Mortising machine, Yard No 1896, c 1800.
4 0 c m
actual image size: 25cm x 32cm

Mortising machine, Yard No 1896, c 1800.

© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library


Mortising machine made by Henry Maudslay (1771-1831), the English engineer who invented the metal lathe. This example was one of the earliest machine tools to be used in mas production. It cut pulley-blocks at the Royal Naval Works in Portsmouth, revolutionising the manufacture of ships' components. Its function was to enlarge a hole in the slot of a pulley-block, and the work was fed automatically under the chisel. The machine also disengaged itself when the slot was finished to length. It was the forerunner of all mortising machines for woodwork and slotting machines for metalwork. By 1808 there were 43 machines at Portsmouth, driven by a 30 hp steam engine. Each carried out a single proces, producing standard components in large quantities.

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