The Original Hobbing Machine

Schiele recorded the Patent

Mr. Christian Schiele, of Lancaster, England recorded British patent number 2896 in December of 1856. The work made quiet history as the first hobbing machine patent. If you read the patent it looks like the hobbing machine was added at the end, sort of a bolt-on section; a last-minute edit. The hobbing process for making gears is still used today and the vast majority of industrial gears are still made in this manner.

Early machinery was typically built to be bench-top sized, or small "parlor-style" machines with wooden legs like ornate parlor furniture. Later, as more horsepower became available to machinery and forces increased, so too did the need for rigidity. Machine builders quickly changed designs from ornate and almost dainty wood to large and robust cast iron.


Diagram of Hobbing machine patent by Christian Schiele

Drawing of Schiele’s hobbing machine, featuring rigid anchors

The patent drawing on Sheet 2 clearly shows a machine design much more rigid than a parlor chair with four angle-iron legs bolted to the floor with a large wheel in the middle. But while Schiele’s machine has surpassed the limitations of parlor-style, the design is still a long way from the rigidity one would expect from a modern machine. More importantly, the drawing shows a hob and all the parts of a functional hobbing machine.

The patent claims the machine can make “toothed wheels” (spur gears) and “oblique wheels” (bevel gears). Robert Hermann Pfauter, who dominated the gear manufacturing market with his universal hobbing machine in the early 1900s, would openly refer to Schiele’s patent as the first patent for a hobbing machine. Sadly, the drawing is all that we have from Schiele’s efforts as no prototype or physical relic exists.

Schiele was living in Lancaster when he submitted the patent, but he was originally from Frankfort, Germany. Records indicate he had arrived as early as 1847, nine years prior to recording his hobbing machine patent. Apparently, he had come to Great Britain to be a part of the industrial revolution and "collect patents." In that regard, he succeeded as a copious inventor and was granted over a dozen patents spanning mechanical topics from pumps and fans to engines and ventilators.

As a bustling entrepreneur, he had a machine shop full of water pumps and other jobs to fund his patent collecting. His interest in technology spurred him to present at the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations (Great Exhibition) held in London's Hyde Park in 1851 where he may have seen Prince Albert and most certainly experienced the Crystal Palace. A few years later he presented at The French Exposition Universelle held on the Champs-Élysées, Paris in 1855. He was in rare mechanical engineering company at both events where Joseph Whitworth, famous for standardizing screw threads, also presented.

In the end, Schiele could not convert the Patent to a physical machine or monetize the idea. He declared bankruptcy in 1865 and returned to Germany where he died in 1869.

Patent for Hobbing Machine Christian Schiele 1856

Sheet 2 from Schiele's 1856 patent. Thanks to the help of Rupert Lee of THE BRITISH LIBRARY for this drawing, April 2019

© Evolvent Design, 2020


1) Schiele Patent of 1856 (Includes the full Sheet 2)

2) Pfauter Patent of 1900

3) The Great Exhibition of 1851 British

4) Exposition Universelle of 1855

5) Pfauter, Hermann, Pfauter-Wälzfräsen (Pfauter Hobbing), Springer, 1976. Softcover ISBN 978-3-662-12682-0

6) With the assistance of Graham Hicks of Ancestral Stories, Spring 2020

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