J Abernathy & Co Stonemasons Lathe 1881
This link appeared in an Australian machinery forum today:
Granite Lathe - MORUYA ANTIQUE TRACTOR & MACHINERY ASSOCIATION (Inc).
It shows the large stonemason's lathe which made the granite columns for many of Sydney's public buildings from the 1880s on. It worked until the 1960s, and could turn granite columns up to twenty one feet in length. It's good to see that it has survived and is being cleaned up for display. The link also includes photos of some of the public buildings in which the columns were used, and a photo of one of the General Post Office building columns being turned.
Anyone have ideas on the tool bits used and how frequently they would be consumed on such a beast turning granite in the late 1800s?
The following websites have interesting articles on this type of machine. It even includes speeds and feeds. Around the turn of the 20th century, a similar machine was used to make the columns for St. John the Divine Cathedral in New York.
Originally Posted by doug8094
Tools and Machinery of the Granite Industry, Part IV | Chronicle of the Early American Industries Association, Inc., The | Find Articles at BNET
Last edited by dinosaur; 08-08-2010 at 09:57 AM.
Reason: Additional Information
Thanks for posting this. Itís good to be able to tie a machine tool in with specific items of work!
Incidentally, itís J Abernethy, not Abernathy, of Aberdeen, Scotland.
I canít view the Google links posted by Dinosaur, but his first link refers to turning by pressing a free-running wheel against the granite to remove material by a crushing action, and finishing using a carborundum grinding wheel.
I have a book called Historic Industrial Scenes - Scotland by Donnachie, Hume & Moss (another of Peter Sís tips), and this has a photo c.1907 of a very substantial lathe turning a block of granite. This has a round wheel of some sort held by a stout arm in the tool post. Thanks to Dinosaur, I now know what it is!
Incidentally, Aberdeen was known as the granite city, but recent public buildings there have been clad with imported granite!
J. Abernethy & Co. of the Ferryhill Foundry in Aberdeen produced an absolutely enormous range of castings and machinery. They could design and completely build machinery for almost any industry. They were the world's largest maker of granite working machinery including cranes and lathes etc. They closed their foundry in the 1960's.
From the 1820's until the 1930's Aberdeen was the largest granite producing area in the world with 25,000 men employed in the industry in Aberdeen and the surrounding area.
Whole families of granite workers were recruited to move to Moruya in Australia to work the granite for the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the 1930's.
This lathe must have been moved from Aberdeen to Moruya at this time.
This was probably easier than the first plan which was to ship the finished granite from Aberdeen until they found suitable rock at Moruya.
Last year I had to cut cast iron samples from an 1861 Abernethy sectional railway bridge for tensile/strength testing for insurance purposes (These bridges are still in use in their hundreds on Scottish railway lines) The testing Lab said in their report that they were the best samples of cast iron they had tested in the 45 years they had been in business.
Great link. I was engrossed as much by the technical history as I was by the cultural history.
Originally Posted by Buchanman
The lathe had been in Australia for many years before the Sydney Harbour Bridge was built. The photo of the General Post Office building which appears in the link was taken about 1901.
General Post Office (Sydney) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
I am sorry that the link does not work for you in the UK.
If you go to Google and search: granite lathe St. John the Divine
it should bring you to the sources where the link is supposed to take you.
As the General Post Office was built in the late 1860's I doubt that this particular lathe was used to make the columns as it has a manufacturing date of 1881.
When I was conducting some family history research I found reference to Aberdeen granite workers and their families complete with tools and machinery moving to Australia in the 1920's (not 1930's as I previously mentioned) to work the Moruya granite for use on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
After the bridge was built, most of these families moved back to Aberdeen but some remained in Australia so some North East Scotland families have branches in Australia as well as Aberdeenshire.
On a connected note I worked for a time with a company that had been an offshoot of The Consolidated Tool Company of Fraserburgh, Scotland. (about 45 miles from Aberdeen). When they were clearing out an old document cupboard they found the original 1923 order from The Sydney Harbour Bridge Company for the CPT compressed air rivetting hammers that were supplied to fix in place the millions of rivets that were used.
So not only men with granite working experience but machinery from North East Scotland was exported to the other side of the world to build this iconic structure.
Thanks for the bit of history about the Aberdeen families who came to Australia to work on the Sydney Harbour Bridge pylons.
You said "As the General Post Office was built in the late 1860's I doubt that this particular lathe was used to make the columns as it has a manufacturing date of 1881." Stage 1 of the GPO Building was finished about 1874, and stage 2 some time later. It would appear that the lathe shown on the linked web site was indeed the one used to turn the columns for the GPO, Queen Victoria Building and many other buildings constructed in Sydney in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
The proceedings of the Eurobodalla Shire Council Works and Services Committee on 13/10/09 shown on page 7 of this rather voluminous document:
give a more detailed history of the lathe, and an agreement to the acceptance of a Government grant of $35909 to move the lathe from Forbes to Moruya and provide a shed to accommodate it because of its historical significance to the town.
