Henry Harrisse.

Britain at work; a pictorial description of our national industries online

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of wood to
empty it.

Boys chop
on a press
the "lifts"
which go to
make up a
heel, and
they also
assist adult
operators at
n u m e r ous
in a c h ines.
They build
heels, the
several por-
t i o n s of
which are
held to-




gether by nails plunged into them whilst
pressed in the moulds. They cut smooth
the front of the heel, generally speaking,
before it is attached, and it is possible to
perform this operation at the rate of 1,000
heels per hour. They feed the "counter"
or "stiffener" skiving machine, sole-splitting
and " evening " machine, and serve the one
which, in addition to attaching the top piece
of the heel, studs it with those rivets

process. lie picks up the upper, laid close
to his hand, inserts the last, paying particular
attention to its position so as to bring the
toe-cap straight, places the inner sole upon
the last bottom and temporarily attaches
it thereto by tacks forepart and heel.

With his pincers he pulls the upper over
at the toe and tacks it down, repeating this
at the joints inside and out, and at the heel.
More than this is done in some cases, but


which ornament as well as add to its wear

There is still a large amount of lasting
done by hand, but the work is sub-divided
so that one operator does not perform the
entire process of lasting. In rivetted work
he is a "puller over," or " laster," or " getter
off," or "tapper up," and where machine
lasting is practised there is generally a team
of men working together grouped around
the machine. The " puller over " works at a
spike or " sturt," on which the last is placed
bottom upwards. The lasts may be of iron,
wood with steel plates on the bottom, or
wooden lasts with merely a plate at the
heel seat, according to the kind of work in

this suffices. He lifts the last, upper, and
insole, now united, from the stand and
lays them down ready to the hand of the
machine laster. We will assume that it is
a " hand method " Consolidated laster a
machine which, prior to the introduction of
a royalty system, whereby the machines
are leased for a premium and so much per
pair lasted, was sold for ^"300. In the
hands of a skilful operator, whose wages are
as high as 5os. per week, this machine pleats-
in the upper, and tacks it to the inner sole,
using pincers having a straight or oblique
pull, according to the will of the operator
In the case of " hand method" goods, after
lasting as described above, the lasting tacks




are withdrawn when the upper is secured to
the "lip" of the inner sole by a cord.

The welts are sewn in by a machine having
a curved needle, and which feeds the welt
from a roll, like tape. This welt is afterwards
beaten to make it stand out squarely. The
surplus upper leather is trimmed with a
knife. The space between the upper leather
which lies on the bottom of the last is filled
in evenly. The filler may be cork, felt, or
scraps of leather cemented in. The outer
sole, channelled and mould 3d to the shape
of the bottom of the last, is now cemented
on. Fair stitching then follows. The channel
is rubbed down and the bottoms
are levelled under pressure in a
machine carrying rollers con
forming to the shape of the sole.
The operations of lasting, sewing,
stitching, and " rounding " are
performed whilst the sole leather
is in a mellow, damp condition,
and in welted work the last re
mains in the boot until it is
<( finished," which process takes
place soon after the boots are
dry enough to allow the sand
paper mounted on a roll
which scours the bottom to do
its work effectively. The boots

leave the " lasting department " on skeleton
racks, which run on castors, and are just a
little wider than the length of the sole. They
carry three or four tiers of boots.

In the shoe - finishing department, the
machinery would seem to have originated in
the brass-finishing shop ; the cutters which
pare the heel and sole edges before the
bottoms are scoured, the polishing mops,
pads, and brushes, all having had their
counterpart in Birmingham years ago.
Everything here revolves at a high rate
of speed 2,000 to 3,000 revolutions per
minute ; and the dust and parings which fly
rapidly from the boots as they are trimmed
or scoured, are removed by fans in pipes
attached to each individual machine, and
having connection with other pipes leading
to the outside of the building. Heels and
edges are set, after being coloured, with a
hot iron and wax. The bottoms are, in a
large number of cases, literally painted with
a brush and "slosh"; the "damped down"
process of the old shoemaker is still re
tained, but it is more costly. The goods
removed to the stock-room have all dis
figuring marks removed from them by girls,
and, if of a high-class character, are "treed
and ironed." They are then "sized" (polished)
and boxed, or, if of a commoner quality, are
tied in pairs by the machine shown in the illus
tration. The hot irons of the " edge-setter "
have the backward and forward sweep of the
human arm, long experience having shown
this to be the only satisfactory movement.
This motion causes great vibration, making
it one of the most trying of machines.




