Sunday, October 2, 2016

James Naysmyth's Childish Acts

One of the great Scottish engineers played in his father's workshop, making spinning tops for his classmates on the lathe:
He established a brisk business in these, in small brass cannon, and especially in large cellar keys, which he converted into a sort of hand cannon, with a small touchhole bored into the barrel and a slding brass collar which allowed them to be loaded, primed, and then carried around in the pocket. [Roe, English and American Tool Makers (1916), 83.]


John said...

Re the Roe book:

I second your recommendation. I bought a paper copy at the American Precision Museum when I visited there 5-6 years ago. Excellent book. I love industrial history and appreciate book recommendations like this.

I also highly recommend James Naysmith's autobiography James Nasmyth:Engineer Highly readable and interesting

And if you want to read something by a man with 6 month's of schooling, I can't recommend Andrew Carnegie highly enough. One of the best non-fiction writers of his time. Start with his autobiography then his bio of Henry Watt. (When will someone write a bio about James Boulton. Or better yet name a unit after him. Without him the steam engine might have taken another 100 years)

If you ever get to Vermont, visit the American Precision Museum. Located in an 1830s gun factory, it houses a complete range of machine tools from the 17th century onward. I grew up across the lake from Vermont and never realized what a hotbed of industry and machine tool manufacturing it used to be.

John Henry

John said...

Speaking of books, there are 3 very interesting books about the development of what we call the "Toyota Production System"

By Henry Ford, beginning in 1908.

My Life and Work
Today and Tomorrow
Moving Forward

I have the 1st and 3rd of them in PDF and Kindle Formats and will be happy to share with any of your readers.

Drop me a note at

John Henry

Anonymous said...

Looking up this interesting gentleman, I find that he touched on astronomy: he was the inventor of the Naysmyth focus, in which observations are made through the yoke bearing, which means a heavy instrument such as a spectroscope does not have to swing up and down as the scope moves.

A man of action, he was: At the age of thirty he bolted his carriage in a snowstorm to discuss business with the owner of an iron mill he chanced across, was smitten by the man's 21 year old daughter, and was betrothed within a day or two. Their happy though childless marriage lasted fifty years, when he died.

Clayton Cramer said...

American Precision Museum is om my mid-October visit list.