Thomas Edison's Machine Shop 

West Orange, NJ


Precision Machine ShopThomas Edison's sprawling laboratory complex sits behind a brick archway in the town of West Orange, NJ. When he had outgrown his previous space at Menlo Park, he relocated here in 1887, where he continued his experimentation and filed 1,097 patents. His new facility was a state of the art, revolutionary place where his team of up to 10,000 researchers, engineers, and skilled machinists where able to transform an idea straight into a distributed product.


The first floor of the main building contains the large machine shop and stock room, which includes artifacts and tools from around the globe. The second and third floors hold the precision machine shop, a drafting room, a recording studio, and a photo lab. Adjacent to the main complex are smaller chemistry and metallurgy labs, a pattern shop, along with the Black Maria, which operated as a small rotating shed and served as the first motion picture studio.


B. R. Howard & Associates Inc. was contracted to develop the guidelines, and perform the conservation/stabilization treatments of the 37 machines located on the second floor of the main complex.


Partially cleaned pulley wheelB.R. Howard & Associates Inc. was contracted to assess the condition of the 37 pieces of equipment in Edison's precision machine shop. We developed a conservation treatment approach, which incorporated quality control checks throughout the preservation element of the project, and provided a guideline for annual maintenance and upkeep. Our goal was to enhance the aesthetics of the machinery, and ensure its longevity utilizing proper preservation techniques without giving the equipment a restored appearance.


The equipment had sat for a long period of time covered in grease and lubricants, which collected dirt and dust over the years. The inscribed operating diagrams, lines, and markings were no longer visible. Numerous movable components had seized up, and there were areas of surface rust and flaking paint on the machinery.


. Edison's DeskThe goal of B.R. Howard & Associates Inc was to perform the work without impeding visitors’ access. We wanted to engage the public, and make it an educational experience for them rather than temporarily shutting down that portion of the building.


Our company extensively photo documented the entire process of the conservation treatment of the precision machinery using a high-resolution 35mm SLR camera and saved our files in RAW format. Solubility tests were performed prior to cleaning to determine which cleaning methods could be used without causing further damage. The old grease and hardened lubricating oils were then carefully removed which revealed the gauges and measurement engravings. All areas of flaking paint were consolidated using non-yellowing, reversible synthetic resins. Partial disassembly was needed to unlock components that were seized and then re-lubricated. The leather belts were properly treated, and an isolation barrier was placed between the surface of the belts and the metal surface to prevent future corrosion from the tannins in the leather. A thin coating was applied to all surfaces of the machinery to protect them from any future corrosion. B.R. Howard & Associates provided the park service with a digital and hard copy report of the preservation.


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  • B.R. Howard & Associates

  • Phone: 1.888.264.2959
    Fax: 717.200.2537