Daniel Jones' Two-Reel Machine
by Martin Gregory
READING through my copy of "Iron" (successor to "The Mechanics' Magazine") for 1891 on a sunny Bank Holiday afternoon (what else is there to do on Bank Holidays?) I came across Daniel Jones' two-reel lock-stitch sewing machine. Winding small amounts of thread onto small bobbins to fit into a shuttle or at the centre of a rotating hook is time wasting, so several inventors devised machines to use a standard reel of thread for the lower thread of a lock-stitch machine. Such machines were called two-reel machines and one or two achieved reasonable popularity. Daniel Jones took out his patent in 1889 (No.9089) for a rotary hook machine taking a loop of thread around a large stationary-cased reel.
One problem with two-reel machines was the large loop of thread necessary to encircle the lower reel: this loop had to be paid out and taken in by the take-up lever each stitch. This could lead to fraying of the thread, broken threads and poor control of the tension. In Jones' design the rotary hook was followed by a looper or spreader to ease the thread round the cased reel. When the loop of thread came off the hook, instead of the take-up pulling the stitch tight, the looper retained the thread thereby tightening the stitch and providing the loop for the hook to pick up with the next stitch. It was claimed that thread friction was much reduced.
As his machine developed, Daniel Jones took out two further patents in 1891 (Nos.11707 and 23092). The first was for a reversible drive to the feed mechanism, and the second was for an improved rotary hook/looper. 1893 saw a further patent (No.20214) for an improved profile for the hook/looper which ends with a claim that "chain-stitching may be made with the lock-stitch hook, the underthread being removed and the feed of the work reversed".
Lock-stitch forwards, chain-stitch backwards is indeed a remarkable idea. In 1894 he took out his last patent for the drive mechanism to the hook (No.23920). I suspect his looper + take-up + thread clamp gave rise to tension problems in use.
A company was set up to use Mr Jones' patents and took out advertising space in journals such as "Iron". The capital was 200,000 in 1 shares, of which Mr Jones and his nominees took 42,000 shares in part payment for the purchase of his inventions, etc, and agreed to retain them for three years.
There were also 10,000 of 6% debentures secured on the property of the company. By June 1891 the journal was assured that the subscriptions for the whole had been taken up. "The company has a good practical board of directors ..... and should prove a success."
Has anyone seen a "Two-reel Lock-stitch Jones' Patent" machine? The patent data suggests that Daniel Jones persevered with improving his ideas for about five years. Were significant numbers of machines produced or was this another scam which lost the shareholders their money?