Messrs. J. & D. McPhun
Messrs. J. & D. McPhun, Timber Merchants and Wood Turners, Greenhead Saw Mills, Mill Street, Bridgeton.—
It is now nearly twenty-five years since Mr. John McPhun, senior partner in the notable firm whose title heads this sketch, commenced operations in Glasgow as a wood turner and wood merchant. The business then established by him upon a comparatively modest scale grew and prospered, and was in due time extended and made to include all kinds of cabinet turning, fret-cutting, band-sawing, and other work connected with the “roughing-out” of wood for general cabinet-making purposes. Subsequently Mr. John McPhun assumed as a partner his brother, Mr. Daniel McPhun, when the present title of the firm was adopted ; and these two gentlemen have since carried on the business with a resource of energetic enterprise and sound judgment that have proved equal to all demands upon them. Coevally with Mr. Daniel McPhun’s accession the branches already mentioned were augmented by the development of a speciality in the manufacture of cornice poles, with their fittings, and also of drawer knobs, of which this firm still remain the sole makers in Scotland.
In 1877 Messrs. J. & D. McPhun entered into occupation of their present premises in Bridgeton, which are not only the largest of their kind in Glasgow, but are, in the various branches of cabinet turning, unsurpassed in magnitude in the kingdom. Concerning these works the Timber Trades' Journal, May 6th, 1888, says: “The ground is situated in Mill Street and extends to somewhere about three acres, and the planning of so extensive works on such a limited area required no little ingenuity, and on looking through them one is almost puzzled to know how everything can be contained and the work carried on so systematically and with so little confusion ; however, the space skywards had largely to be drawn upon, for we find all the buildings and sheds of a very lofty construction, being mostly four stories in height”.
Before going into the saw-mill we perambulated the yard and sheds, and in this connection we might mention that the greater proportion of the ground is covered over by these lofty sheds, a feature in which Mr. McPhun seems to take special pride, for on the occasion of our visit, evidently not satisfied with the already existing extensive area of shedding, another large one was in course of erection, which will leave only a very small portion of the ground open to the weather. This small portion is occupied by logs, which consist of every variety of hardwoods, such as mahogany, walnut, wainscot, birch, the latter of which predominates, being made a speciality of, the firm importing this wood direct. Placed beside the log piles is a seven-ton steam crane made by Drysdale & Pirie, and having a jib 90 ft. long; the position of the crane is so admirably arranged that it sweeps the whole breadth of the log piles, places the logs on any of the saw-mill benches, and also lands the sawn planks on to the drying shed platforms on each of the stories, where rails are laid on which are run small bogeys conveying the wood to the farthest corner of any of the sheds as may be desired.
The main shed, 175 ft. long by 30 ft. wide, of four floors, is used for the storage and seasoning of hardwood planks and boards, consisting of mahogany, birch, walnut, wainscot, &c., in every thickness and of every stage of dryness. We noticed that each floor was sparred openly, in order to allow a free passage of air to all the flats. In continuation of this shed, running across the yard, is another one, 100 by 30, of four flats likewise, exclusively used for storage of chair wood, sawn out of every conceivable shape. This branch is peculiar to the firm, and is mostly cut from birch timber. Another shed is used for the storage of floorings and linings.
We next turned into the mill, a large brick building, 120 ft. long by 100 ft. wide, and of machinery, all busy at work, we find 2 horizontal saws, made by Adam Knox, one 42 in., the other 20 in., 1 vertical log frame, 30 in., 1 combination log and deal frame, 20 in., and 1 deal frame, all by McDowall — the latter, we noticed, was one of this maker’s new design, being one of the fastest machines produced ; it is capable of turning out 300 deals a day, being about double the sawing powers of the old make. It is driven overhead and is entirely self-contained, it requires no top steadying beams, and is entirely free from vibration ; the feed is Pope's double acting, giving the forward motion to both the up and down strokes, and the machine may be adjusted in a few seconds to feed on either or both of the strokes. We also noticed 1 travelling circular bench with 30-ft. table, 3 short circular benches, 2 moulding machines, 1 band saw.
