'The Blanchard Lathe', 1877.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Engraving showing a Blanchard Lathe manufactured by Greenwood & Batley, Leeds. Thomas Blanchard (1788-1864) developed an improved lathe design in the United States 1818. The significance of his design lay in the fact that it enabled the cutting tool of the lathe to follow a pattern to make exact duplicates of the piece being produced. The items which Blanchard's lathe was originally designed to reproduce were gun stocks, but it was quickly applied to other irregularly shaped objects such as tool handles and wheel spokes. Blanchard's lathe marked a significant step towards modern automated manufacturing proceses.