A Visit to Jones' Factory
from "The Sewing Machines Gazette" (1890)
A reporter of the Ashston-under-Lyne Herald recently visited the factory of Jones' Sewing Machine Company, at Guide Bridge near Manchester and supplies a large description of same to his paper from which we extract the following :
Passing through a large gateway, high and wide enough to admit the retinue of the Shall of Persia, one enters a large courtyard, oblong in shape. It is the beginning and the end in the history of every sewing machine, manufactured by the firm, inasmuch as from one corner ascends the raw "pig" and after travelling over the oblong figure out comes the sausage, beg pardon, the sewing machine. This arrangement shows at a glance that in the process of manufacture there is no running from Dan to Beersheba. In a corner of this yard is pilled a great quantity of "pig" iron. The floor of the yard is remarkably clear and its general appearance neat and orderly. "Come this way," says Mr. Jones and we step into the foundry, a large room 200 ft. by 6oft. and proportionately high. A huge furnace is placed in the centre of the front wall, so that it is equally accessible from both sides of the foundry. Immediately behind the furnace is a large steam hoist for lifting metals and feeding the furnace. In this department," said Mr. Jones ", all the plate and machine moulding is done. The machine process saves the employment of skilled labour and turns out better castings and in greater numbers, than is possible under the ordinary system in the ordinary foundry. The patterns are, as you see, not of the ordinary wooden type, but are projecting from iron plates and these being put into the earth moulds, all skilled labour in preparing the mould is done away with and we are enabled to give constant employment to a large number of ordinary labourers. In a remote corner of this department we found a sand grinding machine for pulverising sand to a uniform consistency ; side by side with it is a riddle for producing line casting sand. The next stage in the process of manufacture is the dressing up of the perfected castings. We pass through a door and enter the "fettling" shop. Here the rough castings are cleared in rattlers or scouring barrels and dressed by large emery wheels. There is also in this room, which is well ventilated and lighted, a large oven, hermetically sealed, for the purpose of annealing the castings. Adjoining this is the general casting stores. Here are compartments for every casting that is used for every description of sewing machine. From this section onwards is apparent that systematic order and coherency which are some of the leading characteristics of this firm. A large steam hoist in the store-room is the means by which all the castings are distributed for the subsequent processes. Opening out of this store-room is the place where the electro-plating is carried on. The articles requiring to be so treated are the plates and the extra attachments to the machine for tucking, hemming, braiding, &c. The bath in which the process is carried on proved a very interesting item to us. The mention of this department is somewhat out of place here, as it is really one of the finishing strokes, but we allude to it as it is on this floor, placed here probably on account of the somewhat unpleasant odour common to the process. Ascending a flight of broad iron stairs, we find ourselves in the drilling department, replete with unique and complete machinery of every kind. All the holes in the castings are bored in this department. Several beautiful and rapid-working drilling machines are at work; one, two, three four, and even six drills are being actuated at the same time. This section of the factory is fitted up with overhead gearing, and a complex system of lathes—all worked by steam power. An elaborate tool-shop is also connected with this department and in it all the special fools required for every kind of sewing machine is manufactured. The firm have made quite an important feature of this section. We next visit the milling department, which is well stocked with the test specimens of drilling, cutting, shaping, and other automatic machinery. With the aid of these wonderfully contrived pieces of mechanism, every part of the sewing machine is made in duplicate form or on the inter-changeable principle, is carried out in the large Government gun factories. Thus, no matter whether ten articles or ten thousand articles are operated upon, each one is an exact fac-simile of the other, so that in case of an accident, whenever any part of one of the firm's machines get damaged or broken, even in Hong Kong, Shanghai, or the far antipodes, the customer has no difficulty in procuring a similar part by mail or otherwise and it is certain to fit the damaged machine with very little trouble or expense. It has taken Messrs. Jones & Co. many years of experience in the trade to get such a valuable collection of appliances to enable them to produce work of so accurate a description. The gear-cutting department, which adjoins this, is well stocked with American tools, especially made for the firm. To give a mere enumeration of these, let alone stating their usefulness, would require the hundred hands of a Briareus. We hurry on, therefore, to the profile cutting branch of this enormous industry, which is devoted to cutting off the irregular surfaces of the plates. Here is made, also, the new hooks for the firm's latest machines. This hook is made from a piece of solid steel, and before it is completed 9-10 ths of the material is cut away in the process, so that in the end we have a fragile-looking piece of mechanism only 1-10 th its original body, A pair of diagonal engines, 70 h