Industrial Biography - Iron Workers and Tool Makers
by Samuel Smiles
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The introduction of the slide rest furnished a complete remedy for this source of imperfection. The principle of the invention consists in constructing and fitting the rest so that, instead of being screwed down to one place, and the tool in the hands of the workman travelling over it, the rest shall itself hold the cutting tool firmly fixed in it, and slide along the surface of the bench in a direction exactly parallel with the axis of the work. Before its invention various methods had been tried with the object of enabling the work to be turned true independent of the dexterity of the workman. Thus, a square steel cutter used to be firmly fixed in a bed, along which it was wedged from point to point of the work, and tolerable accuracy was in this way secured. But the slide rest was much more easily managed, and the result was much more satisfactory. All that the workman had to do, after the tool was firmly fitted into the rest, was merely to turn a screw-handle, and thus advance the cutter along the face of the work as required, with an expenditure of strength so slight as scarcely to be appreciable. And even this labour has now been got rid of; for, by an arrangement of the gearing, the slide itself has been made self-acting, and advances with the revolution of the work in the lathe, which thus supplies the place of the workman's hand. The accuracy of the turning done by this beautiful yet simple arrangement is as mechanically perfect as work can be. The pair of steel fingers which hold the cutting tool firmly in their grasp never tire, and it moves along the metal to be cut with an accuracy and precision which the human hand, however skilled, could never equal.

The effects of the introduction of the slide rest were very shortly felt in all departments of mechanism. Though it had to encounter some of the ridicule with which new methods of working are usually received, and for a time was spoken of in derision as "Maudslay's Go-cart,"—its practical advantages were so decided that it gradually made its way, and became an established tool in all the best mechanical workshops. It was found alike capable of executing the most delicate and the most ponderous pieces of machinery; and as slide-lathes could be manufactured to any extent, machinery, steam-engines, and all kinds of metal work could now be turned out in a quantity and at a price that, but for its use, could never have been practicable. In course of time various modifications of the machine were introduced—such as the planing machine, the wheel-cutting machine, and other beautiful tools on the slide-rest principle,—the result of which has been that extraordinary development of mechanical production and power which is so characteristic a feature of the age we live in.

"It is not, indeed, saying at all too much to state," says Mr. Nasmyth,[12] a most competent judge in such a matter, "that its influence in improving and extending the use of machinery has been as great as that produced by the improvement of the steam-engine in respect to perfecting manufactures and extending commerce, inasmuch as without the aid of the vast accession to our power of producing perfect mechanism which it at once supplied, we could never have worked out into practical and profitable forms the conceptions of those master minds who, during the last half century, have so successfully pioneered the way for mankind. The steam-engine itself, which supplies us with such unbounded power, owes its present perfection to this most admirable means of giving to metallic objects the most precise and perfect geometrical forms. How could we, for instance, have good steam-engines if we had not the means of boring out a true cylinder, or turning a true piston-rod, or planing a valve face? It is this alone which has furnished us with the means of carrying into practice the accumulated result's of scientific investigation on mechanical subjects. It would be blamable indeed," continues Mr. Nasmyth, "after having endeavoured to set forth the vast advantages which have been conferred on the mechanical world, and therefore on mankind generally, by the invention and introduction of the Slide Rest, were I to suppress the name of that admirable individual to whom we are indebted for this powerful agent towards the attainment of mechanical perfection. I allude to Henry Maudslay, whose useful life was enthusiastically devoted to the grand object of improving our means of producing perfect workmanship and machinery: to him we are certainly indebted for the slide rest, and, consequently, to say the least, we are indirectly so for the vast benefits which have resulted from the introduction of so powerful an agent in perfecting our machinery and mechanism generally. The indefatigable care which he took in inculcating and diffusing among his workmen, and mechanical men generally, sound ideas of practical knowledge and refined views of construction, have rendered and ever will continue to render his name identified with all that is noble in the ambition of a lover of mechanical perfection."

One of the first uses to which Mr. Maudslay applied the improved slide rest, which he perfected shortly after beginning business in Margaret Street, Cavendish Square, was in executing the requisite tools and machinery required by Mr. (afterwards Sir Marc Isambard) Brunel for manufacturing ships' blocks. The career of Brunel was of a more romantic character than falls to the ordinary lot of mechanical engineers. His father was a small farmer and postmaster, at the village of Hacqueville, in Normandy, where Marc Isambard was born in 1769. He was early intended for a priest, and educated accordingly. But he was much fonder of the carpenter's shop than of the school; and coaxing, entreaty, and punishment alike failed in making a hopeful scholar of him. He drew faces and plans until his father was almost in despair. Sent to school at Rouen, his chief pleasure was in watching the ships along the quays; and one day his curiosity was excited by the sight of some large iron castings just landed. What were they? How had they been made? Where did they come from? His eager inquiries were soon answered. They were parts of an engine intended for the great Paris water-works; the engine was to pump water by the power of steam; and the castings had been made in England, and had just been landed from an English ship. "England!" exclaimed the boy, "ah! when I am a man I will go see the country where such grand machines are made!" On one occasion, seeing a new tool in a cutler's window, he coveted it so much that he pawned his hat to possess it. This was not the right road to the priesthood; and his father soon saw that it was of no use urging him further: but the boy's instinct proved truer than the father's judgment.

It was eventually determined that he should qualify himself to enter the royal navy, and at seventeen he was nominated to serve in a corvette as "volontaire d'honneur." His ship was paid off in 1792, and he was at Paris during the trial of the King. With the incautiousness of youth he openly avowed his royalist opinions in the cafe which he frequented. On the very day that Louis was condemned to death, Brunel had an angry altercation with some ultra-republicans, after which he called to his dog, "Viens, citoyen!" Scowling looks were turned upon him, and he deemed it expedient to take the first opportunity of escaping from the house, which he did by a back-door, and made the best of his way to Hacqueville. From thence he went to Rouen, and succeeded in finding a passage on board an American ship, in which he sailed for New York, having first pledged his affections to an English girl, Sophia Kingdom, whom he had accidentally met at the house of Mr. Carpentier, the American consul at Rouen.

Arrived in America, he succeeded in finding employment as assistant surveyor of a tract of land along the Black River, near Lake Ontario. In the intervals of his labours he made occasional visits to New York, and it was there that the first idea of his block-machinery occurred to him. He carried his idea back with him into the woods, where it often mingled with his thoughts of Sophia Kingdom, by this time safe in England after passing through the horrors of a French prison. "My first thought of the block-machinery," he once said, "was at a dinner party at Major-General Hamilton's, in New York; my second under an American tree, when, one day that I was carving letters on its bark, the turn of one of them reminded me of it, and I thought, 'Ah! my block! so it must be.' And what do you think were the letters I was cutting? Of course none other than S. K." Brunel subsequently obtained some employment as an architect in New York, and promulgated various plans for improving the navigation of the principal rivers. Among the designs of his which were carried out, was that of the Park Theatre at New York, and a cannon foundry, in which he introduced improvements in casting and boring big guns. But being badly paid for his work, and a powerful attraction drawing him constantly towards England, he determined to take final leave of America, which he did in 1799, and landed at Falmouth in the following March. There he again met Miss Kingdom, who had remained faithful to him during his six long years of exile, and the pair were shortly after united for life.

Brunel was a prolific inventor. During his residence in America, he had planned many contrivances in his mind, which he now proceeded to work out. The first was a duplicate writing and drawing machine, which he patented. The next was a machine for twisting cotton thread and forming it into balls; but omitting to protect it by a patent, he derived no benefit from the invention, though it shortly came into very general use. He then invented a machine for trimmings and borders for muslins, lawns, and cambrics,—of the nature of a sewing machine. His famous block-machinery formed the subject of his next patent.

It may be explained that the making of the blocks employed in the rigging of ships for raising and lowering the sails, masts, and yards, was then a highly important branch of manufacture. Some idea may be formed of the number used in the Royal Navy alone, from the fact that a 74-gun ship required to be provided with no fewer than 1400 blocks of various sizes. The sheaved blocks used for the running rigging consisted of the shell, the sheaves, which revolved within the shell, and the pins which fastened them together. The fabrication of these articles, though apparently simple, was in reality attended with much difficulty. Every part had to be fashioned with great accuracy and precision to ensure the easy working of the block when put together, as any hitch in the raising or lowering of the sails might, on certain emergencies, occasion a serious disaster. Indeed, it became clear that mere hand-work was not to be relied on in the manufacture of these articles, and efforts were early made to produce them by means of machinery of the most perfect kind that could be devised. In 1781, Mr. Taylor, of Southampton, set up a large establishment on the river Itchen for their manufacture; and on the expiry of his contract, the Government determined to establish works of their own in Portsmouth Dockyard, for the purpose at the same time of securing greater economy, and of being independent of individual makers in the supply of an article of such importance in the equipment of ships.

Sir Samuel Bentham, who then filled the office of Inspector-General of Naval Works, was a highly ingenious person, and had for some years been applying his mind to the invention of improved machinery for working in wood. He had succeeded in introducing into the royal dockyards sawing-machines and planing-machines of a superior kind, as well as block-making machines. Thus the specification of one of his patents, taken out in 1793, clearly describes a machine for shaping the shells of the blocks, in a manner similar to that afterwards specified by Brunel. Bentham had even proceeded with the erection of a building in Portsmouth Dockyard for the manufacture of the blocks after his method, the necessary steam-engine being already provided; but with a singular degree of candour and generosity, on Brunel's method being submitted to him, Sir Samuel at once acknowledged its superiority to his own, and promised to recommend its adoption by the authorities in his department.

