A History of the Waymothe Lathe Company

Augustine D. Waymoth
Augustine D. Waymoth was a Fitchburg, MA, inventor and manufacturer of a very early form of what is called a "variety" woodworking lathe. This is a lathe that performs several operations in sequence so as to produce a near-finished piece, such as a druggist's box, or a croquet ball, or a spool for thread. He appeared in the known records in Fitchburg first in the 1840s, and he and rivals there produced more and more sophisticated versions of the lathe through the early decades of the last century (but mostly in the late 1800s). He is the holder of one of the earlier of U. S patents (and others) granted to a Fitchburg inventor, No. 15, 446 (July 29, 1856), for a "machine for manufacturing spools." That was soon followed by No. 18, 001 (August 11, 1857), another patent grant for a very similar invention. There are others.

Similar Lathes Produced

In the 1870s and 80s rivals who first worked for him broke from the firm and produced similar lathes: Charles W Wilder, the Rollstone Machine Works, and Charles F. Cowdrey were the most important of these. Each of the rival firms had its own patented versions of the Waymoth variety lathe. Several of the machines are in collections. There's a Wilder lathe at the Slater Mill Historic Site, in Pawtucket, RI, and two Waymoth lathes at the Hanford Mills Museum in East Meridith, NY. Close forms of the lathe were also produced in Winchendon, MA (by Baxter Whitney, and by Goodspeed and Wyman) and in Worcester, MA. Until quite recently (1990s) Goodspeed (a successor firm of same name) was producing a few computerized versions of the lathe, and repairing older versions. Others were made in Michigan, and probably elsewhere. The variety lathe is somewhat similar to a "back knife" lathe, a lathe that duplicates a certain pattern of, say, chair spindle, and to other forms of lathes that can be set to do repeat operations in wood, some times (early) called "gauge" lathes).

20th Century
I don't think the Waymoth firm was doing much by the 1930s, the Alison referred to is probably the son of Henry Alison, who was a local sales agent for some Fitchburg firms (including the Putnam Machine Co.) just before then.

I have the remnants of two early Waymoth lathes, and would like to see a working one on display here in Fitchburg.

This was written by Frank Morrison on March 8, 2004.