Although some of our readers are doubtless well acquainted with the manufacture of the above-named articles we think that the greater part of them are ignorant of anything connected with the manufacture of saws, and that a few facts relative to this subject will be perused by them with interest.
We therefore propose giving an account of a visit we paid to one of the principal saw manufactories in Sheffield. On reaching the factory, we were shown into a comfortable office, and were told that one of the principals would wait upon us in a few minutes, and we were soon after introduced to the managing partner, who after receiving us with great politeness, told us that he would have great pleasure in sending the saw manager to show us over the works, and explain the various processes. (more…)
There was a time when, as a rule, workmen looked upon machinery as being injurious to their interests; and a feeling of antagonism was naturally raised in them against any invention that aimed at rapid production of manufactured goods. This feeling of hostility was quite natural in the uneducated artisan, who fancied he saw in every new invention an implement of oppression.
It must be admitted, however, that in some instances, at any rate, the introduction of labor-saving machinery has been of great benefit to many of the working classes. But while it cannot be denied that the hours of labor have bean shortened, wages advanced, and to some extent necessaries cheapened, it will be found that employees have increased out of all proportions, and that a larger amount of skilled labor remains idle than ever before; and that although some necessaries are cheaper in name than they were fifty years ago, it must be remembered that the purchasing power of a dollar is but little more than half what it was at that period.
The great cry, also, of high wages being given to mechanics, has but little force, when the fact is taken into consideration that the amount paid to-day has but little more purchasing power than one-half the same amount had half a century ago. We are not prepared to say that the introduction and use of labor-saving machinery have not been a benefit to the world at large; but we think we are safe in saying that whatever may be the benefits derived from this source, they are evidently not evenly divided.
One of the most astonishing things about studying early plates in books such as A.-J. Roubo’s “L’Art du menuisier” is that the plates are not simply two-dimensional. There is a great deal of texture. The paper is radically depressed in the field where the paper went through the copperplate press. And you can feel every line.
Last week at the Deutches Museum in Munich I spent the most time in the museum’s section on printing. I didn’t need to read much about the letterpress; we had one of those in college that I played with all the time instead of studying. But the copperplate press and its exhibit were fascinating. The exhibit showed how the thin copper plates were coated in acid-resistant wax and soot, and then how the engraver etched through these top mediums to create the image. Then the plate was dipped in acid to cut the image into the copper.
You can read more about this process on Wikipedia here.
Here is the (uncorrected) description of how the press works from the Deutches Museum.
A great deal of pressure is necessary for the manufacture of a copperplate engraving, in order to press the paper into the cuts and to suck the ink out. Letterpress printing machines with a platen are not really suited to the purpose. In the sixteenth century, presses with their own back pressure cylinders were used for the first time.
With the star wheel, the copperplate printer moves the running board, plate and wooden cloths through between the two rollers. The upper roller produces the pressure, the lower one transports the running board. Due to the high pressure, the printer needs both his hands and also his feet to move the star wheel.
The copperplate press is a reminder of the sheer amount of labor and willpower needed to create a book like Roubo’s in the 18th century. Even though our translation seems like a lot of work (I’m proofing the index today), it pales in comparison to what Roubo and the printers of the day had to do to produce the original volumes.
Berea, Ohio is a town of 3500 inhabitants, situated on the Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati Railroad, and the Cleveland and Toledo Railroad, twelve miles southwest of Cleveland, and six miles from the shore of Lake Erie. It has long been favorably known as the location of the Baldwin University, the German Wallace College, and the extensive and valuable stone quarries.
Either of these interests is sufficient to give the town a position of some importance in Northern Ohio, but its grindstones make it known in business circles as the great emporium of sharpening material. The quarries are situated along the bed and banks of Rocky River, a small stream, and a smaller creek falling into the river about the centre of town. They are now open for three miles on the river, and one mile on the creek.
The quality of the stone was discovered in 1830, by John Baldwin, a name of many eccentricities but some most excellent qualities. In 1830 and 1831, he employed two Irishmen to cut two tons of grindstones in his cellar. These were mostly sent to Canada for a market. In 1832, Mr. Baldwin invented the present method of turning stone, and commenced operations, the whole season’s work amounting to about twenty tons—a sufficient quantity to stock the market. These first efforts produced very indifferent stone, but success finally crowned the effort. The business has increased until it now employs, in all its departments, about a thousand men, and over $1,000,000 capital. (more…)
As to the ancient furniture of good English oak, of which wood Cobbett (though I should hardly quote him as a sterling authority on such a matter) says the furniture of an Englishman’s house always ought to be, how pleasingly solid and substantial it looks, the heaviest man might plump himself down on the settle or the chairs in security.
Without the needful cushions, I grant the settle would look bare and uncomfortable in use; but with the soft, loose cushions about, that you can adjust to your own liking, it is in reality the perfection of ease. And how much better and more healthy this arrangement of loose cushions is than the usual stuffed sofa, that collects the dust which can never be wholly removed in the once-a-year spring overhaul.
With the old fashioned settle the loose cushions can readily and quickly be taken out of doors every morning and beaten free of the previous day’s dust, and so be kept ever sweet and clean. And how the good old furniture lasts, and how at home it looks in an old house: the “wood carpenter,” as he called himself, who made these chairs and tables so shapely and so strong, had no idea of a fashion in furniture changing continually, he thought in generations, not in years.
“By hammer and hand shall all things stand,” and the ancient craftsman wrought “by hammer and hand”; and so proud was he of his productions that he frequently carved the year of their making upon them, as the builder did upon his houses.
The big factory where goods are turned out wholesale by machinery was not thought of then. Now a machine has no brains, no feelings, so the articles it turns out have a smooth, uninteresting finish, they are not imbued with the personality of the hand maker, and they lack the subtle charm of it.
I almost fancy that the word manufacture has lost its original meaning, for when I hear of manufactured goods, I always think of machinery and steam; yet the word manufacture, I learn from my dictionary, means hand made, being derived from manus, the hand, and factum, a making.