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Taylor-Hobson CXL
Pantograph engraving machine

The Taylor-Hobson pantograph engraving machine, once commonplace in engineering works throughout the UK, has now largely been superseded by low-cost panel-marking techniques, such as screen-printing, or by the use of engraving cutters in CNC milling machines. A consequence of this obsolescence however, is that the machines change hands for amounts of money quite disproportionately small in comparison to the quality of the engineering.
    Shown on the right is a model CXL. This is the largest of the C-series, having a bowed main casting to accommodate large panels, and a 14" vertical slide to allow the use of dividing heads and other large accessories. The basic pantograph ratio is continuously adjustable from 1:2 to about 1:30; and the cutter is driven at speeds up to 15000 rpm by a long belt with jockey pulleys (like an old-fashioned dentist's drill). The machine is also provided with a cutter-grinding attachment (not shown), which fits on the machined and keyed area on the main casting and is operated by re-routing the cutter drive-belt.

Taylor Hobson CXL engraving machine
Taylor-Hobson CXL
(Last manufactured in 1959).

Taylor-Hobson CX engraving machine
Taylor-Hobson CX
Note the shorter vertical slide in comparison to the CXL.
    When used for its intended purpose, the machine is an ergonomic masterpiece. There are few machine tools that put everything to hand and allow the operator to adopt a comfortable position, but this is one. The operator can sit on a stool and use a protruding bar and the motor housing as footrests. The cutter is raised and lowered by a knurled handwheel just above it, operated by the left hand. The right hand moves a metal stylus over the copy table, on which letter templates and other artwork can be clamped. A tray, attached to the main casting (above the motor) is also provided for tools and other small accessories.
     The engraving of metals normally takes place under a puddle of cutting oil or kerosene, and the chips produced are too small to escape from the oil. Hence the swarf is removed when the workpiece is wiped or cleaned.

Engraving gears on a TH CXL pantograph machine

Engraving the number of teeth onto a lathe change-wheel
. An offcut of aluminium alloy plate in the foreground is used for testing the cutter and checking that the pantograph setting is correct. Other gears from the set are used as spacers for clamping the workpiece. After setting the work-table height, a drop of oil is placed on the workpiece before lowering the cutter.

The finished result after polishing
with OO-grade emery cloth.

Engraved gears

For those who can find no obvious use for an engraving machine of this type, it is worth noting that it provides a superbly engineered 3-axis universal table, for a secondhand cost that is less than the normal price for a 2-axis table. Also note that the pantograph assembly is easiliy removed, and it sits on top of the main casting on a flat sliding bed that is precisely machined parallel to the work table. This means that the machine is easily converted into a vertical milling machine or (with some measures to cover-up the lead screws and slides) a surface grinder, etc..
     One feature it lacks is micrometer dials on the lead-screw handles. This can easily be remedied however, by anyone who owns (say) a lathe, a dividing-head and an engraving machine. The lead-screw pitch (of the CXL at least) is 0.2", which means that a dial of 40 divisions will provide a mark every 0.005" (0.127 mm).

Web links:
Pantograph services - copy letters and blanks, spare belts, etc.

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