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William’s Lathe

circa 1950

This wood lathe was a star exhibit at the Festival of Britain in 1951.

It was invented by John Williams for use in woodworking classes and made at John Williams & Co. Engineers, Hyde. A post-war initiative to include practical crafts like woodwork at Grammar schools meant there was demand for a new wood turning lathe.

Williams was quick to respond and produced his prototype in 1947. The design was a huge success and it was quickly bought by schools across the country.

The lathe included features that set it apart from other lathes. For example, the headstock can be rotated round 90 degrees, enabling longer lengths of wood to be held steady against the frame while carving. This was useful when making tables. The main body was curved like a bridge so that sawdust would fall off it. The company’s strap line for the lathe was ‘Williams’ Lathes, Built Like Bridges’. As a result of his innovation, John Williams was invited to exhibit his lathe at the Festival of Britain. The lathe pictured here is the actual lathe that was exhibited.