ALTHOUGH Aberdeen is universally
\. known as the Granite City, compara
tively little is heard of how the glis
tening masses of stone are torn from their
beds in the bowels of the earth, and cut
and hewn into magnificent monuments and

Photo : Cassell &

graceful colonnades or cornices for the em
bellishment of our public buildings. One
can readily understand how a tolerably soft
material like sandstone is wrought into
delicate tracery for the beautifying of a
cathedral window, but it seems difficult to
realise that a material so hard as granite
can be cut into sections like a Dutch cheese,
and carved into a Corinthian column, a
delicately draped figure, or a garland of
flowers. Nevertheless, this is done. It is

true the labour involved in carving a block
of granite is much greater than that required
for working freestone, but the result is a
hundred times more lasting. Ruskin, wield
ing a master pen, wrote of the many-tinted
"stones of Venice," glowing beneath an
azure sky, but deplored the many
signs of decay which marred their
beaut\-. The stones of Aberdeen
have not the transitory brilliance
of hue admired by Ruskin, but,
on the other hand, they are as
imperishable as those of ancient
Egypt, and will doubtless remain un
touched by time when the glories of
the " Queen of the Adriatic " have
crumbled into dust. The granite
spires and towers of Aberdeen,
gleaming in the summer sunshine,
have earned for it the title of the
" Silver City by the Sea."

Within recent years an enormous
development has taken place in the
Aberdeen granite industry, owing
principally to the introduction of
improved means for quarrying and
working the material. Machinery
for cutting granite has undergone
a complete revolution, and no
architectural or monumental detail
is considered too elaborate for re
production in this material. To
those unconnected with the industry
there are, broadly speaking, only
two distinct varieties of granite,
grey and red, but in reality, of each
of these there is a multitude of tints
and sizes of grain, according to the quarry,
or particular part of a quarry, from which
the stone is obtained. The greys vary from
a deep blue to a silvery tint, and the reds
from a rich carmine to a salmon pink. Of
the original formation of granite the most
generally accepted theory is that the rock,
with its constituents of felspar, quartz, and
mica was heaved up through the earth from
a great depth, molten and impregnated with
vapour, and the cooling process being slow



gave time for its various parts t<> resolve
themselves into the distinct grains which
make the stone so beauliful. In Aberdeen-
shire the principal grey granite quarries are
Rubislaw, on the outskirts of the city, and
of which most of it is built ; Kemnay, which
furnishes excellent material for finely-dressed
work and statuary ; and Dyce, Dancing
Cairns, and Persley, all in the vicinity of
the city. Of the familiar red variety the
principal quarries are at Peterhead, while a
darker shade comes from the Hill o Fare
on Deeside, and Corrennie on Donside, the
latter being a pretty shade of pink when
left unpolished.

The granite industry of Aberdeenshire
employs altogether about 9,000 men, includ
ing quarriers, paving-stone makers, builders,
monumental sculptors and polishers ; and
those dependent upon it may be estimated at
about 45,000. The manufacture of " paving
setts " is an important and rapidly growing
branch of the trade. In Aberdeen alone there
are over eighty granite cutting yards. Let
us take a brief survey of the stages through
which a block of granite passes from the time
it leaves the quarry till it is despatched from
the mason s shed in a finished state.

