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Does anyone know what this is for?

What is this item?

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George Jervis25/04/2021 20:05:57
95 forum posts
49 photos

Hi everyone,

I've seen this and wondered if anyone would know what it's for?

Many thanks


MichaelR25/04/2021 20:45:35
466 forum posts
74 photos

A very non educated guess, Could it be some sort of leather embossing machine.


Nigel Graham 225/04/2021 23:02:13
2031 forum posts
28 photos

Michael may be right in it being a leather-working machine but my guess is that is a heavy-duty "jenny", for rolled sheet-metal work.

One piece of evidence there is that the rolls lie beyond the end of the stand, to allow manipulating large-diameter work-pieces. A soft material like leather would likely need to stay on the bench to keep it clean.

If so the lower wheel might be a Crimp Roll, for shrinking thin-wall tubes or drums slightly to form socket joints with a similar but full-diameter part which thus forms the socket. (It draws the diameter inwards by forming a large number of small pleats in the wall, over the short length necessary for the joint.) I would have thought the two rolls would be of equal width - but of course we don't know and for what the machine was last used.

Crimp-socket joints appear on things like heating flues.

What that big lever does though, I cannot say. It might operate a quick-release for the rolls, to avoid having to release and re-set the grip controlled by the T-handle on the top, for repeat work.

George Jervis26/04/2021 07:36:12
95 forum posts
49 photos

Hi everyone,

Thank you for the response, it looked very interesting


JasonB26/04/2021 07:54:54
22579 forum posts
2637 photos
1 articles

I'd say the outer plain and textured rolls are simply for feeding something through the machine a few inches from it's edge. Looking at the vertical lever that would seem to have a linkage from below that comes up to the rocker arm along the bottom and then up out of sight, so possibly a punch or press. There is also the matter of the small wheel with the half round edge that may have been used to guide an edge being folded around a rod or cord as it is fed into the machine.

Zan26/04/2021 09:05:28
308 forum posts
20 photos

Bending tin plate into a corrugated form for pastry cutters?

Mike Hurley26/04/2021 09:25:10
305 forum posts
87 photos

Cannot judge the overall size of this in comparing the surroundings, but assume its not huge?

Not obvious from the picture but is there a flat 'blade', or fitting where a blade could be attached, near to the rollers? If so, my guess would have been a leather splitter / skiving machine.


Nigel Graham 226/04/2021 09:44:52
2031 forum posts
28 photos

Interesting point Jason.

I'd not spotted that small wheel, resembling a cord pulley.

There is also an adjusting-screw beyond it, revealed by a discreet T-handle within the frame, but from the photo we can't see what it adjusts.

The lever is one control but the main action is from a large crank-handle just visible at the far end.

I don't think it is not a press in the sense of single-point stamping - those rollers look more than just for feeding the work though it.

If as I think it is an advanced form of tin-man's jenny, perhaps for handling thicker material than those typically take, that little "pulley " is for wiring edges.

On the other hand, and against my theory, the upper roller should be easily interchangeable. The lower one appears so, but the upper looks as if intended to stay put.

George Jervis26/04/2021 10:19:16
95 forum posts
49 photos

I don't own this item, my good lady had seen it on her social media and sent it to me, where someone had asked is this a lathe? So out of interest I thought I'd post it on here for the knowledgeable panel to have a look, I have no other pictures other than this one but it does look very interesting and I would like to have a look over it myself and to see it it action,


Robert Dodds26/04/2021 10:24:57
318 forum posts
59 photos

Am I seeing a hand cranking lever and a couple of gears on the far edge of this machine. If it is, it suggests to me that there was a fair amount of manual effort involved in whatever it was doing.

Bob D

DC31k26/04/2021 11:57:49
657 forum posts
2 photos
Posted by Nigel Graham 2 on 25/04/2021 23:02:13:

If so the lower wheel might be a Crimp Roll

There are a couple of challenges with the crimp roll theory. First, with a smooth upper roller, it is difficult to see how it would form a crimp. How is the metal pushed into the tooth spaces of the lower roller? Hand-held duct crimping pliers are like a pair of scissors with multiple blades (e.g. that form the crimp in the gaps.

If you ran a sheet of metal through that, the part of the metal where the teeth of the lower wheels contact it would be thinned, so the overall effect would be as a stretcher rather than shrinker. It is like hitting the edge of a piece of sheet metal with the cross of a cross pein hammer: you thin it and stretch it.

Second, the lower rollers have circumferential grooves in them so the imprint would be like a series of five Morse code dashes.

If it does its work on the left side of the machine as photographed, the big gap in the centre of the machine seems somehow wasteful.

Nigel Graham 226/04/2021 14:14:33
2031 forum posts
28 photos

A good point, but we don't know if the upper roll is the normal companion for the lower - though the different mounting arrangement suggests it is. That large nut on the lower shaft suggests the roller could be exchanged with another pattern to suit the task.

The "big gap" in the middle is not " wasted" . It is a function of being able to set the roller spacing with little effect on the gear mesh, and appears common on jennies where it also allows the guide to be adjusted for the forming width. Besides, on this machine the space is also occupied by an adjuster of unclear purpose, and by whatever it is that the lever operates.

Piecing together some of the suggestions made, I have wondered if it was for a third purpose again, in textiles, perhaps for something like setting eyelets in heavy-duty canvas work (tent walls, mail-bags and the like).

