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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

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Woodcarving Machines

Woodcarving Machines

GRHC - September 11th, 2013

After observing an ivory carver in Philadelphia in 1876, Julius Berkey was convinced that a wood carving machine would be an excellent idea for the Berkey & Gay woodworking department.


During the Exposition held in Philadelphia in 1876 Julius Berkey discovered Mr. Clarke. He was operating a small machine for ornamenting pieces of ivory. Berkey’s mind was a practical one, and after watching Clarke at his work for a short time, engaged him in conversation.

While the delicate little machine Clarke used served his purpose of decorating ivory, it would not be strong enough for carving wood. In addition, the cutters used were too small. Berkey learned that Clarke had designed the machine, and he seemed to possess the skill and mechanical knowledge necessary to design a larger and stronger one.

Convinced that such a machine would be a valuable addition to the woodworking department of the Berkey & Gay Furniture Co., Clarke and Berkey entered into a contract immediately. Clarke agreed to take up residence in Grand Rapids. There he would supervise the construction of tools necessary to install a machinery-carving department in the company’s factory.

Clarke was so successful that the managers of competing factories called upon the machinery builders to supply them with the tools needed to produce machine-cut carving. The Porters were first to respond to the demand with a bench machine that permitted the cutting of a wider range of work than the Clarke machine possessed.

These new machines could only cut plain lines, thus the pieces still required finishing work by those masters, the hand-carvers.

Full Details

TitleWoodcarving Machines
KeywordsWYCE; radio; Grand Rapids; Historical Commission; Berkey & Gay; furniture; carving; machines
Pubdate StringSeptember 11th, 2013

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