Machines

The Museum displays early industrial machinery.
The INDUSTRY area of the Museum displays exhibits about the people, the tools, the machinery they used, and the way the two combined to produce Springfield Armory's military weapons from the Nation's earliest days till 1968.

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

 
The only surviving Blanchard's original duplicating lathe, circa 1822.
Cat.#: SPAR 5550
In the 1960's the Smithsonian Institution created a very close working replica of this Blanchard lathe. Now displayed there, it is the machine seen in the video.

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

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.

Watch a reproduction Blanchard lathe at work!

 

 

 
The small working model Blanchard lathe standing before the original
The working .3-scale model, made possible with a grant in about 2000, was made by Clint Bostock, a fine craftsman. It can actually cut a miniature musket stock about eight inches long.

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

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!
 
19thC drill press
Cat #: SPAR 7305

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

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.

 
1850s Blanchard lathe
Cat.#: SPAR 5552
This improved "Second Generation"  model, of the type purchased in New England in the 1850's by the British for the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield, England, was designed by Sprinfeld Armory Master Armorer Cyrus Buckland.

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

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.

 
1859 image

THE ENGINEER, 20 May 1859

This mid-19th Century image shows a "Second Generation" Blanchard lathe, like that shown above, in operation. The Museum's example is incomplete.

See this and other machines showing the operation of mid-19thC machinery during a visit to Springfield Armory by a British delegation in the early 1850's!.

 
mid-19th Century metal cutting lathe
Cat.#: SPAR 5554

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

ENGINE LATHE

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.

 
Civil War period rifling machine
Cat.#: SPAR 5553
Lamson, Goodnow & Co., who made this machine, were US contractors during the Civil War for US Model 1861 rifle muskets. They are still in business, then as now, manufacturing fine cutlery.

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

RIFLING MACHINE

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

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

OVERHEAD BELT DRIVE

The Machines have working overhead belt-driven power.

 
early barrel straightening
Cat.#: SPAR 5551

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

BARREL-STRAIGHTENING ANVIL

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.

 
modern barrel straightener
Cat.#: SPAR 5557

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

BARREL-STRAIGHTENING MACHINE

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 straightening in action
Cat.#: 519.58.1

Springfield Armory NHS archives, US NPS

Barrel straightener being demonstrated in the Museum in the mid-20th Century.
 
late 19th Century bullet speed measuring
Cat.#: SPAR 1090

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

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.

 
mechanism of chronoscope
Cat.: SPAR 1090

Springfield Armory NHS archives SPAR 1090C, US NPS

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
Cat.: SPAR 1090

Springfield Armory NHS archives SPAR 1090B, US NPS

End-view of chronoscope mechanism showing the drums in profile.
 
The Bell is marked MENEELYS' WEST TROY, N.Y. 1861
Cat.#: SPAR 2112

Springfield Armory NHS, US NPS

SIGNAL BELL

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

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