Keenan Ornamental Lathe & Sculptor's Carving
Machine Photographic Essay
In addition to Kennan & Sons only two other lathes makers native to Ireland are known: the Sheane Brothers in Wicklow, who produced a simple, plain-turning machine and the Booth Brothers whose single surviving offering was very similar: a plain turning lathe of quite ordinary construction with a centre height of around 4 inches and a between-centres capacity of 20".
Established in the 1790s, Kennan & Sons survived until the late 1980s - they exhibited a range of machine tools at the 1962 London exhibition - and were based at their "Engineering Iron Works" in Fishamble Street, Dublin, Ireland, one of the oldest parts of the city. Next to the works was the personal residence of Mr. Kennan, a house modified in the 1820s but surviving today, in a beautifully restored state, as the Contemporary Music Centre and retaining its typical-for-the-period columned door case, embellished lead fanlight, graceful windows and elegant staircase.
Kennan & Sons offered a wide range of metal items from simple hand tools to cast-iron manhole covers, street furniture and lamps and even larger structures such as bridges and pylons. Kennan machines tools were aimed at both the impecunious and wealthy the amateur (and small workshops) and included a small bench planer, plain-turning and very fine quality ornamental turning lathes and accessories (including their complex universal geometric cutter) drill presses, a circular sawing machine and what was described as a: Machine for copying works of art, etc., from the round or flat, upon any scale, in ivory, wood, alabaster, etc. It is easily worked by one person. The movement for copying proportional straight lines is unique. The cutting is performed by a revolving tool, mounted on a bar with universal centre, and guided by a tracer applied to the original. It will copy the most intricate forms. This might be the machine mentioned in the "Report and Adjudication of the Judges on the Exhibition of Irish Manufacture, Produce and Inventions" published in 1847. It was described as a 'sculptor's carving machine' and invented by one Charles Shaw and made by Kennan to his design..
A few of the company's ornamental lathes are known to have survived together with the odd planer and a number of their simple, treadle-drive plain lathes. The ornamental lathe was supplied complete on a treadle stand with a double-flywheel assembly and an "overhead" to drive toolpost-mounted high-speed grinding and milling spindles and other accessories. Built onto the right-hand end of the stand was a drill press complete with a worm-drive rotary table.
Should you have any or contemporary advertisements or literature about the Kennan Company, the writer would be very interested to hear from you..