2019 Created by The Old Machinery Magazine

This bench drill was made during World War Two by an enterprising group of six fitters and turners, one of them being my father, Bill. They worked in different workshops around Melbourne, doing essential War work and obviously some non-essential work as well!

Somehow, they managed to get hold of six sets of castings from somewhere. Then they divided the machining and component manufacture amongst their little group, making parts when able to do so, getting it under the radar. Apart from the motor, ball races, belt, chuck and key, the group made all the parts required for the machines. This project was so successful, the band of War workers went a step further and decided to build lathes!


75 years old, and still mechanically excellent

Again, they ‘got hold of’ castings, which were a copy of the Model C - 9” Hercus machine. The same process occurred, lathes being built around Melbourne as time allowed. There was a war on, after all. As these projects had been successful, this intrepid mob decided to go another step further. Once more, they procured castings and built vertical slides to suit their lathes and 8” rotary tables with cross slide. These two items were rarely used.

After the War, family life was the controlling force, and it took another 15 years and some pushing to finish the drill and lathe to a workable state. Initially, the bench drill had weights attached to a flywheel placed over the spindle, so holes could be drilled by hand power. The motor came from somewhere at a later date.

Around 1979, my parents moved to Medowie (near Newcastle) and the workshop machinery went with them, much to my chagrin. A new workshop was built and use continued until my father died, in 1996. Most of the equipment went on a short journey to my brother’s workshop, with the machine tools remaining mostly idle. On a recent trip to Medowie, my brother suggested I take the drill home as it was not in use and did not run.


Once home, and almost immediately, the strip-down occurred. Castings and other parts went in the caustic soda to remove the horrid hammertone blue and other gunge. The motor was disassembled and found to be half full of mud wasp nests. With the dried mud removed and the internals generally cleaned, the next step was to remove the paint from the aluminium motor parts. Acetone and elbow grease eventually got the job done.

The chuck was a bit rough in operation, so it was disassembled and cleaned, then all the bright parts were treated with the wire wheel, then cloth belt on the linisher and then a onceover on a worn cloth belt. When everything was painted and polished, assembly took place.



A tribute to their engineering ability.

The machine had been fitted with modern electrical controls which, to me, looked utterly revolting. With a bit of a search around the shed, appropriate ‘old stuff’ was found and incorporated in the final design. Don’t worry, none of the electrics are connected in the plugs, switch or motor. Father’s drill is now having a rest and is on display in the Yarra Valley Machinery Preservation Society Shed at Mont De Lancey in Wandin. In due course, I hope to restore the other items built by Bill and his Wartime confederates.

*Lewis Carlton




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