Machine to cut files

AnonymousCirca 1750

Musée des arts et métiers

Musée des arts et métiers
Paris, France

Machine tools were rare in 1750. Grooving a file, cutting a gear tooth, rounding and polishing were essentially manual gestures. The maker of this machine benefited from experiments by 18th-century master watchmakers. In their search for precision, they designed tools capable of accurately making watch parts. A few turns of a crank was all it took to evenly groove the metal's surface by means of a cam that controlled the hammer striking the chisel. The grooves' depth varied depending on the type of file desired. The tension of the flat spring above the hammer determined the movement's intensity, and therefore the depth of the imprint the chisel left on the hot metal. This mechanical marvel foreshadowed the industrial machine age, when manual gestures were mechanised. But the dainty elegance of its scrolls and the perfection of its steel skeleton bear witness to a time when mechanics was an art.


  • Title: Machine to cut files
  • Creator: Anonymous
  • Date: Circa 1750
  • Date Created: Circa 1750
  • Provenance: Musée des arts et métiers
  • Subject Keywords: Limer / Râper / Machine-outil
  • Contributor: Author : Karine Alexandrian
  • Inventory number: Inv. 04162
  • Credits: © Musée des arts et métiers-Cnam/photo Sylvain Pelly

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