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Posts from the ‘Engine Turning’ Category

Kenloc Straight Line Engine Turning Machine

Kenloc Straight Line Engine Turning Machine After Rebuild and Restoration

Kenloc Straight Line Engine Turning Machine As Received From Seller

These two photographs are of a Kenloc Straight Line Engine Turning Machine that I purchased a few years ago. The one on the bottom shows the machine as it was originally received-covered in old grease, a some rust, and generally suffering the effects of storage and neglect. The one on the top shows the machine as it is today. The rebuild and renovation was completed only in the last few weeks. And, while the machine is fully operational and capable of excellent work now, there are still modifications and improvements planned to enhance its work capabilities. Getting the machine from the condition seen on the bottom to the condition of the same machine seen on the top has been am amazing journey for me and one that I believe needs to be shared.

Before purchasing the machine, I searched for and read everything I could find on the subject of guilloche engraving on metal. It was initially a scanty and difficult search. I turned up just enough information to feed the fuel of my fascination and give me a ridiculously high degree of confidence that I could actually rebuild a 90 or so year old machine of this type alone in my studio in rural South Carolina. Fortunately, circumstances intervened that led me to more reading materials that securely put my over-confidence in check. In a future post, I will share my current bibliography with those interested in learning more about this subject.

I am absolutely not a machinist. A reasonable familiarity with, and access to, machines and machinery is very important in attempting an endeavor such as this, something I did not realize at the outset. Fortunately, before I could get myself into too much trouble by beginning to rebuild the machine on my own, events led to a serendipitous move to the town of Boulder, Colorado, home to the award winning and renowned gem cutter, lapidary, custom knifemaker, toolmaker and expert in engine turning, guilloche as well as ornamental turning, and instructor in all of these, Lew Wackler. Lew has rebuilt over a dozen straight line engine turning machines, rose engines, and ornamental lathes and is a rare expert in this field. Not only does he possess the working knowledge to breath new life into these machines, he also was a workmaster for a team of artisans, craftsmen, clockmakers, and technicians sometimes working all over the world making Faberge style objects that were sold to discerning collectors internationally. Rather than treading water attempting to teach myself to not only restore my machine, but to actually use it to produce work, I have found in Lew a guide and master who has literally shaved years off of what will still be for me a long process of becoming proficient with these machines.

Without Lew Wackler, the machine in the top photograph would not have been possible. His guidance and methodology will figure prominently in the posts to follow.


A disc being engraved on a straight line engine turning machine rebuilt, restored, and owned by Lew Wackler

Faberge, Van Cleef and Arpels, Tiffany and Cartier are among the famous houses that utilized engine turned and guilloche engraved work  in their designs. After seeing an exquisite piece well designed, and then executed using these techniques, it is difficult for one not to develop a fascination to know more about the machines used to create them. How far that fascination goes, and in what direction can also be very interesting. Faberge items are collected today and there are often several sales each year at auction  houses such as Sotheby’s specializing in Faberge items and “Objets de Vertu”, which very often include a variety of engine turned objects. Malcolm S. Forbes fascination led him to amass a huge collection of Faberge items, including 9 of the only 50 Imperial Eggs that exist. This collection was due to be sold at auction in 2004, but a Russian oil tycoon, perhaps even more fascinated than Mr. Forbes, purchased the entire Forbes collection prior to the scheduled sale. Tales of the pursuit by those fascinated by them of these rare objects are legend. The fascination found in these posts, however, will be mine. My fascination is not as a collector, but as one interested in using the machines themselves to produce work. It is my hope that others will find a similar fascination and that these posts and pages will become a conduit for spreading as much information as possible to those who are similarly fascinated.

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