This section is from "Scientific American Supplement Volumes 275, 286, 288, 299, 303, 312, 315, 324, 344 and 358". Also available from Amazon: Scientific American Reference Book.
In 1831, the mention of lathes, drilling machines, and screwing machines brings me very nearly to the end of the list of the machine tools used by turners and fitters, and at that time many lathes were without slide rests. The boiler-maker had then his punching-press and shearing machine; the smith, leaving on one side his forges and their bellows, had nothing but hand tools, and the limit of these was a huge hammer, with two handles, requiring two men to work it. In anchor manufacture, it is true, a mechanical drop-hammer, known as a Hercules, was employed, while in iron works, the Helve and the Tilt hammer were in use. For ordinary smith's work, however, there were, as has been said, practically no machine tools at all.
This paucity or absence in some trades, as we have seen, of machine tools, involved the need of very considerable skill on the part of the workman. It required the smith to be a man not only of great muscular power, but to be possessed of an accurate eye and a correct judgment, in order to produce the forgings which were demanded of him, and to make the sound work that was needed, especially when that soundness was required in shafts, and in other pieces which, in those days, were looked upon as of magnitude; which, indeed, they were, relatively to the tools which could be brought to operate upon them. The boiler-maker in his work had to trust almost entirely to the eye for correctness of form and for regularity of punching, while all parts of engines and machines which could not be dealt with in the lathe, in the drilling, or in the screwing machine, had to be prepared by the use of the chisel and the file.
At the present day, the turning and fitting shops are furnished not only with the slide lathe, self acting in both directions, and screw-cutting, the drilling-machine, and the screwing machine, but with planing machines competent to plane horizontally, vertically, or at an angle; shaping machines, rapidly reciprocating, and dealing with almost any form of work; nut shaping machines, slot drilling machines, and slotting machines, while the drills have become multiple and radial; and the accuracy of the work is insured by testing on large surface plates, and by the employment of Whitworth internal and external standard gauges.
The boiler maker's tools now comprise the steam, compressed air, hydraulic or other mechanical riveter, rolls for the bending of plates while cold into the needed cylindrical or conical forms, multiple drills for the drilling of rivet holes, planing machines to plane the edges of the plates, ingenious apparatus for flanging them, thereby dispensing with one row of rivets out of two, and roller expanders for expanding the tubes in locomotive and in marine boilers; while the punching press, where still used, is improved so as to make the holes for seams of rivets in a perfect line, and with absolute accuracy of pitch.
With respect to the smith's shop, all large pieces of work are now manipulated under heavy Nasmyth or other steam hammers; while smaller pieces of work are commonly prepared either in forging machines or under rapidly moving hammers, and when needed in sufficient numbers are made in dies. And applicable to all the three industries of the fitting shop, the boiler shop, and the smith's shop, and also to that other industry carried on in the foundry, are the traveling and swing cranes, commonly worked by shafting, or by quick moving ropes for the travelers, and by hydraulic power or by steam engines for the swing cranes. It may safely be said, that without the aid of these implements, it would be impossible to handle the weights that are met with in machinery of the present day.
I now come to one class of machine which, humble and small as it is, has probably had a greater effect upon industry and upon domestic life than almost any other. I mean