Although good rock is sometimes found
quite close to the surface of the
ground, the best quality of granite
is, as a rule, at a fair depth. In
appearance a large granite quarry
is not unlike the crater of an
extinct volcano, except for the
busy scene within, the men
looking like pigmies on a vast
"floor," perhaps two hundred feet
beneath the ground level. Boul
ders of fantastic shapes lie
scattered about, one huge mass
of detached rock, many tons in
weight, giving evidence of a suc
cessful blast. Square blocks of
stone of the sizes required by
the builder or monumental sculp
tor, are detached from the mass
by means of drilling a series of
holes into which steel wedges are
driven and the stone split up.
A steam drill will sink into the
rock fully five feet in half an
hour, a process which was formerly

almost a day s work for three men. The
larger blocks of stone are raised from the
"floor" of the quarry to the surface bv power
ful steam cranes, while the smaller stones
and waste are conveyed to the top by an
ingenious contrivance known as a "blun-
din." A blondin is an aerial railway, the
name, no doubt, being borrowed from the
daring rope-walker who crossed over Niagara
Falls. Traction engines are frequently used
for the transport of building material from
the quarries, but for the removal of large
blocks for monumental purposes, teams of
horses are usually employed. On arrival
at the stone-cutting yard the great block of
granite is deposited in a convenient part of
the dressing shed, or placed ready for removal
to the saw.

Now, it may be found necessarv to cut
a six or seven ton block of granite into
several slices or sections, to be used as bases
or steps for a large pedestal, or perhaps as
a recumbent monumental slab. If this be
the object in view, the stone is lifted on to
a bogey, which is run on rails right under
neath the saw. The saw is a sheet of steel
from six inches to nine inches wide, about
a quarter of an inch thick , and a few feet
longer than the stone required to be sawn.

A 7 -TON




This huge blade is suspended above the
stone with its edge parallel to it, and being
swung with a pendulum-like motion by
powerful machinery, the saw slowly but
surely cuts its way into the granite. Unlike
an ordinary saw, however, the granite saw
has no teeth, and having an edge a quarter
of an inch thick, the question will at once
arise, how can a blunt instrument of this
description cut through several feet of one
of the hardest stones in existence? Well,
the saw might swing to and fro for years,
with no appreciable effect, if it were not
for the application of an abrasive in the
shape of grit or grains of chilled metal,
exactly like bird-shot, upon which the edge
of the saw works. Water being, of course,
applied to prevent heating, a mixture of
shot and powdered stone is formed, consti
tuting a kind of sludge which is constantly
ladled into the saw-cut by the man in
attendance. The process of slicing up a
large block of granite is necessarily a
gradual one, a depth of 2 ] 2 inches per hour
being considered good work. This means
that to saw through a block five feet in
depth would take twenty-four hours, or
nearly three working days. Nevertheless,
tli2 use of the granite saw saves an immense
amount of manual labour, and if the opera
tion is carefully carried out, the sawn surface
scarcely requires to be touched by the
dressing hammer, and is ready for the
carving shed or the polishing mill.

When placed on the polishing carriage,
as the machine is called, the granite passes
through three distinct stages before acquiring
the beautiful gloss so much admired. The
first medium used is the shot already
referred to, but of a finer grain than that
used for sawing. The shot is rubbed over
the surface of the stone with revolving
metal rings, until smoothness is obtained.
Fmery powder is then applied, which pro
duces a dull polish. Last of all putty
p:>\vder is rubbed on with attached to
the revolving rings, and the polishing process
is complete. A bed of granite 23 feet in
length will be polished in two days To
polish mouldings, iron plates are made to
fit the curves of the stone, and the process
is carried out with the mediums described,
but applied to the mouldings by a machine

