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Exact copy of MAUDSLAY's Lathe Model, c. 1800


Oct 25, 2002
Kansas City, Mo.
For years I have joked that while my shop is very full of tools, I have always left enough room for one more lathe, one by Henry Maudslay (1771-1831). Maudslay is considered the inventor of the modern screw cutting lathe and there are a half dozen or so Maudslay built lathes known to survive, nearly all in museums around the world. Maudslay also built a model of a screw cutting lathe about 1800 that is currently in the Science Museum in London.

So the odds that I could end up owning a Maudslay lathe are relatively small, it seems I have come very close. I recently acquired a exact copy of the model Maudslay made! Leighton Wilkie, CEO of the Do-All corporation, writer and tool historian had this made in the 1950s by Robert Oaks Jordon. It was for an exhibit he sponsored at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry titled "Civilization Through Tools”. It was displayed with 5 other historically important machine models for many decades.

Wilkie’s collection was broken up years ago upon his death (his New York Times obituary is the 1st thing to come up on a Google search) and sold to collectors. Recently this lathe model came up for sale at a MJD Auction and I bought it.

The original model has a mahogany base with a drawer filled with attachments, mine does not. Knowing how much I like having all the accouterments that go with a lathe my project will be to reproduce these. With huge amounts of help from the Science Museum in London I will start to share this project as I work on it over the next year or however long it takes. I post on my IG and FB and this will be sort of like the Vauluoe's 1737 Pile Driver model I restored last year.

The first photo is copy of Maudslay’s model and the last is his original taken from Grace’s Guide, which was taken by one of PM's own..


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That is amazing! This Wilkie fella also had some replica steam engines built in large scale if I recall. I believe a Newcomen and an Oliver Evans high pressure non-condensing engine. Pretty sure the Evans replica is at WMSTR in Rollag, MN.

What were the other 4 models your lathe was on display with?

We'll sympathise if you don't fancy making the 26 additional change wheels shown in W. Steeds' A History of Machine Tools 1700-1910 !
What were the other 4 models your lathe was on display with?
I have a 1959 booklet "The Dawn of This Age", The DoALL Company Educational Exhibits by Leighton A. Wilkie.

The Newcomen Society in North America published Wilkie's address at the dedication of the DoALL "Hall of Progress" in Des Plaines, Illinois. I think this exhibit was located at DoALL's headquarters.

The booklet mentions an earlier exhibit "Civilization Through Tools" displayed at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago. Quote "That exhibit covers the period of man's history up to the beginning of "The Dawn of This Age" on display here".

Note the huge "Sunburst" with its ten panels and the machinery to either side. In this exhibit the machinery is full size, e.g. the steam engine, Wilkinson's Boring mill and Maudslay's lathe. And the bandsaw which Mr Wilkie slipped in as "The last Basic Machine Tool".

Unfortunately, except for a couple of segments, the detail on the Sunburst is not clear. I am guessing the sunburst is about 30 feet high.

The Dawn of This Age 001.jpg The Dawn of This Age pg 17.jpg The Dawn of This Age pg 20.jpg The Dawn of This Age pgs 18 & 19.jpg The Dawn of This Age pgs 18 & 19a.jpg The Dawn of This Age pgs 18a.jpg The Dawn of This Age pgs 18b.jpg The Dawn of This Age pgs 19a.jpg The Dawn of This Age rear.jpg
The lathe in the booklet is what I think of as Maudslay's lathe, the one with the triangular bedways.

The others must be of a different unit, presumably before the triangular ways. Both are titled as from 1800, however.
Thanks Pete, that is great. The curators at the SM think the Maudslay made his model, mine is a copy of, in 1797.

on edit, woke up this morning and tracked down a copy of the book.
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As always, your posts are very interesting as a look into the craftsmanship of yesteryear, thanks. Did the operator turn the capstan wheel or did he have an assistant usually? Jim
This is a scale model, they think that wheel might have been 3 feet in dia. so an assistant maybe turned it. I remember be told a story about a early English hand cranked planer, that they would get Irishmen from the pub to turn it's great wheel but it was important the rate and pressure was constant so the operator did not want the guys supplying power to see when they were getting ready to take a cut. So they had built a wall of boards to block their view attached to the machine. This way they could just stand back there turning at a constant speed with little idea when the machine was in operation.
Thanks Pete, that is great. The curators at the SM think the Maudslay made his model, mine is a copy of, in 1797.

on edit, woke up this morning and tracked down a copy of the book.

