Machine Age Turner: J. E .H. Saueracker

J. E. Hermann Saueracker (1855-1943)


Saueracker created a wide range of turned work, including ornate pictures frames, spiked stars in spheres, Chinese balls, complex ornamental spires, lattice work, fanciful swash boxes, and steins adorned with medallion turnings. With a master turner's skill and imagination, he created impressive and bold work.

His style spanned ornamental turned design from early times (such as the famous Coburg Ivories) to elements from the art deco style popular toward the end of his lifetime. Some of his work had a strong nationalistic character, but the sheer technical skill and creative use of the lathe transcended any particular theme.

Saueracker maintained that all his work was done on a "plain lathe" although it appears to have been made using a combination of ornamental, rose and medallion lathe techniques. He is known to have let visitors marvel at his skill but never reveal his methods.


Saueracker lived and worked in Nuremberg, Germany. During his lifetime, he donated his work to his city. An exhibition was staged at the Bavarian Trade Institutes School (Bayrische Landesgewerbeanstaltt). It is not known in if any of the artifacts of this collection survived World War II when Nuremberg was heavily bombed. However, photos of his work do remain solely due to a visit fellow ornamental turner Franz Kottek made to Saueracker before the war.

A book Kottek received at that time, presumably a catalogue of Saueracker's work published by the town council of Nuremberg in 1922, was the source for a Society of Ornamental Turners publication entitled Ornamental Turning Work of J. E. H. Saueracker. Published in 1985, with an introduction by Paul Bass, it contains approximately 25 pages of black & white photos detailing more than 150 pieces. Available from the Society of Ornamental Turners.

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)