Machine Age Turner: William G. Collins

William G. Collins (1872-1959)

Below is an excerpt of a tribute by S. G. Abell from the Society of Ornamental Turners Bulletin #21:

Mr. Collins first became interested in ornamental turning through reading the series of articles by J. H. Evans and others then appearing in the English Mechanic.

He built a fine workshop adjoining his house, its very comprehensive equipment included a Holtzapffel [No. 2245] and a Larch lathe, both very completely equipped with accessories. With everything in perfect order and neatly stored away, it was a truly wonderful place. He modified the Holtzapffel lathe until it was the most modern and improved of its type.


Probably, his most outstanding introduction [invention] was the compound reciprocator, a magnificent piece of instrument work for which he was awarded the silver medal of the Worshipful Company of Turners.

As an ornamental turner he was of outstanding merit and achievement, even amongst his contemporaries, whose generation included such renowned workers as Norman Tweddle (a close personal friend), Lady Gertrude Crawford, and the Rev. G. A. Grace. Mr. Collins' output was prodigious, all of superlative workmanship and pleasing design.

History takes good care of soldiers, statesmen and authors. But alas little is known, even among mechanics, of the men whose work was mainly within the engineering profession, and who served other engineers rather than the general public. Few realize that their art is fundamental to all modern industrial arts. They were busy men and modest, whose records are mainly in mechanical devices which are used daily with little thought of their origin.

Joseph Wickham Roe, author of "English and American Tool Builders" (1916)