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Manufacturers Index - Flather & Co.
Last Modified: Jun 2 2017 9:43PM by Jeff_Joslin
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Formed in 1867 by Edward Flather and his brothers. The firm incorporated in 1900 and operated into the 1920s. They built lathes, tapping machines and later planers and shapers.

FLATHER & COMPANY, Inc. ~ 1875-1929

Joseph Flather, patriarch of the 19th-century Nashua, NH family that founded Flather & Company, was an immigrant from England who came to this country after the American Civil War. He worked as a machinist initially for Silver & Gay of North Chelmsford, MA who were a dying first generation machine tool builder. He quickly moved to Gage, Warner & Whitney, another first generation tool builder in Nashua.

After a few years with GW&W, Flather decided to strike out on his own and started a shop making all types of machine products with at least one other partner. The scope of their production was probably too wide as the firm failed. Flather eventually reorganized under his own name alone to make machine tools only and ultimately lathes specifically. This was the eventual source of Flather's success.

Flather & Company lathes were begun in Nashua, NH about 1875 and continued through the late 1920's. Joseph Flather died in 1907 with the business being continued on for a few more years by his sons. The depression caused the demise of the Flather Company although they did languish on a bit during the 1920's under the less disciplined guidance of the sons.

Joseph Flather is credited with inventing a particular type of lathe that rapidly became popular for its user-friendly design. The Flather lathe was one of the first to incorporate a hole through the head stock spindle and Flather lathes were noted for a larger hole than most of their competition. Flather originated the compound rest which was not a feature of lathes until that time and also Flather was one of the first adopters of quick change gears. His initial planetary change gear design was later set aside for the more conventional "South Bend" type of quick change gearbox.

Flather lathes tend to be a bit larger and sturdier than their 19th century competitors, a selling point at the time and an advantage today with the use of modern carbide tooling which tends to require additional stiffness and horsepower to drive it. Thus Flather has survived and is still useful even to the present day, although it can be a trifle slow for production work having been designed originally for carbon steel tooling, usually not a problem for the small shop or homeowner.

Flather lathes had babbitt bearings of generous size in the head stock and the South Bend style quick change gears. The serial number is stamped on the center of the cross slide and on other parts generally. Peak production years for Flather & Company were from about 1900 to about 1913. Flather Lathes went all over the world during that period and were known internationally as "The Flather Lathe". Flather numbered his lathes in "sizes" rather than by total production.

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