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holes, till they become of the thickness required. Then the wire is brought to the screw manufactory; and there we see it lying about in shining coils. One end of a coil is presented to a machine worked by boys or women; when we see the end seized, and drawn forward, and snipped off the proper length, the snip falling, hot, into a pan of sawdust below. Women are preferred to boys for this work. Their attention is more steady, and they are more careful of their own flesh and blood. Boys are apt to make mischief; and, if they look off their work, it is too likely that they may lose their finger-ends. It is in this department of the business that most of the accidents happen. It is more satisfactory to see the lads filing the circular saws used in making the machinery, or in other processes where they have not to deal with such inexorable powers as those which cut or stamp the metal.
The heads of the bits of steel are next stamped by machinery, and delivered over to women to have the heads polished. There is nice fingering required here; and, to do it, we see rows of women, who earn from five to twelve shillings per week, each attending a machine of her own. She presents the head of the screw to a vice, which seizes it and carries it to a flying wheel, which smooths and polishes it; and it comes out in an instant, brightened with that radiating polish which we observe in the head of a finished screw. All the while, a yellowish ugly liquid is dropping upon the metal, and upon the work-woman's fingers, from a can above. It is a mixture of soapsuds and oil, which dribbles from a spout, and keeps the metal from becoming too hot for the touch.
We have now the shank of the screw, and the neat polished head; but there is no slit in the head wherein to. insert the screw-driver; and the shank is plain and blunt.
The next thing is to "nick" the head. This part of the business used to be done by working the "nicking" machine with treadles. By the modern method, a barrel-somewhat like that of a barrel-organ, but pierced with holes, instead of being stuck over with upright bits of wirerevolves slowly, so that every row of holes is brought under the line of a cleaver, which descends to make the cleft across the heads of the screws in a row beneath. It is the business of the steam-engine to turn the barrel, and send down the cleaver: it is that of the women to stick the screws into the holes in the barrel,-as they would put pins in rows into a pincushion. They do this with quickness and dexterity, as the empty holes come up; and the notched screws fall out by their own weight, on the other side, as it descends with the revolution of the barrel.
This is all very well, as far as it goes: but the shank is still plain and blunt, and perfectly useless. The grand operation of "worming" remains. This also is women's work; and we may see one hundred and twenty women at a time busy about it. The soapsuds and oil are still dropping upon their fingers and their work; and the job looks anything but a tidy one, while we regard the process alone. But it is different when we stand aside, and survey the Then we see that these six score women are neatly dressed hair smooth, or cap clean-handkerchief or little shawl nicely crossed over, and fastened behind; faces healthy, and countenances cheerful. These women are paid by piecework; and they can easily earn ten shillings per week. Their business still is to feed the machinery— to present the heads of the screws to a vice which seizes them and carries them forward-then back again, and again forward- —as often as is necessary to have the worming made deep enough. As the shank is pressed, in its
passage forward, against the cutter which grooves out the steel between the "thread," which, in other words, "worms" it, the filings curl away and drop off, like so much wood, or rasped cheese-rind. It is wonderful to see this rasping of steel. But we were informed that there will be something hereafter more curious still to be seen. On these premises, there is at work now some machinery which is shut up from prying eyes, by which the shank is picked up, wormed, and dropped, without being touched by human hands and strange it must be to see the screw, not a quarter of an inch long, picked up by a metallic gripe, and the largest massive and heavy as they are-carried onward, again, and again, and again, as the depth of their worming requires.
After this comes the cooking in sawdust; and the drying and bolting (as a Miller would say) of the finished screws in sieves; and the counting, and packing. They are counted by weight, of course. The packing is a pretty affair. A nimble-fingered woman throws down half-a-dozen or more screws, according to size, on a square paper, the heads lying all one way; and then the same number, with the heads lying the other way, and the shanks falling between the first. Then the same number are laid across; and so the pile is built up into a square, which is kept compact by the wall of round heads on all the four sides. The paper is folded over, and the square packet is passed to a neighbour, to be tied up. With a dexterous twist of the string she fastens on a specimen screw, ties the knot and passes on the packet-to be sent to Germany, or almost anywhere in the world where men are screwing anything together-always excepting the United States. Very few are sent there; for, as we were again told here, America rivals us, or, as would be said across the Atlantic, "America
flogs the world" in screw-making. There are eight houses in Birmingham employed in this manufacture: and this was all we could learn of the amount of production. No one seems to know how many are made in England: for no one can tell what proportion the produce of the little manufactories bears to these larger ones.
Seeing whole bins full of steel filings, and copper, and brass, we inquired what became of them. They are sold; the steel being worth little, and the brass much. The brass comes in at the cost of ninepence per pound; and the refuse goes out, as filings, at fivepence per pound. After the noise and dirt of the earlier process-the oily wheels, and greasy candles in dark places, the smutty forge, and the tallow dropping from the cans, there is something pleasant in the aspect of the last stages;-the barrels of shining brass filings; the quiet light room where two or three neat women are fingering polished screws, surrounded by drab and brown paper, while behind them are compartments completely covering the wall, filled with their square drab packets.
As we turned away from the hundreds of women thus respectably earning their bread, we could but hope that they would look to it that there was no screw loose in their household way, that the machinery of their daily life might work as truly and effectually as that dead mechanism which is revolving under their care, for so many hours of every day. It is much to see dead mechanism producing strength and convenience, in a flow as constant as that of the stream from the cavern in the rock: but it is much more to see vital comfort and beauty issuing from an intelligent daily industry, which works on behalf, not of vanity and wasteful pleasure, but of home.