called a pendulum, the action of which is
explained by its name. Columns and urns
are made to revolve on lathes, and the
gritty substances being applied with the
irons and felt, they, as it were, polish them
selves. When it is necessary to polish work
carved in relief, as is almost invariably the
case with orders received from French
architects, men known as hand-rubbers are
employed. The hand-rubbing process is, of
course, much slower than polishing by
machinery, but the same methods are used.
The carving of Aberdeen granite was
revolutionised a few years ago by the intro
duction of the pneumatic tool. The pneu
matic tool had been in use for a considerable
time in England for caulking purposes, but
the people of the United States were the
first to apply it to granite, the pioneers of
this idea being, it is asserted, Scottish-
Americans. Broadly speaking, a pneumatic
tool is a small cylinder within which a
piston is driven by compressed air. The
motion of the piston being communicated
to an ordinary carving chisel, that tool when
in use comes in contact with the stone at
the rate of from 1,500 to 2,000 strokes per
minute, very man}- more times, it will be
admitted, than a workman could accomplish
with an ordinary hammer. The air is
generated by a steam compressor, and
conveyed by metal pipes to the carving
sheds. These pipes are tapped at intervals,
and the air carried by indiarubber tubes to
the tools held in the hands of the workmen.
When directed by a skilful handicraftsman
the pneumatic tool will accomplish work of
the most minute and elaborate description.
When applied to the stone it rapidly " eats "
away the superfluous material, and flowers,
fruit, heraldic shields, regimental crests, and
designs of a like nature, are quickly repro
duced on the hard granite, with as much
fidelity of detail as could be accomplished
in Sicilian marble. For statuary the pneu
matic chisel is equally useful, and it is
also extensively applied in the cutting of
inscriptions. There are pneumatic surfacing
machines for dressing large stones, but only
a few are as yet in use in Aberdeen. The
axe and the bush-hammer are the tools
most extensively in use for fine dressing.
When the dressing of a stone is done


Photo: Casst/l f~ T,>., I.tJ.





entire!} by hand a considerable amount of
labour is necessarily expended before the
roughness of the quarry gives place to the
smooth surfaces and the sharp and true
edges required by finished work.

In order to make this article complete it
is necessary to say a word about the turning
of the large granite columns which are a
feature of so many of our public buildings.
A square stone of the necessary dimensions
is procured from the quarry as already
described, and in the stone-cutting yard this
is roughly hewn into a cylindrical form. It
is then ready for turning. The lathe is a
powerful one, as columns about sixteen feet
in length and about three feet in diameter
are by no means uncommon. When the
cylinder of stone begins to revolve on its
axis, a series of circular steel cutters come
into action, and, striking the rounded surface
obliquely, the graceful contour of the classic
column is lapidly evolved, and a surface is
obtained which is ready for polishing.

Aberdeen granite work is exported to
almost every part of the globe, although
within the last twenty years or so the almost
prohibitive tariff imposed by the United
States government has considerably dimin
ished the trade with that country. On the
other hand, however, there is a rapidly
increasing business being done with the

Australasian colonies, and also with South
Africa, and there is every reason to expect
that in the latter country there will be a
still greater increase of trade.

One feature of somewhat melancholy
interest, in connection with the Aberdeen
granite industry, is the large number of
military monuments which have been des
patched to South Africa, amongst them
being those placed over the graves of Prince
Christian Victor, General Woodgate, and
gallant Dick - Cunyngham. The Prince
Christian Victor memorial is a simple cross
of Celtic design, cut from a block of granite
quarried in the neighbourhood of Bal moral
Castle. One of the last orders given by the
late Queen Victoria was for a carved Celtic
cross of the same stone, which has been
erected at Balmoral in memory of her second
son, the Duke of Coburg, and there also, set
up by the tenantry on the Balmoral estate,
is a massive monolith of Crathie granite in
memory of the late Queen herself.

In addition to the trade in the British
colonies, there has been a steadily increasing
demand on the Continent for polished Aber
deen granite ; France, perhaps, being the
best customer. French architects seem to
prefer the red granites, and some magnifi
cent sarcophagi in this material have been
despatched. An interesting example of a


TYeiich monument is that to diaries Gamier,
the famous architect of the Paris Opera
I louse. The whole of the granite work of
this memorial was executed in the yard of
Messrs. Alex. Macdonald and Company,
Limited, the pioneers of polished Aberdeen
granite. It is scarcely necessary to speak
of the home trade. Everyone in this country
has seen some bank, assurance office, or other
public building- embellished with the product
of the granite city, its shining surface defying
the grime and smoke of a London atmo
sphere. XVithin the last ten years or more,
such has been the demand for architectural
granite work, that the Aberdeenshire quarries,
extensive as they are, have not been able
to furnish a sufficient supplv, and although
it may appear very like the proverbial
carrying of coals to Newcastle, it is never
theless a fact that large quantities of foreign
granite are imported into Aberdeen, in the
rough state, principally from Russia, Norway,
and Sweden. None of the foreign material,
however, can compare with the home article.

