Trading under the names "F.Lorch", "L.S.& Co." and "Lorch, Schmidt & Co." Lorch was a German company renowned for its wide range of precision lathes and other high-quality watch-making machines and tools. What the marketing philosophies were with regard to the three different "brands" is not known with seemingly identical lathes being badged simultaneously with different labels - though after WW2 the "Lorch, Schmidt & Co." label was abandoned. Over the years each of the three names was given to many different types of machine - from tiny watchmaker lathes through small and medium-sized plain-turning bench lathes (not dissimilar to the American Stark and similar makes) to backgeared and screwcutting models. The latter type, with centre heights from 4 to 6 inches (100 to 150 mm) were often listed in catalogues under the Lorch Schmidt heading. Although the larger lathes evolved steadily to follow other makers - more massive castings, heavier headstocks and the ability to taker deeper yet more accurate cuts - the smaller lathes had almost finished their development by 1910. A comparison with Lorch lathes made in the first decade of the 20th century with those produced in the early 1950s will show surprisingly few changes: apart from some cleaning up of details, larger micrometer dials, built-on countershaft units and integrated electrical switch gear there was simply no need to alter them, so well had the originals been designed and constructed. Unfortunately, the result has been a bewildering variety of types and sizes - sometimes designated only by the particular type or size of the compound slide rest, or headstock - or combination of such feature. It was also possible for customers to specify their own particular requirements of collet capacity, lever or screw-feed slide rests, screw, lever or capstan-driven tailstock barrels, thread-cutting or thread-chasing equipment, etc., and so create a unique machine for their particular purposes. With such a plethora of models to choose from identifying a Lorch model without access to a wide range of reference resources is difficult and, just to confuse matters further, the factory almost never fitted Type or Model name plates or tags.
Although comparatively rare in the UK - these were very expensive machines when new and usually confined to professional users in experimental and similar workshops - they are relatively common in continental Europe and greatly sought-after machines, not only for their inherent mechanical beauty but also because, even today, their superior design and quality of construction makes them so useful.
Featured in the first of the illustrations below is a backgeared and screwcutting 5" x 24" Lorch Schmidt Model C11 - a design with its origins in the mid 1890s and made, almost unchanged in its major components, into the 1930s. While early versions of the lathe (and some examples of a contemporary but smaller 4-inch centre height version), had the headstock spindle end thrust taken against a solid plate (supported outboard by two studs), later types (from around 1895) had the plate open (to allow a hollow spindle) and then, with the thrust taken on a ball race against the inside face of the left-hand headstock bearing (which could have been as late as the 1920s), a completely open spindle - in the manner of a modern machine.
Like many lathes of its era the front face of the headstock bull wheel was drilled with a ring of holes for dividing purposes but, unusually, both headstock back gears were guarded - in this case with unusually narrow, intricately-cast cast-iron guards.
Lorch were a conservative company, and many of their lathes changed little over the years with even the overly-ornate, Victorian-era stands still found on lathes built in the first two decades of the 20th century. Should you have a lathe branded "Lorch Schmidt" of any age, or any sales literature for the maker, the writer would be pleased to hear from you.
An example of a restored Lorch Schmidt Type AB backgeared and screwcutting lathe on its treadle stand can be seen here.