The E-Sylum:  Volume 7, Number 11, March 14, 2004, Article 10


  Dick Johnson writes: "First, Darryl Atchison should be
  thanked publicly for asking the questions he did about the
  Hill and Janvier reducing machines in last week's E-Sylum.
  This is so important to the technology of die making for all
  types of struck numismatic items. Numismatists should
  have a basic understanding of engraving, dies, die making
  and die striking. Most don't. Darryl, thank you for asking
  about something so important!

  I have been studying die-making equipment for 35 years,
  since I was hired by Medallic Art Company in 1966.  I
  stood in front of the three Janvier die-engraving pantographs
  in MAco's New York City plant for hours marveling at this
  ingenious mechanism. And when the plant moved to Danbury
  in 1972 and we had more room, the firm acquired four
  more reducing machines as these came on the market.

  I have tracked the history of this vital mint equipment to
  discover the ingenuity of one man - Victor Janvier (1851-
  1911).  Imagine inventing a piece of equipment that every
  mint in the world HAD to have. He developed, literally, a
  money-making machine. And the mints of the world beat a
  path to his Paris workshop after he patented it in 1899 to
  acquire his machines. He, of course, was not the first, but he
  developed the most advanced and successful die-engraving

  In all, there have been 22 people, firms and mints who had
  a part in developing this equipment throughout history.  It
  has gone through five stages. The first stage was little more
  than a rotating drill (with a string bow like a Boy Scout
  starting a fire). It was used for cameo cutting.

  The second stage applied peddle power to the fixed drill or
  cutter (peddled like an old sewing machine) for early die cutting.
  In the third stage water or steam was added as the power source
  and devices were cut in dies and lettering would, of course, have
  to be added later with punches.

  Here you have Matthew Boulton using these machines at his
  Soho Mint and when his partner, James Watt, retired, he made
  refinements to Boulton's machines.  The nationalities of the
  machinists who made improvements were French, British,
  Belgian and later, German. The U.S.Mint first had a French
  Contamin pantograph in 1836, which was replaced by a
  British Hill machine in 1867, and the French Janvier in 1906.

  By the third stage it was a 'controlled milling machine' to
  cut dies. The pattern had to rotate in sync (synchronization)
  with the diestock being cut, both revolving on separate axis.
  Both the tracing point and the cutting point start at the center.
  A problem existed, however, that as the tracing point widened
  its circular path, the cutting point revolved at the same speed.
  Janvier recognized that the tracing point should slow down
  and the cutting point should speed up because it also was
  cutting a greater path, it was doing more work.

  Janvier solved this problem mechanically with twin cone belt
  drives with the cones pointing in opposite directions. One belt
  controlled the rotating axes, the other belt carried the variable
  speed to the spindle controlling the cutting point -- as the
  tracing point tracked a wider circle Janvier's mechanism
  increased the speed of the cutting point. It worked!

  That mechanism in pantographs he manufactured made
  Janvier wealthy but not famous.  Today national and private
  mints know the name Janvier for their die-engraving
  machines, but few others outside mint historians even know
  his first name (Victor) and what he actually accomplished.

  Today we are in the fifth stage of this machine. Modern
  die-engraving pantographs are so sophisticated, they can raise
  or lower relief, they can flip a design in contraposition (a left
  facing portrait can be changed to face right), they can also
  alter the slope of the background - metalworkers call this
  'camber' - a basin background can be flattened, or a flat
  background can be given a slight basin shape. But most
  important - all the detail in the pattern can still be reduced
  and cut into the die in direct proportion to each other.

  There is a saying among medalmakers - "if it's in the model,
  it's in the medal!"  Thanks to the die-engraving pantograph,
  but thanks mostly to Victor Janvier.

  Will there be a sixth stage of this miraculous machine?  If so,
  the United States Mint will certainly put it to use.  U.S. Mint
  information officer Michael White told me this week the Mint
  has several milling machines in house they are studying. A
  feasibility study is also under way, he says, for the possibility
  of laser cutting of dies.

  Stay tuned. Die cutting science is not over yet!"

  [The March 16, 2004 issue of Numismatic News contains
  a Viewpoint article by Michael P. Lantz about a group of
  Janvier reduction machines built at the Denver Mint in 1969.

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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