Original 1822 Blanchard Lathe
Thomas Blanchard's invention of the duplicating lathe, first used at Springfield Armory, was one of the most significant developments in American industrial history. It permitted exact duplication of irregular wooden shapes, such as gun stocks. This was an important step in creating mass production techniques. The original machines relied on water power at the Water Shops.
Included in the exhibit is a working .3-scale model of the Blanchard lathe. Visitors may run it for about 30 seconds by pressing a green start button. It's great fun to figure out for yourself how the gun stock is cut!
POST-MOUNTED DRILL PRESS
This wall-mounted belt-driven machine was one of the commonest types of shop equipment. It could be used for drilling holes in wood or metal. The "Little Giant" machine was made in the late 19th Century by Wells Bros. of Greenfield, Mass.
BLANCHARD IRREGULAR TURNING LATHE
A later version of Thomas Blanchard's wood-turning lathe, this machine was more efficient and took up less space. The iron frame provided greater support, which permitted more accuracy. This machine remained in use long enough to be converted to electric power.
This mid-19th Century image shows a "Second Generation" Blanchard lathe, like that shown above, in operation. The Museum's example is incomplete.
This lathe, probably made in the 1850's, was used for cutting screw threads and other metal working. It was typical of machines that would be used in a metal-working shop, but was not especially adapted for gun manufacture.
This machine cut spiral grooves into the barrel of a firearm. A bullet traveling in a spiral, like a football, was more accurate. This machine was made by Lamson, Goodnow & Co. in Windsor, Vt., and was used by Smith & Wesson in Springfield for rifling pistol barrels.
OVERHEAD BELT DRIVE
The Machines have working overhead belt-driven power.
A barrel-straightener would begin the process of straightening a barrel by laying the barrel across the anvil and striking it sharply with a hammer.
After going through the great heat of manufacturing, gun barrels needed to be straightened. A barrel that was not perfectly straight would not be accurate. This type of machine was in use for most of the 20th Century. One may be seen at work in the video located nearby in this Museum.
Barrel straightener being demonstrated in the Museum in the mid-20th Century.
CHRONOSCOPEFollowing the Civil War, the U.S. military became interested in the scientific study of weapons and projectiles - what is now known as ballistics. Springfield Armory experimented with a number of different chronoscopes - machines to measure the speed of bullets. This particular machine was invented by Captain Schultz of the French Army. Others were designed and developed by Springfield Armory personnel.
Chronoscope front view of mechanism. This is an example of the early use of electricity. The drum is covered in paper and rotates by a weight [see the rope on the drum]. An electrical current is completed at several points of the bullet's flight causing a spark to be created on the paper roll. Calculating the rotation and the distance covered on the paper where the sparks occured allows the time of flight to be calculated accurately.
End-view of chronoscope mechanism showing the drums in profile.
For years the tolling of this bell alerted employees at the Water Shops that the machinery was about to be powered up. This alarm was particularly important in an era of belt-driven equipment when an unknowing worker could easily be injured if the machines suddenly began running without warning.
Last updated: February 26, 2015