The circumstance of Mrs. Brunel's brother being Under-Secretary to the Navy Board at the time, probably led Brunel in the first instance to offer his invention to the Admiralty. A great deal, however, remained to be done before he could bring his ideas of the block-machinery into a definite shape; for there is usually a wide interval between the first conception of an intricate machine and its practical realization. Though Brunel had a good knowledge of mechanics, and was able to master the intricacies of any machine, he laboured under the disadvantage of not being a practical mechanic and it is probable that but for the help of someone possessed of this important qualification, his invention, ingenious and important though it was, would have borne no practical fruits. It was at this juncture that he was so fortunate as to be introduced to Henry Maudslay, the inventor of the sliderest.

It happened that a M. de Bacquancourt, one of the French emigres, of whom there were then so many in London, was accustomed almost daily to pass Maudslay's little shop in Wells-street, and being himself an amateur turner, he curiously inspected the articles from time to time exhibited in the window of the young mechanic. One day a more than ordinarily nice piece of screw-cutting made its appearance, on which he entered the shop to make inquiries as to the method by which it had been executed. He had a long conversation with Maudslay, with whom he was greatly pleased; and he was afterwards accustomed to look in upon him occasionally to see what new work was going on. Bacquancourt was also on intimate terms with Brunel, who communicated to him the difficulty he had experienced in finding a mechanic of sufficient dexterity to execute his design of the block-making machinery. It immediately occurred to the former that Henry Maudslay was the very man to execute work of the elaborate character proposed, and he described to Brunel the new and beautiful tools which Maudslay had contrived for the purpose of ensuring accuracy and finish. Brunel at once determined to call upon Maudslay, and it was arranged that Bacquancourt should introduce him, which he did, and after the interview which took place Brunel promised to call again with the drawings of his proposed model.

A few days passed, and Brunel called with the first drawing, done by himself; for he was a capital draughtsman, and used to speak of drawing as the "alphabet of the engineer." The drawing only showed a little bit of the intended machine, and Brunel did not yet think it advisable to communicate to Maudslay the precise object he had in view; for inventors are usually very chary of explaining their schemes to others, for fear of being anticipated. Again Brunel appeared at Maudslay's shop with a further drawing, still not explaining his design; but at the third visit, immediately on looking at the fresh drawings he had brought, Maudslay exclaimed, "Ah! now I see what you are thinking of; you want machinery for making blocks." At this Brunel became more communicative, and explained his designs to the mechanic, who fully entered into his views, and went on from that time forward striving to his utmost to work out the inventor's conceptions and embody them in a practical machine.

While still occupied on the models, which were begun in 1800, Maudslay removed his shop from Wells-street, where he was assisted by a single journeyman, to Margaret-street, Cavendish-square, where he had greater room for carrying on his trade, and was also enabled to increase the number of his hands. The working models were ready for inspection by Sir Samuel Bentham and the Lords of the Admiralty in 1801, and having been fully approved by them, Brunel was authorized to proceed with the execution of the requisite machinery for the manufacture of the ship's blocks required for the Royal Navy. The whole of this machinery was executed by Henry Maudslay; it occupied him very fully for nearly six years, so that the manufacture of blocks by the new process was not begun until September, 1808.

We despair of being able to give any adequate description in words of the intricate arrangements and mode of action of the block-making machinery. Let any one attempt to describe the much more simple and familiar process by which a shoemaker makes a pair of shoes, and he will find how inadequate mere words are to describe any mechanical operation.[13] Suffice it to say, that the machinery was of the most beautiful manufacture and finish, and even at this day will bear comparison with the most perfect machines which can be turned out with all the improved appliances of modern tools. The framing was of cast-iron, while the parts exposed to violent and rapid action were all of the best hardened steel. In turning out the various parts, Maudslay found his slide rest of indispensable value. Indeed, without this contrivance, it is doubtful whether machinery of so delicate and intricate a character could possibly have been executed. There was not one, but many machines in the series, each devoted to a special operation in the formation of a block. Thus there were various sawing-machines,—the Straight Cross-Cutting Saw, the Circular Cross-Cutting Saw, the Reciprocating Ripping-saw, and the Circular Ripping-Saw. Then there were the Boring Machines, and the Mortising Machine, of beautiful construction, for cutting the sheave-holes, furnished with numerous chisels, each making from 110 to 150 strokes a minute, and cutting at every stroke a chip as thick as pasteboard with the utmost precision. In addition to these were the Corner-Saw for cutting off the corners of the block, the Shaping Machine for accurately forming the outside surfaces, the Scoring Engine for cutting the groove round the longest diameter of the block for the reception of the rope, and various other machines for drilling, riveting, and finishing the blocks, besides those for making the sheaves.

The total number of machines employed in the various operations of making a ship's block by the new method was forty-four; and after being regularly employed in Portsmouth Dockyard for upwards of fifty years, they are still as perfect in their action as on the day they were erected. They constitute one of the most ingenious and complete collections of tools ever invented for making articles in wood, being capable of performing most of the practical operations of carpentry with the utmost accuracy and finish. The machines are worked by a steam-engine of 32-horse power, which is also used for various other dockyard purposes. Under the new system of block-making it was found that the articles were better made, supplied with much greater rapidity, and executed at a greatly reduced cost. Only ten men, with the new machinery, could perform the work which before had required a hundred and ten men to execute, and not fewer than 160,000 blocks of various kinds and sizes could be turned out in a year, worth not less than 541,000L.[14]

The satisfactory execution of the block-machinery brought Maudslay a large accession of fame and business; and the premises in Margaret Street proving much too limited for his requirements, he again resolved to shift his quarters. He found a piece of ground suitable for his purpose in Westminster Road, Lambeth. Little more than a century since it formed part of a Marsh, the name of which is still retained in the adjoining street; its principal productions being bulrushes and willows, which were haunted in certain seasons by snipe and waterfowl. An enterprising riding-master had erected some premises on a part of the marsh, which he used for a riding-school; but the speculation not answering, they were sold, and Henry Maudslay became the proprietor. Hither he removed his machinery from Margaret Street in 1810, adding fresh plant from time to time as it was required; and with the aid of his late excellent partner he built up the far-famed establishment of Maudslay, Field, and Co. There he went on improving his old tools and inventing new ones, as the necessity for them arose, until the original slide-lathes used for making the block-machinery became thrown into the shade by the comparatively gigantic machine-tools of the modern school. Yet the original lathes are still to be found in the collection of the firm in Westminster Road, and continue to do their daily quota of work with the same precision as they did when turned out of the hands of their inventor and maker some sixty years ago.

It is unnecessary that we should describe in any great detail the further career of Henry Maudslay. The rest of his life was full of useful and profitable work to others as well as to himself. His business embraced the making of flour and saw mills, mint machinery, and steam-engines of all kinds. Before he left Margaret Street, in 1807, he took out a patent for improvements in the steam-engine, by which he much simplified its parts, and secured greater directness of action. His new engine was called the Pyramidal, because of its form, and was the first move towards what are now called Direct-acting Engines, in which the lateral movement of the piston is communicated by connecting-rods to the rotatory movement of the crank-shaft. Mr. Nasmyth says of it, that "on account of its great simplicity and GET-AT-ABILITY of parts, its compactness and self-contained steadiness, this engine has been the parent of a vast progeny, all more or less marked by the distinguishing features of the original design, which is still in as high favour as ever." Mr. Maudslay also directed his attention in like manner to the improvement of the marine engine, which he made so simple and effective as to become in a great measure the type of its class; and it has held its ground almost unchanged for nearly thirty years. The 'Regent,' which was the first steamboat that plied between London and Margate, was fitted with engines by Maudslay in 1816; and it proved the forerunner of a vast number of marine engines, the manufacture of which soon became one of the most important branches of mechanical engineering.

Another of Mr. Maudslay's inventions was his machine for punching boiler-plates, by which the production of ironwork of many kinds was greatly facilitated. This improvement originated in the contract which he held for some years for supplying the Royal Navy with iron plates for ships' tanks. The operations of shearing and punching had before been very imperfectly done by hand, with great expenditure of labour. To improve the style of the work and lessen the labour, Maudslay invented the machine now in general use, by which the holes punched in the iron plate are exactly equidistant, and the subsequent operation of riveting is greatly facilitated. One of the results of the improved method was the great saving which was at once effected in the cost of preparing the plates to receive the rivets, the price of which was reduced from seven shillings per tank to ninepence. He continued to devote himself to the last to the improvement of the lathe,—in his opinion the master-machine, the life and soul of engine-turning, of which the planing, screw-cutting, and other machines in common use, are but modifications. In one of the early lathes which he contrived and made, the mandrill was nine inches in diameter; it was driven by wheel-gearing like a crane motion, and adapted to different speeds. Some of his friends, on first looking at it, said he was going "too fast;" but he lived to see work projected on so large a scale as to prove that his conceptions were just, and that he had merely anticipated by a few years the mechanical progress of his time. His large removable bar-lathe was a highly important tool of the same kind. It was used to turn surfaces many feet in diameter. While it could be used for boring wheels, or the side-rods of marine engines, it could turn a roller or cylinder twice or three times the diameter of its own centres from the ground-level, and indeed could drive round work of any diameter that would clear the roof of the shop. This was therefore an almost universal tool, capable of very extensive uses. Indeed much of the work now executed by means of special tools, such as the planing or slotting machine, was then done in the lathe, which was used as a cutter-shaping machine, fitted with various appliances according to the work.

