Mechanical Exercise

Sometimes we stumble into things while looking for other things. This morning I was researching more on taps for threading nuts and came across an interesting image from Das Mittelalterlich Hausbuch von Schloss Wolfegg. Hausbuchs were common record keeping documents of the activities and operations of the households of the nobility and wealthy merchant class in the late Medieval and Renaissance Germanies. I’ve pulled quite a bit from the Zweibruder house book in other tool research.

The Wolfegg housebook (dated 1480) has a rather intriguing set of devices on folio 53.

House book Wolfegg 53v 53v1 lathe scale Steiggeräte Verso

House book Wolfegg 53v 53v1 lathe scale Steiggeräte Verso

The two items at the top of the page are attributed to be a screw-cutting lathe and cutter. I’m going to noodle about to figure out how the cutter actually mounts to the lathe and operates. The object at the bottom of the page casts a disappointing light on the viability of trusting the English translation of this book. According to the translation, that item is a scale. Anyone with the slightest familiarity with engineering can see this is not a scale, but a angle(bevel) gauge for spotting elevation. Some might refer to this as a “Military Sector,” as used for measuring the elevation and range of early gunpowder artillery.

I may need more thick boards in the near future.

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2 Responses to Mechanical Exercise

  1. imre sziebet says:

    Hi,
    I believe Roy Underhill had a couple of programs dedicated to screw cutting. The operating principle is very similar to the machine shown in the illustration. I think that there is even a description in one of his books.

    • Yes, Mr. Underhill has very definitely done some programs on screw cutting. I’ve watched every one of them repeatedly. Most every tool and method that has been exemplified in St. Roy’s work is 17th century and later. I regular concern of mine is how often we seem to have very advanced, complicated tools to complete an action seemingly appear fully formed in a very recent era but no simpler tool for them to develop from. The tap and screw threading box seem exceptionally simple tools for making threaded rods and wooden nuts, however we have no documentable indication of that particular tooling set existing before 1700.
      The functional operation of the screw cutting lathe in the Wolfegg Hausbuch came to be about 12 hours after I posted this article. It’s a little different from the ones we “commonly” know about. It’s weird and interesting enough that I’m going to need to build one to test my hypothesis.

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