This Sunday being Father's Day, all the home improvement stores are wall-to-wall with deals on tools for dad. Which, you know, is fine. Maybe dad's hoping for a new set of socket wrenches.
For another way to treat the handyman in your life, one of the places in Windsor where we love to send our guests is, basically, tool heaven. The American Precision Museum, on South Main Street, is unmissable: a gorgeous old brick armory perched right up against the Mill Brook falls. Built in 1846, it's generally regarded as the birthplace of the precision machine tool industry, where for the first time, for instance, interchangeable gun parts were produced. And during the Civil War, most of the 1.5 million rifles made to arm Union soldiers came from machine tools that were assembled in Windsor, Vermont. That's no joke.
Nowadays the Precision Museum, according to its website, "holds the largest collection of historically significant machine tools in the nation ." You'll find beautifully preserved lathes, milling machines, and drill presses, as well as pretty cool collections of some of the first precision-made sewing machines and typewriters.
Last November, we welcomed two guests, Mike and Lyn Jones from Durham, England, who were excited to visit the Museum. After their stay, Mike wrote to share the story about why this Windsor landmark holds so much meaning to him, and it's fitting to post his letter now, heading into Father's Day weekend.
We recently combined a stay at the wonderful Snapdragon Inn with a visit to the American Precision Museum to see a model of the 1822 Blanchard lathe, made by my father in the UK and donated to the Museum in 2010.
A bit about my father, Peter Jones, first. His highly successful engineering career included holding senior engineering management posts within the Royal Ordnance Factories and in particular the Royal Small Arms Factory (RSAF) Enfield. He went on to lecture in engineering at City University in London and undertake manufacturing consultancy work across the UK before full retirement in the mid 1980's.
In retirement in Scalby, near Scarborough, my father set about researching the history of production engineering from the early 19th Century. His engineering background and excellent practical skills enabled him to bring some real understanding and fresh insight to this area of study. In the mid to late 1990’s many of his articles were published in Model Engineering and woodworking magazines. This work included construction of the model Blanchard lathe of 1822 - left in the picture below.
The museum clearly has strong links with the UK and we were fascinated to learn that the Ames gun stock copy lathe, featured in the right of photo (above), was purchased by the British Government in 1857 for use at RSAF Enfield. This machine saw “active service” turning wooden components for rifles, pistols and machine guns for about 100 years before being donated to the USA Military History Museum by the Director of the RSAF in 1972.
This was therefore a very special visit for us. We were treated to a guided tour of the museum by the Executive Director, Ann Lawless, and Collections Technician, John Alexander. We were also, of course, provided with first class accommodation at the Snapdragon Inn by Michelle. We wish both establishments well and thanks again for the 5-star treatment.
Mike & Lyn Jones
Thank you, Mike & Lyn, for the 5-star review!
Next time you're passing through Windsor, whether this Sunday or not, make a point to check out the American Precision Museum, offering a true glimpse into how our modern, mechanized world came to be.