One potters wheel

Watt, James

1 Potters wheel.

This item is part of the contents of the workshop that Scottish engineer James Watt developed at his home, Heathfield, at Handsworth, Birmingham. 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.

Although Collins described this as a 'potter's wheel', it is actually a mill for grinding or polishing lenses or specula (curved mirrors for telescopes). A driving band, probably crossed to increase the length in contact with each, should connect the two pulleys. For use it would have been placed on a bench. Either the article to be ground or the “tool” against which it was to be ground would have been cemented to the disc, and the other would have been held in one hand and worked over it while it was rotated by tuning the winch with the other hand.


James Watt's Garret Workshop
Object Number:
Major J.M. Gibson-Watt