[Image] My factory flat at Manchester
When I had settled the contract for taking the place, I wrote down to Edinburgh by that night's post to tell my father of the happy results of my visit to Manchester, and also to inform my right hand man, Archy Torry, that I should soon be with him. He was to prepare for packing up my lathes, planing machines, drilling machines, and other smaller tools, not forgetting my father's foot lathe, of which I had made such effective use.* [footnote... I have still this foot-lathe in full and perfect and almost daily action. I continue to work with it now, after sixty-three years of almost constant use. It is a lathe that I duly prize and venerate, not only because it was my father's, but also because it was, in practical fact, the progenitor, more or less directly, of all the mechanical productions of my long and active life. ...]
I soon followed up my letter. I was in Edinburgh in a few days' time, and had all my tools packed up. In the course of about ten days I returned to Manchester, and was followed by Archy Torry and the ponderous cases of machinery and engineer's tools. They were all duly delivered, hoisted to my flat, and put in their proper places. I was then ready for work.
The very first order I received was from my friend Edward Tootal. It was a new metallic piston for the small steam-engine that gave motion to his silk-winding machinery. It was necessary that it should be done over night, in order that his factory should be at work as usual in the morning.
My faithful Archy and I set to work accordingly. We removed the old defective piston, and replaced it by a new and improved one, made according to my own ideas of how so important a part of a steam-engine should be constructed. We conveyed it to Mr. Tootal's factory over night, and by five o'clock in the morning gave it a preliminary trial to see that everything was in order. The "hands" came in at six, and the machine was set to work. It was no doubt a very small order, but the piston was executed perfectly and satisfactorily. The result of its easier action, through reduced friction, was soon observable in the smaller consumption of coal. Mr. Tootal and his brother were highly pleased at my prompt and careful attention to their little order, and it was the forerunner of better things to come.
Orders soon came in. My planing machine was soon fully occupied. When not engaged in executing other work it was employed in planing the flat cast-iron inking tables for printing machines. These were made in considerable numbers by Messrs. Wren and Bennett (my landlords) under the personal superintendence of Ebenezer Cowper, brother of the inventor, who, in conjunction with Mr. Applegath, was the first to produce a really effective newspaper printing machine. I had many small subsidiary jobs sent to me to execute. They not only served to keep my machine tools properly employed, but tended in the most effective way to make my work known to some of the best firms in Manchester, who in course of time became my employers.
In order to keep pace with the influx of work I had to take on fresh hands. I established a smithy down in the cellar flat of the old mill in Dale Street, so that all forge work in iron and steel might be promptly and economically produced on the premises. There was a small iron foundry belonging to a Mr. Heath, about three minutes walk from my workshop, where I had all my castings of iron and brass done with promptness, and of excellent quality. Mr. Heath very much wanted a more powerful steam-engine to drive his cupola blowing fan. I had made a steam-engine in Edinburgh and brought it with me. There it lay in my workshop, where it remained unused, for I was sufficiently supplied with power from the rotating shaft. Mr. Heath offered to buy it. The engine was accordingly removed to his iron foundry, and I received my full quota of value in castings.
Week by week my orders grew, and the flat of the old mill soon assumed a very busy aspect. By occasionally adding to the number of my lathes, drilling machines, and other engineers' tools, I attracted the attention of employers. When seen in action they not only facilitated and economised the production of my own work, but became my best advertisements. Each new tool that I constructed had some feature of novelty about it. I always endeavoured after greater simplicity and perfectness of workmanship. I was punctual in all my engagements. The business proved safe and profitable. The returns were quick. Sometimes one-third of the money was paid in advance on receipt of the order, and the balance was paid on delivery at my own premises. All risk of bad debts was avoided. Thus I was enabled to carry on my business with a very moderate amount of capital.