Lee Valley Tools    Woodworking Newsletter
   Vol. 5, Issue 3
   January 2011
 
   What Is It?
 

What Is It?   What Is It?

In the 3rd century BC, Greek mathematician Archimedes invented a device consisting of a screw inside a hollow tube used to move water between two levels. There's also some evidence that a version of this apparatus, used in olive presses and as a rudimentary clamping mechanism, existed 200 to 300 years earlier. In the late 15th century, Leonardo da Vinci created drawings of a threadlike rod passing through an opposite-mated half to create a force for moving objects either through tension (pulling) or compression (pushing). The basic definition of a screw thread has not changed in over 2,000 years: it is a helical ridge running around the outside of a cylinder or cone.

The transition from wooden to metal screws began in the 1500s, as evidenced by hand-cut examples of the screw and worm produced in Nuremberg, Germany. Metalworkers found a way to accurately cut repetitive forms, thus allowing greater force to be applied to the flank (the side of the thread). Around 1800, Henry Maudsley developed the screw-cutting lathe, which allowed for standardization of screw thread sizes. Prior to that, individuals created threads that varied in pitch, diameter and thread angle, according to each maker.

Commonly called a screw box with tap, neither part of this tool can function without the other. (In fact, trying to identify the coarsely made thumbscrew without its mate proved most difficult.) The artisan-built tool was used to create wooden screws and functioned much the same as later-made commercial sets.
 
 
         
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