p., supply the motor power for this department. The cam cutting section is also well supplied with the usual automatic labour-saving machinery for smoothing the irregular cams. The planning and shaping departments rapidly plane and reduce the irregular surfaces of the beds of the machine. In passing through the turning department we stop for a moment to notice a splendid American grinding machine, which was specially made for the firm. The stud and screwing divisions of the factory is a veritable hive of industry. Here all the big and little screws of the sewing machine are manufactured, some of the screws being so small that one has to exercise some ingenuity in picking them up. The smithy is fitted with a patent American friction hammer, other ordinary large heavy hammers and fly pressers. It is interesting to stand for a moment and watch the brawny sons of Vulcan skilfully manipulating the heavier portions of the machine. We are next conducted up another flight of stairs and shown into the general storeroom, where all the parts actuated upon by the various processes are brought and stored up and gradually drafted for further operations in the more advanced departments. The fitting room is of large dimensions, being 240 ft. by 42 ft. and 18 ft. high. It is admirably lighted by side windows and at the top and is specially reserved for finishing the machines. The fitting-up benches are so arranged that as each sewing machine is handed along the room the various parts are fitted into it, so by the time it reaches the end man it is complete, excepting the stand. This arrangement has the one great advantage that it prevents any inferior work being passed. For instance, No. 1 may turn 250 perfect machines and then one imperfect; he passes them on to No. 2, who goes through the 250 without a murmur, but when he comes to that solitary imperfect machine he immediately perceives its defects and hands it back to No. I. Here we see the building-up process, from the crudest form the machine gradually advances in symmetry and size until it is completed. Afterwards each machine is tested by steam power for a short time, to see that every part is in good working order. So far, the machines have been made entirely by piecework, but it is the duly of the last staff of workmen to see that the whole is in good working condition, and perfectly fitted in every part. For this test the machine is taken to the tester's room, where each machine is subjected to a close and careful scrutiny and should the slightest flaw or rough motion be discovered it is sent back to be remedied. In another room the process of rough-fitting the machine previous to japanning is carried on. Those parts which require to be glazed or polished are here operated upon with emery wheels of all sizes and constructions and the arms and plates receive their burnished appearance. Adjoining this room is the japanning department, into which the machine is now taken. Here there are large vats into which the pieces requiring to be japanned are dipped, as this gives them a thicker and more uniform coat than when the brush is used. The articles are afterwards put into a stove, of which there are seven in number, for about 24 hours, at a temperature, raised by steam, ranging from 212 to 250 degrees. When they come out of here they pass into the hands of the artists for decoration and some of the ornamentation is really beautiful in design and artistically worked out. Some of the plates are inlaid with mother-of-pearl and highly ornamented with gold and colours. When this is finished they are coated with varnish and put into another stove, heated with steam up to 150 or 180 degrees and are thoroughly dried and hardened. " Now then," said Mr. Jones, " we will walk through the other factory." " What ! " we exclaimed, somewhat astonished, " another factory?" " Yes," he replied, smiling "and quite as large as this one." We paused to take a deep breath. " Come on," said he. " All right" we added, " if you will go like our American cousins." " What do you mean ? " " Why a run through the place. We feel the vast void in the inner man eloquently appealing to us to hurry on." Mr. Jones smiled and moved onwards. We followed. In the turning and drilling department of this factory we noticed a remarkable American machine for drilling the stands. It performed eleven different operations at the same time without necessitating the lifting up of the article. The cabinetmaking department of the firm is stocked with a large quantity of beautifully seasoned woods from the forests of Indiana," U.S.A. and fitted up with circular saws, wood planning, moulding, grooving, sandpapering and other kinds of machinery. Manual labour in this department is reduced to a minimum. The tables, covers and cabinets for the machines are made almost wholly by machinery. The wood being cut up, dovetailed, moulded, &c, by machinery, an immense amount of work is accomplished in this division. A fan and cyclone are established in this department ; the fan drives all the dust and shaving into one place and the cyclone carries it off. The room is therefore always clean, well ventilated and in perfect working order. The stands or tables, covers, &c., having passed the cabinet makers' hands, go to the French polishers and, after having undergone that process, they are taken to the table or stand-fitting department, where all the woodwork is put up. It is in this department that the metal portion of the sewing machine ultimately meets its stand or table. They are quickly fixed up and sent to an extensive adjoining warehouse, where the sewing machines are again tried and specimens of the work done by each, whether fancy work or leather, are carefully examined