Lithograph by Grevedon, 1827

Lithograph by Grevedon, 1827

Maudslay Table Engine patent drawing
Creative Commons LicenseJeremy Norman Collection of Images - Creative Commons

Schematics of the Maudslay table engine from the patent specification No. 3050 (1807) for "Certain Improvements in the Construction of Steam Engines."

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Henry Maudslay Invents the Table Engine: Appropriate for Driving Small Machines, Including Printing Machines

19th century working model of a Maudslay table engine. 22 x 15¼in. (56 x 38.4cm.)

19th century working model of a Maudslay table engine. 22 x 15¼in. (56 x 38.4cm.)

In 1807 British engineer Henry Maudslay invented the table engine. This comparatively small steam engine took its name because it sat on an iron table, and was independent of the structure in which it was standing. This type of small steam engine became the engine of choice for driving steam-powered printing machines. The boiler would have been located outside the workspace to reduce smoke and fire risk.

"...the object [of Maudslay's design] was to get rid of the rocking beam that had been a feature of steam engines since Newcomen's day, to reduce the weight of the machinery, and to lower the centre of gravity and make its workings self-acting--the cylinder sitting on the table, and piston turning the crank and fly-wheel beneath. These engines were used the length and breadth of the country to drive machinery in mills and factories. Maudslay took out a patent in 1807, and the engine and its sucessors (made in a range of sizes, producing between 1.5 and 40 hp) became a staple product of the Maudslay factory for 50 years" (Waller, Iron Men: How One London Factory Powered the Industrial Revolution []2016]).

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