Maudslay's love of accuracy also led him from an early period to study the subject of improved screw-cutting. The importance of this department of mechanism can scarcely be overrated, the solidity and permanency of most mechanical structures mainly depending on the employment of the screw, at the same time that the parts can be readily separated for renewal or repair. Any one can form an idea of the importance of the screw as an element in mechanical construction by examining say a steam-engine, and counting the number of screws employed in holding it together. Previous to the time at which the subject occupied the attention of our mechanic, the tools used for making screws were of the most rude and inexact kind. The screws were for the most part cut by hand: the small by filing, the larger by chipping and filing. In consequence of the great difficulty of making them, as few were used as possible; and cotters, cotterils, or forelocks, were employed instead. Screws, however, were to a certain extent indispensable; and each manufacturing establishment made them after their own fashion. There was an utter want of uniformity. No system was observed as to "pitch," i.e. the number of threads to the inch, nor was any rule followed as to the form of those threads. Every bolt and nut was sort of specialty in itself, and neither owed nor admitted of any community with its neighbours. To such an extent was this irregularity carried, that all bolts and their corresponding nuts had to be marked as belonging to each other; and any mixing of them together led to endless trouble, hopeless confusion, and enormous expense. Indeed none but those who lived in the comparatively early days of machine-manufacture can form an adequate idea of the annoyance occasioned by the want of system in this branch of detail, or duly appreciate the services rendered by Maudslay to mechanical engineering by the practical measures which he was among the first to introduce for its remedy. In his system of screw-cutting machinery, his taps and dies, and screw-tackle generally, he laid the foundations of all that has since been done in this essential branch of machine-construction, in which he was so ably followed up by several of the eminent mechanics brought up in his school, and more especially by Joseph Clement and Joseph Whitworth. One of his earliest self-acting screw lathes, moved by a guide-screw and wheels after the plan followed by the latter engineer, cut screws of large diameter and of any required pitch. As an illustration of its completeness and accuracy, we may mention that by its means a screw five feet in length, and two inches in diameter, was cut with fifty threads to the inch; the nut to fit on to it being twelve inches long, and containing six hundred threads. This screw was principally used for dividing scales for astronomical purposes; and by its means divisions were produced so minute that they could not be detected without the aid of a magnifier. The screw, which was sent for exhibition to the Society of Arts, is still carefully preserved amongst the specimens of Maudslay's handicraft at the Lambeth Works, and is a piece of delicate work which every skilled mechanic will thoroughly appreciate. Yet the tool by which this fine piece of turning was produced was not an exceptional tool, but was daily employed in the ordinary work of the manufactory.

Like every good workman who takes pride in his craft, he kept his tools in first-rate order, clean, and tidily arranged, so that he could lay his hand upon the thing he wanted at once, without loss of time. They are still preserved in the state in which he left them, and strikingly illustrate his love of order, "nattiness," and dexterity. Mr. Nasmyth says of him that you could see the man's character in whatever work he turned out; and as the connoisseur in art will exclaim at sight of a picture, "That is Turner," or "That is Stansfield," detecting the hand of the master in it, so the experienced mechanician, at sight of one of his machines or engines, will be equally ready to exclaim, "That is Maudslay;" for the characteristic style of the master-mind is as clear to the experienced eye in the case of the finished machine as the touches of the artist's pencil are in the case of the finished picture. Every mechanical contrivance that became the subject of his study came forth from his hand and mind rearranged, simplified, and made new, with the impress of his individuality stamped upon it. He at once stripped the subject of all unnecessary complications; for he possessed a wonderful faculty of KNOWING WHAT TO DO WITHOUT—the result of his clearness of insight into mechanical adaptations, and the accurate and well-defined notions he had formed of the precise object to be accomplished. "Every member or separate machine in the system of block-machinery," says Mr. Nasmyth, "is full of Maudslay's presence; and in that machinery, as constructed by him, is to be found the parent of every engineering tool by the aid of which we are now achieving such great things in mechanical construction. To the tools of which Maudslay furnished the prototypes are we mainly indebted for the perfection of our textile machinery, our locomotives, our marine engines, and the various implements of art, of agriculture, and of war. If any one who can enter into the details of this subject will be at the pains to analyse, if I may so term it, the machinery of our modern engineering workshops, he will find in all of them the strongly-marked features of Maudslay's parent machine, the slide rest and slide system—whether it be a planing machine, a slotting machine, a slide-lathe, or any other of the wonderful tools which are now enabling us to accomplish so much in mechanism."

One of the things in which Mr. Maudslay took just pride was in the excellence of his work. In designing and executing it, his main object was to do it in the best possible style and finish, altogether irrespective of the probable pecuniary results. This he regarded in the light of a duty he could not and would not evade, independent of its being a good investment for securing a future reputation; and the character which he thus obtained, although at times purchased at great cost, eventually justified the soundness of his views. As the eminent Mr. Penn, the head of the great engineering firm, is accustomed to say, "I cannot afford to turn out second-rate work," so Mr. Maudslay found both character and profit in striving after the highest excellence in his productions. He was particular even in the minutest details. Thus one of the points on which he insisted—apparently a trivial matter, but in reality of considerable importance in mechanical construction—was the avoidance of sharp interior angles in ironwork, whether wrought or cast; for he found that in such interior angles cracks were apt to originate; and when the article was a tool, the sharp angle was less pleasant to the hand as well as to the eye. In the application of his favourite round or hollow corner system—as, for instance, in the case of the points of junction of the arms of a wheel with its centre and rim—he used to illustrate its superiority by holding up his hand and pointing out the nice rounded hollow at the junction of the fingers, or by referring to the junction of the branches to the stem of a tree. Hence he made a point of having all the angles of his machine framework nicely rounded off on their exterior, and carefully hollowed in their interior angles. In forging such articles he would so shape his metal before bending that the result should be the right hollow or rounded corner when bent; the anticipated external angle falling into its proper place when the bar so shaped was brought to its ultimate form. In all such matters of detail he was greatly assisted by his early dexterity as a blacksmith; and he used to say that to be a good smith you must be able to SEE in the bar of iron the object proposed to be got out of it by the hammer or the tool, just as the sculptor is supposed to see in the block of stone the statue which he proposes to bring forth from it by his mind and his chisel.

Mr. Maudslay did not allow himself to forget his skill in the use of the hammer, and to the last he took pleasure in handling it, sometimes in the way of business, and often through sheer love of his art. Mr Nasmyth says, "It was one of my duties, while acting as assistant in his beautiful little workshop, to keep up a stock of handy bars of lead which he had placed on a shelf under his work-bench, which was of thick slate for the more ready making of his usual illustrative sketches of machinery in chalk. His love of iron-forging led him to take delight in forging the models of work to be ultimately done in iron; and cold lead being of about the same malleability as red-hot iron, furnished a convenient material for illustrating the method to be adopted with the large work. I well remember the smile of satisfaction that lit up his honest face when he met with a good excuse for 'having a go at' one of the bars of lead with hammer and anvil as if it were a bar of iron; and how, with a few dexterous strokes, punchings of holes, and rounded notches, he would give the rough bar or block its desired form. He always aimed at working it out of the solid as much as possible, so as to avoid the risk of any concealed defect, to which ironwork built up of welded parts is so liable; and when he had thus cleverly finished his model, he used forthwith to send for the foreman of smiths, and show him how he was to instruct his men as to the proper forging of the desired object." One of Mr. Maudslay's old workmen, when informing us of the skilful manner in which he handled the file, said, "It was a pleasure to see him handle a tool of any kind, but he was QUITE SPLENDID with an eighteen-inch file!" The vice at which he worked was constructed by himself, and it was perfect of its kind. It could be turned round to any position on the bench; the jaws would turn from the horizontal to the perpendicular or any other position—upside-down if necessary—and they would open twelve inches parallel.

Mr. Nasmyth furnishes the following further recollections of Mr. Maudslay, which will serve in some measure to illustrate his personal character. "Henry Maudslay," he says, "lived in the days of snuff-taking, which unhappily, as I think, has given way to the cigar-smoking system. He enjoyed his occasional pinch very much. It generally preceded the giving out of a new notion or suggestion for an improvement or alteration of some job in hand. As with most of those who enjoy their pinch, about three times as much was taken between the fingers as was utilized by the nose, and the consequence was that a large unconsumed surplus collected in the folds of the master's waistcoat as he sat working at his bench. Sometimes a file, or a tool, or some small piece of work would drop, and then it was my duty to go down on my knees and fetch it up. On such occasions, while waiting for the article, he would take the opportunity of pulling down his waistcoat front, which had become disarranged by his energetic working at the bench; and many a time have I come up with the dropped article, half-blinded by the snuff jerked into my eyes from off his waistcoat front.

"All the while he was at work he would be narrating some incident in his past life, or describing the progress of some new and important undertaking, in illustrating which he would use the bit of chalk ready to his hand upon the slate bench before him, which was thus in almost constant use. One of the pleasures he indulged in while he sat at work was Music, of which he was very fond,—more particularly of melodies and airs which took a lasting hold on his mind. Hence he was never without an assortment of musical boxes, some of which were of a large size. One of these he would set agoing on his library table, which was next to his workshop, and with the door kept open, he was thus enabled to enjoy the music while he sat working at his bench. Intimate friends would frequently call upon him and sit by the hour, but though talking all the while he never dropped his work, but continued employed on it with as much zeal as if he were only beginning life. His old friend Sir Samuel Bentham was a frequent caller in this way, as well as Sir Isambard Brunel while occupied with his Thames Tunnel works[15] and Mr. Chantrey, who was accustomed to consult him about the casting of his bronze statuary. Mr. Barton of the Royal Mint, and Mr. Donkin the engineer, with whom Mr. Barton was associated in ascertaining and devising a correct system of dividing the Standard Yard, and many others, had like audience of Mr. Maudslay in his little workshop, for friendly converse, for advice, or on affairs of business.

