A well-known little instrument, chiefly used to adjust or fasten the clothes of women and children. Although consisting of merely a piece of wire, with a head and a point, great mechanical ingenuity has been exercised to perfect its construction at a cheap rate; but such is the extent of the consumption, and consequent importance of the manufacture of pins, that there are many establishments where upwards of two tons, containing about 20,000,000 in number, are made weekly. The ordinary method of making pins has been thus described by various authors on the subject. Brass wire, drawn to the required size, is straightened by drawing it between steel pins, set in a zigzag form upon a bench, and afterwards cut into such lengths as will each make six pins of the required size. These lengths are pointed at the ends by boys, who sit each with two small grindstones before him, turned by a wheel. Taking up a handful, he applies the wires to the coarsest of the two stones, moving them round at the same time, and in such a position as to produce evenly-rounded and well-tapered conical points, which are perfected and sharpened by him afterwards upon the smoother stone. A lad of twelve years of age will thus point 16,000 in an hour.
The length of a pin is then cut off each end of the pointed wire, and the remaining portion of wire is treated in a similar manner, successively, until the six pins of each length have been pointed. The next operation is heading, or rather "head-spinning;" the heads being prepared for subsequent putting on, by winding a finer wire around another wire of the size of the pin, by the rapid revolution of a kind of spinning-wheel. The internal wire being drawn out leaves the external wire of the form of a tube of circumvolutions; this tube is cut into short lengths, of only two circumvolutions, each of which forms one head; these are made red-hot in an iron pan, over a furnace, to soften them, that they may not spring under the hammer in fixing them on. These annealed heads are distributed to children, who sit with little anvils and hammers, the latter being worked by means of the feet upon treadles. Taking up a pin, they thrust its blunt end amongst a quantity of the head-spinnings; and, catching up one, they apply it immediately to the anvil, and, by means of two or three blows of the hammer, compress the head firmly upon the end of the wire, with remarkable dexterity.
The several motions of the little operator succeed each other so rapidly that it requires the closest observation of the process, many times repeated, to enable a stranger to perceive how it is performed. The pins have now to be whitened, which is effected by putting them in a solution of tin in the tartaric acid. Here they remain until they have acquired an extremely thin coat of the tin, which presents, when withdrawn from the bath, but a dull appearance: the pins are therefore thrown with some bran into a barrel, which, being in revolution upon its axis, the bran thus rubs the pins quite bright; they are then taken out, and the bran separated from them by a winnowing machine. Machines have, however, been recently constructed, in which a coil of wire is converted into pins without any manual intervention, or any extraneous assistance whatever.