The  Grinding Room

The Grinding Room. Albert George Morrow (1863-1927). c. 1884. Drawing. Source: “Iron and Steel Making in South Wales.” The English Illustrated Magazine. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

The Dangers of the Knife-Grinder’s Work — Accidents and Breathing Metal Powders

The knife-grinder has, after all, a story to tell, and a very dismal one it is. He is environed by dangers, as completely as he is saturated with the wet "swarff" (powdered stone) which dyes him a deep saffron colour from head to toe. He sits over a tool which at any moment may send him through the roof with all the suddenness and velocity of dynamite, and he works in an attitude and (especially if he be a "dry" grinder) inhales a dust which he knows will shorten his life by ten, twenty, or even thirty years as constitution and fortune may serve him. The sharp crack of a breaking stone is an appalling sound to the occupants of a grinding-hull. A bang in a trough, a crash in the roof, and a piteous moan, and all is over. If the victim be alive he is hurried to the hospital; if dead, his crushed body is rever ently carried away. No vigilance in the master, no care in the workman, seems able to avert these periodical catastrophes. The insidious water-rot, the hidden flaw, and the unequal grain do their fatal work in spite of all precautions. To meet the destitution arising from these calamities a Grinders' Misfortune Society was established in Shef field in 1804. [636]

You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the Hathi Trust and Pennsylvania State University and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. — George P. Landow.


Palmer, Henry J.. “Cutlery and Cutlers at Sheffield” The English Illustrated Magazine. 1 (August 1881): 659-69. Hathi Trust version of a copy in the Pennsylvania State University Library. Web. 4 March 2021. [Complete text in the Victorian Web.]

Last modified 4 March 2021