The Worshipful Company of Turners

Supporting the Craft, City and Charity for over four hundred years


With the help of a £5,000 grant from the Turners’ Company, the Science Museum has taken in hand the major restoration of a most dramatically ornate rose engine lathe from the eighteenth century.

Whilst mystery surrounds the origins of this machine, with its amazing rococo decoration it was clearly made to impress; one theory is that it was made for Friedrich 1st of Prussia.

This was a period when European royalty partook in the art of turning as well as having a Court Turner. The machine is also exceptional in that it is designed to turn components automatically driven by a weight-driven geared mechanism of cams and levers to further show off the prowess and prestige of the owner.

dsc_1655The machine came to the Science Museum in 1867 and several attempts over the years have been made to restore the machine, which was basically in 250 pieces, to its former glory.

For this current phase, restoration has been careful and painstaking at the facilities of Richard Rogers Restoration Ltd in Leatherhead. The photographs show a visit to Leatherhead on August 25th by Deputy Master, Nicholas Edwards, to discuss progress with the Curator of Mechanical Artefacts at the Science Museum, Ben Russell, and the restoration team.

Most of the work has been done by Julia Tauber who has already spent some 450 man-hours sorting out the jig-saw puzzle before turning her attention to the wooden entablature.

The Automaton lathe, as it has been dubbed, stands over nine feet tall with its overhead flywheel.

It will be one of the most imposing and outstanding exhibits at the Robots Exhibition opening in February 2017 at the Science Museum to explore the 500-year story of humanoid robots.

After seven months the exhibition (with credits to the Turners’ Company identified) will tour around the world starting in Europe, then Australia and Singapore before returning to the UK in 2021.

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