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British Industrial History

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Freeland Tool Works (USA)

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of New York

See here[1] for a good overview.

An interesting account of the firm was published in the American Machinist in 1906[2]. Some extracts are presented below.

The business was established by Aaron M. Freeland, c.1845, to make machine tools, and he ran it until his death in 1871. It later operated as Thomas & Co, before being renamed the Freeland Tool Works. Thomas & Co began making rock drills and air compressors for the Rand Drill Co. This became their main product line, and the firm was bought by the Rand Co., although the name Freeland Tool Works continued to be used. When Rand merged with the Ingersoll Drill Co as Ingersoll-Rand, the old tools were to be sold, but when it was realised that they were examples of the beginnings of high grade tool production in the USA, they were preserved and presented to the ASME.

A. M. Freeland was described as 'a disciple of Whitworth. Before building his New York works he visited the works of Joseph Whitworth and Co. One result was that c.1857 he obtained from Whitworth a set of plug and ring gauges and a large master screw with an overall length of 19 ft. These survived in excellent condition. Freeland was 'probably the first in this country to introduce the then new Whitworth process of scraping.'

The oldest machine in the shop was a planer made in 1852. Another, larger planer dated from 1854. Freeland developed an early example of the differential shifting motion for two-belt planers. The system was used under licence by Bement and Dougherty and by Hewes and Phillips. The planers had a rack drive for the table, with herringbone gears.

The survivors included a lathe made in 1853, which, like all their lathes, had a Whitworth-type bed, and used the British size designation of 'centre-height' rather than 'swing'.

'Mr. Freeland's practice with early lathe spindles is a curious commentary on the scarcity of steel at that time, and an eloquent one on his standard of workmanship. The body of the spindle was of iron to which staves of blister steel were welded for the bearing surfaces, and then hardened and ground. Needless to say, this needed expert blacksmith work, and it was no unusual thing for five spindles from a lot of six to prove defective, and to be defective was to insure rejection. The expense of this process led Mr. Freeman to experiment with other methods. He tried case-hardening in combination with a special hardening furnace which, for the final hardening, should heat the bearings only and thus have the other portions of the spindle soft, but this did not prove satisfactory, and eventually he adopted the process of turning the bearings nearly to size, but leaving the other portions so large that the carbonizing would not penetrate deeper than the ultimate size. The spindle was then carbonized, after which the portions other than the bearings were turned down so as to remove the carbonizing. The entire spindle was then heated and quenched with the result that the bearings were hardened while the other portions were not, after which the bearings were ground by the fixture shown in Fig. 7, which is known to have been in existence in 1857, ....' [Fig. 7 shows a simple belt-driven grinding spindle in a bracket which would be held in a lathe toolpost]. The grinding wheel itself was a cast iron disc with a babbitt ring on its periphery, which was made to carry sufficient emery to do the grinding.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. [1] - Freeland Tool Works
  2. [2] 'The Passing of the Freeland Tool Works', American Machinist, 7 June 1906