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Schlitt Lathe - Germany
Still active in the machine tool industry, the German Schlitt Company is now composed of Georg Schlitt Werkzeug und Werkzeugmaschinen GmbH and Klaus Schlitt GmbH & Co. both of Frankfurt am Main.
Founded in 1919 and specialising in precision machine tools and accessories, Schlitt recorded steady growth both before and after WW2 and, during that time, occupied three sites in its home city. However, the typical "precision bench lathe" shown below appears to be earlier than 1919 - though as the design of this type was very slow to change, a date running into the late 1920s is possible. However, by the end of WW1, other German firms operating in the same high-class, watchmaking and precision lathe field such as Leinen, G.Boley, Lorch and Karger, were making rather more robust and advanced models.
Although its difficult to be certain that the screwcutting feed to the top slide on the Schlitt (by the traditional universally-joined and splined Carden shaft) is original - for it does appear to be rather agricultural in its execution - the unusual low-speed backgear arrangement is. Instead of the normal large and small diameter gears carried on the headstock spindle with two behind on a common shaft, on the Schlitt a single pair of helical gear were used, a smaller gear at the rear, driven originally by a round leather belt, meshing with a larger gear on the spindle. The writer believes this to remain a unique feature, though a third-party conversion of a similar nature, the ingenious Walram, was made for the British Round Bed Drummond lathe. Echoing contemporary small precision lathe practice, the headstock had flat faces at the front and rear and was fitted with either bronze or hardened steel bearings - that at the front being tapered and the one at the rear parallel. Clearance on the front bearing was set by a ring nut outboard of the spindle end drawing the whole assembly inwards. From the picture thrust appears to have been taken by a ball race imposed between the outer face of the spindle bull wheel and the left-hand bearing.
Unusually, the example shown below has survived with many of its original accessories including a milling slide, several 2-jaw tailstock chucks, fixed steady, screwcutting changewheels, a high-speed milling and grinding spindle for mounting on the top slide with drive from an "overhead", hand T-rests, a large faceplate-cum-4-jaw chuck witted with simple dog clamps, a box chuck, what look to be several sliding die holders and a number of centres with what must have been the maker's own taper fitting. Also amongst the collection of parts are two or three spare headstock spindles - one of which appears to have a steel front bearing. As an historical note, many early precision lathes of this type had, at the heart of their accuracy, a superbly-made, high-speed headstock spindle and bearing assembly based on a design already standardised for their watch and precision bench lathes by the American company Stark. Made from a high-quality "crucible" steel, hHardened, ground and lapped, the spindle ran in glass-hard steel bearings - a system which represented the very best use of the materials and manufacturing techniques available in the late 1800s and allowed both high speeds combined with a very long and reliable service life..