Founded in 1932 in Gera (in the Thüringen area of eastern Germany) the Gustav Eisfeld machine tool company had a factory at Neue Straße 4 and produced, under sub-contract, parts for the grinder and milling machine maker Dietrich August Jahn, also based in Gera (Gera is fine old town to stay in when attending a MotoGP race at the nearby Sachsenring Circuit). A sideline for Eisfied was the well respected Eisfeld engine for model aircraft, a type manufactured until 1944. After the war Gustav Eisfeld continued to build engines, but only for his personal use, though so popular had the originals been that enthusiasts continued to make replicas. High resolution pictures - may take time to load
Although during WW2 the firm was fortunate to escape bomb damage (and still stands today) but in 1945, under Russian occupation, the Dietrich August Jahn Machine Tool Factory was completely stripped down and moved to Russia. Gustav Eisfeld, having lost his main customer, was then faced with having to make suggestions to the occupying force as to how he might occupy his production facilities - the Russians deciding that he was to produce bench lathes. Consequently, the Type MDO was introduced - a machine that was to stay in production until 1960 with a total of around 1000 examples made. Machine number 582 (that illustrated below) was made in 1952 and 1040, the last off the production line, in late 1960.
With a centre height of 90 mm (3.5") and accepting either 250 mm (10") between centres as the Model MDO250, or 400 mm (15.75") as the MDO400, the new lathe had just a little less capacity than the contemporary Myford ML7. The new lathe was especially well built with superb detailing and a decent cosmetic finish. 100 mm (4") wide, the straight bed used V and flat ways and mounted a carriage with a compound slide rest having 60 mm of cross travel on the plain (non-T-slotted) cross slide and 80 mm on the 360º swivelling top. For a small lathe the slide rest ways were unusually deep and wide and the feed screws fitted with knurled-edged and chromed zeroing micrometer dials - that could, usefully, have been larger. Oddly, the carriage handwheel (which worked through reduction gearing) was bereft of a handle and its periphery polished, and not knurled: a sure recipe for a lack of grip when turned by oily hands.
Running in tapered outside but parallel-bore bronze bearings threaded at each end and drawn into their conical headstock seats by thin slotted nuts, the main spindle was bored through 11 mm (1/2") and had a No. 2 Morse taper and an M27 nose thread. A set of 10 mm collets was offered, of the draw-in type (73 mm long with a M9 x 1 thread), with an adapter nose-piece being supplied together with the necessary draw tube. Fitted to the lathe was a locally made 110 mm 3-jaw ring scroll (Roto Record) chuck by Robert Todt of Gera and in the tailstock a Eisfeld-branded rotating centre.
Behind the headstock was a built-on, hinged motor platform carrying a 0.33 h.p. motor that drove the spindle directly by V-belt using 4-step pulleys. As there was no countershaft, the open speed range was rather high, running from 600 to 1400 r.p.m., though the backgear would (assuming the usual 6: 1 reduction) have given a bottom speed of around 100 r.p.m. - still rather fast for screwcutting in other than the hands of a more experienced operator. Earlier models have the V-belt drive to the headstock spindle exposed while later versions (shown at the bottom of the page) have a neat, cast guard that provides complete shielding
Fitted with a 3 mm pitch Acme-form leadscrew grasped by twin nuts running in adjustable guides, screwcutting was through a tumble-reverse mechanism (with a typical effective German design of selector handle) and changewheels - a set of seventeen being provided of: 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60, 65, 70, 80, 90, 95, 100 and 120t together with a 127t metric/inch translation wheel. Metric pitches from 0.2 to 3.0 mm could be generated, together with 8 to 40 t.p.i.
Unfortunately the lever-locked, set-over tailstock had a spindle with only 40 mm (just over 1.5") of travel fitted with an inadequate No. 1 Morse taper.
Occupying a space 850 mm long, 500 mm back to front and 250 mm high, the Eisfeld weighed 65 kg (142 lbs). Other small East-German lathes from the same period include three by unknown makers, a range of watchmakers' lathe by Andrä & Zwingenberger (together with versions badged as Georg Jacob, WMW Prazima and Saupe & Sohn), the Unispan, Saupe, Rudolf Kadner, SL2a and Eisfeld.
Wenn ein Leser hat eine Eisfeld Drehmaschine, würde der Schriftsteller freuen, von Ihnen zu hören.
A letter from Germany in 2020:
Mr. Gustav Eisfeld ended his business for reasons of age in 1962, handing over the manufacture and repair of these machines to the mechanical engineering company Karl Brockhoff in Gera Kaimberg 54, which operated until the end of the GDR. The latter built a few of these machines on the side and carried out repairs on them. Around 1998 I bought myself a machine with all the accessories that were available at the time. the only thing missing was the change wheels. Using a small sign attached to my machine, I was able to locate Mr. Brockhof on the Internet and contact him. We made an appointment and I visited him.
Of course, I got the change wheels from him and some other things, such as a chip pan and also a complete cover for the headstock, including a few drawings. Based on his meticulous book keeping, he could also tell me that my machine had worked in an optician's shop in Leipzig and that he had rebuilt it in 1974. Unfortunately, Mr. Brockhoff died about 15 years ago. Last time I contacted the Widow and she told me that she sold the Kompled House and workshop and all the materials and spare parts are lost now. I myself like to work on the machine when it comes to the production of small parts, because it works quietly and precisely. My Regards, Lutz