On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 358 pages of information about On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures.


1.  In the very best kind of printing, it is necessary, in the old method, to change the set-off sheet once in twelve times.  In printing the same kind of work by machinery, the blanket is changed once in 2000.

2.  This experiment was made at the establishment of Mr Clowes, in Stamford Street.

Chapter 10

Of the Identity of the Work When It is of the Same Kind, and its Accuracy when of Different Kinds

79.  Nothing is more remarkable, and yet less unexpected, than the perfect identity of things manufactured by the same tool.  If the top of a circular box is to be made to fit over the lower part, it may be done in the lathe by gradually advancing the tool of the sliding-rest; the proper degree of tightness between the box and its lid being found by trial.  After this adjustment, if a thousand boxes are made, no additional care is required; the tool is always carried up to the stop, and each box will be equally adapted to every lid.  The same identity pervades all the arts of printing; the impressions from the same block, or the same copperplate, have a similarity which no labour could produce by hand.  The minutest traces are transferred to all the impressions, and no omission can arise from the inattention or unskilfulness of the operator.  The steel punch, with which the cardwadding for a fowling-piece is cut, if it once perform its office with accuracy, constantly reproduces the same exact circle.

80.  The accuracy with which machinery executes its work is, perhaps, one of its most important advantages:  it may, however, be contended, that a considerable portion of this advantage may be resolved into saving of time; for it generally happens, that any improvement in tools increases the quantity of work done in a given time.  Without tools, that is, by the mere efforts of the human hand, there are, undoubtedly, multitudes of things which it would be impossible to make.  Add to the human hand the rudest cutting instrument, and its powers are enlarged:  the fabrication of many things then becomes easy, and that of others possible with great labour.  Add the saw to the knife or the hatchet, and other works become possible, and a new course of difficult operations is brought into view, whilst many of the former are rendered easy.  This observation is applicable even to the most perfect tools or machines.  It would be possible for a very skilful workman, with files and polishing substances, to form a cylinder out of a piece of steel; but the time which this would require would be so considerable, and the number of failures would probably be so great, that for all practical purposes such a mode of producing a steel cylinder might be said to be impossible.  The same process by the aid of the lathe and the sliding-rest is the everyday employment of hundreds of workmen.

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On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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