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C.L.H. Watchmakers' Lathe

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If any reader has a C.L.H., the writer would be interested to hear from you

One of only a few indigenous designs of watchmakers' lathe from the United Kingdom, the C.L.H. was manufactured by C. Levitt & Son of Stockton-on-Forest, near York. The maker's rather too succinct comment on their lathe was "Diecast with an alloy as strong as steel. Can be used right or left hand. Hollow precision ground mandrel with draw in spindle for 8 mm standard collets and step chucks. Adjustable bearings. Hardened T-rest. Ground runner with hollow and point centres. Fixed tailstock. Overall measurements: 8 in x 3 in". A further comment was that: "..all the headstocks and tailstocks are machined to standard Gauges with the round bed and falt at back." lthough no confirmed date is available for the lathe's production (or any contemporary advertisement yet to be found) the C.L.H. is featured in the 1952 edition Donald Carle's book "The Watchmaker's and Model Engineer's Lathe") so one must assume that the lathe was a product of the 1940s. Confirming this, an example has been discovered (with a dull chrome finish) with a date, 1948, scratched into it; the lathe and its engraving can be seen towards the bottom of this page. Several versions of the C.L.H. are known to have been offered, including the conventionally arranged, Geneva-pattern No. 14 with its main castings in bronze, a 40 mm centre height and a spindle to take the 8 mm collets common to all C.L.H. lathes - and the almost identical No. 11, but this model having  a bed so short that it was unable to mount a tailstock.
Designed to be clamped in a vice, the very rare bronze-body No. 7 is shown immediately below. Of simple, one-piece construction and 5.5-inches long, it was fitted with a ground spindle running directly in the material of the headstock - the casting being split on one side and fitted with clamp screws, a most unusual arrangement for this class of lathe yet one which, in practice, worked perfectly well. The 0.5-inch diameter spindle took 8 mm collets and was turned by a 2-step pulley overhung on its outboard end, a simple and cheap-to-produce solution. The tailstock was of the most basic kind with just a push-spindle 0.25-inches in diameter and a locking screw that bore directly against it. Following the company tradition of offering lathes without tailstocks, a No. 8 version was also produced; this was identical to the No. 7 but with a much shorter bed that was just long enough to mount the hand T-rest assembly.
Shown at the bottom of the page is what could be another version of the C.L.H. - though this is a much more complex machine that lacks any maker's marks and may well be by another manufacturer altogether.
Over page are two other types: one that might well be an early version with the simple split headstock bearings supported on slender posts, the other a heavier machine with a much superior specification. With a centre height of around 1.5" and a between-centres capacity of 5", the C.L.H. was obviously intended for larger watch and clock work and had a bed of very unusual configuration: being formed with two vertical faces at the front and back with a large single V-way at the top and a mirror image of that on the underside. Where the bed passed through the headstock the section changed to round, with a long round extension piece protruding several inches further- the purpose of which is not known though it might have been to accommodate an auxiliary pulley system to give a great range of speeds.
As found the lathe was held in a nicely-made, fitted wooden box complete with a screw-feed compound slide-rest assembly - the top slide being in steel. Although the cross slide lacked a micrometer dial, the swivelling top slide was so fitted, though it was far from satisfactory having lines engraved at well-spaced intervals and with hand-stamped digits. However, it could be zeroed and the locking mechanism was of the "face type" that prevented the setting from being upset at it was tightened. The tailstock had a substantial spindle that could well have been locked by a proper split-barrel arrangement. that could well be original.
Other versions have also come to light: the first (shown in the four pictures at the bottom of this page) takes 8 mm collets and has been machined to remove the casting imperfections and given a "polished brass" finish. The second has a 6 mm collet fitting and, with its the darker bronze casting appears to be original. While the 8 mm model is almost the same as CHL7 already discovered, the 6 mm does have some differences that are not immediately obvious, including:
1. The pulley grooves are circular and not V-shaped
2. The "round-head" screws are in bronze, not steel, with bronze shims located in the clamps
around the spindle.
3. The angles between the front and end posts are 90, not splayed.
4. The bed has a slot to allow adjustment of the tool rest assembly.
5 The cranked lever in the tail stock is 7/16" BSF thread and not the 4BA generally used elsewhere.
6. The lettering in the casting "?MS" was formed in the pattern and not punched.
However, overall, the general dimensions are very similar and the various parts would interchange between the two lathe models.

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Looking very like a CLH, this lathe carries no identification markings. If any reader can add to the story, the writer would be pleased to hear from you. Additional pictures here

Very rare - an almost conventional from of watchmakers' lathe from CLH. This example is almost certainly either their Geneva-pattern No. 14 with a 40 mm centre height and a spindle to take 8 mm collets.
Beneath the nickel-plate finish the main casting (but not the bed) were in bronze

A C.L.H. Geneva-pattern No. 14 watchmakers' stripped of its nickel-plated finish to reveal (the most unusual) all-bronze construction of its main components

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C.L.H. Watchmakers' Lathe
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