"It was a special and constant practice with him on a workman's holiday, or on a Sunday morning, to take a walk through his workshops when all was quiet, and then and there examine the various jobs in hand. On such occasions he carried with him a piece of chalk, with which, in a neat and very legible hand, he would record his remarks in the most pithy and sometimes caustic terms. Any evidence of want of correctness in setting things square, or in 'flat filing,' which he held in high esteem, or untidiness in not sweeping down the bench and laying the tools in order, was sure to have a record in chalk made on the spot. If it was a mild case, the reproof was recorded in gentle terms, simply to show that the master's eye was on the workman; but where the case deserved hearty approbation or required equally hearty reproof, the words employed were few, but went straight to the mark. These chalk jottings on the bench were held in the highest respect by the workmen themselves, whether they conveyed praise or blame, as they were sure to be deserved; and when the men next assembled, it soon became known all over the shop who had received the honour or otherwise of one of the master's bench memoranda in chalk."

The vigilant, the critical, and yet withal the generous eye of the master being over all his workmen, it will readily be understood how Maudslay's works came to be regarded as a first-class school for mechanical engineers. Every one felt that the quality of his workmanship was fully understood; and, if he had the right stuff in him, and was determined to advance, that his progress in skill would be thoroughly appreciated. It is scarcely necessary to point out how this feeling, pervading the establishment, must have operated, not only in maintaining the quality of the work, but in improving the character of the workmen. The results were felt in the increased practical ability of a large number of artisans, some of whom subsequently rose to the highest distinction. Indeed it may be said that what Oxford and Cambridge are in letters, workshops such as Maudslay's and Penn's are in mechanics. Nor can Oxford and Cambridge men be prouder of the connection with their respective colleges than mechanics such as Whitworth, Nasmyth, Roberts, Muir, and Lewis, are of their connection with the school of Maudslay. For all these distinguished engineers at one time or another formed part of his working staff, and were trained to the exercise of their special abilities under his own eye. The result has been a development of mechanical ability the like of which perhaps is not to be found in any age or country.

Although Mr. Maudslay was an unceasing inventor, he troubled himself very little about patenting his inventions. He considered that the superiority of his tools and the excellence of his work were his surest protection. Yet he had sometimes the annoyance of being threatened with actions by persons who had patented the inventions which he himself had made.[16] He was much beset by inventors, sometimes sadly out at elbows, but always with a boundless fortune looming before them. To such as applied to him for advice in a frank and candid spirit, he did not hesitate to speak freely, and communicate the results of his great experience in the most liberal manner; and to poor and deserving men of this class he was often found as ready to help them with his purse as with his still more valuable advice. He had a singular way of estimating the abilities of those who thus called upon him about their projects. The highest order of man was marked in his own mind at 100 degrees; and by this ideal standard he measured others, setting them down at 90 degrees, 80 degrees, and so on. A very first-rate man he would set down at 95 degrees, but men of this rank were exceedingly rare. After an interview with one of the applicants to him for advice, he would say to his pupil Nasmyth, "Jem, I think that man may be set down at 45 degrees, but he might be WORKED UP TO 60 degrees"—a common enough way of speaking of the working of a steam-engine, but a somewhat novel though by no means an inexpressive method of estimating the powers of an individual.

But while he had much toleration for modest and meritorious inventors, he had a great dislike for secret-mongers,—schemers of the close, cunning sort,—and usually made short work of them. He had an almost equal aversion for what he called the "fiddle-faddle inventors," with their omnibus patents, into which they packed every possible thing that their noddles could imagine. "Only once or twice in a century," said he, "does a great inventor appear, and yet here we have a set of fellows each taking out as many patents as would fill a cart,—some of them embodying not a single original idea, but including in their specifications all manner of modifications of well-known processes, as well as anticipating the arrangements which may become practicable in the progress of mechanical improvement." Many of these "patents" he regarded as mere pit-falls to catch the unwary; and he spoke of such "inventors" as the pests of the profession.

The personal appearance of Henry Maudslay was in correspondence with his character. He was of a commanding presence, for he stood full six feet two inches in height, a massive and portly man. His face was round, full, and lit up with good humour. A fine, large, and square forehead, of the grand constructive order, dominated over all, and his bright keen eye gave energy and life to his countenance. He was thoroughly "jolly" and good-natured, yet full of force and character. It was a positive delight to hear his cheerful, ringing laugh. He was cordial in manner, and his frankness set everybody at their ease who had occasion to meet him, even for the first time. No one could be more faithful and consistent in his friendships, nor more firm in the hour of adversity. In fine, Henry Maudslay was, as described by his friend Mr. Nasmyth, the very beau ideal of an honest, upright, straight-forward, hard-working, intelligent Englishman.

A severe cold which he caught on his way home from one of his visits to France, was the cause of his death, which occurred on the 14th of February, 1831. The void which his decease caused was long and deeply felt, not only by his family and his large circle of friends, but by his workmen, who admired him for his industrial skill, and loved him because of his invariably manly, generous, and upright conduct towards them. He directed that he should be buried in Woolwich parish-churchyard, where a cast-iron tomb, made to his own design, was erected over his remains. He had ever a warm heart for Woolwich, where he had been born and brought up. He often returned to it, sometimes to carry his mother a share of his week's wages while she lived, and afterwards to refresh himself with a sight of the neighbourhood with which he had been so familiar when a boy. He liked its green common, with the soldiers about it; Shooter's Hill, with its out-look over Kent and down the valley of the Thames; the river busy with shipping, and the royal craft loading and unloading their armaments at the dockyard wharves. He liked the clangour of the Arsenal smithy where he had first learned his art, and all the busy industry of the place. It was natural, therefore, that, being proud of his early connection with Woolwich, he should wish to lie there; and Woolwich, on its part, let us add, has equal reason to be proud of Henry Maudslay.

[1] The words Bramah uses in describing this part of his patent of 1795 are these—"The piston must be made perfectly watertight by leather or other materials, as used in pump-making." He elsewhere speaks of the piston-rod "working through the stuffing-box." But in practice, as we have above shown, these methods were found to be altogether inefficient.

[2] In this lathe the slide rest and frame were moveable along the traversing-bar, according to the length of the work, and could be placed in any position and secured by a handle and screw underneath. The Rest, however, afterwards underwent many important modifications; but the principle of the whole machine was there.

[3] PLUMIER, L'Art de Tourner, Paris, 1754, p. 155.

[4] Machines approuvees par l' Academie, 1719.

[5] Machines approuvees par l' Academie, 1733.

[6] L'Art de Tourner en perfection, 49.

[7] It consisted of two parallel bars of wood or iron connected together at both extremities by bolts or keys of sufficient width to admit of the article required to be planed. A moveable frame was placed between the two bars, motion being given to it by a long cylindrical thread acting on any tool put into the sliding frame, and, consequently, causing the screw, by means of a handle at each end of it, to push or draw the point or cutting-edge of the tool either way.—Mr. George Rennie's Preface to Buchanan's Practical Essays on Mill Work, 3rd Ed. xli.

[8] Turning was a favourite amusement amongst the French nobles of last century, many of whom acquired great dexterity in the art, which they turned to account when compelled to emigrate at the Revolution. Louis XVI. himself was a very good locksmith, and could have earned a fair living at the trade. Our own George III. was a good turner, and was learned in wheels and treadles, chucks and chisels. Henry Mayhew says, on the authority of an old working turner, that, with average industry, the King might have made from 40s. to 50s. a-week as a hard wood and ivory turner. Lord John Hay, though one-armed, was an adept at the latter, and Lord Gray was another capital turner. Indeed the late Mr. Holtzapffel's elaborately illustrated treatise was written quite as much for amateurs as for working mechanics. Among other noble handicraftsmen we may mention the late Lord Douglas, who cultivated bookbinding. Lord Traquair's fancy was cutlery, and one could not come to him in a more welcome fashion than with a pair of old razors to set up.

[9] Professor WILLIS, Lectures on the Results of the Great Exhibition of 1851, 1st series, p. 306.

[10] Address delivered before the British Association at Manchester in 1861; and Useful Information for Engineers, 1st series, p. 22.

[11] Life of Sir Samuel Bentham, 97-8.

[12] Remarks on the Introduction of the Slide Principle in Tools and Machines employed in the Production of Machinery, in Buchanan's Practical Essays on Mill Work and other Machinery. 3rd ed. p. 397.

[13] So far as words and drawings can serve to describe the block-making machinery, it will be found very ably described by Mr. Farey in his article under this head in Rees's Cyclopaedia, and by Dr. Brewster in the Edinburgh Cyclopaedia. A very good account will also be found in Tomlinson's Cyclopaedia of the Useful Arts, Art. "Block."

