LAST WEEK production of the most successful ever lathes for model engineers ended at the Beeston works of Myford. We look back to its beginnings and trace development of the iconic lathes to date.

The Myford Engineering Company was founded by Cecil Moore in 1934 in a rented room in a lace mill in Beeston, Nottinghamshire. Within ten years Myford occupied viturally all of the old mill. The business set out to manufacture small lathes for the amateur market. Those early ML1 ML2 ML3 and ML4 lathes were to be replaced from 1946 with the famous ML7 which, along with its successors, set the benchmark for model engineers’ lathes. The ML7 was extraordinarily popular as the one and only lathe developed for model engineers, which by using accessories could do as much work on one machine as complete workshops. That remained the case until the introduction of cheap imported machine tools saw increased use of home milling machines.

Cecil Moore was succeeded by his son John and then grandson Chris.

The ML7 Lathe was launched in August 1946, the basic bench lathe retailing at £34.00. The ML7 was so successful that it saw the immediate demise of its predecessors the ML2 and ML4. The Myford ‘M’ type, a Myford version of the Drummond ‘M’ type, cost £42.00 and production of this was discontinued in 1949. Over its 33 years production run, the ML7 stood the test of time remarkably well. While there were numerous minor changes, the number of major design changes were very few.

In July 1969,  a cast lug was incorporated into the headstock. The lug is situated just behind the spindle nose and its initial purpose was to act as an anchor point for the optional lever operated collet attachment. In later years the same point would be used as a pivot point for the chuck guard.

In May 1972,  the existing carriage was converted from the narrow guide to the wide guide principle. On the earlier machines the saddle located across the front two shears and on later models across the full width of the bed, the 5/8" diameter leadscrew and die cast apron were retained. From serial No. K108718, the cross slides were fitted with self-locking adjusting screws.

April 1973 saw the introduction of the new bed. The re-design was necessary to accommodate the power cross feed apron on the Super 7 lathe. At the same time the specification of the ML7 was upgraded to incorporate the 3/4" diameter leadscrew and cast iron apron as used on the pre-power cross feed Super 7’s.

The last machine, serial No. K140848, left the fitting lines on the 31st January 1979.

Long bed ML7 lathes were always fitted with 3/4" diameter leadscrews and the saddles, cross slides and top slides were the same as used on the pre-power cross feed Super 7 lathes.

The Super 7 Lathe was introduced in April 1953, to complement the already very successful ML7 lathe. While virtually identical in capacity, the Super 7 incorporated a number of features within its standard specification that made it a truly outstanding machine.

A spindle, supported in a taper bronze front bearing and a pair of angular contact ball races at the rear, which for its size gives outstanding performance. This, coupled to 14 spindle speeds, gives an excellent and progressive speed range of 27-2105 rpm.

More than 40 years later, there are many machines being marketed as screwcutting lathes, which have bottom speeds of 200 rpm or so. This is way too fast for screwcutting. Other features are backgear engagement by lever, a countershaft clutch unit, a larger cross slide with block type gibs, a fully swivelling top slide, re-settable friction dials on both cross and top slides, a self-ejecting tailstock and a leadscrew handwheel. Over the years, there were a great number of modifications made to the original design as part of Myford’s continual policy of planned improvement. The major additions and changes are as follows:

The first quick change gearbox became available in 1955. The gearbox used soft gears and the leadscrew drive was on the right-hand side of the gearbox. In 1956, hardened gears were fitted to the gearbox.

December 1956, the gearbox design was completely revised and the leadscrew passed through the gearbox and the drive was taken from the left-hand side.

June 1958 the expanding sleeve clutch mechanism was changed to the current cone clutch. The change involved re-designed motor and headstock belt guards.

May 1959, the drip feed lubrication to the headstock was replaced with a wick feed system.

August 1972 the broad guide bed and saddle were introduced in preparation for the launch of the power cross feed models in March 1974. June 1975 the bronze cross slide feed nut on power cross feed models was changed to hardened steel.

December 1975 the power cross slide feedscrew was modified, requiring a larger counter bore in the corresponding micrometer dial.

November 1977 the power cross feed apron was re-designed incorporating an adjustable cam for the leadscrew half nuts.

April 1977 the colour of machines was changed from grey to green.

The ML7R was a non-power cross feed Super 7 but supplied less the clutch unit. It was fitted with the Super 7 Headstock, tailstock and bed but utilized the ML7 Saddle, cross slide and top slide. The machine was designed to utilize the basic Super 7 and rationalize production around a single design. It was eventually to become the Myford Sigma 7 in 1977. All ML7R Lathes were pre-fixed with KR before the serial number.

Final development of the line was the hugely desirable Connoisseur.

The ML10 Lathe was launched in 1968 as an inexpensive but serious machine tool. Its market place was to be just above that occupied by a number of popular small lathes, which were suitable for modelling and model engineering in smaller scales. The all important feature which put the ML10 well ahead of its competitors was its capability. If you could physically fit a piece of material between centres you could actually machine it.

The first ML10 lathe left the production line on 14th October 1968, and featured a hardened steel spindle which ran directly in the cast iron bore of the split headstock bearing. The first major change came on 18th January 1978, when the headstock was converted to taper roller bearings.

4th May 1979, the first Speed 10 lathe, featuring a two-speed countershaft, was launched followed a month later on 6th June 1979, by the first long bed machine. The diameter of the threaded RH end of the leadscrew was increased from 5/16" BSF to 3/8" BSF. From 11 September 1985, the lathe was fitted with two new raising blocks and a



The first ML7

The prototype Super 7


Myford Sigma


Myford 254

new countershaft arm. The left hand raising block was extended rearwards to carry the new countershaft arm. This meant for the first time that the lathe left the factory as a complete machine and no longer needed any assembly. From 25 March 1992, a long cross slide was fitted as standard on all machines.
The Diamond 10 was launched on 27th November 1993. This was the first time that Myford had offered a lathe direct to the public. The ML10 and Speed 10 lathes were discontinued.
Myford also introduced a larger lathe the 254 to meet the needs of builders of larger models. It also made and sold fine industrial grade grinding machines. For a time it also sold milling machines which were based on imports. But the main business remained with the seven inch lathes. 

Our own Myford was bought second hand in 1975. It was far from new then. There was a plan to buy a new one - or more likely factory reconditioned one - but sadly that looks unlikely now. We will also miss our contacts with the good people from Myford at shows, and especially their own throughly enjoyable and relaxing Spring and Autumn events. 
It really is a shame things have worked  out the way they have. In the past year or two strenuous efforts were made under the direction of Mike Farmers to turn the business around. A lot was achieved but more could not be done without added injections of cash from the shareholders, who decided to call it a day. There are no heirs to add another generation to the business.
Myford has given untold pleasure to tens of thousands of people over the years with its superb products. All that remains is to say:
Thank you.                                               DC