This miniature replica of a six-inch South Bend lathe was the cherished creation of Wilbur “Bill” Henry Dexter. This particular South Bend model was his favorite piece of full-size machine equipment. The replica was most likely made in the late 1940s or early 1950s.

Wilbur was brought up on a farm in the early 1900s, gaining the skills typical of the farming community at the time. He wasn’t particularly fond of school, dropping out at the end of his 8th grade year and starting work as a carpenter and handyman.

He would eventually leave for California where he started his own machine shop and married his childhood sweetheart, Lillian. Later, Wilbur would acquire a California State Professional License and establish himself as a self-employed mechanical engineer operating under the name Dexter Laboratory. Read a biography of Wilbur Dexter with more details about his miniature lathe. 

Exhibit added: February 14, 2020 - Last modified: May 23, 2023

Presented by The Joe Martin Foundation for Exceptional Craftsmanship