Drummond Brothers – lathes

The lathe-making business incorporated in 1902 as Drummond Bros Ltd originated in the fertile mind of Mr Arthur Drummond, said to have been living at that time at Pinks Hill, on the southern edge of Broad Street Common, west of Guildford.  Mr Drummond, whose accomplishments included several pictures hung in the Royal Academy, was unable to find a lathe suitable for use in model engineering.

In 1896 he designed for himself a ‘small centre lathe … which had a compound slide rest with feed-screws and adjustable slides’.  He also designed and built ‘lathes of 4.5 inch and 5 inch centre height, which had beds of a special form whereby the use of a gap piece was eliminated but the advantages of a gap-bed lathe were retained’.  Assisted by his brother, Mr Frank Drummond, who had served an apprenticeship to an engineering firm at Tunbridge Wells, the first lathes were made in a workshop adjoining Arthur Drummond’s house.  The demand that speedily built up led to the decision to form a company and manufacture the lathes for sale commercially.  Land was acquired nearby, at Rydes Hill, and the first factory built.  The enterprise was a success, and the company quickly established ‘a high reputation in this country and abroad for multi-tool and copying lathes, and gear-cutting machines’.  Other lathes were added to the range, including the first of the ’round bed’ machines for which the firm became widely known.  A Drummond 3.5 inch lathe was among the equipment of Captain Scott’s 1912 expedition to the South Pole, and large numbers of 3.5 inch and 4 inch designs were exported to Australia, Canada and India.

By the outbreak of war in 1914, 5 inch, 6 inch and 7 inch screwcutting lathes, arranged for power drive, were on sale.  Large orders were received from the government for 3.5 inch lathes, for use in destroyers and submarines, and 5 inch lathes for the mechanised section of the Army Service Corps.  The latter were used in mobile workshops.  The factory worked night and day to supply the forces’ needs, until production was disrupted by a fire which destroyed a large part of the works in May 1915.  As soon as rebuilding was complete work restarted.  At the end of the war the entire production was being taken by the Government departments, a special feature being a precision screw lathe, bought by the Ministry of Munitions in 1918.

Between the wars Drummond Bros Ltd introduced new machines for the motor vehicle, and later the aircraft industry, and the works were extended on many occasions to fulfil the increasing orders.  The Maxicut multi-tool lathe (1925), designed for high-production turning operations, was one of the first machines of this type to be built in England.  It was followed (1928) by an hydraulic version for turning gear blanks, and similar work.  Further developments provided machines which, during the Second World War, turned all the crankshafts and propellor shafts for Bristol engines.  Others, ordered by the Ministry of Supply were employed in turning shells, and many other specific needs of vehicle and aircraft manufacture were catered for by new types of Drummond lathes.  Production of the small centre lathes ceased during the war when the company needed to concentrate on building multi-tool lathes and gear shapers.

After the war a completely new Maxicut range was introduced, replacing the older versions, and fully automatic.  The types were continually developed, and new versions manufactured until the end of the company’s life in 1980.  The disappearance from the scene of Mr Arthur Drummond in 1946, and the end of the company’s autonomous existence in 1953 when the company was acquired by William Asquith Ltd, which was in turn bought by Staveley in 1966, meant that the factory at Rydes Hill became one – albeit very effective – part of a large national engineering company.

Achievements at the Guildford works during its last years included the development of automated Maxicut gear-shapers in what was ‘probably the most fully automated gear shop in the country’, while a machine from Guildford was sent to the Osaka Fair in 1962.  In 1963 an agreement was signed with Hindustan Machine Tools for the manufacture of Maxicut gear-shapers in state owned factories in Bangalore and Chandrigahr.  During 1963 the two largest multi-tool lathes ever made in the UK were installed in Ambrose Shardlow’s works in Sheffield for handling cranks up to 14 foot long.  In 1976 Drummond lathes were included in Staveley’s £14,000,000 installation in Moscow of an automated production line for Zil motor cars.  Up to the end invention continued at Guildford: a new Drummond Multi-turn memory-controlled machine was shown at the International Machine Tool Exhibition in 1977.  This could not save the works from the pressures of the late 1970s, and Staveley Industries closed its Guildford site in 1980.

22 thoughts on “Drummond Brothers – lathes”

  1. robert jones says:

    I own a drummond brother metal working lathe and although it has a electric motor fitted i still have the original treadle used to operate the lathe. I am trying to find more information about this lathe can anyone help
    Cheers rob

  2. David Sparkes says:

    I worked at Drummonds for several years in the fitting shop manufacturing Drummond Machines spent considerable time in Russia (Ufa) installing machine’s in a Automotoive plant

    1. Rob Atkinson says:

      Hi I served my apprentiship between 1971 and 1975 at Drummonds. It was a fantastic training and I still use skills learnt at that time.

