“Then Disston's have their own steel works?"
"Yes. They have their own steel works and
rolling mills. It was owing to the great difficulty experienced
by the Arm in getting steel suitable for their wants that, in
1855, they commenced the manufacture of steel especially
suitable for saws, and secured the services of men who had long
experience in making the very finest steel. There is, of course,
a great advantage in having the steel and saw works connected in
one establishment, because faulty steel can be more easily
detected; but, apart from that, there is some peculiarity about
the Disston steel that gives it superiority everywhere
acknowledged. Preference is given to Swedish ingots. In recent
years there have been wonderful improvements in the processes of
steel-making, and whatever processes, or combination of
processes used, Disston & Sons have been phenomenally
"What would you say was the characteristic
feature of the Keystone Works?"
"Well, the use of machinery to replace hand
labor, as far as possible. That, by the way, is the
characteristic difference between English and American methods
of manufacture. For instance, at the Disston Works, saw grinding
is largely done by machinery. It has been calculated that
machinery saves three-fourths of the labor formerly required.
That is to say, a man who could grind five saws of a certain
kind and size in a day can now grind twenty of them by using
machinery. In the case of circular saws, formerly the grinding
of a 60-inch saw was a day's task for two men, while now, one
man, with a saw-grinding machine, can grind six saws of the same
kind and size. In tempering the saws, also, machinery has been
brought into use. During the earlier operations of manufacture,
the saw is soft, and possesses no elasticity. In hardening the
saw, it is heated until it is cherry-red, and then it is
immersed in a bath of hardening compounds. The saw has now
become exceedingly brittle. The spring or temper has now to be
put into it, and this mysterious property is imparted to the
metal by placing it between two heavy dies heated to the proper
degree, which are set together by hydraulic pressure. While thus
pressed the saws are flattened, and work is thus done which was
formerly done in the smithy by slow and expensive hand labor.
These several processes of tempering, with the aid of machinery,
it is estimated, save four-fifths of the work formerly done by
"What are the different operations involved in
making a saw?"
"Well, whether the saw is the largest kind of
circular or the smallest kind of hand saw, it has to go through
the following main processes: 1, melting the Swedish and
American iron; 2, hammering and rolling the steel into plates;
3, cutting into suitable shapes; 4, making the teeth; 5,
tempering or hardening the blades or discs; 6, smithing or
hammering into proper thickness; 7, grinding and polishing; 8,
sharpening the teeth; 9, fitting handles, etc.; 10, testing,
inspecting, and packing saws. That is the broad statement of
divisions of work, but of actual different processes there are
about thirty in the making of each individual saw."
"And what is Disston's position as regards the
variety of saws made?"
"They unquestionably rank first among saw makers
as the manufacturers of the largest variety. This is a list of
just a few of the different saws they make: right-hand saws,
left-hand saws, circular saws, veneering saws, conclave saws,
metal milling saws, Mulay saws, pond ice saws, hand ice saws,
cross-cut saws, band saws, panel saws, hand saws, pruning saws,
key-hole saws, wood saws, shingle saws, meter saws, grooving
saws, saws for hot Iron, saws for cold iron, skew-back saws, pit
saws, drag saws, rip saws, and butchers' saws."
"But notwithstanding this great variety, the Keystone Works are
not wholly devoted to the making of saws?"
"Oh, no; the file-making department is a most
important division of the works. A variety of tools are also
manufactured, including plastering and gardening trowels,
pruning hooks, steel squares, steel rules, marking gauges, door
springs, screw drivers, post diggers, cane and corn knives,
"With regard to the sale of Disston's saws in
England, what is the position?"
"The sale is large, and is constantly growing."
"Do you find that any particular pattern of
Disston saw is especially popular in this market?"
"Yes. The D 8 saw is, and has been for some
time, a remarkable favorite. This is a skew-back saw in rip,
hand and panel patterns. Prior to its Introduction the No. 7 was
the most popular."
"Do you experience any competition from
Continental saw makers?"
'"No, there is none."
"But Disston's saws sell on the continent?"
"Yes. There is a large sale of Disston's saws on
the continent, but we are not directly connected with the
continental trade, and therefore I am afraid my information on
that score would be hardly authoritative."
"What is the reason of the popularity of
American tools in general in this country?"
"I think it is due, not only to their quality,
but also to their superior handiness. In American planes, for
instance, there are various attachments and conveniences of
arrangement. Bailey's well-known planes are adjustable in all
essential parts, and all planes are ground perfectly true and
square. The irons are held by wedges, detachable by cam lever,
and each iron is adjustable both vertically and laterally by
screws. Combination planes are also made, arranged with a
variety of cutters, so that any one of these planes forms quite
a set of tools. These particular tools are not only better but
cheaper than anything made in competition with them in this
"Is the demand for American machine tools
"Constantly, the business is one that is
continually expanding. I do not think I shall be wrong if I say
that in America the science of machine tools is better
understood than elsewhere. In the States, at nil events, the
development and use of machine tools is far in advance of
anything on this side of the water."
"And the reason for this?"
"I found in the old proverb or adage, 'Necessity
is the mother of invention.' When America started manufacturing
for its own needs, it was a new country. There was a scarcity of
labor. It has, consequently, always been the aim of American
manufacturers to do as much of their work as possible by
machinery. Work that in England to-day is performed slowly by
hand labor has in the States for years been accomplished by
machinery. Whenever an American maker has new lines to produce,
he outlines the best method to produce them by machinery. The
result, of course, is the production of special machines and
special machine tools for the particular work in hand."
"That constant demand for means of saving labor
is the direct origin then of the American faculty of invention?"
"Undoubtedly. The typical 'cute American
inventor* is the result of a demand that has always been present
in that country for machinery and tools that will save hand
labor. Moreover, in the States the makers are not hampered, as
in this country, by trades' union restrictions as to the number
of machines an operative shall run. There a man is permitted to
run as many machines as he can properly look after."
"There is a prejudice against American machine
tools in this country, because they are lighter than the
machines the Englishman is accustomed to, is there not?"
"That is a prejudice without reason. American
machine tools are not lighter. They are made quite as heavy as
is necessary. There is, however, none of the useless
accumulation of metal and consequent weight in parts where that
bulk is not required either to the proper working of the machine
or its inherent strength and endurance. In other words, the
American machine tool manufacturers closely study the actual
requirements before them, but do not put into a machine weight
for weight's sake."
"You take up a strong position in the way, of
guaranteeing all machinery and tools sold by you?"
"Yes, we guarantee all tools, and I think that
the quality of the goods sold, to render such a course possible,
has much to do with our present reputation throughout the trade.
I should like to say further that I have never, in introducing
American articles, run down English tools and machinery."