|By August 1899, the first block of granite 64 x 6 x7 feet and weighing about 300 tons had been cut from the granite ridge. Standing on the block are Superintendent Edward Russell and the quarrymen.This photograph appeared in many national publications and drew the country's attention to the enormity of the jobs being done for the Cathedral.|
Some years ago I was visiting the museum of the Historical Society of Vinalhaven Me. and happened upon the entries of the dealings of Bodwell Granite Company with an order from the St John the Divine Cathedral in New York City. The story as I remember it was that in about the year 1900, the Cathedral ordered a number of columns 125 feet long and 6 feet in diameter. The granite was duly cut out of the quarry and set up on the lathe but unfortunately the column cracked while being turned, so another piece of stone was brought up and they tried again. This also broke. A theory was proposed that perhaps vibration was causing the breakage and that possibly turning the stone under water might be the solution. That also apparently didn't work and the company proposed doing the column in two pieces. This solution was accepted, the work was done and the columns were shipped to New York.
Unfortunately the visit was a family one,"C'mon, dad, lets go! and I have not been able to visit Vinalhaven again to make sure I got the details exactly right. But think for a minute what it takes to work with chunks of stone that size- largely by hand- without modern technology and machinery... let alone imagining, designing and building a lathe to work with material that large and heavy. For reference, granite weighs about 175 lbs per cu. ft. An incredible achievement.
More of the story and details of the lathe at Vintagemachinery.org.
I'd like to thank Vector Warbirds for his contributions to this post.