A round wooden pill-box, containing charcoal

Made:
1790-1819
maker:
Watt, James

1 Box 2” dia. Containing 2 Small pieces of charcoal

This item is part of the contents of the workshop that Scottish engineer James Watt developed at his home, Heathfield, at Handsworth, Birmingham, from c.1795 through to his death in 1819. Although Watt is best known for his work on the steam engine, his workshop contains a wide variety of objects from many different projects, from chemistry to sculpture-copying.

The description of the item was written by Edward Collins, the land agent responsible for Heathfield when the workshop was given to the Science Museum in 1924. Collins could not always identify what he was looking at, but always described what he saw clearly. This has allowed his descriptions to form the basis of subsequent research.

This is a round wooden pill-box, containing two small pieces of charcoal. To these have added two further small pieces of charcoal found loose in the drawer. Apart from its use in drawing, in the mechanic’s workshop charcoal is used as a fine abrasive and for filling the incised numerals and graduations of wooden instruments, although lamp-black is usually preferred for this purpose. In Watt's workshop other pieces of charcoal were also used to support items being heated and worked on with a blowpipe.

Details

Category:
James Watt's Garret Workshop
Object Number:
1924-792/377
Materials:
charcoal and wood (unidentified)
type:
box
credit:
Major J.M. Gibson-Watt