Jacob Horowitz and the Scully Lathe

Jan 9, 2023

Yesterday was an intense, nine-hour labor session doing upgrades and maintenance on the Scully record lathe with Jacob Horowitz. Jacob and his Uncle Len are the two guys on planet Earth who are the authority on Scully lathes, and I’m lucky enough to have them here in Los Angeles.

We came close to a total tear-down yesterday, replacing bearings and cleaning decades of caked grease (beneath the shiny exterior, these things are 1940s-era mechanical lathes at heart—grease and gears and bearings are what make it all work).

Scully lathes like mine were made one at a time at a small operation in Bridgeport, Connecticut, by a couple of highly specialized machinists. What is really crazy is that each one was made by hand, without a real factory or assembly line, so all the parts will really only fit on the lathe it was made for. They knew this going in, so the Scully machinists stamped the serial number of each lathe on almost every little part! If you have tried to swap the parts from other lathes (you may remember my tale of restoring another Scully lathe that came from four different lathes, all mismatched parts), the holes don’t line up and the tolerances won’t clear. It’s fascinating, but a bit maddening at the same time. They’re each like little handmade cars where the parts can’t be found, so if you need something, you have to machine it from scratch to fit your lathe. Crazy.

I’m constantly impressed at how much knowledge Jacob has for being a relatively young dude. He’s the guy who will be carrying on this recording lathe legacy long after us “older” guys are gone. Arcane and obscure bits of alignment wisdom and electronic mathematical equations flowed out of his brain like a wise old sensei—but the dude is in his thirties. Impressive! The long day was grueling and my brain felt like jello by the time we were done, but we finished at 1:45 am with a whole checklist of improvements and solutions tackled and worked out. Thanks, Jacob!