it is easy on my eyes and the information are well written. I am wondering how I might be notified whenever a new post has been made.
    Paddle Wheel Flow Meter

  12. How Lemeridian funding service  grant me a loan!!!

    Hello everyone, I'm Lea Paige Matteo from Zurich Switzerland and want to use this medium to express gratitude to lemeridian funding service for fulfilling his promise by granting me a loan, I was stuck in a financial situation and needed to refinance and pay my bills as well as start up a Business. I tried seeking for loans from various loan firms both private and corporate organisations but never succeeded and most banks declined my credit request. But as God would have it, I was introduced by a friend named Lisa Rice to Le_meridian funding service and undergone the due process of obtaining a loan from the company, to my greatest surprise within 48hrs just like my friend Lisa, I was also granted a loan of $216,000.00 So my advise to everyone who desires a loan, "if you must contact any firm with reference to securing a loan online with low interest rate of 1.9% and better repayment plans/schedule, please contact Le_meridian funding service. Besides, he doesn't know that am doing this but due to the joy in me, I'm so happy and wish to let people know more about this great company whom truly give out loans, it is my prayer that GOD should bless them more as they put smiles on peoples faces. You can contact them via email on {lfdsloans@lemeridianfds.com Or lfdsloans@outlook.com} or Text through Whatsapp +1-989 394 3740.