      1. Michael M says:

        Hi I worked at a piston manufacture served my apprenticeship there as a maintenance fitter in 1965 to 1970.I then maintained all 10 maxicut type 20 turn and groove auto loader machines as my main roles I have been trying to get images, photo, of this fantastic machine, angled main saddle, fully hydraulic multy tool cross slides, pressure rise
        And fall meter pump,with stepper card control the saddle position worked on a stop drum crocey
        Positioned . The two stepper controls master and reader worked on one card programmed by allowing Florencent
        Light to see the magic eyes as programmed
        The three main parts Maxicut type 20 lathe, gantery loader and operator conveyor with uni selector operation
        Can you remember any thing about this machine built by Drummond if so could you let me kn ow as I can’t find
        Any information on the internet
        I spent many hours maintaining this machine until the factory moved to Birmingham in 1989 and I became redundant
        I found out that Drummond bit the dust around 1980, and like me you moved on tradesmen like us are rare now since
        Cnc took over I am now 70 and retired but I try to keep the old trade going with my small workshop and older than me
        Ragland variable speed pully lathe
        Thanks for reading this

        1. Tom Martin says:

          Hi Michael
          I have various catalogues with Drummond equipment listed.
          Later ones have Drummond catalogued as a sub-set to Stavely Machine tools, who took Drummond over…

  3. john ward says:

    i am hoping to become the owner of a drummond B lathe…. can you still get spares for them
    if so where..?????
    and are they aas good as i am told

  4. I worked at the Guildford plant as a drafter and concept designer. 1966 to 68. Just a kid, but I was pushing them to improve the design of their machinery. Twas not an easy task. From there, I went to the Guildford Art School, and the rest is history.

  5. Alan Swales says:

    I was given a 4″ F.at-bed Drummond Lathe when I was 10. My father bought the lathe in either 1945 or 1946 at The Spit probably on Spit Road. He paid Ten Pounds Aust for it.

    The condition was poor, the saddle was broken and had to be brazed together to make it work.

    I have progressively re-built it over the years as I needed it to perform more accurately.

    I made a new Spindle, made Screw-Cutting Gears, replaced the lead Screw, have fitted a Burnerd 4-jaw chuck, have modified a RYOBI Bench Drill as a Travelling Mill that sits on the Cross Slide.
    I have made many Screw-Cutting Gears to suit my other lathes.
    I am currently making SC gears METRIC 1mm DPM including 127 and 126 & heap of others


    1. Adrian says:

      Would be very interested to see your mill attachment
      I’m assuming that your Lathe is powered or is it using a treadle ?

  6. Alex Stewart says:

    I have just bought a drummond brothers lathe is there any where I can buy spares, also I would need a instruction book.
    Alex Stewaart 2/07/2014

  7. Kerry Westcott says:

    I have found among my fathers belongings a little booklet “M” Type 3 1/2″ Centre lathe by Drummond Bros. Would anyone be interested in it?

  8. I have recently purchased a Drummond Bros 4″ A type lathe.Any information will be greatly appreciated.Side plate i provides thread,mandrel etc,need additional info on ngear set ups

  9. Lain says:

    I have what looks like a very old floor standing hand drill by Drummond Bros the number on the name plate is 343 it has a bit missing I would like to find out more about this hand drill an hope to find some photos of one so that i can make up the missing part that it needs to complete it can any one help me with photos etc

  10. PAUL DOUGHTY says:

    Hi, Robert Jones,25 July 2010, Michael M, 3 July 2019, Tom Martin,26oct 2019, Vladymir Rogov ,17 Jan, 2014, Alan Swales, 30 Jan 2014, Alex Stewart,2 July,2014, Kerry Westott 16 Mar 2015, Hi, Gentlemen, I have a Drummond Bros /Arbelux ( I think ) lathe no 1944 in good condition I’m in the throws of overhauling it to mainly to clean and some repairs can you help in anyway at to direct me to plans or bits to suit, like a fixed or travelling steady or a walram left hand/ back gear bracket or plans or a copy of the alike even measurements would help soas I make my own if you can help great I can afford the cost if reasonable . Kindest regards, Paul Doughty Balmain Sydney Australia.

  11. Ray Davies says:

    I have a Drummond round bed lathe, (photos available), the lathe was originally a treadle operated machine but the treadle mechanism is gone and it had been driven by an electric motor when last used 20 odd years ago. The late is complete with original stand and cast iron tray all with original dark green paint. Other than that the lathe is complete, working and with a selection of gears, tool posts and slides etc.
    If an enthusiastic person wished to have this lathe I will gift it to them but the carrier from Northern Ireland would have to be paid by them. I can be reached on 07765775251.

    1. Ray Davies says:

      Now gone!

    2. Paul Doughty says:

      Hi Ray, Could you let me know where you live or an EM address , or an australian phone no’ if you live here downunder.. l am interested in any bits for a 3″ or 4″ Drummond / (Arbelux) 11″ between centres , Let me know whar you have , just found your reply , REGARDS E P D. .

      1. Raymond Davies says:

        Hi Paul, sorry I haven’t been monitoring my reply, email sent cheers, Ray

        1. Paul Doughty says:


  12. Warren Page says:

    I served my Apprenticeship at Drummond’s in Guildford between 1973 to 1979, I specialised in gear cutting using Maxicut 2A, 2C and 3A as well as a Drummond/Norton Hoblique hobbing machine, the were Pfauter hobbing machines there as well. It was an excellent Apprenticeship program along with the FE side at Guildford College of Technology, I still have my Drummond’s engraved gold watch for being apprentice of the year in 1977. This excellent Apprenticeship model I use today at my present employer Xtrac, Xtrac even had 2 Maxicut 2A’s in its early days. I still see Maxicut’s still running and in production to this day which shows how well made and reliable Drummond machinery was. One of the last Maxicut 2A’s produced is still running at Dathan cutting tools company in Yorkshire with 3 other Maxi’s. I remember the first CNC lathe type 39 then the type 42 with a more reliable GE controller, the automated Zil cylinder liner line. But alas closure in 1981 stopped all that. A great start to a life long Engineering career.

  13. Paul says:

    I have just bought an house and left behind is a John hall lathe made by the drummond bros it still runs but I don’t have a clue about it

  14. Steve says:

    Hi- i have just found an old drummond brothers lathe,
    How do I identify it?
    Ive not bought it yet but im planning on having a look,

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