If you compare the details in the photo of the lathe now at Moruya and the one shown turning the GPO column they are so similar that they are almost certainly the same machine, and the Council proceedings would seem to confirm this.
In what looks to be the official website of the Moruya Antique Tractor & Machinery Association (inc.), the company name is given as Abernathy, with an 'a'.
Hi, Franco and Marty Feldman.
It does indeed appear that the lathe at Moruya must have been supplied new to Australia in 1881. They supplied these lathes all over the world, including the USA, Germany, France and there is reputed to be one still in use in Russia.
The name is spelt"Abernethy" not "Abernathy" perhaps the cast plate on the Moruya lathe is a bit indistinct but that is very unusual for an Abernethy casting.
Drain covers and branders can still be seen in older parts of Aberdeen with "J. Abernethy & Co. Ferryhill Foundry. Aberdeen" cast into them.
On the opposite bank of the River Dee less than 1/2 a mile from the Abernethy's Foundry was the factory of Harper & Co. who were the world's largest manufacturer of flat belt and rope pulleys.
When the British Standards for pulleys was published they were an exact copy of Harper's specifications!
I cannot open Dinosaurs link for the turning tools, But here goes for my contribution on Granite turning, Some 30 years back, i was in Aberdeen, and noticed an old factory, with the name on its side The Aberdeen Granite Turning Company, I think from memory, it was up near the prison, another handsome building.
however in the late 1960, early 70/s period the Glasgow shipbuilding firm of Alexander Stephens &Co of Linthouse were looking for further avenues of work to pursue, and they bought over the goodwill of an Aberdeen granite firm, I wonder if that was this firm i have just mentioned? At the time of the closure of Stephens, i was in the Linthouse engine works, by that time the plant had by and large all gone, but outside in another fair sized building was Stephens granite turning dept, One of the lathes i believe was an Abernethy, The rest were some what beat up large conventional geared head engine works lathes, And i remember thinking the beds were in a poor and somewhat water stained state
At that period, i could not believe that the tools on the toolposts could work, they by and large just looked like a portion of boiler plate profiled to a circle, with the edge angled away, Still lying about were various nice turned workpieces, just left as the workers had lifted their jackets, and bid the concern a fond farewell, as they contemplated a dismal future! It is equally of note that the original Stephens family were from the east coast of Scotland.
In Edinburgh also the craft of granite turning was carried out by some of the old paper machinery builders, and i think also the firm of Mclean and Gibson of Glenrothes may also still do this work, as i believe they are still in the paper machinery trade.
My local museum has an east coast stone planing machine lying in the yard, It was constructed by The Anderson Grice Co.of Carnoustie, Better known for very fine steam &electric cranes, they were still building steam derricks till into the 1970/s
Whist i am here (as an aside) My daughter and her husband and child live in Dunfermline in Fife, back through east! and about half an hour ago, he told me in a phone call that the handsome old mill building of the former Winterthur Silk Spinning Co. (Yes a branch of a fine Swiss firm The mill closed i believe in the mid sixties and was until a year ago home to a large furniture retailer This building, was seriously damaged by fire last night no doubt todays scourge of vandalism, This firm, made the most fine silk, for the wedding dress of our present monarch Queen Elizabeth the second, It is sad how nice things are vanishing very fast.
I did a search on Anderson-Grice and came up with this photo of one of their circular saw blades, and how the haulage contract transported it with his Leyland Comet truck:-
Angus Council | Local History | MS 671 Anderson-Grice of Carnoustie
Another photo here, too small to be of any use, but interesting to see a big circular saw blade in a lathe:-
Scran - Anderson-Grice Co Ltd - Making biggest circular saw in the world
Thanks for the link to Anderson-Grice and for the photo of the Harry Lawson Leyland Comet.
Harry Lawson of Broughty Ferry are still one of Scotland's leading transport companies renowned for their always immaculate vehicles and excellent reputation as a top class haulier.
today i went over to our local museum, and had a look at the old stone planer, I am afraid i was mixing the manufacturers up, Looking at the name on the machine, it reads
Nicol Esplin &Co
Leys Mill Ironworks.
