• FA-108341 © Technisches Museum Wien, Photo: Peter Sedlaczek
Collection Area
Production Technology
1800 - 1849
At the moment this object is not published in the museum.

Guilloché machine, 1835


A cross between a tool and a machine, and it’s a joy to look at: admiring such a piece of apparatus, who could possibly claim that beauty and functionality are mutually exclusive?

Guilloché work is a particular form of lathe work or turning. It consists of embellishing the surface of an object with different lines, mainly circles engraved mechanically using a turning machine. Their placement and intersecting spirals create repetitive patterns.

This particular device at the Technisches Museum Wien was designed by Georg Altmütter, a professor of mechanical technology who taught at the Polytechnical Institute in Vienna and, in his day, a leading expert in this particular field. The apparatus was built by mechanical engineer Samuel Bollinger, who later established his own engineering works in the Leopoldstadt district of Vienna. At that time guilloché work was used mainly for objects made of gold and silver, such as boxes and watchcases. The machines were expensive and rarely used for machining wood as the lathe tools developed cracks during turning, making clean cuts impossible.

Altmütter’s machine was small and weighed only around 20 kg, which meant it was easy to transport and set up on an ordinary table. It did not have a flywheel; the guilloché worker could sit in front of it and needed only his hands to set it in motion. This ensured faster work than on a larger craftsman’s lathe. Altmütter’s design was such that even very dense and finely grained types of wood such as ebony, guaiacum, rosewood, boxwood and pear wood could be worked very cleanly. When the lines were machined, it was not the workpiece, but the engraving lathe tool that was set into motion, allowing new types of patterns to be created. And its price was a mere one fifth of the costs involved in acquiring a large, well finished English or French machine of this type.

Manufacturer: Samuel Bollinger, Vienna

Date of origin: 1835

Inv.Nr. 23581
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