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Descours & Cabaud Lathe - France

Descours & Cabaud was, apparently, an old Lyon-based manufacture company that still exists - but in a different sector of activity. Based in St. Etienne, just down the road from Lyon, this was an area once at the heart of much of France's industrial manufacturing. However, if the machine was made by Descours & Cabaud, or "badge-engineering" from another maker in that area, is uncertain.
Dating from the 1940s to early 1950s, the conventionally but heavily-built backgeared and screwcutting lathe shown below - one amongst several models known to be connected with the Descours & Cabaud name - had a centre height of 125 mm and accepted around 400 mm between centres. The lathe was carried on two cast-iron plinths, with both the larger headstock and smaller tailstock ends each having two small, open storage compartments.
Flat-topped, the bed featured English-type narrow vertical ways guiding a carriage with long, symmetrical wings and a centrally positioned cross slide. Both cross and top slide had their feed screws fitted with bronze micrometer dials of a decent size - unusual for the period on a lathe of this class - though the travel of both appears to have been rather short, especially that of the top slide which had just three widely spaced gib strip adjustment screws. However, one useful feature was a built-in, indexing 4-way toolpost, its ratchet being quickly released by what was, quite possibly, a unique feature - the writer has never seen another - a knob on slide's front face.
The spindle, running in bronze bearings secured by two-bolt-caps, was bored through to clear a diameter of 18 mm and driven from a well-engineered, oil-well lubricated countershaft bolted to the back of the bed. Drive from motor to countershaft was by a single-step flat pulley - and from countershaft to the headstock spindle via a 3-step cone pulley - each of the two belts being around 30 mm wide. Six speeds were available, these likely to have spanned something like 50 to 700 r.p.m. - though the blue-painted lathe below has a claimed conversion to eighteen that spanned 43 to 2000 r.p.m. To slacken the final-drive belt in order to change speeds, a handwheel was provided on the face of the bed immediately below the headstock; this, working through a screw thread, simply moved the countershaft forwards and backwards with the same mechanism also fitted to some versions of the
Myford 4-inch Precision, a lathe also made during the 1940s.
Screwcutting was arranged by the expected set of fourteen changewheels (including a 127t metric/English transposing gear), these working through a robust-looking tumble-reverse mechanism. The arrangement allowed for the generation of thirteen metric pitches from 0.5 to 5 mm and twenty Whitworth (inch) from 6 to 36 t.p.i. (threads per inch).
Fitted with a No.2 Morse taper spindle - locked by that rather nasty system, a bolt clamping down on a slit cut into the casting - the tailstock could be set over for the turning of slight tapers. A clue to the lathe's age can also be taken from the provision of a dipper rod and oil reservoir to lubricate the back centre - though originally this would have been filled not with oil but with highly poisonous liquid white lead.

A "Descours & Cabaud" in original, unmolested condition

Electrical reversing switch of unusually heavy construction

Secure storage for the screwcutting changewheels inside the headstock-end plinth

Distinctive fixed and travelling steadies