Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 143,344 pages of information and 230,023 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Henry Maudslay: Machine Tools

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c.1800 screwcutting lathe by Henry Maudslay, displayed at the Science Museum
Maudslay lathe formerly displayed at Thinktank, Birmingham

Note: This is a sub-section of Henry Maudslay.

Henry Maudslay was the most influential machine tool maker at the end of the 18th and start of the 19th centuries.

It is intended in this section to identify as many of his machine tools as possible. He became famous for the blockmaking machinery at Portsmouth Block Mills, and for his lathes, which spearheaded the industrial application of slide lathes and machine screwcutting.

His first known machine tools were produced for lockmaking, during his employment with Joseph Bramah.

Maudslay's Lambeth workshop became a 'nursery' for many men who would become famous engineers in their own right, and who would advance machine tool technology to its next phase, with machines of heavier construction and greater versatility.

Maudslay's best-known lathes featured triangular bar beds. Latter-day owners of similar lathes might hope that their's is a Maudslay. It is unlikely to be. Many other makers produced similar lathes, but Maudslay's have distinctive design features, and display fine workmanship. The earliest known example was made by Henry Hindley before 1758.

Examples of Maudslay lathes can be seen in a number of museums, including this c.1805 example in Australia, originally owned by Sir John Barton. The Henry Ford Museum in the USA has an example with a two-bar bed and a central leadscrew. Unusually, the carriage is held down by rollers pressing on the underside of the slideways. The lathe was gifted to the Ford Museum by Sir W. G. Armstrong, Whitworth and Co. Photographs here.

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