[14] The remuneration paid to Mr. Brunel for his share in the invention was only one year's savings, which, however, were estimated by Sir Samuel Bentham at 17,663L.; besides which a grant of 5000L. was afterwards made to Brunel when labouring under pecuniary difficulties. But the ANNUAL saving to the nation by the adoption of the block-making machinery was probably more than the entire sum paid to the engineer. Brunel afterwards invented other wood-working machinery, but none to compare in merit and excellence with the above, For further particulars of his career, see BEAMISH'S Memoirs of Sir Marc Isambard Brunel, C.E. London. 1862.

[15] Among the last works executed by the firm during Mr. Maudslay's lifetime was the famous Shield employed by his friend Brunel in carrying forward the excavation of the Thames Tunnel. He also supplied the pumping-engines for the same great work, the completion of which he did not live to see.

[16] His principal patent's were—two, taken out in 1805 and 1808, while in Margaret Street, for printing calicoes (Nos. 2872 and 3117); one taken out in 1806, in conjunction with Mr. Donkin, for lifting heavy weights (2948); one taken out in 1807, while still in Margaret Street, for improvements in the steam-engine, reducing its parts and rendering it more compact and portable (3050); another, taken out in conjunction with Robert Dickinson in 1812, for sweetening water and other liquids (3538); and, lastly, a patent taken out in conjunction with Joshua Field in 1824 for preventing concentration of brine in boilers (5021).



"It is almost impossible to over-estimate the importance of these inventions. The Greeks would have elevated their authors among the gods; nor will the enlightened judgment of modern times deny them the place among their fellow-men which is so undeniably their due."—Edinburgh Review.

That Skill in mechanical contrivance is a matter of education and training as well as of inborn faculty, is clear from the fact of so many of our distinguished mechanics undergoing the same kind of practical discipline, and perhaps still more so from the circumstance of so many of them passing through the same workshops. Thus Maudslay and Clement were trained in the workshops of Bramah; and Roberts, Whitworth, Nasmyth, and others, were trained in those of Maudslay.

Joseph Clement was born at Great Ashby in Westmoreland, in the year 1779. His father was a hand-loom weaver, and a man of remarkable culture considering his humble station in life. He was an ardent student of natural history, and possessed a much more complete knowledge of several sub-branches of that science than was to have been looked for in a common working-man. One of the departments which he specially studied was Entomology. In his leisure hours he was accustomed to traverse the country searching the hedge-bottoms for beetles and other insects, of which he formed a remarkably complete collection; and the capture of a rare specimen was quite an event in his life. In order more deliberately to study the habits of the bee tribe, he had a number of hives constructed for the purpose of enabling him to watch their proceedings without leaving his work; and the pursuit was a source of the greatest pleasure to him. He was a lover of all dumb creatures; his cottage was haunted by birds which flew in and out at his door, and some of them became so tame as to hop up to him and feed out of his hand. "Old Clement" was also a bit of a mechanic, and such of his leisure moments as he did not devote to insect-hunting, were employed in working a lathe of his own construction, which he used to turn his bobbing on, and also in various kinds of amateur mechanics.

His boy Joseph, like other poor men's sons, was early set to work. He received very little education, and learnt only the merest rudiments of reading and writing at the village school. The rest of his education he gave to himself as he grew older. His father needed his help at the loom, where he worked with him for some years; but, as handloom weaving was gradually being driven out by improved mechanism, the father prudently resolved to put his son to a better trade. They have a saying in Cumberland that when the bairns reach a certain age, they are thrown on to the house-rigg, and that those who stick on are made thatchers of, while those who fall off are sent to St. Bees to be made parsons of. Joseph must have been one of those that stuck on—at all events his father decided to make him a thatcher, afterwards a slater, and he worked at that trade for five years, between eighteen and twenty-three.

The son, like the father, had a strong liking for mechanics, and as the slating trade did not keep him in regular employment, especially in winter time, he had plenty of opportunity for following the bent of his inclinations. He made a friend of the village blacksmith, whose smithy he was accustomed to frequent, and there he learned to work at the forge, to handle the hammer and file, and in a short time to shoe horses with considerable expertness. A cousin of his named Farer, a clock and watchmaker by trade, having returned to the village from London, brought with him some books on mechanics, which he lent to Joseph to read; and they kindled in him an ardent desire to be a mechanic instead of a slater. He nevertheless continued to maintain himself by the latter trade for some time longer, until his skill had grown; and, by way of cultivating it, he determined, with the aid of his friend the village blacksmith, to make a turning-lathe. The two set to work, and the result was the production of an article in every way superior to that made by Clement's father, which was accordingly displaced to make room for the new machine. It was found to work very satisfactorily, and by its means Joseph proceeded to turn fifes, flutes, clarinets, and hautboys; for to his other accomplishments he joined that of music, and could play upon the instruments that he made. One of his most ambitious efforts was the making of a pair of Northumberland bagpipes, which he finished to his satisfaction, and performed upon to the great delight of the villagers. To assist his father in his entomological studies, he even contrived, with the aid of the descriptions given in the books borrowed from his cousin the watchmaker, to make for him a microscope, from which he proceeded to make a reflecting telescope, which proved a very good instrument. At this early period (1804) he also seems to have directed his attention to screw-making—a branch of mechanics in which he afterwards became famous; and he proceeded to make a pair of very satisfactory die-stocks, though it is said that he had not before seen or even heard of such a contrivance for making screws.

So clever a workman was not likely to remain long a village slater. Although the ingenious pieces of work which he turned out by his lathe did not bring him in much money, he liked the occupation so much better than slating that he was gradually giving up that trade. His father urged him to stick to slating as "a safe thing;" but his own mind was in favour of following his instinct to be a mechanic; and at length he determined to leave his village and seek work in a new line. He succeeded in finding employment in a small factory at Kirby Stephen, a town some thirteen miles from Great Ashby, where he worked at making power-looms. From an old statement of account against his employer which we have seen, in his own handwriting, dated the 6th September, 1805, it appears that his earnings at such work as "fitting the first set of iron loames," "fitting up shittles," and "making moddles," were 3s. 6d. a day; and he must, during the same time, have lived with his employer, who charged him as a set-off "14 weaks bord at 8s. per weak." He afterwards seems to have worked at piece-work in partnership with one Andrew Gamble supplying the materials as well as the workmanship for the looms and shuttles. His employer, Mr. George Dickinson, also seems to have bought his reflecting telescope from him for the sum of 12L.

From Kirby Stephen Clement removed to Carlisle, where he was employed by Forster and Sons during the next two years at the same description of work; and he conducted himself, according; to their certificate on his leaving their employment to proceed to Glasgow in 1807, "with great sobriety and industry, entirely to their satisfaction." While working at Glasgow as a turner, he took lessons in drawing from Peter Nicholson, the well-known writer on carpentry—a highly ingenious man. Nicholson happened to call at the shop at which Clement worked in order to make a drawing of a power-loom; and Clement's expressions of admiration at his expertness were so enthusiastic, that Nicholson, pleased with the youth's praise, asked if he could be of service to him in any way. Emboldened by the offer, Clement requested, as the greatest favour he could confer upon him, to have the loan of the drawing he had just made, in order that he might copy it. The request was at once complied with; and Clement, though very poor at the time, and scarcely able to buy candle for the long winter evenings, sat up late every night until he had finished it. Though the first drawing he had ever made, he handed it back to Nicholson instead of the original, and at first the draughtsman did not recognise that the drawing was not his own. When Clement told him that it was only the copy, Nicholson's brief but emphatic praise was—"Young man, YOU'LL DO!" Proud to have such a pupil, Nicholson generously offered to give him gratuitous lessons in drawing, which were thankfully accepted; and Clement, working at nights with great ardour, soon made rapid progress, and became an expert draughtsman.

Trade being very slack in Glasgow at the time, Clement, after about a year's stay in the place, accepted a situation with Messrs. Leys, Masson, and Co., of Aberdeen, with whom he began at a guinea and a half a week, from which he gradually rose to two guineas, and ultimately to three guineas. His principal work consisted in designing and making power-looms for his employers, and fitting them up in different parts of the country. He continued to devote himself to the study of practical mechanics, and made many improvements in the tools with which he worked. While at Glasgow he had made an improved pair of die-stocks for screws; and, at Aberdeen, he made a turning-lathe with a sliding mandrill and guide-screws, for cutting screws, furnished also with the means for correcting guide-screws. In the same machine he introduced a small slide rest, into which he fixed the tool for cutting the screws,—having never before seen a slide rest, though it is very probable he may have heard of what Maudslay had already done in the same direction. Clement continued during this period of his life an industrious self-cultivator, occupying most of his spare hours in mechanical and landscape drawing, and in various studies. Among the papers left behind him we find a ticket to a course of instruction on Natural Philosophy given by Professor Copland in the Marischal College at Aberdeen, which Clement attended in the session of 1812-13; and we do not doubt that our mechanic was among the most diligent of his pupils. Towards the end of 1813, after saving about 100L. out of his wages, Clement resolved to proceed to London for the purpose of improving himself in his trade and pushing his way in the world. The coach by which he travelled set him down in Snow Hill, Holborn; and his first thought was of finding work. He had no friend in town to consult on the matter, so he made inquiry of the coach-guard whether he knew of any person in the mechanical line in that neighbourhood. The guard said, "Yes; there was Alexander Galloway's show shop, just round the corner, and he employed a large number of hands." Running round the corner, Clement looked in at Galloway's window, through which he saw some lathes and other articles used in machine shops. Next morning he called upon the owner of the shop to ask employment. "What can you do?" asked Galloway. "I can work at the forge," said Clement. "Anything else?" "I can turn." "What else?" "I can draw." "What!" said Galloway, "can you draw? Then I will engage you." A man who could draw or work to a drawing in those days was regarded as a superior sort of mechanic. Though Galloway was one of the leading tradesmen of his time, and had excellent opportunities for advancement, he missed them all. As Clement afterwards said of him, "He was only a mouthing common-council man, the height of whose ambition was to be an alderman;" and, like most corporation celebrities, he held a low rank in his own business. He very rarely went into his workshops to superintend or direct his workmen, leaving this to his foremen—a sufficient indication of the causes of his failure as a mechanic.[1]