does anyone know anything about this concern, Previously this old machine had been owned by the large Motherwell civil engineering contractors Murdo Mackenzie & Co, Some years ago, i asked the late Mr Mackenzie about this machines history, but he was not sure as they had bought it second hand many years before It would seem up the North East coast of Scotland was a hotbed of firms making stone working plant & machinery Does Buchanman know anything of the former Rubislaw granite quarry ? as i believe at one time this huge man made hole was one of the biggest in the world, and i am led to believe has now changed hands
I couldnít find anything on Nicol Esplin, but thanks to Graceís Guide I was able to find an early Arbroath (Leysmill) connection with stone planing machinery:-
1851 Great Exhibition: Official Catalogue: Class VI.: J. Hunter
A search on James Hunter led to a lot of information, including this:-
'James Hunter was the Manager of the freestone quarry at Leysmill, from which came high quality paving stone that was sent all over Europe. In 1833 he became interested in mechanised stone dressing and after two years work obtained his first patent for a planing machine in 1835. Twenty years later came the big saw embodying renewable tip tooling, a principle (and a common design of tool) applied also to planers, milling machines and reciprocating saws. Patents were obtained in the joint names of James Hunter and his son George, but contemporary accounts suggest that George was largely responsible. Hunterís machinery was made by Archibald Munro & Co. of the Arbroath Foundry and was considered by many to have been a major factor in the expansion of the Scottish granite industry.'
Hi, Cutting Oil Mac.
Rubislaw Quarry in Aberdeen was not the largest excavated hole in Europe although it was the deepest in the world in relation to it's surface area.
In the 1970's I stood on the very edge and looked down and it was a frightening experience. The men climbed up and down ladders and walkways to get to and return from their work every day.
At these depths the rock to build the beautiful granite buildings of Aberdeen could only be extracted by the invention of the "Blondin" by a man called John Fyfe from Monymusk near Aberdeen.
The "Blondin" (named after the famous tight-rope walker) consists of tight steel cables strung across the top of the quarry with a trolley which lowered and raised a bucket/grab to raise the stone from the bottom of the quarry.
The mechanism of the original "Blondin" prototype was still in place at the top of the Balmedie quarry some years ago, but whether it still exists I don't know.
John Fyfe was a very inventive and shrewd businessman and went on to become the largest granite producer in the world.
Rubislaw Quarry has now filled with water and has been sold for probably leisure/boating use.Rubislaw quarry - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
I have had some further info from Mr Park, one of the senior curators at my local museum Summerlee, regarding the manufacture of the stone planer, It would seem that some time ago, a descendant of the inventor of the stone planer James Hunter came into the museum, and had a conversation with him, & he states that William Munro & Co were the first manufacturers of this machine, But that Nicol Esplins only made the planers for seven years, (1906- 1913) So that ties down the time scale for the manufacture of the museums planer, It would seem that an Esplin steam engine still exists on the island of lewis, Apparently Esplin was related to the Leysmill quarrymaster, There is a suspicion that Hunter &Esplin may also be related
In construction the planer is a strange beast It is" reasonably planer like", In construction being a double column machine with a rack driven table, But the table does not ride on slideways, but bears on rollers kept in alignment on machined slots on the underside of the table, which is a most heavy &solid construction
The tool saddle is placed on its guides opposite from a conventional planer Being in this instance in the back face of the cross rail, There is no auto cross feed, only hand feed, and for down feed adjustment one has to raise or lower the cross rail,which has power up &down movement, by three belt pulleys and open &closed belts driving the two conventional raising screws on the side columns There is also a most strange "pneumatic buffer" cylinder attached to the cross rail, The cross rail, is hinged at each side to its twin saddles on each vertical side cheek or frame, I am uncertain if this whole caboodle is for tool lift on the return stroke?
The table is not fitted with tee slots, only cored round holes and still affixed to the table after all these years is a couple of brackets,carrying a cast iron beam, having dogs for gripping lengths of stone. This beam can be turned 180 degrees between the brackets to allow at least three to be finished, A primitive deviding head?
I am not sure if this qualifies as a planer...anyone like to hazard a guess as to what is going on here? I thought that might be a badly overhung rotating cutter, but I now think it may be fixed - whatever it is). I think the pulley in the centre is a chain guide, not a belt pulley for tooling.
No indexing that I can see, perhaps all the adjustments are made to the tool, allowing it to reach half the flutes, and then the column turned 180* to finish...but why are some flutes partially finished/roughed...
This photo was taken on-site during the construction of the Auckland War Memorial Museum in the early 1920's.
There is a name on this machine. It seems to say The Anderson............oustie, Scotland. I just had a look at Mac's post, I bet it says The Anderson Grice Co. of Carnoustie!
The granite foundations for the building come from Coromandel in NZ, but the facings for the building are Portland stone from the Isle of Wight.
Quote: "Thereafter, speed of construction depended on the stonecutters, for walls could only rise as fast as stones were made ready on site. The process required a diamond-toothed 'break-down' saw, followed by grinding and smoothing on a large circualr table known as 'the gramophone'. Each of the eight columns at the front of the building was composed of eight blocks of stone, about 3 ft 4 unches high and 5 ft in diameter, and the cutting and fluting of each of these took one man about one month".
(A Noble Prospect; 75 Years of The Auckland War Memorial Museum Building by Richard Wolfe).
Is there any taper on 'Doric' columns?
Maybe I need to take my calipers on my next visit and check the indexing