Established in 1881 (incorporated 1900) in Dexter, Maine, USA, Fay & Scott were a family-run firm that appears to have had a wide-ranging interest in all sorts of machine tools - though especially lathes of all types and, reflecting the local agricultural scene, corn-husking machines. A mainstay of the business in their early years was probably a number of simple plain-turning pattern-maker's lathes - made in a variety of sizes and fitted with both conventional countershaft systems and variable-speed drives. In later years they were to offer a number of rather extraordinary sliding-bed as well as ordinary "engine", wood and facing lathes. With Mr. N.H. Fay as President and General Manager and Mr. W.L. Fay as Vice-president and Works Manager, they also manufactured planers, millers and advertised themselves as being capable of producing "special machinery of all kinds*" - indeed, some of the items they made were quite remarkable. The Company had a reputation as fine engineers, who did things the old-fashioned way - an ex-employee related how, when an order for a lathe was received, men would go to a lot behind the factory and dig up a bed casting that had been buried for a year or more. The idea behind the burial (some makers simple left them in the open air) was to help the casting stabilise - often having had an initial machining at the "green" stage. The retrieved bed was then placed in the excavated pit and covered. However, before the journeymen engineers could get to work on it in the factory, the work of cleaning it up was, naturally, given to the long-suffering apprentices
Designed to turn wood, the simple pattern maker's lathes were, nevertheless, very well built and all (except the 10-inch) fitted as standard with a screw-feed compound slide that enabled the finest quality work to be produced.
Heavily built and using bronze bearings (often referred to as "boxes" in contemporary literature) the headstocks were fitted with a simple sump lubrication system with the oil raised into the bearings through wicks that ensured (should any dirt have worked its way into the sump) only clean oil was drawn up into the bearings. The spindle end thrust was taken against a hardened screwed ring, fibre washers being imposed between it and the bearing. The headstocks of some models - but not the 16-inch or larger - were able to be swivelled a few degrees either side of centre.
Made from high-carbon steel, finish ground and bored through, the headstock spindles on most of the smaller models extended right through the left-hand bearing and carried a faceplate on their outer end for large-diameter bowl turning. Although no turning rest was fastened to the end of the bed, the makers provided a heavy floor-standing rest - which could be bolted down or left loose and levered into the most advantageous position for the job in hand. The Fay & Scott rest was not as heavy as some - the biggest, by makers like Wadkin in England and Oliver in the USA, were so massive that they had jacks and wheels built in to ease their positioning.
Turned on both its inside and outside surfaces for better balance, the 5-step headstock pulley - or cone - had its smallest diameter arranged to be against the all-important front bearing - so allowing that to be larger and built onto a greater mass of supporting iron. Unfortunately the company appears not to have taken full advantage of this design feature for, beneath the smaller pulleys, the gap to the headstock casting was rather greater than it needed to be. Each lathe was supplied with a large faceplate for the rear of the spindle and a small one for the front, a rosette centre or screw chuck, large and small driving or spur centres, one cup or rail centre, a hand-rest turning holder with a right-angle rest and three others of different lengths, one floor-stand rest holder - and the necessary wrenches. Fay and Scott also manufactured a selection of headstocks and tailstocks with swings of 12, 16 or 20 inches designed to assist the builders of home-made wood-turning lathes - these often being relatively crude devices with a wooden bed or even just bolted to a substantial bench.
Metal-turning engine lathes of the sliding-bed type were given a model designation that indicated the swing over the bed and in the gap - the smallest (in the first decade of the 20th century) being the 16-32 inch, with progression through ever larger models - the 18-36 inch, 20-42 inch, 24-46 inch, 28-52 inch and 32-56 inch - to a massive 38-66 inch. As an option, the makers offered to increase the swing in the solid of all versions by an extra 4 inches, obviously a reference to packing out the casting moulds to their maximum capacity. Although all the large sliding-bed lathes incorporated an ordinary backgear system, most were also offered with the option of a double-reduction, the final drive being to a gear fastened to the inside face of a giant, T-slotted faceplate (the idea being to reduce the peripheral speed, which, on a large diameter, could be considerable). The arrangement was called, confusingly, triple gearing. Lathes with no backgear were referred to as single geared (that is, geared down by belt drive) and with an ordinary backgear as double geared. In line with the work they were expected to do - and the giant faceplates they carried - the gearing was altered according to their size: the two smallest models were given an initial ratio of 11 : 1 and, with the secondary included, an overall reduction of 32: 1. Apart from the very largest machine (geared at 12.5 : 1 and 36 : 1) all the other were set at 12 : 1 initial and 34: 1 overall. At its largest catalogues size, with a capacity of 9 feet between centres, the Model 38-66 inch weighed 14,000 lbs (6,350 kg) and needed two potable jacks to support the end of the extended bed..
More on Fay & Scott (as preserved by the Dexter Historical Society), including a set of remarkable photographs taken inside the works and images of the special machinery produced, can be found here
* including: lathes, corn-husking machines, aircraft landing light systems, gaging & weighing machines, boring mills for Giddings & Lewis, grinders for Landis, drills, gear hobbers, M-1 carbine grenade launchers, radar units, etc?