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Map measure of the month: HB Curvimetre ‘Model No. 52 mesures anglaises’

HB Curvimetre 52 MA
HB Curvimetre 52 MA

Registering drafting map measurer. Measures the length of any line straigth or curved up to 40 inches“. Typo aside, this is a robust and reliable French-manufactured measure that still works as well as the day it was made- some fifty years ago.

HB Curvimetre 52 MA in to part box
HB Curvimetre 52 MA in two part box. Simple instructions on operation are included

The curvimetre dates from the 1970s and most of the various models came supplied in a rigid box comprised of a bright yellow, plastic base and a snug fitting transparent plastic lid. Each box originally had a small rectangle of yellow foam for the measure to rest on but these have not lasted the years and almost all of these foam pads have long crumbled to dust. The words “CURVIMETRE / MAP-MEASURER” and “MADE IN FRANCE” together with the HB logo are included on the lid. Some measures were supplied in a card box. Other measures, perhaps aimed at a premium market, with a premium price, came in a leather slip case.

The plastic box that came with this measure has the model number added on one end- ‘No 52 M A‘. M A stands for Mesures Anglaises .

Company logo
Model No. is found on one end of the box holding each measurer
Model number is found on one end of the box holding each map measurer

The company trademark found on this measure was introduced in this format c1970. The initials HB stand for Henri Burnat. The word Déposé above the trademark (not part of the trademark) indicates that the manufacturer had registered the design.

This is a variant of French measure for ‘English measurements’. When tracked along a line, each turn of the dial by the blued needle indicates four inches measured, the additional totalizer enables the ‘Registering Drafting Map Measurer‘ to record a line of 40 inches before returning to zero.

The totalizer is situated on the dial face beween the central axis and the number 4 at the top. Numbers can be seen though the small circular window in the dial, these advance by one digit with every turn of the dial when measuring. The totalizer displays digits 0-9, before returning to 0. Individual inches (corresponding to miles on an inch scale map) are in one-sixteenth graduations.

HB Curvimetre 52 MA. Totalizer in dial records complete revolutions of the dial, each complete revolution being four inches tracked
HB Curvimetre 52 MA. Totalizer in dial records complete revolutions of the dial, each complete revolution being four inches tracked

Most of the various French measures in the HB range had dials measuring in centimetres. It was a simple task for a paper ‘inch’ dial to be inserted and the internal gearing arranged such to permit an imperial measurement instead. The manufacturers advertising informs us-“autres modèles similaires pour mesures anglaises“- translating as ‘other similar models for English measurement’.

Rear face of the HB Curvimetre
Rear face of the HB Curvimetre

The HB Curvimetre is well made, lacking the small screws found on some other similar measures that hold the glass faces to the dials. Components are entirely metal and glass with paper dials. It is reassuring comfortable to use when in the hand. Held firmly to a map, the small brass tracking wheel moves easily, cogged gearing transfers movement to the needle that tracks the distance covered. It is 110mm in length of which 59mm is the slender metal handle. It is 35mm diameter with a 32mm paper dial visible through the glass face. It weighs 45g. The measure is double-sided with a glass face on the reverse. The second face on the rear of the measure features no more than a scale conversion listing.

Small instruction leaftet for the HB measure is just 73mm x 34mm but the information included is more than suffice
Small instruction leaftet for the HB measure is just 73mm x 34mm but the information included is more than suffice

There is another interesting little feature on the measure shown here. This is an additional ‘P.O.’ stamped on the handle. This indicates that this measure was supplied to the British Post Office The P.O. initials also indicate that they were applied after 1969, when the G.P.O. became a corporation. This additional mark points to this specific measure having been used by postal officials for measuring maps to ascertain the distance covered while transporting mail on ‘walks’ or by cycle and van. I have previously shown an earlier example of a ‘Self-Registering Rotameter’ used by the G.P.O. for similar purposes.

HB Curvimetre
HB Curvimetre has a British Post Office stamp on the handle
HB Curvimetre

Fore-runners to this measure were the Henri Chatelain and Fritz Chatelain map measurers. The successor to the HC/FC name was F. Baudet who took over the company from 1921/2, retaining the Chatelain name. In 1925 the address was 10 Rue de Belzunce, Paris (the address for the Henri Chatelain company since 1887).

HB Curvimetre

The Chatelain/Baudet company was subsequently taken over by Henri Burnat (H B) in c1940. The company address was then 69 Rue d’Hauteville, Paris. The Baudet-Burnat company produced quite a number of products aimed at the outdoors enthusiast- pedometers, altimeters, compasses and map measurers. Their trademark was adapted from that earlier used by Chatelain. It now combined the intials of both manufacturer identities- H and B above, each side of an impression of a map measurer, with the additional letters H and C below. The inclusion of a map measure in the trademark design dates from the nineteenth century. From the 1970s the trademark was again altered and the word PARIS replaced the letters H and C. Improved map measurers were being produced into the 1980’s at least. It appears the company ceased trading in 1998.

There is a further slight variant of the HB Curvimetre No. 52 M A model shown here. This differs solely by having a shorter handle. The model number for the short-handled Curvimetre is HB No. 52 Z A.

Specifications for the HB 52 ZA are: 68mm in length. The handle is just 18mm in length. Again, it is 35mm diameter with a 32mm paper dial visible through the glass face. At 43g, the HB 52 ZA is a couple of grams lighter than the model HB 52 MA. It has both the same rear face and front face as its long-handled brother. Line measurement capability is also exactly the same as the long-handled version. My example came supplied in a plain, papered, card box on which the only markings, other than model number and “Made in France“, inform me that it was used by the “North Kent Area Surveyor”.

Further HB curvimetre models included No’s 54, 55, 56, 57 and 620. Each of these had what was advertised as an ‘English’ equivalent. Three Points of the Compass will be looking at one of the French models and it’s imperial measurement variant in another blog.

HB 52 ZA
HB Curvimetre model 52 ZA

Three Points of the Compass has looked at a few more Map Measurers in detail. Links to these can be found here.

HB Curvimetre

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