Friday, April 10, 2015

CEJ taps


A composite image of a British-made CEJ tap in my shop.  When I got around to researching this, I thought I might discover some small British company that probably had gone by the boards.  How wrong I was.  The name of the man behind the initials is not that widely known, despite the fact that his primary invention made modern-day mass production possible. 

Carl Evard Johansson (or Mått-Johansson - Measurement Johansson - as he came to be known) was born in 1864 in Västmanland, Sweden and proved to be mechanically precocious.  At 13 he built a steam engine, and tried his hand at building a horseless carriage.  At 16, he joined his brother in the U.S.A. where Carl worked at various workshops and studied technology in Minnesota.  After his return to Sweden in 1884, he attended the Eskilstuna School of Technology and ended up Inspection Chief at the Carl Gustafs Stads Rifle Factory in the same city.  The concept of parts interchangeability had gained traction in this industry, but had still to spread to uniformity in measuring tools.  Johansson came up with the idea of a combination gauge block set, initially of 102 pieces and then eventually 46.  Using a grinder made out of his wife's sewing machine, he was able to machine these blocks to a hitherto unknown degree of precision.  Johansson claimed that he could split a hair into 200 pieces and measure them with this set.  He produced his first gauge block set in 1897, and was awarded a Swedish patent in 1904.  


From C.E. Johansson 1864-1943; The Master of Measurement, published in 1948 for the Johansson company in Sweden.   Posted on the Practical Machinist.
Gauge blocks are so precisely ground that they will stick or "wring" together with remarkable force, as demonstrated below by CEJ himself holding a stack of them horizontally:



In 1908, the first CEJ gauge blocks in the U.S. were sold to Henry Leland at Cadillac who said, "There are only two people I take off my hat to. One is the president of the United States and the other is Mr. Johansson from Sweden."  In 1910 he founded C.E. Johansson & Co. to manufacture these sets, and one year later the company became Aktiebolaget CE Johansson. Carl Edvard served as the company's CEO until 1917 when he chose to only remain on the Board.  The company manufactured various items, including taps and bicycle chains.  Below, examples from the web:




http://mo-ped.se/tv/kedjor.htm
However, its most important products were metrology instruments, and CEL's "Jo Blocks" were said to have helped American win the First World War.  In 1918, he established an American arm of his company in Poughkeepsie, New York. In 1923, he moved to the U.S. to take a position offered to him by Henry Ford. Johansson was highly regarded: only he and Ford's son were permitted to enter Ford's office without knocking. Ford bought the American CEJ company and moved all of its equipment to Dearborn. Johansson retired at age 72 and returned to Sweden in 1936, passing away in 1943.

At some point, CEJ in the U.S. became affiliated with Brown & Sharpe, as gauge blocks can be found co-branded by both firms.  It is possible that B&S bought the company from Ford in the late 40's or early 50's.

CEJ also had a presence in Dunstable, England, where my tap was obviously made: 



In fact, various online sellers offer copies of a 1950's book published by the Dunstable branch:   Screwing Taps and Their Use.

In 2002, C E Johansson joined with DEA Mikromess in the Hexagon Metrology group of companies.  The companies were merged in 2004 into Hexagon Metreology Nordic.  However, in 2005, C E Johansson was separated into a separate brand.  The same year, C E Johansson Engineering AB was formed as the primary producer of manufacturing measuring systems and hand gauges.  Coming full circle, in 2006 the original company name of C.E. Johansson AB was re-instated.

3 comments:

Tom Gaspick said...

"Using a grinder made out of his wife's sewing machine, he was able to machine these blocks to a hitherto unknown degree of precision."

Hmmmm.

Now there's a piece of gear that belongs in the Smithsonian.

Will Francis said...

"only he and Ford's son were permitted to enter Ford's office without knocking"

Do you have a source for that? I've not seen that before.

The Duke said...

Google the phrase, replacing "he" with "Johansson". It turns up a few hits, including Jeffrey W. Hancks, "Scandinavians in Michigan," (Michigan State University Press, 2006) and Göran Ahlström, 'The Edison of Sweden': C E Johansson and the Standards of Standard," Vol. 8 (2002), pp. 140-148, published by: International Committee for the History of Technology.