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      email: tony@lathes.co.uk
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      "Louis Besse" Lathe

      A known French maker - who produced their own range of made-in-house lathes as well as marketing those from other manufacturers - Louis Besse were based in Paris. The first lathe shown below - though sadly neglected - is a most interesting machine with a number of possibly unique features. Of around 160 mm centre height and perhaps 1000 mm between centres, it was of a type intended for production work, a powershaft replacing the more normal screwcutting leadscrew. The feed gearbox was arranged in an unusual manner being mounted - as on the early Hardinge TL "Split-bed" and later HLV and H:LV-H lathes, outboard to the left of the headstock. Of the Hendey Norton quick-change type, the box was driven through a tumble-reverse mechanism and retained the original English Whitworth arrangement of the tumbler working in a slot that rose from low on the left to high on the right.
      Using what appears to have been a "two-height", V-way edged bed, the carriage seems to have been guided by the inner raised section and the tailstock on the outer - though this cannot be confirmed. The lathe appears to have been supplied with an integral countershaft unit, this being mounted on a slideway to the rear of the headstock and moved in and out for changes of speed by a large handwheel set immediately below the front headstock bearing. Amongst other example, a similar system was used on the French Descours & Cabaud and English Myford 4-inch Precision lathes.
      Unfortunately, the second lathe shown is not a newly-discovered Louis Besss but one by that prodigious manufacturer and exporter Oscar Ehrlich of Chemnitz, in Germany. Although the Company exported widely, it appears to have been common for them to leave off any identifying marks from their machines and, instead, market them through distributors in the export countries, one such being Tyzach in Great Britain, who sold them using both their own and the IXL brand names Other British dealers also handled the make, with larger outfits branding them with such names as "
      Olympia" - obviously in an attempt to disguise their German origins. Fortunately, Ehrlich were a conservative company and the design of their lathes, and many small details of their construction -  for example, the distinctive top slide and tumble-reverse lever with its large, rounded end and three cross slots for location - are easily recognisable on machines constructed from the late 1800s until the 1940s.
      The model marketed by "Louis Besse" was typical of the cheaper, simpler type offered by Enrlich during the 1920 and 1930s and, despite the fine badge in bronze attached to the headstock proclaiming "Louis Besse of Paris", this was a German-made machine. Mounted on plain, cast-iron standards, the lathe could be had with a treadle or motor drive in several combinations of style or, as in this case, by using the mounting boss formed in the headstock-end leg to take the treadle gear, by a tall countershaft that would originally have been fitted with a 3-step flat-belt cone pulley to drive the headstock spindle.
      Si vous avez un tour Louis Besse, veuillez contacter l'auteur.
      If you have a lathe branded as a Louis Besse, please do contact the writer.



      Unusual and highly distinctive "lips" seen
      on the headstock of an Oscar Ehrlich lathe

      Headstock of a typical Ehrlich lathe - this being branded for the English "distributor" IXL



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