On entering Galloway's shop, Clement was first employed in working at the lathe; but finding the tools so bad that it was impossible to execute satisfactory work with them, he at once went to the forge, and began making a new set of tools for himself. The other men, to whom such a proceeding was entirely new, came round him to observe his operations, and they were much struck with his manual dexterity. The tools made, he proceeded to use them, displaying what seemed to the other workmen an unusual degree of energy and intelligence; and some of the old hands did not hesitate already to pronounce Clement to be the best mechanic in the shop. When Saturday night came round, the other men were curious to know what wages Galloway would allow the new hand; and when he had been paid, they asked him. "A guinea," was the reply. "A guinea! Why, you are worth two if you are worth a shilling," said an old man who came out of the rank—an excellent mechanic, who, though comparatively worthless through his devotion to drink, knew Clement's money value to his employer better than any man there; and he added, "Wait for a week or two, and if you are not better paid than this, I can tell you of a master who will give you a fairer wage." Several Saturdays came round, but no advance was made on the guinea a week; and then the old workman recommended Clement to offer himself to Bramah at Pimlico, who was always on the look out for first-rate mechanics.

Clement acted on the advice, and took with him some of his drawings, at sight of which Bramah immediately engaged him for a month; and at the end of that time he had given so much satisfaction, that it was agreed he should continue for three months longer at two guineas a week. Clement was placed in charge of the tools of the shop, and he showed himself so apt at introducing improvements in them, as well as in organizing the work with a view to despatch and economy, that at the end of the term Bramah made him a handsome present, adding, "if I had secured your services five years since, I would now have been a richer man by many thousands of pounds." A formal agreement for a term of five years was then entered into between Bramah and Clement, dated the 1st of April, 1814, by which the latter undertook to fill the office of chief-draughtsman and superintendent of the Pimlico Works, in consideration of a salary of three guineas a week, with an advance of four shillings a week in each succeeding year of the engagement. This arrangement proved of mutual advantage to both. Clement devoted himself with increased zeal to the improvement of the mechanical arrangements of the concern, exhibiting his ingenuity in many ways, and taking; a genuine pride in upholding the character of his master for turning out first-class work.

On the death of Bramah, his sons returned from college and entered into possession of the business. They found Clement the ruling mind there and grew jealous of him to such an extent that his situation became uncomfortable; and by mutual consent he was allowed to leave before the expiry of his term of agreement. He had no difficulty in finding employment; and was at once taken on as chief draughtsman at Maudslay and Field's where he was of much assistance in proportioning the early marine engines, for the manufacture of which that firm were becoming celebrated. After a short time, he became desirous of beginning business on his own account as a mechanical engineer. He was encouraged to do this by the Duke of Northumberland, who, being a great lover of mechanics and himself a capital turner, used often to visit Maudslay's, and thus became acquainted with Clement, whose expertness as a draughtsman and mechanic he greatly admired. Being a man of frugal and sober habits, always keeping his expenditure very considerably within his income, Clement had been enabled to accumulate about 500L., which he thought would be enough for his purpose; and he accordingly proceeded, in 1817, to take a small workshop in Prospect Place, Newington Butts, where he began business as a mechanical draughtsman and manufacturer of small machinery requiring first-class workmanship.

From the time when he took his first gratuitous lessons in drawing from Peter Nicholson, at Glasgow, in 1807, he had been steadily improving in this art, the knowledge of which is indispensable to whoever aspires to eminence as a mechanical engineer,—until by general consent Clement was confessed to stand unrivalled as a draughtsman. Some of the very best drawings contained in the Transactions of the Society of Arts, from the year 1817 downwards,—especially those requiring the delineation of any unusually elaborate piece of machinery,—proceeded from the hand of Clement. In some of these, he reached a degree of truth in mechanical perspective which has never been surpassed.[2] To facilitate his labours, he invented an extremely ingenious instrument, by means of which ellipses of all proportions, as well as circles and right lines, might be geometrically drawn on paper or on copper. He took his idea of this instrument from the trammel used by carpenters for drawing imperfect ellipses; and when he had succeeded in avoiding the crossing of the points, he proceeded to invent the straight-line motion. For this invention the Society of Arts awarded him their gold medal in 1818. Some years later, he submitted to the same Society his invention of a stand for drawings of large size. He had experienced considerable difficulty in making such drawings, and with his accustomed readiness to overcome obstacles, he forthwith set to work and brought out his new drawing-table.

As with many other original-minded mechanics, invention became a habit with him, and by study and labour he rarely failed in attaining the object which he had bent his mind upon accomplishing. Indeed, nothing pleased him better than to have what he called "a tough job;" as it stimulated his inventive faculty, in the exercise of which he took the highest pleasure. Hence mechanical schemers of all kinds were accustomed to resort to Clement for help when they had found an idea which they desired to embody in a machine. If there was any value in their idea, none could be more ready than he to recognise its merit, and to work it into shape; but if worthless, he spoke out his mind at once, dissuading the projector from wasting upon it further labour or expense.

One of the important branches of practical mechanics to which Clement continued through life to devote himself, was the improvement of self-acting tools, more especially of the slide-lathe. He introduced various improvements in its construction and arrangement, until in his hands it became as nearly perfect as it was possible to be. In 1818, he furnished the lathe with a slide rest twenty-two inches long, for the purpose of cutting screws, provided with the means of self-correction; and some years later, in 1827, the Society of Arts awarded him their gold Isis medal for his improved turning-lathe, which embodied many ingenious contrivances calculated to increase its precision and accuracy in large surface-turning.

The beautiful arrangements embodied in Mr. Clement's improved lathe can with difficulty be described in words; but its ingenuity may be inferred from a brief statement of the defects which it was invented to remedy, and which it successfully overcame. When the mandrill of a lathe, having a metal plate fixed to it, turns round with a uniform motion, and the slide rest which carries the cutter is moving from the circumference of the work to the centre, it will be obvious that the quantity of metal passing over the edge of the cutter at each revolution, and therefore at equal intervals of time, is continually diminishing, in exact proportion to the spiral line described by the cutter on the face of the work. But in turning metal plates it is found very in expedient to increase the speed of the work beyond a certain quantity; for when this happens, and the tool passes the work at too great a velocity, it heats, softens, and is ground away, the edge of the cutter becomes dull, and the surface of the plate is indented and burnished, instead of being turned. Hence loss of time on the part of the workman, and diminished work on the part of the tool, results which, considering the wages of the one and the capital expended on the construction of the other, are of no small importance; for the prime objects of all improvement of tools are, economy of time and economy of capital—to minimize labour and cost, and maximize result.

The defect to which we have referred was almost the only remaining imperfection in the lathe, and Mr. Clement overcame it by making the machine self-regulating; so that, whatever might be the situation of the cutter, equal quantities of metal should pass over it in equal times,—the speed at the centre not exceeding that suited to the work at the circumference,—while the workman was enabled to convert the varying rate of the mandrill into a uniform one whenever he chose. Thus the expedients of wheels, riggers, and drums, of different diameters, by which it had been endeavoured to alter the speed of the lathe-mandrill, according to the hardness of the metal and the diameter of the thing to be turned, were effectually disposed of. These, though answering very well where cylinders of equal diameter had to be bored, and a uniform motion was all that was required, were found very inefficient where a Plane surface had to be turned; and it was in such cases that Mr. Clement's lathe was found so valuable. By its means surfaces of unrivalled correctness were produced, and the slide-lathe, so improved, became recognised and adopted as the most accurate and extensively applicable of all machine-tools.

The year after Mr. Clement brought out his improved turning-lathe, he added to it his self-adjusting double driving centre-chuck, for which the Society of Arts awarded him their silver medal in 1828. In introducing this invention to the notice of the Society, Mr. Clement said, "Although I have been in the habit of turning and making turning-lathes and other machinery for upwards of thirty-five years, and have examined the best turning-lathes in the principal manufactories throughout Great Britain, I find it universally regretted by all practical men that they cannot turn anything perfectly true between the centres of the lathe." It was found by experience, that there was a degree of eccentricity, and consequently of imperfection, in the figure of any long cylinder turned while suspended between the centres of the lathe, and made to revolve by the action of a single driver. Under such circumstances the pressure of the tool tended to force the work out of the right line and to distribute the strain between the driver and the adjacent centre, so that one end of the cylinder became eccentric with respect to the other. By Mr. Clement's invention of the two-armed driver, which was self-adjusting, the strain was taken from the centre and divided between the two arms, which being equidistant from the centre, effectually corrected all eccentricity in the work. This invention was found of great importance in ensuring the true turning of large machinery, which before had been found a matter of considerable difficulty.

