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Longridge's Midget Universal Woodworking Machine

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Hi everyone,


If you read Nepean Longridge's classic book, The Anatomy of Nelson's Ships, you would have been intrigued by his description on page 49 of his beloved Midget Universal Woodworking Machine. He bemoaned the fact that it had stopped production before the war, and had reached out to the manufacturer. W.C. Roemer, to inquire if it might resume production. Roemer replied that he hoped to, if labor and material became available. But Longridge then noted that currency restrictions in Great Britain after the war would prevent purchasing this American made equipment anyway. I had never read of it anywhere else, so I assume Roemer was never able to start production again.


Longridge stated that if ever his machine were destroyed, the very first thing he would do would be to make another one.


I was always intrigued by Longridge's detailed description of this machine. I just discovered a photo of it, on a vintage machinery website. So if you were ever similarly intrigued, here it is:




I am very happy with my Byrnes Model Machine tools, which probably work better in many regards than this all-in-one tool. But it is fun to see this earlier effort at tools for model makers.



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Shortly after Longridge wrote his book, Emco-Maier in Austria came out with their first Unimats, which pretty much set the future standard for "multi-machines" in the model-making size range. I expect Roemer discovered that the post-war market for a modeling multi-tool was limited and would require prohibitively expensive international print marketing to create enough demand to justify resuming production. Ironically, Emco-Maier benefited from the Marshall Plan's subsidized reconstruction of European manufacturing industries, while Roemer would not have been able to do so. Also, in 1955, people were discovering television which, as most modelers know, really kicked the teeth out of the home modeling hobby market and it's never recovered since. Time was, most "gentlemen" had hobbies of one sort or another to fill their leisure evening time after work. A look at the many hobby magazines published pre-War and shortly thereafter reveal how extensive this activity was. (See: https://books.google.com/books/about/Popular_Mechanics.html?id=49gDAAAAMBAJ for all the Popular Mechanics  back issues on line. Lots of ship model plans in the old magazines.) The modeling machine niche was always a small one occupied by "one-man shops" or small family concerns in many instances. Fortunately, the internet has made sourcing modeling tools and materials far easier for hobbyists today and made the international consumer market more reachable to modeling vendors who often remain small volume operations like Byrnes Model Machines, Vanda-Lay Industries, and Syren Ship Models. They'd probably be far less viable enterprises without the internet's "word-of-mouth" and search-engine-driven advertising platform.

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Thanks, Bob, you offer an insightful overview of how our world of modeling has been shaped by large societal and technological changes in the last 70 years. It is interesting to reflect on how the these changes could both kill an earlier industry (Roemer), and help a more recent one, (Byrnes, et al).



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