Machine Age Turner: Reverend G. A. Grace

Rev. Gilbert Allen Grace (1872-1958)

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

G. A. Grace was an accomplished mechanician as well as a gifted ornamental turner. He had the artist's eye for a design which, combined with technical skill in execution, placed all his work in the very highest class. For many years he was a regular competitor and exhibitor at the Worshipful Company at which he won many prizes.

He was a prolific as well as a lucid writer on the subject and contributed a long series of articles to English Mechanic and latterly to our own Bulletin. We have in our library the manuscript of his magnum opus, it contains much that is original and a great deal of useful information not otherwise available; it is to be hoped that the Society will undertake its publication. [Note: Published in 1961.]

G. A. did much in the way of improvement in the design of apparatus at the making of which he was skilled and claimed, with justification, that his workmanship was equal to Holtzapffel. He had many lathes through his hands all of which he re-conditioned and improved. He had the highest admiration for Goyen's lathes which he considered to be in a class by themselves.

His knowledge of apparatus was encyclopedic, and he was adept at evolving new uses for old tools, notably the eccentric cutter. As far as I know he never motorized his lathes holding that the foot treadle had an advantage in smooth even running and control; as he did a great deal of rose engine work this must have entailed many hours of continuous treadling!

By the death of G. A. Grace, ornamental turning has lost an outstanding exponent who was prominent for over half a century; it is no exaggeration to say that he was one of the greatest ornamental turners of his generation, if not of all time.

The Art and Craft of Ornamental Turning, by G. A. Grace, was first published in 1923. It was subsequently reissued with a new title, Specimens of Ornamental Turning with ten additional photographs in 1949 and as The Art and Craft of Ornamental Turning in 1960 by the Society of Ornamental Turners.

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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)