Of fine design and particularly beautiful execution, the triangular-bed Glashütte lathe was manufactured in the 1800s by Ernst Kreißig (Kreissig), a maker of tools for the horological trade from the Glashütte area near Dresden , Germany. Glashütte was not only the German centre of high-class watchmaking (and a watch-makers' school) but also home to several machine-tool builders including Karl Renner. Although Kreißig offered several versions of his lathe (including an interesting survivor, No. 295) his later models were more conventional in appearance, resembling those from Lorch and Boley. While the triangular bed might be considered signature design for many makes of high-quality, precision lathes from the late 1700s to the late 1800s - the most famous being Henry Maudsley's revolutionary screwcutting lathe of around 1800 - its use on so small a machine was unusual, few examples being offered by other makers. With the possibility that the first Glashutte lathe was made circa 1868, this would make it earlier than the better-known G. Boley triangular bed model. Ted Crom in his book "Horological Clock Tools 1700-1900" shows early Boley lathes of the same type as the Glashutte reproduced from a catalogue printed in London circa 1875. The same publication also had illustrations of long collets, similar to those used with the Glashutte lathe No. 481 below, but pulled into a headstock with a drawbar in the modern way.
After WW2 Kreißig was trapped inside the Russian-occupied zone and, with machines only able to be bought with hard-to-obtain West German D.Marks, most of the company's output was destined for local consumption.
Because the type of draw-in collets retained by a threaded tube passing up a hollow headstock spindle had yet to be invented (a development first incorporated in the American Webster Whitcomb lathe of 1888/9) the headstock of the Kreissig had to be designed in an ingenious way. This was accomplished by separating it into two sections with that on the left (its shape strongly reminiscent of watchmaker's "turns") supporting a 2-step pulley with the drive transmitted, through a pin and dog, to a spindle held in the other, right-hand element. The arrangement left a length of spindle exposed along its middle section through which was cut a slot, matching one also broached through the solid, 5.3 mm diameter stem of each collet. To lock a collet in place a long key was passed through the slots - leaving its ends protruding from each side of the spindle - and a knurled-edge ring screwed backwards against it to retain the collet. Although this assembly performed perfectly, it did require advanced standards of engineering craftsmanship to work accurately - skills that, without the aid of yet-to-be-invented shaping, planning or grinding machines, would have involved the finest of hand-fitting skills.
An unusual attachment for the time - and remarkably sophisticated and delicate in operation - was a compound slide rest. Fitted with beautifully-made horn handles this followed customary practice by using ordinary right-hand threads - so giving a "cack-handed" operation where turning the screw "inwards" caused the slide to move "out". The rest of the lathe also reflected early 19th century ideas with even the fixed steady/boring collar mimicking those used on larger ornamental turning lathes with a series of different diameter bevelled holes around the periphery of a rotatable disc.
The Glashütte is very rare, only a handful having come to light in recent years with serial numbers: 295, 481 and 534. If any reader has a Glashütte, the writer would be interested to hear from you.
Examples of other makers who offered triangular beds include: Boley, H Strube & Filse (also from Paris), Dalgety, an unknown make from France, yet another of East German origin and, of course, the clever Henry Maudsley with his original screwcutting-by-changewheels lathe.