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Founded in 1906 in South Bend, Indiana, South Bend Lathe, at one time, controlled almost half of the U.S. domestic metalworking lathe market.

South Bend did a lot of things right, to earn their market share and reputation, and one of the smartest was to produce clear, well-illustrated, low-cost instructional materials describing not just how to set up and run their tools, but how to use them to perform all kinds of basic and advanced machining operations. Their classic pamphlet How to Run a Lathe was updated and reissued annually for decades, and has often been reprinted. The 1942 edition, in particular, is highly regarded, and has been a centerpiece of the Lindsay Technical Books catalog for years.

Today, South Bend lathes are sold through Grizzly Industrial dealers, and much of their classic instructional library is available on-line. Document sharing site Scribd, for instance, hosts freely-browsable PDFs of How to Run a Lathe’s 1913, 1930, and 1966 editions, as well as several of South Bend’s topic-specific bulletins including How to Grind Lathe Tool Cutter Bits, The Installation and Leveling of the Lathe, and How to Cut Screw Threads in the Lathe. Enthusiast W.E. Williams also maintains a large online library of original South Bend publications, many of which I have not seen anywhere else.

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Making antique brass nameplates

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I write for MAKE, serve as Technical Editor for MAKE magazine, and develop original DIY content for Make: Projects.


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