Portsmouth block-making machinery, 1803.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Portsmouth block-making machinery was used for making ship's pulley blocks. It was designed by Marc Isambard Brunel (1769-1849) and made by Henry Maudslay (1771-1831). Manufacture of the blocks had previously involved over twenty separate operations but Brunel's design enabled a series of machines to perform their operations without the need for skilled labour, apart from that needed to move the pieces and place them in the machines. Each Portsmouth machine carried out a single proces so that forty-five machines were needed to complete the parts for blocks for all sizes. In this shaping engine ten blocks were held at once in a rotating drum, and had their faces rounded by a cutter guided by a template.