Restored J.H. Rosberg Mfg Co Watchmakers Bench Before and After

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Project by drakers007 posted 04-08-2011 03:31 AM 17658 views 5 times favorited 21 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Here’s a lil’ restoration project that may be of interest to you all. One of my current compulsions is old jewelers lathes and whilst trolling Craigslist last month I came across an old watchmakers bench with a lathe and a motor. So I drove north 90 miles and picked up this cool old bench with the lathe, some tooling and the rope they used for a belt!

Using gel stripping compound (aka “Alien Spit”) I completely removed the old finish, reglued the sides and sanded the entire bench inside and out. Then I applied Minwax ‘Red Chestnut” stain once let it dry rubbed it in then another coat and rubbed it in. Finish with a couple coats of Minwax satin floor urethane. Being real careful to maintain the worn manafucature logo that is on the back splash board. It reads “J.H. Rosberg Mfg. Co. Chicago”, it’s somewhat worn but ledgable. Last night I engraved a small brass plate with the same info and will be adding it to the front edge of the bench.

The old jeweers lathe is a 4 mm Hopkins and it came with a set of collets and has clead up very nice with a gentle sanding of 1000 grit and 1200 grit wet sanding paper and Mother Mag Wheel Pollsh (great stuff). I also did the same for the little Racine Jewelers Lathe Motor by stripping the paint off and pollishing it out. I’ve done up a few of these old motors over the years and usualy if a magnet does not still then the metal will shine up real nice.

So this one is a keeper for my workshop, I’ll just need to reorganize a wee bit to make it fit but I was pleased with the results and it is my kind of eye candy. I’ll take some dimensions later this week and post it here.

21 comments so far

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


17825 posts in 4081 days

#1 posted 04-08-2011 03:40 AM

Oh, wow! Absolutely amazing job on the refinish / restore! Thanks for the color mention of Red Chestnut. I’ll consider it in my work for a reddish tint that I’ve been pining after because this example looks great!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. - OldTools Archive -

View bobasaurus's profile


3747 posts in 4646 days

#2 posted 04-08-2011 03:44 AM

That looks like a nice piece of machinery and furniture. Have you slapped a new belt on it to try the lathe?

-- Allen, Colorado (Instagram @bobasaurus_woodworking)

View Uamsclay's profile


29 posts in 4330 days

#3 posted 04-08-2011 03:45 AM

Great job

-- Clay - I love free tools

View BTKS's profile


1989 posts in 4927 days

#4 posted 04-08-2011 04:18 AM

Great recovery! I love seeing old tools and furniture come back to life!

-- "Man's ingenuity has outrun his intelligence" (Joseph Wood Krutch)

View Dave's profile


11435 posts in 4302 days

#5 posted 04-08-2011 05:07 AM

Most impressive. Are dabbling with watch making and or repair?

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5681 days

#6 posted 04-08-2011 05:15 AM

I love seeing old stuff like that given new life. Great restoration!

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View David Drummond's profile

David Drummond

98 posts in 4127 days

#7 posted 04-08-2011 07:07 AM

Mmmm… Stella.

-- "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do... Explore, Dream, Discover” Mark Twain

View murch's profile


1380 posts in 4087 days

#8 posted 04-08-2011 12:57 PM

I LOVE what you did with the little baby lathe. Does it want to be a JET when it grows up?

David – Mmmm Stella, Mmmm Weekend, Mmmm sun is shining in Ireland. Eeeeeeyow.

-- A family man has photos in his wallet where his money used to be.

View Hoosierdaddy's profile


81 posts in 4104 days

#9 posted 04-08-2011 01:39 PM

Usually when I hear (or read) about an old piece of furniture being stripped I cringe just a little bit thinking of the lost value by not keeping the original finish… your case it was a slam dunk decision to strip it (love the ‘alien spit’ reference) and refinish it. The end product is probably in better condition that when originally made! You’ve given this old bench many decades of new life again! Congrats!

-- I don't know what this is going to be like, but there's only one way to find out..........

View DaddyZ's profile


2475 posts in 4503 days

#10 posted 04-08-2011 06:47 PM

Very Nice !!!

-- Pat - Worker of Wood, Collector of Tools, Father of one

View Austin's profile


119 posts in 4529 days

#11 posted 04-09-2011 12:40 AM


View horologist's profile


106 posts in 5202 days

#12 posted 04-09-2011 02:11 AM

Nice job on the bench, I once did a similar restoration. Only I didn’t have the good sense to take the before pictures.
I looked in my books for a Hopkins lathe, the only mention I could find was a Hopkins model made by Waltham Watch Tool Co. but no photos. If this is the case, then you have a nice lathe worth restoring properly. You did a great job of cleaning the exterior but the headstock needs to be disassembled and cleaned before you run it too much. The Modern Watchmakers Lathe And How To Use It by Archie Perkins is a good reference that covers maintenance and repairs as well how to use the accessories. I’m not sure if it is still in print, perhaps an inter library loan would be a good way to examine the book before you part with any cash.
Next, while you did a great job on that motor I think you will find they are awful on these lathes. You have two speeds, off and too fast, they have little torque at low speeds, not to mention they are really loud. I never understood how noisy they were until I used a lathe set up with a treadle. Unfortunately, lathe treadles are hard to find, expensive, and even worse you would have to modify your beautiful bench. Not very practical. A Sherline lathe motor (they sell them separately) is great solution, quiet and excellent torque at all speeds. This is how I have my watchmaker’s lathes set up.
Finally, (yes there is an end to this) most likely you have an 8mm lathe. This is good news as it will make finding additional collets much easier.

-- Troy in Melrose, Florida

View razor524's profile


70 posts in 4469 days

#13 posted 04-09-2011 04:32 AM

What do you use the lathes for?

View drakers007's profile


8 posts in 5242 days

#14 posted 04-09-2011 07:39 PM

In answer to a couple question/commentss;

Q1. Have I spun the lathe up with a belt ? Yep (runs true and smooth)/ but it’s still a work in progress

Q2. Am I dabbling in watch/clock repair ? Just started exploring them ~ I’m a hobby gizmo guy and find the inner workings of windup timepieces are interesting, and the building/repair seems like (another) great hobby

Q3. What do you use the lathes for? well these are watchmaker (Jewelers) lathe and the purpose is to turn and machine very small precision pieces used in a variety of applications; clocks, watches, compasses, phonograph needles, hypodermic needles, etc… Think very small parts.

Thanks for the comments and advice… I enjoy restoring old tools and gizmos ~ some I keep others I sell to maintain this as a self funding hobby. As for the lathes I’ve 3 keepers (4mm, 6mm and 8mm with tooling).

Future project is to machine machining some vintage looking lathe pulley with brass and wood. We’ll see

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44 posts in 4149 days

#15 posted 04-12-2011 05:42 AM

Excellent job on the restore – very beautiful and interesting piece.

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