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The History of Industries and Toolmaking in United Kingdom


 
  Saws and Tools by William Bramhall, Saw-maker, Sheffield 2 of 8  

In attempt to furnish a report on my own trade more especially, and on tools in general, after thanking all who have offered me assistance in obtaining information, I wish to say that I have been in no way influenced by any party; and whilst on the one hand the greatest courtesy has been shown, I have been left to use my own conviction entirely. This Liberty is the more congenial as it places the entire responsibility on the observer.

Taking for doctrine that "nothing will I extenuate, or set down aright in malice," where facts and opinions may be stated contrary to the preconceived notions of my compeers, I shall be entitled to their consideration for honesty of purpose, having no ulterior view but such as a truthseeker always has - the truth in itself alone.

Although the Exhibition, in its division of nations, sections, and groups, is admirable, it is not so much so in its subdivisions, and required a patient, plodding application, and passing over the ground repeatedly, coming in contact with matters which had previously escaped observation.

Conscious of the great importance of obtaining a tolerably correct view of the comparative position of our own manufactures with those of other countries, I devoted an entire week to the study of my own department, as supplementary to several which had gone before; and considering the number of reports that the Society will receive, it should doubly be born in mind that "brevity is the soul of wit."  I find considerable progress made in my own branch of trade, even to astonishment, since 1862, with French, German, and Belgian exhibitors, not only in the number of exhibits but in the character of the work. Although English exhibitors are few, those that do show are a credit to themselves, and evince no falling off in point of excellence. Of course there is a greater scope for progress in an article the further it is from perfection, and in the making of saws and tools their forums are ultimately reduced to rules and geometrical proportions for certain given employments, as well as the quality of material used for the purposes to which they are to be applied, until a well-stocked tool-chest is a repository of levers for disintegrating material substances, ranging from the most acute to the most obtuse angle.

This great diversity of needs constitutes commerce; and when a tool is wanted it should be the thoughtful consideration of the artisan to meet that requirement with the greatest possible skill. The softer the material wrought upon, the sharper the angle may be employed, running up the scale and infinitum, until the angles become a mathematical line, as seen in a flat faced hammer that bruises a stone, and, by pulverizing its particles, dislocates their cohesion. A knowledge of geometric forces would be invaluable to the artisan, and lift him from often only being an imitator of others, doing so and so because it has been the custom to do so; but reasoning on principles would make him in the highest sense of the word a master of arts, subduing rude matter to his will for his necessities.

England is still in advance of France, Belgium, and Germany for the highest excellence in the perfection of model and of a cutting edge in saws and tools, principally owing to the finer quality of the steel and greater care in their grinding, having greater natural advantages for superior grinding and facilities for power. The same does not apply to American Tools, however, axes more especially which for exactitude and finish have the appearance of being die-struck, so uniform are they in every respect. They are models of their kind and show the grit of the Old Country in their formation, minus the prejudices that cling to us, and having a freer scope for individual exertion. There is something to learn from the tout-ensemble of these American axes, attributable no doubt to the excellent state education in force in the New England States of America, as may be seen in their model school at the Exposition.

The Douglas Axe Manufacturing Company, Boston, Massachusetts, exhibits its goods made from Messrs. Park Brothers' Steel, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A Medal of Honor is affixed most deservedly. In the French manufacture of saws and those kind of knives - currier and tobacco knives - which form a part as it were of the saw trade, Messrs. Ch. Mongin, Aine at Cie., established 1814, stand first, Messrs. Galibert et Cie., Paris, second; both use similar machinery, and Sheffield steel, in almost every case, in t he proportion of sixteen of English to one of French, and would use British grinding stones, only the carriage makes them too dear. Those from the French quarries for saws and tools cost £2 5s. each, for a diameter of 4.5 feet by 7.5 in: wide. Being too hard for the work required from them, they cannot draw to as a good a bottom as we can, but they aim to do with as little grinding as possible, by rolling saw sheets nearly to their required thickness, breast and edge. This has the tendency to make them somewhat light, and they will not work long before they must be hammered, as every stroke of friction on the tooth only confirms that tendency; yet these saws have a general uniform surface.

The few handsaws handles in the cases of French manufacturer’s show, by their very faulty swaging, that they know little of the use of the handsaw or backsaw, but are mostly confined to webs. They are almost new tools to them. I have only seen one handsaw in actual use in Paris; and during a ten months service in a Parisian saw atelier, we did not average making a dozen per month. The universal use of billet-webs instead is the usage, although there can be no doubt but that the change to the handle from the unwieldy frame would be an advantage, as the weight of the tool is more immediately in the hand. One only need observe to carpenters, one French and the other English, slitting a plank, to be convinced; Jean Bonhomme struggling to get his web and home under weigh, while Joey Chips is making the sawdust fly, and gaining a saw gate two inches long at a stroke.  Good tool makers are benefactors to their kind.

The excellent method of stretching handsaws, veneer-webs, and large thin sheets of steel, as practiced at Messrs. Spear and Jackson's Etna Works, Sheffield, and other places in the same town, is superior to that of the French, excepting the use of coke instead of charcoal in the stretching fire, which is not so free from sulphur, and is consequently detrimental to the nature of the steel, as it rapidly combines with it; yet, on the other hand, the great force used by the screw in stretching sheets when hot, extending them until they are as tight as a piano string, and, as it seems to me, giving them a positive elongated fibrous character, and a flatness incomparable, which they retain until worn to the back, is an immense advance on the old system of tempering in an open furnace, in economizing labor, and in improving the uniform temper of the blades, so that many dozens come from the stretcher in such a state that, under the old regime, with all imaginable labor, they could not be made equal to them. This is not always the case, but, with few exceptions, it might be the rule with such excellent appliances.


 
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