Vintage Tools


Mechanic's Tools and Their Makers

  Screw-Thread Cutting by the Master-Screw Method Since 1480
by Edwin A. Battison, 1966

Among the earliest known examples of screw-thread cutting machines are the screw-cutting lathe of 1483, known only in pictures and drawings, and an instrument of the traverse-spindle variety for threading metal, now in the Smithsonian Institution, dating from the late 17th or early 18th century.

The author shows clearly their evolution from something quite specialized to the present-day tool.

He has traced the patents for these instruments through the early 1930ís and from this research we see the part played by such devices in the development of the machine-tool industry.

The Author: Edwin A. Battison is associate curator of mechanical and civil engineering in the Smithsonian Institutionís Museum of History and Technology.


Directness and simplicity characterize pioneer machine tools because they were intended to accomplish some quite specialized task and the need for versatility was not apparent.

History does not reveal the earliest forms of any primitive machines nor does it reveal much about the various early stages in evolution toward more complex types.

At best we have discovered and dated certain developments as existing in particular areas.

Whether these forms were new at the time they were first found or how widely dispersed such forms may have been is unknown. Surviving evidence is in the form of pictures or drawings, such as the little-known screw-cutting lathe of 1483 (fig. 1) shown in Das mittelalterliche Hausbuch.

 Screw-cutting lathe of 1483 shown in Das mittelalterliche Hausbuch.

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