In the same year (1828) Mr. Clement began the making of fluted taps and dies, and he established a mechanical practice with reference to the pitch of the screw, which proved of the greatest importance in the economics of manufacture. Before his time, each mechanical engineer adopted a thread of his own; so that when a piece of work came under repair, the screw-hob had usually to be drilled out, and a new thread was introduced according to the usage which prevailed in the shop in which the work was executed. Mr. Clement saw a great waste of labour in this practice, and he promulgated the idea that every screw of a particular length ought to be furnished with its appointed number of threads of a settled pitch. Taking the inch as the basis of his calculations, he determined the number of threads in each case; and the practice thus initiated by him, recommended as it was by convenience and economy, was very shortly adopted throughout the trade. It may be mentioned that one of Clement's ablest journeymen, Mr. Whitworth, has, since his time, been mainly instrumental in establishing the settled practice; and Whitworth's thread (initiated by Clement) has become recognised throughout the mechanical world. To carry out his idea, Clement invented his screw-engine lathe, with gearing, mandrill, and sliding-table wheel-work, by means of which he first cut the inside screw-tools from the left-handed hobs—the reverse mode having before been adopted,—while in shaping machines he was the first to use the revolving cutter attached to the slide rest. Then, in 1828, he fluted the taps for the first time with a revolving cutter,—other makers having up to that time only notched them. Among his other inventions in screws may be mentioned his headless tap, which, according to Mr. Nasmyth, is so valuable an invention, that, "if he had done nothing else, it ought to immortalize him among mechanics. It passed right through the hole to be tapped, and was thus enabled to do the duty of three ordinary screws." By these improvements much greater precision was secured in the manufacture of tools and machinery, accompanied by a greatly reduced cost of production; the results of which are felt to this day.

Another of Mr. Clement's ingenious inventions was his Planing Machine, by means of which metal plates of large dimensions were planed with perfect truth and finished with beautiful accuracy. There is perhaps scarcely a machine about which there has been more controversy than this; and we do not pretend to be able to determine the respective merits of the many able mechanics who have had a hand in its invention. It is exceedingly probable that others besides Clement worked out the problem in their own way, by independent methods; and this is confirmed by the circumstance that though the results achieved by the respective inventors were the same, the methods employed by them were in many respects different. As regards Clement, we find that previous to the year 1820 he had a machine in regular use for planing the triangular bars of lathes and the sides of weaving-looms. This instrument was found so useful and so economical in its working, that Clement proceeded to elaborate a planing machine of a more complete kind, which he finished and set to work in the year 1825. He prepared no model of it, but made it direct from the working drawings; and it was so nicely constructed, that when put together it went without a hitch, and has continued steadily working for more than thirty years down to the present day.

Clement took out no patent for his invention, relying for protection mainly on his own and his workmen's skill in using it. We therefore find no specification of his machine at the Patent Office, as in the case of most other capital inventions; but a very complete account of it is to be found in the Transactions of the Society of Arts for 1832, as described by Mr. Varley. The practical value of the Planing Machine induced the Society to apply to Mr. Clement for liberty to publish a full description of it; and Mr. Varley's paper was the result.[3] It may be briefly stated that this engineer's plane differs greatly from the carpenter's plane, the cutter of which is only allowed to project so far as to admit of a thin shaving to be sliced off,—the plane working flat in proportion to the width of the tool, and its length and straightness preventing the cutter from descending into any hollows in the wood. The engineer's plane more resembles the turning-lathe, of which indeed it is but a modification, working up on the same principle, on flat surfaces. The tools or cutters in Clement's machine were similar to those used in the lathe, varying in like manner, but performing their work in right lines,—the tool being stationary and the work moving under it, the tool only travelling when making lateral cuts. To save time two cutters were mounted, one to cut the work while going, the other while returning, both being so arranged and held as to be presented to the work in the firmest manner, and with the least possible friction. The bed of the machine, on which the work was laid, passed under the cutters on perfectly true rollers or wheels, lodged and held in their bearings as accurately as the best mandrill could be, and having set-screws acting against their ends totally preventing all end-motion. The machine was bedded on a massive and solid foundation of masonry in heavy blocks, the support at all points being so complete as effectually to destroy all tendency to vibration, with the object of securing full, round, and quiet cuts. The rollers on which the planing-machine travelled were so true, that Clement himself used to say of them, "If you were to put but a paper shaving under one of the rollers, it would at once stop all the rest." Nor was this any exaggeration—the entire mechanism, notwithstanding its great size, being as true and accurate as that of a watch.

By an ingenious adaptation of the apparatus, which will also be found described in the Society of Arts paper, the planing machine might be fitted with a lathe-bed, either to hold two centres, or a head with a suitable mandrill. When so fitted, the machine was enabled to do the work of a turning-lathe, though in a different way, cutting cylinders or cones in their longitudinal direction perfectly straight, as well as solids or prisms of any angle, either by the longitudinal or lateral motion of the cutter; whilst by making the work revolve, it might be turned as in any other lathe. This ingenious machine, as contrived by Mr. Clement, therefore represented a complete union of the turning-lathe with the planing machine and dividing engine, by which turning of the most complicated kind might readily be executed. For ten years after it was set in motion, Clement's was the only machine of the sort available for planing large work; and being consequently very much in request, it was often kept going night and day,—the earnings by the planing machine alone during that time forming the principal income of its inventor. As it took in a piece of work six feet square, and as his charge for planing was three-halfpence the square inch, or eighteen shillings the square foot, he could thus earn by his machine alone some ten pounds for every day's work of twelve hours. We may add that since planing machines in various forms have become common in mechanical workshops, the cost of planing does not amount to more than three-halfpence the square foot.

The excellence of Mr. Clement's tools, and his well-known skill in designing and executing work requiring unusual accuracy and finish, led to his being employed by Mr. Babbage to make his celebrated Calculating or Difference Engine. The contrivance of a machine that should work out complicated sums in arithmetic with perfect precision, was, as may readily be imagined, one of the most difficult feats of the mechanical intellect. To do this was in an especial sense to stamp matter with the impress of mind, and render it subservient to the highest thinking faculty. Attempts had been made at an early period to perform arithmetical calculations by mechanical aids more rapidly and precisely than it was possible to do by the operations of the individual mind. The preparation of arithmetical tables of high numbers involved a vast deal of labour, and even with the greatest care errors were unavoidable and numerous. Thus in a multipltcation-table prepared by a man so eminent as Dr. Hutton for the Board of Longitude, no fewer than forty errors were discovered in a single page taken at random. In the tables of the Nautical Almanac, where the greatest possible precision was desirable and necessary, more than five hundred errors were detected by one person; and the Tables of the Board of Longitude were found equally incorrect. But such errors were impossible to be avoided so long as the ordinary modes of calculating, transcribing, and printing continued in use.

The earliest and simplest form of calculating apparatus was that employed by the schoolboys of ancient Greece, called the Abacus; consisting of a smooth board with a narrow rim, on which they were taught to compute by means of progressive rows of pebbles, bits of bone or ivory, or pieces of silver coin, used as counters. The same board, strewn over with sand, was used for teaching the rudiments of writing and the principles of geometry. The Romans subsequently adopted the Abacus, dividing it by means of perpendicular lines or bars, and from the designation of calculus which they gave to each pebble or counter employed on the board, we have derived our English word to calculate. The same instrument continued to be employed during the middle ages, and the table used by the English Court of Exchequer was but a modified form of the Greek Abacus, the chequered lines across it giving the designation to the Court, which still survives. Tallies, from the French word tailler to cut, were another of the mechanical methods employed to record computations, though in a very rude way. Step by step improvements were made; the most important being that invented by Napier of Merchiston, the inventor of logarithms, commonly called Napier's bones, consisting of a number of rods divided into ten equal squares and numbered, so that the whole when placed together formed the common multiplication table. By these means various operations in multiplication and division were performed. Sir Samuel Morland, Gunter, and Lamb introduced other contrivances, applicable to trigonometry; Gunter's scale being still in common use. The calculating machines of Gersten and Pascal were of a different kind, working out arithmetical calculations by means of trains of wheels and other arrangements; and that contrived by Lord Stanhope for the purpose of verifying his calculations with respect to the National Debt was of like character. But none of these will bear for a moment to be compared with the machine designed by Mr. Babbage for performing arithmetical calculations and mathematical analyses, as well as for recording the calculations when made, thereby getting rid entirely of individual error in the operations of calculation, transcription, and printing.

The French government, in their desire to promote the extension of the decimal system, had ordered the construction of logarithmical tables of vast extent; but the great labour and expense involved in the undertaking prevented the design from being carried out. It was reserved for Mr. Babbage to develope the idea by means of a machine which he called the Difference Engine. This machine is of so complicated a character that it would be impossible for us to give any intelligible description of it in words. Although Dr. Lardner was unrivalled in the art of describing mechanism, he occupied twenty-five pages of the 'Edinburgh Review' (vol.59) in endeavouring to describe its action, and there were several features in it which he gave up as hopeless. Some parts of the apparatus and modes of action are indeed extraordinary and perhaps none more so than that for ensuring accuracy in the calculated results,—the machine actually correcting itself, and rubbing itself back into accuracy, when the disposition to err occurs, by the friction of the adjacent machinery! When an error is made, the wheels become locked and refuse to proceed; thus the machine must go rightly or not at all,—an arrangement as nearly resembling volition as anything that brass and steel are likely to accomplish.