If you mean the 36 page booklet I mentioned - I hope you aren't too disappointed. There are no illustrations apart from the 4 pages I have shown. The text is non-technical and briefly highlights progress made as a result of the industrial revolution, the growth of the USA and some of Mr Wilkies beliefs arising from the aforementioned.

There is no doubt the Wilkie brothers did great work in remembering, re-creating, and honouring the industrial past and educating others about it.

I am full of admiration for anyone (including Henry Ford) who imported an early steam engine from Britain, made copies of revolutionary machine tools and displayed them for all to see.

Regarding educational displays, I also note: "We have produced three other educational exhibits which are presented as illustrated lectures. They have been touring the Country for the past six years. These exhibits have been shown to 350 groups of technical societies, management men and university students, with a total attendance of more than 56,000 people".

I wonder if anyone on PM can recall these lectures from the 1950's? They would probably be 80-90 years old.
Pete, I know the type of book, never enough pictures. You mention 3 other exhibits, I might have really bad photos of them I’ll plan to post. I am now wondering if he had 3 sets of these models made?

I also watched a YouTube interview with Wilkie, about 50 minutes long where he mentioned the exhibits and his desire to educate folks about man’s use of tools.
"...I wonder if anyone on PM can recall these lectures from the 1950's? They would probably be 80-90 years old."

I did not see those DoALL exhibits, wherever they were shown, but I am old enough. I do recall a fascinating set of models that were on a travelling display at the Clements Library at the University of Michigan sometime between 1958 and 1963. I do not recall the owner/sponsor, but the models were finely built working (or maybe not) models of a dozen or so Leonardo DaVinci inventions made from illustrations in his manuscript journals. I was impressed by the file-making machine because I realized it would work and it was simple enough that I could make one. The file-making machine was full size, but most of the others were miniatures, like the battle tank.

One of the small DoAll pictures provided by Peter shows the '1st hack sawing machine' for slotting metal lock barrels, by Joseph Bramah. The machine is more interesting than might be thought.

It is basically a special shaping machine incorporating an indexing head, using a fine hacksaw blade to cut radial slots for Bramah's high security locks. The date is given as 1788, but Henry Maudslay joined the firm in 1789, and he may have been responsible for this machine, and for several others used to make these locks. Photo here:-

The first step in any project is learning everything you can about the original, in this case Henry Maudslay’s model of a lathe he is thought to have made about 1797 - 1800. A time he was just starting off on his own business and was known to make a number of models to show his novel ideas.
His original model came to the Science Museum, London in 1900, its object number is 1900-19. This model was onetime thought to be a working small lathe to build models, a theory since debunked. It is a model of what was, or would have been a large machine to make precision screws. It could have been a couple meters long and the capstan hand wheel, meant to be turned by hand, much like Robert’s planer.
Step 1 in my research is to gather everything that has been written in the past. The lathe was displayed at some point in the early 20th c. and mounted on a larger wood base for the point of showing off many of the accessories in the drawer. The wood box with drawer is original to the lathe and is the focus of my restoration since it was not included when my model was produced in the 1950s. With cooperation from the staff at the Science Museum, they have supplied me with photos and permission to share them. So these are the first time some of these have been shown.
The photo showing the contents of the drawer shows I have my work cut out for me. Many items are easy to figure out, change gears, lead screws and tool bits. Other parts are a mystery. The two brass nipper looking objects are 4:1 proportional thread calipers. See description written by K.R. Gilbert in 1966.
The research goes on.


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Looking at the cutting tools: looks like they have multiple teeth ground on them like modern chasers. Very cool, those are some finely made pieces.