Whew. Now, here’s the stuff: The Museum of American Precision has the very first Bridgeport vertical milling machine #0001. It’s in its standard grey and blue, the paint is beautifully crazed from age. The machine, which dates from 1938 is almost indistinguishable in its running gear and general shape from the same machines you can buy new today.
There are also two beautiful turret lathes (among several more they have). A green one made by Lamson Goodnow and Co in 1861 is perhaps the oldest embodiment of the modern turret lathe in the world.
A larger lathe in black paint with nickel details is from 1891.
One of the oldest tools in the museum is the lathe which uses granite for its bed. What machine cut that piece of granite so it was flat?
From the standpoint of sheer aesthetic pleasure, the horizontal mill by Brown and Sharpe, a company still making precision measuring equipment, is my favorite. If you told me it came from Bell Labs or NASA in the 1970s I’d believe you. It dates to 1865.
If I could have one machine tool shoe-horned into my basement, it would be the 3-in-1 machine built in 1941 under a contract for the Navy who needed compact, multi-purpose machines for repairs on board Destroyer class ships. With a lathe on the right, a drill press at front, and a mill with an indexing head on the left I could tinker to my heart’s content… mmm metally goodness.
At the center of the exhibition floor, there’s a set of old machines under power, run by staff. If you ask, they will make you a brass keepsake or two. We walked away with a gear keychain and a pair of doll-house wine glasses. (Mouse over the images below to read the captions).