This intricate subject was taken up by Mr. Babbage in 1821, when he undertook to superintend for the British government the construction of a machine for calculating and printing mathematical and astronomical tables. The model first constructed to illustrate the nature of his invention produced figures at the rate of 44 a minute. In 1823 the Royal Society was requested to report upon the invention, and after full inquiry the committee recommended it as one highly deserving of public encouragement. A sum of 1500L. was then placed at Mr. Babbage's disposal by the Lords of the Treasury for the purpose of enabling him to perfect his invention. It was at this time that he engaged Mr. Clement as draughtsman and mechanic to embody his ideas in a working machine. Numerous tools were expressly contrived by the latter for executing the several parts, and workmen were specially educated for the purpose of using them. Some idea of the elaborate character of the drawings may be formed from the fact that those required for the calculating machinery alone—not to mention the printing machinery, which was almost equally elaborate—covered not less than four hundred square feet of surface! The cost of executing the calculating machine was of course very great, and the progress of the work was necessarily slow. The consequence was that the government first became impatient, and then began to grumble at the expense. At the end of seven years the engineer's bills alone were found to amount to nearly 7200L., and Mr. Babbage's costs out of pocket to 7000L. more. In order to make more satisfactory progress, it was determined to remove the works to the neighbourhood of Mr. Babbage's own residence; but as Clement's claims for conducting the operations in the new premises were thought exorbitant, and as he himself considered that the work did not yield him the average profit of ordinary employment in his own trade, he eventually withdrew from the enterprise, taking with him the tools which he had constructed for executing the machine. The government also shortly after withdrew from it, and from that time the scheme was suspended, the Calculating Engine remaining a beautiful but unfinished fragment of a great work. Though originally intended to go as far as twenty figures, it was only completed to the extent of being capable of calculating to the depth of five figures, and two orders of differences; and only a small part of the proposed printing machinery was ever made. The engine was placed in the museum of King's College in 1843, enclosed in a glass case, until the year 1862, when it was removed for a time to the Great Exhibition, where it formed perhaps the most remarkable and beautifully executed piece of mechanism the combined result of intellectual and mechanical contrivance—in the entire collection.[4]

Clement was on various other occasions invited to undertake work requiring extra skill, which other mechanics were unwilling or unable to execute. He was thus always full of employment, never being under the necessity of canvassing for customers. He was almost constantly in his workshop, in which he took great pride. His dwelling was over the office in the yard, and it was with difficulty he could be induced to leave the premises. On one occasion Mr. Brunel of the Great Western Railway called upon him to ask if he could supply him with a superior steam-whistle for his locomotives, the whistles which they were using giving forth very little sound. Clement examined the specimen brought by Brunel, and pronounced it to be "mere tallow-chandler's work." He undertook to supply a proper article, and after his usual fashion he proceeded to contrive a machine or tool for the express purpose of making steam-whistles. They were made and supplied, and when mounted on the locomotive the effect was indeed "screaming." They were heard miles off, and Brunel, delighted, ordered a hundred. But when the bill came in, it was found that the charge made for them was very high—as much as 40L. the set. The company demurred at the price,—Brunel declaring it to be six times more than the price they had before been paying. "That may be;" rejoined Clement, "but mine are more than six times better. You ordered a first-rate article, and you must be content to pay for it." The matter was referred to an arbitrator, who awarded the full sum claimed. Mr. Weld mentions a similar case of an order which Clement received from America to make a large screw of given dimensions "in the best possible manner," and he accordingly proceeded to make one with the greatest mathematical accuracy. But his bill amounted to some hundreds of pounds, which completely staggered the American, who did not calculate on having to pay more than 20L. at the utmost for the screw. The matter was, however, referred to arbitrators, who gave their decision, as in the former case, in favour of the mechanic.[5]

One of the last works which Clement executed as a matter of pleasure, was the building of an organ for his own use. It will be remembered that when working as a slater at Great Ashby, he had made flutes and clarinets, and now in his old age he determined to try his skill at making an organ—in his opinion the king of musical instruments. The building of it became his hobby, and his greatest delight was in superintending its progress. It cost him about two thousand pounds in labour alone, but he lived to finish it, and we have been informed that it was pronounced a very excellent instrument.

Clement was a heavy-browed man, without any polish of manner or speech; for to the last he continued to use his strong Westmoreland dialect. He was not educated in a literary sense; for he read but little, and could write with difficulty. He was eminently a mechanic, and had achieved his exquisite skill by observation, experience, and reflection. His head was a complete repertory of inventions, on which he was constantly drawing for the improvement of mechanical practice. Though he had never more than thirty workmen in his factory, they were all of the first class; and the example which Clement set before them of extreme carefulness and accuracy in execution rendered his shop one of the best schools of its time for the training of thoroughly accomplished mechanics. Mr. Clement died in 1844, in his sixty-fifth year; after which his works were carried on by Mr. Wilkinson, one of his nephews; and his planing machine still continues in useful work.

[1] On one occasion Galloway had a cast-iron roof made for his workshop, so flat and so independent of ties that the wonder was that it should have stood an hour. One day Peter Keir, an engineer much employed by the government—a clever man, though some what eccentric—was taken into the shop by Galloway to admire the new roof. Keir, on glancing up at it, immediately exclaimed, "Come outside, and let us speak about it there!" All that he could say to Galloway respecting the unsoundness of its construction was of no avail. The fact was that, however Keir might argue about its not being able to stand, there it was actually standing, and that was enough for Galloway. Keir went home, his mind filled with Galloway's most unprincipled roof. "If that stands," said he to himself, "all that I have been learning and doing for thirty years has been wrong." That night he could not sleep for thinking about it. In the morning he strolled up Primrose Hill, and returned home still muttering to himself about "that roof." "What," said his wife to him, "are you thinking of Galloway's roof?" "Yes," said he. "Then you have seen the papers?" "No—what about them?" "Galloway's roof has fallen in this morning, and killed eight or ten of the men!" Keir immediately went to bed, and slept soundly till next morning.

[2] See more particularly The Transactions of the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, vol. xxxiii. (1817), at pp. 74, 157, 160, 175, 208 (an admirable drawing; of Mr. James Allen's Theodolite); vol. xxxvi. (1818), pp. 28, 176 (a series of remarkable illustrations of Mr. Clement's own invention of an Instrument for Drawing Ellipses); vol. xliii. (1825), containing an illustration of the Drawing Table invented by him for large drawings; vol. xlvi. (1828), containing a series of elaborate illustrations of his Prize Turning Lathe; and xlviii. 1829, containing illustrations of his Self-adjusting Double Driver Centre Chuck.

[3] Transactions of the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, vol. xlix. p.157.

[4] A complete account of the calculating machine, as well as of an analytical engine afterwards contrived by Mr. Babbage, of still greater power than the other, will be found in the Bibliotheque Universelle de Geneve, of which a translation into English, with copious original notes, by the late Lady Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron, was published in the 3rd vol. of Taylor's Scientific Memoirs (London, 1843). A history of the machine, and of the circumstances connected with its construction, will also be found in Weld's History of the Royal Society, vol. ii. 369-391. It remains to be added, that the perusal by Messrs. Scheutz of Stockholm of Dr. Lardner's account of Mr. Babbage's engine in the Edinburgh Review, led those clever mechanics to enter upon the scheme of constructing and completing it, and the result is, that their machine not only calculates the tables, but prints the results. It took them nearly twenty years to perfect it, but when completed the machine seemed to be almost capable of thinking. The original was exhibited at the Paris Exhibition of 1855. A copy of it has since been secured by the English government at a cost of 1200L., and it is now busily employed at Somerset House in working out annuity and other tables for the Registrar-General. The copy was constructed, with several admirable improvements, by the Messrs. Donkin, the well-known mechanical engineers, after the working drawings of the Messrs. Scheutz.

[5] History of the Royal Society, ii. 374.



"Founders and senators of states and cities, lawgivers, extirpers of tyrants, fathers of the people, and other eminent persons in civil government, were honoured but with titles of Worthies or demi-gods; whereas, such as were inventors and authors of new arts, endowments, and commodities towards man's life, were ever consecrated amongst the gods themselves."—BACON, Advancement of Learning.

While such were the advances made in the arts of tool-making and engine-construction through the labours of Bramah, Maudslay, and Clement, there were other mechanics of almost equal eminence who flourished about the same time and subsequently in several of the northern manufacturing towns. Among these may be mentioned James Fox of Derby; Matthew Murray and Peter Fairbairn of Leeds; Richard Roberts, Joseph Whitworth, James Nasmyth, and William Fairbairn of Manchester; to all of whom the manufacturing industry of Great Britain stands in the highest degree indebted.

James Fox, the founder of the Derby firm of mechanical engineers, was originally a butler in the service of the Rev. Thomas Gisborne, of Foxhall Lodge, Staffordshire. Though a situation of this kind might not seem by any means favourable for the display of mechanical ability, yet the butler's instinct for handicraft was so strong that it could not be repressed; and his master not only encouraged him in the handling of tools in his leisure hours, but had so genuine an admiration of his skill as well as his excellent qualities of character, that he eventually furnished him with the means of beginning business on his own account.

The growth and extension of the cotton, silk, and lace trades, in the neighbourhood of Derby, furnished Fox with sufficient opportunities for the exercise of his mechanical skill; and he soon found ample scope for its employment. His lace machinery became celebrated, and he supplied it largely to the neighbouring town of Nottingham; he also obtained considerable employment from the great firms of Arkwright and Strutt—the founders of the modern cotton manufacture. Mr. Fox also became celebrated for his lathes, which were of excellent quality, still maintaining their high reputation; and besides making largely for the supply of the home demand, he exported much machinery abroad, to France, Russia, and the Mauritius.

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