A VISIT TO MACHINE TOOL HEAVEN
Updated: Aug 26, 2019
Turn back the clock to 1974 when our 1923 Model A Duesenberg suffered a fatal blow. En route to an event one hot August day with my Dad, the mighty eight went from a bad cough to gasps on life support. There we were on the breakdown lane on Rt. 89 in New Hampshire with a seized engine and a very unfriendly in-ground hornet's nest.
Once home, a tear-down quickly revealed a seized tower shaft—the vertical drive that powered the overhead cam from the crankshaft. The gravity-fed bronze bushing had clogged and fused itself to the tooled steel shaft, and the companion helical gear set was all but shot. Turns out, detergent oil added prior to the trip on the advice of a "knowledgeable" mechanic proved the engine's undoing; the oil's cleansing additives shook loose decades of deposits and, presto, the weakest link in the oil system reared its ugly head.
Which brings me to the subject of this post. Lacking a nearby NAPA store with spare Model A Duesenberg parts bursting from the shelves, we resorted to a local engineer who proved to be our savior. We were told he could make anything and, though Dad and I wound up using Worcester Gear Works for the replacement gear set, our new best friend Warren Greene Ogden Jr. became an indispensable resource and mentor to yours truly for decades to come.
With the Duesy back on the road, Ogden saw fit take me under his wing as one very naive student of the machine tool trade. His basement shop included all manner of lathes, gauges, a shaper, milling machine, surface grinder, pantograph... you name it, and many driven by overhead shafts and pulleys. Each machine was fastidiously maintained accompanied by thick paper files documenting every associated repair and related purchase. Over the years, Warren instilled me in the religion of precision. Yes, religion. I made many car parts over the years at his shop and, at his passing in 1992, managed to acquire a good portion of the collection.
Enter my good friend Timothy Jones of New Braintree, MA. Tim also acquired a bunch of Ogden's equipment at the time, including the finest and most comprehensive library on the subject of the machine tool industry and featuring many rare volumes. Every few years or so I make it a point to visit Tim and his family, and last month it was time for another "Machine Tool Fix" at Tim's growing collection of heavy metal.
Mark my words, we're not talking a bunch of rusty unloved old tools waist deep in mud. Tim has created a brilliant work space akin to the finest car collections. Each tool represents a significant point in time, whether it be innovative, a rarity or simply the finest example on the planet. While most machines still wear their original finishes, Tim couldn't resist restoring a few to their original splendor. Did I mention Tim's collection has five Monarch EE lathes?!
I'll let the accompanying photos tell the rest of the story. And in closing, I don't think a day goes by without without Warren looking over my shoulder. And thanks to Tim Jones for another fabulous trip down metal memory lane!