An engineer in wonderland – Designers I have known

lathe-at-night.jpgI have worked with excellent engineers.

On the desk of one I shall call Simon, was a piece of lathe work he produced as a teenager.

It was in three parts, one brass, one aluminium and one steel.

He had bored the brass cylinder, and cut a fine thread on the outside of one end onto which screwed the aluminium in the form of an end cap.

Together, the aluminium and the brass part formed a blind hole about 40mm across and 30 deep which sat on the desk like a cup.

The steel part was heavy and turned to fit into the brass bore.

So fine and accurate was the boring and the turning that when inserted the steel part would rest on the air inside and very slowly descend into the bore, over a minute or so as I remember.  

If there was any oil on the surface, it wasn’t enough to see.

If you tapped the top of the steel plug as it descended, it would bounce on the air column.

And this from a teenager who turned into electronics rather than mechanics.

When he had a problem, he would sit back in his chair with his hand forming a steeple in front of his face, and stare into middle distance until he thought of an answer, invariably a good one.

I seem to remember the record for his silent pondering was three days.

True, Simon could be a smug sod, but every circuit he designed was as good as that turning.

‘Alice’ (

(Picture – MrGilles, ‘Lathe at night’, under Creative Commons Attribution Licence)

Tags: creative commons, Wonderland

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