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Object Record

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Object Name Tool
Catalog Number 1997.46.5
Collection Tool
Other Name Woerd Automatic Screw Machine
Date c.1871
Description See Notes for further Info
c.1871, This machine could produce approximately 8,000 screws a day.
Charles Vander Woerd was born in Leyden, Holland and came to this country at an early age. First employed at the Nashua Watch Company, he went on to serve as the mechanical superintendent of the Waltham Watch Company. While there, he designed many of the unique machines required to manufacture the various components of a Waltham watch. Vander Woerd developed the first automatic screw machine in 1871. The machine mechanized the operations previously performed by earlier manual scew cutting machines. The basic lathe design was similar to its predecessors but this model was activated by a series of cams.
The cams engaged the open collet, fed the steel rod stock through the collet, moved the cutter into position to fix the diameter, and moved the tailstock into position to cut the threads and finally the screw off at the head. A "picker arm" activated by another camshaft removed the screw and repositioned it to the back of the machine where a second slotting tool was located. After the screw was slotted, it was released into a collecting container located under the machine. The production output of this machine was approximately 8000 screws per day. The efficiancy of Vander Woerd's machine allowed one operator to attend to four units simultaneously. Although it could only process one screw at a time, it greately advanced the automation of factory operations. As a result, the automatic screw machine received much attention when exhibited at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876.

The cams engaged the open collet, fed the steel rod stock through the collet, moved the cutter into position to fix the diameter, and moved the tailstock into position to cut the threads and finally the screw off at the head. A "picker arm" activated by another camshaft removed the screw and repositioned it to the back of the machine where a second slotting tool was located. After the screw was slotted, it was released into a collecting container located under the machine. This machine produced approximately 8000 screws per day.
Aluminum tag attached with "4-157" engraved.
Maker Charles Vander Woerd
Material steel
Place of Origin Waltham, Massachusetts, USA
Notes In 1871 Charles Vander Woerd, the mechanical superintendant at the American Watch Company, Waltham, MA, invented the first automatic screw-making machine. The first few machines were smaller than the one on display and were used to make jewel screws. The machine on display, however, could be set up to make any size watch screw - from tiny jewel screws to the case screws used to hold the movement in the case..

Feeding, turning, threading, cutting off, and slotting operations are performed automatically by means of cams and gears, with no attentin from the operator other than replenishing stock. A single operator could attend six or more of these machines and produce 50,000 to 60,000 screws per day. The previous method a man and an assistant might make 1,00 to 1,500 screws per day.

Forty-five of these machines were built, at a cost of $2,000 each, between 1871 and 1876, for use in screw making department at Waltham. The thirtieth machine built was exhibited in Machinery Hall at the great Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876.

This basic design of this machine was copied by other watch factories.
IL
36456
Adopted by Fortunat F. Mueller-Maerki
4/5/2011
$500