Sunday, July 16, 2017

"pulling Out All The Stops" In a Grand Way

In August I will be taking a trip to Europe. It will be the first time since 2000 that I have been there, and the first time to return to Germany since I left more than 33 years ago. needless to say, I am very much looking forward to this holiday.

Château d'Écouen, home of  the Musée national de la Renaissance.

Most people would probably assume this to be a medieval building, but it 
was built in the 2nd quarter of the 16th century and is in the style 
of the French Renaissance.

I will be spending most of my time in the region of Paris, doing research for my business and visiting museums to feed my passion for things medieval. It was to that end that I found myself browsing a list of the Chateaus in the Ille de France, and came across this gem of Renaissance engineering/art. I will not actually be visiting this chateau because the renaissance is too modern for my medieval tastes, and too old for work related designs, (with only two weeks one must be very particular about priorities) but as a lover of history and all things well made, I found this extremely fascinating and wanted to share it with the tool loving sector of my audience.

All pictures have been gleaned from the internet, I had nothing to do with any of them.

Made for the Elector of Saxony in 1565, this 4,5 metre long wire drawing
machine is as much a work of art as a machine. Thousands of hours of work
must have gone into the inlay, carving, and steel engraving used to ornament
this remarkable device; the only one of its kind still extant.
Detail of some of the inlay used to ornament this machine

This was the picture I saw in Wikipedia which got me sidetracked from what
I was supposed to be doing. The web can be a real "rabbit-hole"

Detail of a wire-drawing plate and the braces used to hold it. Besides all the
 engraving, notice that the plate gets thicker towards the centre to prevent it
 bending. Each hole is a tiny part of a millimetre smaller than its predecessor 
allowing for subsequently finer wire with each pass.

Detail of the gear-box. To the right is the attaching point for the hand crank
which is the key to how this whole things works.

I am very familiar with wire drawing, an art that has been practiced since the Middle Ages, and by some accounts, was invented in Germany. I saw this basic art being performed at the jewelry shops I visited in Manila, essentially unchanged since its invention; the jeweler grasps a length of wire, which has been hammered into a thick rough wire shape, with a pair of pliers and pulls it through the largest hole. He then pulls it through the next, and each time he advances to the next smaller dimension hole until he achieves the size wire he is after. What I found fascinating in the pictures of this 16th century machine were all of the 'non-standard' wire shapes which were obviously produced as well. Obviously wire had many more decorative functions then than they do now. I zoomed in on the above picture so that all of the various shapes would be more easily visible, below.

Here one sees squares, stars, hearts, tear-drops, triangles  and lozenge shapes.
A feat of phenomenal proportion when one considers that each of these plates
 was made by hand, and the difference in size from one hole to the next is 
almost imperceptible. It is amazing that even with modern technology 
about the only shape of wire one will ever see is round.

In ages past people often put a lot more time and effort into the things they made, This sort of dedication to the art of ornamentation is a characteristic which is very appealing to me. Not all such machines were so lavishly enhanced, however, as this more humble 18th or 19th century version shows.

Very primitive and ordinary by comparison, but much more of an "everyday"
working machine.

I could not end with such a simple ordinary looking machine, however, so here is a detail of one of the legs to the one found in the Museum of the Renaissance.

Each leg is different, but all carved with a similar


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