It's a pity there is no clear maker's name on it. There might be, but on the far side from us, or hidden in the shadow.

Nigel Graham 226/04/2021 15:09:31
2031 forum posts
28 photos

Further to....

I have done some photo-faffing (saved it, then lightened and enlarged the image in MS 'Photo Editor' ).

The results do make it seem my first suggestion - a heavy-duty jenny - was indeed wrong. I had arrived at that by comparison to my own jenny, and to similar machines from its manufacturers.

There are no names or other identifiers on the parts visible to us.

The long operating-handle is connected to the shafts by a pinion and gear giving a 3 or 4 to 1 mechanical advantage, so clearly this thing needed considerable forces at the business end.

The two main gears appear nearly out of mesh but that may be a result of heavy wear-and-tear; or more charitably happened when the rollers were opened to release the work-piece.

The small T-handle in the middle appears to enter a U-bracket, but what it adjusts or did otherwise is not at all obvious.

The small pulley-shaped wheel most likely IS a pulley; an idler on a small stub-axle in its own casting screwed to the main frame.

So the central adjuster probably set something allied to that pulley.


The top T-handle is almost certainly a gap or pressure adjuster between the rolls.

The top roll is held by what looks like a circular nut, but if that was manipulated by a pin-spanner the holes are not visible. It may simply be a large washer, with what could be a taper-pin just visible in the shaft outboard of it.

The lower roll's nut might have a locking cotter or split-pin but excrescence suggesting that, is not definitive enough. It might just be a particle of the gloom and muck on the rest of the machine.

It is strange that the rolls are so different in width, which was what made me wonder if they are not the matched pair they would have been in normal use. Alternatively they matched the profile of whatever was passed between them.

The two main gears are of different diameters but that may be to equalise the rolls, for the lower does look a little larger then the upper.

There appears to be a fulcrum between the two shaft gears and the driving-gear - though I cannot see what it did. There seems another on the top arm. They might been associated with the pressure-adjustment, perhaps conjoining to keep the shafts parallel. The gear teeth look about normal depth so the work-piece thickness was only ever within a very small range.

A curious detail is the two nuts on what I take to be the adjustable upper roll's journal. They are square and either lock-nuts set corner-to-corner, or double thickness, The rest of the fastenings are hexagonal bolts / nuts or cheese-head screws, except the square-headed set-screws for the gears - as was common practice. So either they are replacements in the dim and distant, or were perhaps further adjusters operated by a key - possibly to take up bearing wear.


As for approximate size, a guide to that is the proportions of the controls, designed for human hands. The lever has an elegant hand-grip we can assume is about 4-5 inches tall, maybe a little more. So by ISO-9001 calibrated finger-and-thumb caliper on the enlarged picture, and allowing for perspective, the whole machine is about 6 or so hands long - so two feet or so, excepting the driving-handle.

Do we have any idea where this handsome old beast came from, or was it found lurking in some shed?

Jon Lawes26/04/2021 15:12:40
882 forum posts

Does anyone else suspect the top of the frame is hinged with the lower half? I wondered about making chain links or similar bearing in mind the small roller looking like its intended to guide rod or rope on this side (ignoring the two larger rollers for a second). On the top it looks like the machined surface comes to rest against the other surface.

JasonB26/04/2021 15:42:54
22579 forum posts
2637 photos
1 articles

Yes looks to pivot on the R/H side of the drive gears

Nigel. I too thought of eyelets and the pully could be to guide rope, type of thing you see on the edge of a sail called a "bolt rope"

Jon Lawes26/04/2021 18:45:09
882 forum posts

It does have a hint of industrial sewing machine about it. Maybe stitching rope into sails is it.

Steve Tyson26/04/2021 22:29:01
13 forum posts

On the base top plate, bottom left, there's an eye bolt with the remnants of a piece of cable/wire/rope attached - strange place for a eye bolt.

Close by that, there's something lucking underneath the base plate, possibly a hand wheel.

If the bottom wheel grooves were a suitable shape and the speed differential correct then a wire in each groove would rotate, and possibly to be pointed or cropped in the area close to where the small pulley is.

I'd suggest the profile of the teeth on the bottom wheel would tell us much.

Pete Rimmer26/04/2021 23:33:57
1219 forum posts
63 photos

I think that eye bolt has a piece of rope tied to it with some kind of tension spring attached.

Frustrating having only one angle of view and most of the business end out of sight.

Mike London27/04/2021 10:27:59
28 forum posts
1 photos

Not sure if it is connected or not but there is a drum of what looks like nylon rope behind the machine, out of context with the rest of the surroundings.
The dust on the machine looks fibrous to me as if it has been handling material like canvas etc.
On the head are two square bolts possibly for clamping a punch or die over what is possibly an anvil where the corrugated wheel is. The tee handle on top possibly setting depth of punch as the whole pivoting upper arm looks like it may be lifted by the lever.

As a total guess in the dark, maybe it was for turning and folding over a rope edging and putting in eyelets etc. for tarpaulins, canvas sails etc?

JasonB27/04/2021 10:31:40
22579 forum posts
2637 photos
1 articles

The drum is garden tying wire, the type with the flat plastic coating, unlikely to be connected as the machine looks like it predates plastic. More likely connected with the plants in the background.

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