Almost 50 Years of CVA Machine Tool Manufacture

CVA Wade Lathe

Probably the earliest machine tool manufactured by CVA at Portland Road was the Wade Lathe, manufactured around 1926 when the Company traded as CAV.  It was a basic design with a 3-step cone pulley used to achieve different spindle speeds. It sold for just £3.00, however no spindle drive was provided; power most likely being an optional extra, or provided separately by the user.

CVA Model 72 Bench Lathe

The Model 72 Bench Lathe was manufactured from the mid 1930s.  The one shown is fitted with an H-Gear on the rear of the headstock, which provided variable spindle speeds.  The H-Gear was also sold independently and was still manufactured by CVA up-to the early 1950s.

CVA Model 75 Floor Standing Lathe

The Model 75 Floor Standing Lathe was also manufactured from the mid 1930s. The H-Gear was integrated internally, with the on/off, spindle speed and direction selectors all mounted on the front.  The tailstock could be replaced with a capstan turret, which enabled semi skilled operators to produce “quality” parts; probably an essential requirement during WWII.

CVA Second Operation Lathe

Manufactured during WWII, the CVA Second Operation Lathe was a forerunner of the CVA Auto. For cutting motion, the slides were fitted with levers, presumably their presetting would determine the exact size and shape of the component; again an essential requirement for high production and semi skilled operation during WWII.

CVA Model 79 Toolmakers Die Sinking Mill

This “beautiful” and flexible machine was also produced during WWII, up until the very early 1950s.  It had no power feed to the axis, therefore when CVA started to produce Kearney & Trecker Mills under licence from 1947, it was quickly superseded by their superior machines, all of which had power feed.

CVA 1 & 1A Toolroom Lathe

To complement the Model 79, was the CVA 1, and later 1A Lathe.  Produced and sold from the late 1940s through to the mid 1950s, when it disappeared from sales literature and the Directors’ Report. The lathe was widely recognised by toolmakers as a fine machine, in fact many were also in production in their own toolroom in Upper St. James’s Street, Kemp Town.

CVA High Speed Automatic Lathe (Auto)

Developed during the latter part of WWII; initially the No8 Auto was launched onto the market around 1947.  This was followed by 3 other models, No12, No 20 and No 26. The numbers represented the bar capacity in 16ths of an inch. No 8 equalling ½ inch, No 12 equalling ¾ inch etc. The cutting tools were positioned to the part using cams, which were designed according to the component requirement. All models were equipped with the patented constant throw turret, amongst the many features. Although essentially a lathe, a wide range of other operations were possible, including milling, slotting, and deburring, enabling small complicated components to be completed automatically in a single operation.

Nearly 50 Years of CVA Machine Tool Manufacture

On the 22nd of May 1972 it was announced to the press, that the rights to the Autos had been sold to Brown & Sharp Limited of Plymouth, ending almost 50 years of manufacture of CVA machine tools. Auto production in Brighton would be gradually wound down over the following two and a half years. This would allow the company to concentrate on Kearney & Trecker numerical control and automotive machines.

A Lunch Time Mystery

Designers, machinists, foundrymen, electricians, patternmakers, welders, machine tool fitters; a skilled trade and gainful employment was had by many local men thanks to CVA. Times were hard in the early days, even tougher in the 1930s and wartime. How did the men relax during their lunch break at Portland Road? Did they have time to nip down to the seafront, play football in the yard, or was there another pastime? If you look closely the answer is on the page.

Comments about this page

  • Hi Peter, Nice piece! Darts was a very popular game in that factory I assume!!

    By Tony Mould (07/02/2012)
  • Thanks Peter for another informative instalment about the local machine tool manufacturer CVA/KTM/FMT. I’m sure the older ex employees will find it nostalgic looking back at the products in the pictures. When I started working there in the early 70’s, the auto lathes were still manufactured in Brighton and I remember Gil Percy teaching us in the training school how to mill cams for the autos. The die sinking mill still looks a useful machine for a workshop today, ideal for one off and prototyping.

    By Michael Brittain (08/02/2012)
  • I believe the constant throw turret came in with the MK3 NO. 8. I spent six weeks at Hove in the late fifties on secondment as an apprentice. I did look over the wall to watch cricket.

    By Ken Jones (09/12/2012)
  • I was a CVA apprentice during the 5 years 1948-53 and worked in the various machine shops that manufactured the parts for the world famous No. 8 Auto. I also worked at the ‘Cricket Ground’ factory in Hove, where the No.8 was assembled. I later became a Planning Engineer at Portland Road works and the Lewes Road factory, but left CVA in 1960 when I went to London to work as a Production Engineer at the Wandsworth based company, Projectile & Engineering Company. I have so many fond memories of my time at CVA. David Peckham.

    By David Peckham (25/01/2013)
  • Correct me if I am wrong but the designations 8, 12 and 20 were the maximum bar stock diameters the machine could handle in sixteenths of an inch, namely half inch, three-quarters and inch and a quarter.

    By Douglas Valeriani (12/08/2013)
  • Thank you for this page, I have just purchased a model 75 lathe which seems to have survived all these years in pretty good condition. It is minus the H drive and has step pulleys in it’s place. When I get it home and running I will send you some photos if you wish. Regards Graeme

    By Graeme Askew (02/06/2014)
  • I would love to see the photos:

    By Peter Groves (02/06/2014)
  • Hi. I worked at Eaton Road in the early sixties building TF mills, but they were still building a couple of 1a Lathes. I was told they were the last ones to be made, I am sure my memory is not playing tricks although its a long time ago

    By Dennis Fielder (03/06/2014)
  • You could be correct Dennis, my date of mid 1950’s was based on when they appeared to stop promoting it!

    By Peter Groves (03/06/2014)
  • Hi, I was an apprentice 1969 (5yrs) and then worked in the NC Maint dept Hollingbury until 1979.  Anyone else out there remember those days. Saw Gil in Brighton appox 10yrs ago. What a great man to have been taught by, stood me in great stead for my working life.  Some great memories too would love to catch up with anyone who was at K&T in the early 70’s. 

    Chris Ross (still in engineering in Sussex).

    By Chris Roos (15/06/2014)
  • You are correct Doug!!

    By Peter Groves (04/11/2015)

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