by the foreman. When they finally pass a satisfactory examination they are removed to another room, where they are wrapped up and, if necessary, packed up in boxes by the packers, lowered down the hoist into the lorries and taken away to different parts of the civilised globe. The general offices, of which we have a glimpse in passing through to Mr. Jones' private room, are well appointed with all the paraphernalia of a modern commercial house and half a score or so of quill drivers bend over their tables, filling up the various entries in their books and in their epistolary spheres -Speed the soft intercourse from soul to soul and waft a sigh from Indus to the Pole. Others, still more enterprising collar the telegraph form and "put a girdle round about the earth in forty minutes." Leaving them to their soul-absorbing occupations we proceed to the sanctum sanctorum of Mr, Jones. " Now, Mr. Jones, we want a word or two about the history of the house." "That is very soon given," he replied and paused for a moment to take a retrospective glance, as it were. " Well," he continued, " we first started business thirty years ago last January, in a room only 20 ft. by 30 ft. in the late Nathaniel Howard's old factory. We had one fitter and- one turner and subsequently an apprentice and these three men we have with us to-day. The fitter that I drew your attention to in the fitting-room is one of the three; he occupies a leading and respected position. In the tools-making department is still our old turner. These were the first two journeymen that came to Jones' and they are with Jones still. But what about the apprentice ? " we eagerly inquired, Why, the apprentice is now general manager. Good gracious, we exclaimed. Yes, he has worked himself up step by step and is now the general manager of the whole concern. This sort of thing does not happen in every factory and we are rather proud of it. But there is scarcely a foreman or leading hand with us who has not been made in the place. Surely that is rather a big order even for Jones ? It is ; but it's a fact. All our leading hands have been with us from fifteen to twenty-five years. But to proceed with our story. We started business as engineers' tool and sewing machine manufacturers in a very small way. Eighteen months later we were compelled to take over another room; still we prospered and after another year had to take in the third room. We stuck to our business systematically and energetically and it prospered. Each year found us further advanced than we were before, until the exigencies of our growing trade demanded even a larger place than all the available portion of Nathaniel Howard's old factory, so in 1865 we first built up a part of this factory, which has gone on increasing ever since; addition after addition has been made to its structure and its fittings until you find it the extensive and complete factory that it is to-day. Mr. Jones paused and we ventured to inquire as to the number of machines produced. Well, said he, at first we used to produce as many as three machines in a fortnight. Dear me ! We internally ejaculated, what Herculean labour ! Mr. Jones allowed us to digest this information, then quickly supplemented it by saying: but now we can turn out 460 machines in a week. That being a somewhat more reasonable figure as to the firm's probable output, we passed on to the query as to the number of hands employed. As you know, said Mr. Jones, we started with two men and a boy, but now, all told, we give employment to— to— what is the number, Mr. Mellor, I forget? 800 hands, all told, replied Mr. Mellor. What a record ! What an achievement ! The firm of Messrs. Jones & Co. are to be congratulated upon their success. One of the strong points in the manufacture of sewing machines at Guide Bridge is this : From the very beginning Messrs. Jones & Co. have only made one quality of sewing machines and that is the very best quality possible to produce; they have never had an inferior machine at a less price and a better finished machine, with extras, at a higher price, but all machines are made of the very best quality and offered to the public at as reasonable price as possible. It is, in a very great measure, owing to this fact that there is no uncertainty about the quality of their machines All the world over it is known that Jones' sewing machines are made on sound mechanical principles and of the very best material. Can you give us any information on this point. Where do they all go to, Mr. Jones? Well, you may broadly put that down as all over the civilised world. We have agents in every large town and city in the United Kingdom, in Paris, Berlin, Brussels, Vienna, Rome, Naples, Athens, Constantinople, in short, everywhere on the Continent. We regularly ship our sewing machines to India, China, Japan and other places in the eastern world. With Australia and the Colonies we do a large business and every year we find our machines are getting more and more popular. But what about the United States? Ah! That is a sore point. The beggars over there try to kill our trade with their abominable tariff and here Mr. Jones felt disposed to wax eloquent over the Free Trade controversy. Isn't it unfair, he asked, that they should come over here and compete with us in our own markets, unhindered in any way, but if we make an attempt to compete with them across the water, a heavy tariff stares us in the face ? We parried the question by asking what the tariff actually came to and were a little astonished to hear that it was no less than 45 per cent , not including the cost of transit. But notwithstanding, said Mr. Jones triumphantly, we can lick them into fits in the price and quality of our machines.