As the deposits of native rock are practically
inexhaustible, and the development of the
quarrying industry is going steadily on, it
is confidently anticipated that in a few
years there will be a large enough output
of Aberdeen granite to meet all demands.

Apart from architectural and monumental
work, Aberdeen granite is rapidly asserting
its superiority as a bridge-building material
the widening of London Bridge being one
of the latest examples of its adoption foi
this purpose. In conclusion, one last word
may be said in regard to the artistic
possibilities of granite work. Eor several
years a granite-cutting class has been con
ducted in connection with the Aberdeen
School of Art, the students being taught
to model their design in clay before repro
ducing it in the more permanent material.
The object of this class is to still further
improve the quality of the work done in the
stone-cutting yards, by inculcating a taste
for art in the minds of the younger genera
tion of workers in granite.


Photo : Cassttl G- Co., Ltd.


6 4



F Sea Fisheries of Great Britain have
a just claim to rank with the oldest
industries of the country, having 1
followed with increasing vigour and
profit for several centuries past. The story
of their growth is intimately associated
with the history and expansion of our
Empire, for by training and accustoming
large bodies of men to a sea life the fish
eries have played no mean part in building
ii]) and consolidating the \ast dominions
we have acquired as a direct result of GUI
supremacy of the seas.

Since the days when ships \\ere first
recognised as important factors in the defence
of our shores, and were equipped and
manned by private enterprise to strengthen
the royal ships of the navy and assist in


repelling the king s enemies ; to the time
when, under Nelson, the nation possessed
a formidable navy and obtained a complete
and final mastery of the seas by defeating
all rivals, the fisheries have taken an impor
tant part in providing some of the best
fighting material the world has ever seen.
It was chiefly from our fishing villages and
seaport towns that the men who were the
backbone and leaven of the very nondescript
crews who manned our wooden walls were
ill awn

Nor are the fisheries fulfilling a less
important part to-day. Thousands of the
fine class of men composing them are
enrolled in our Naval Reserve, and should
at any future time our shores be threatened
by a powerful foe, there is every reason to
expect the fishermen s response
to their country s call will be
as prompt as that of other
classes of the community.

It is computed that some
87,000 men and boys are con
stantly engaged in the fishing
industry afloat, while a further
8,000 occasionally take part in
it. Being constantly exposed
to danger, the fisherman learns
to remain cool in circumstances
of peril, to use his judgment,
to develop powers of endurance
and resource, and also acquires


the faculty of doing the right tiling at the
right moment qualities which go to make
up the highest form of seamanship, and
which, as seen in our handy man, command
at the same time our wonder and admiration.
The immense benefit the nation derives from
the possession of this important industry,
looked at from the national point of view, is
the result of our being surrounded by shallow
seas. The North Sea, from which more

practical ly anywhere he wishes within the
limits of the North Sea.

The fishing industry is divided into two
distinct branches, being known as trawling
and drift-net fishing. The first method. of
fishing is the more important, and is, again,
divided into two branches fleeters and
single-boaters. As the name implies, the
former work together in fleets, under the
Control of fishermen selected on account of


than four-fifths of our fish comes, is nowhere
so deep but that the cross on St. Paul s
Cathedral would be exposed if it were
possible to transport that handsome struc
ture and drop it down in the German
Ocean while in other spots frequented by
the fishermen, a goodly portion of the dome
would also appear above the waves, and in
certain places on the Dogger Bank the
west door would scarcely be covered. If
it were otherwise, the trawl fisherman s
attention would perforce be confined entirely
to the coast limits, instead of his being
able, as is the case, to let down his trawl

their great experience, and called admirals.
These men direct the movements of the
fleets and choose the ground to be fished
over, issuing their orders in the daytime by
flags and at night by rockets.

Online LibraryHenry HarrisseBritain at work; a pictorial description of our national industries → online text (page 7 of 39)