In the mill is also a section of the turning department, the machinery consisting of 2 rounding machines, 7 turning lathes, 1 trapping lathe; this machine is rather a novelty, and is used for the manufacture of window-cornice poles, and works by means of a peculiarly-constructed plane, and turns off the wood in a highly-polished state. Another mechanical novelty here are 2 square turning machines, for working carved balusters of a square pattern. The wood is fitted on to a large circular revolving drum, and turns off 100 balusters at once.
Above the mill is the turning shop proper, where a scene of bustle is conspicuous immediately on entering. There are 30 turning lathes variously constructed for turning particular classes of work, 1 blocking machine, 1 circular saw, 2 moulding machines, 1 mortising machine, 1 tenoning machine, 1 fret saw, 1 swing saw, 1 rounding machine, 1 horizontal boring machine, and 1 screwing machine for turning knob screws. The examination of the numerous varieties of turned goods interested us much, and it was noticeable that not an atom of waste is allowed to be thrown aside. Every minute piece of solid wood which is of a valuable kind, such as mahogany, birch, &c., is utilised in the manufacture of some useful commodity. One branch of trade peculiar to the firm is cornice poles ; being built of numerous small pieces they give a fine opportunity for working up the odd pieces of wood. These cornice poles are sent to all parts of the country in great numbers, this being the principal manufactory of them.
In the finished goods store are kept in stock all kinds of mouldings, architraves, facings, &c., used by cabinetmakers, joiners, and pattern-makers, cabinet-makers’ carvings of all kinds ; and every variety of round, spiral, oval, and square turnery, together with a great deal of finished cabinet work of a special class, in which fancy turning and elaborate machine work predominate, likewise find a place in these stores, and manifest themselves in extraordinary quantity and diversity.
The machine shop, adjoining the mill, contains several moulding machines, each capable of running off 10,000 feet of mouldings per day; also band and fret saws, circular, travelling, bench, and cross-cutting saws ; square-turning and rounding machines of most ingenious construction, irregular moulding machines, and every requisite in spiraling, mortising, and tenoning machinery of the most improved and effective type. The special feature of the work here so vigorously carried on is the converting of timber into shapes ready for putting together, so that from this establishment cabinet-makers in every part of the country are supplied with cut-out material, partly manufactured, ready for finishing, and possessed of all the merits of accuracy and perfect form derivable from the application of the best labour-saving machinery.
In the flats above the machine shop the really wonderful process of lathe -turning in all its varied phases is most fully exemplified ; and here also are carried on all finishing processes, such as papering, varnishing, and French polishing, by hand and machinery. In the wood-working departments of this admirably organised establishment upwards of 100 hands are regularly employed, and an engine of 250 h.p. is taxed to the utmost to maintain the high rates of speed required by most of the machinery.
In their extensive trade as timber merchants, Messrs. McPhun import direct, in log and plank form, many cargoes per annum of all kinds of hardwoods, and supply the same in various degrees of preparation to all the wood-working and manufacturing trades. A numerous and efficient staff of travellers visits every part of the United Kingdom, north, south, east, west, and centre, and in all British cities and towns of any importance the specialities of this thoroughly representative firm enjoy high repute and are in constant demand. A growing export trade, full of promises of future greatness, is being vigorously developed with the colonies, both by direct dealing and through the medium of shipping-houses in this country.
The firm publish an admirably got-up and interesting catalogue of 100 pages, containing over 1,000 well-executed designs of woodwork, with price-list to correspond, and this may be had on application. For any special work not included in the catalogue the firm possess facilities of execution which enable them to quote prices of the most favourable character, and to afford that full satisfaction which has always been characteristic of their dealings with the trade.
Messrs. J. & D. McPhun intended to have a stand at the Glasgow International Exhibition in machinery department, showing the process of wood-turning in full practical operation, together with many samples of various home and foreign cabinet-making and decorative woods, mouldings, veneers, and novelties in wood-turning, but a destructive fire occurred on their premises, and all their exhibits, some of which were of a very expensive character, were completely destroyed, and the firm was prevented from exhibiting what would doubtless have been one of the most interesting and attractive features of the mechanical section of an exhibition which cannot be otherwise regarded than as a magnificent illustration of the native enterprise of Glasgow.
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