1 Bust of James Watt, with plate and tube attached for fitting in proportional machine
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 portrait bust of Watt has been set up to be fitted in the reduced-size sculpture copying machine present in the workshop. It is a plaster cast, taken from the head of the Chantrey portrait bust also present in the workshop, treated with a varnish or other similar consolidant to make its surface more resistant to abrasion by the follower in the sculpture-copying machine - Watt records the use of various substances in the attempt to preserve the pattern being copied. The “plate” is a cast iron chuck with a centre and a radial lug to fit the forked driver of the machine; the “tube” is a piec of brass rod with a centre turned in it, which is imbedded in the crown of the head. Such a life-sized head is too large to be copied in the equal-sculpture machine, so the writer of the 1924 document was right to ascribe it to the reducing machine.