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Background to the Machine Tool Archive
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By its very nature, the history of machine tools, their design, development and commercial success (or otherwise) is a fragmented one. It can also be complex, with single machines often the subject of technical, in-depth studies by Internet user groups together with numerous forums discussing their history and applications.
The Archive does not claim to be comprehensive, nor of great technical depth, instead it aims to record as wide a range of machines as possible, outlining their mechanical characteristics, specifications, acknowledging their novel features and sometimes reproducing users' comments and observations. Where known, details of the maker's history is also included. It's often the case that existing data concerning a machine is scattered, perhaps across many web sites, in printed publications and in the memories of those involved in its use or manufacture - hence articles in the Archive attempt to draw together, in one place, all relevant threads and important information.
In many cases the articles come from my own experience, in others from searching though and correlating data from catalogues, handbooks and parts lists. While it's often the case that a few sentences can sometimes takes days of research to construct, in others the machine might be of such limited interest (or not known to survive) that the simple solution is to reproduce its sales literature. However, if you think doing that might be a short cut to a quiet Sunday afternoon, think again. Find a 50-page, well-illustrated catalogue, scan it on a flat bed at 800 d.p.i., extract all the photographs and "degauss" them, clean up and brighten the text and drawings, put back the pictures, trim the pages for web-site display, construct the web pages - and you'll find that 2 am the next morning can come up pretty quickly. Amusingly, I've often started what should have been a short article on a machine - say a small grinder - only to find it a vastly more complex subject that first imagined. One discovers that some owners have already written and published observations, others have done more research in depth - and so it's decided to try and draw all these threads together in one place. Two or three weeks later all the various people have been contacted, extra pictures sourced, permissions granted, dozens of emails exchanged and, finally, we have what was going to take just a couple of hours having absorbed over sixty.
As the Internet has developed - since its early days in the late 1990s - it has become possible to tap into a much wider sources of information - so much so in fact that the task of building the Archive is expanding exponentially and looks more daunting by the day. Even if I live for another one hundred years (unlikely) I'm afraid that it's never going to be finished. However, the upside is that, while the Archive was for many years a one-man effort, many readers now assist by contributing photographs, technical data and specialised advice all of which has been - and continues to be - an enormous help.
Of course, it's impossible to get everything right and mistakes are bound to happen: factual, historical, grammatical, syntactical and spelling - so, if you spot anything, do let me know. As my email load is overwhelming, please don't be upset if you don't receive a reply, instead do phone: