William Tonks and
Sons, Moseley Street, Birmingham, founded 1794
This text is
summarises the eight pages of description in ‘England’s Workshops’, published
1864, pp51-59 (see references).
The writer visited the new works during
the early 1860s and was shown round by Mr Edmund Tonks. The works covered 2,000
square yards and were in a square format with the warehousing and despatch
department fronting the street.
All foundry work
all was done on the premises. For fine castings where the cast surface was
retained they used a 60/40 mixture of virgin copper and zinc with ‘a little’ tin
together with some selected recycled internal process scrap. New fine sand was
used for moulds for all best quality castings with surface facings of charcoal,
loadstone or rottenstone, recycled sand for ordinary work.
For ordinary work
the reported mixture of copper to zinc was 2/1 (66/33) together with recycled
scrap. Presumably there was also a lead content that would take the proportions
to a casting quality and add free-machining properties. Most castings were made
from ingots made by direct fusion of the metals but on rare occasions they could
still use cementation from copper chips and calamine.
For all work,
crucibles were not made of the usual local fireclay but plumbago (graphite)
bought from the Patent Plumbago Works at Battersea. (later the Morgan Crucible
Company). These were twelve times dearer but gave much cleaner castings, used
only half the fuel and lasted much longer. The well-organised pattern loft
could provide for the 10,000 regular trade items and special orders.
All castings were
annealed before and, if necessary, during the subsequent finishing operations.
Steel springs for bells and piano components could also be tempered in-house.
fourteen horsepower steam engine was about to be supplemented by a 23hp model to
help extend the shaft-driven power to the whole works. All shafting was erected
to be out of reach of operators and all belts guarded. The engine also provided
compressed air for forges and the gas-fired hard soldering stations throughout
the works. All production tooling was made in their own toolroom.
wire and any other cold worked brass used was bought in. Seamed tube was
formed, joined and drawn on site.
shop had eighty steam powered lathes and 197 vices for hand work. Surface
cleaning was done by dipping in a nitric acid pickle and followed by several
cold-water rinses. Mechanical finishing methods described included sanding,
burnishing, polishing and bronzing and lacquering.
Most of the many
employees had been trained by the firm. There was a sick fund, circulating
library and union membership was encouraged.