Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT), the trade organization for the machine tool industry. Thanks to a recent gift of eleven more beautifully crafted Aschauer models from AMT, this year the museum will be exhibiting its entire permanent Aschauer collection.Every year visitors enthusiastically tell us how much they enjoy the two miniature working machine shops by John Aschauer. These have been on display since they were given to the museum in 1990 by the National Machine Tool Builders Association, now the
John Aschauer was born in 1896 in Sauerlach, Germany. At the age of 12, he began his apprenticeship at Alois Stocker Maschinenfabrick in Pfaffenhofen, Germany and finished his training three years later with the highest of recommendations. At the age of 14, he began his first modeling project, which was a replica of the double-boiler steam power plant used to drive the line shafts that powered the machinery at Alois Stocker. Constructed on the window sill of his mother’s kitchen, this model took him four years to complete. Aschauer emigrated in 1927 and had a long career at Ex-Cell-O in Michigan. Following WWII, he returned to his family home in Germany and found the disassembled steam plant in the attic. Shipping it back to Michigan, he carefully restored it, and the museum acquired the steam plant in 1990 from his daughter, Hilda Aschauer Kelsay.
After retiring from Ex-Cell-O in 1960, Aschauer continued to turn out miniatures made in his Michigan basement workshop over a twenty year period. He was a true artist, a technician of rare skill and a man of infinite patience, making each tiny miniature with the same loving care and attention to the smallest of details. Over the years, his miniatures appeared at trade shows in Germany and in this country as well as at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, the California Museum of Technology, manufacturing exhibits in Chicago, Charlotte, NC and Springfield MA and the American Precision Museum in Windsor VT.
He made every tiny screw, bolt and nut, machined every gear and made every hydraulic pipe and fitting. He even turned out the handles for the steam plant from bone, which he split, ground and hand-rubbed to size. Scaled to 1/16 size, all of John Aschauer’s models were made completely from memory, without any plans or designs. His only tools, which he also made himself, were a homemade lathe, a bench shaper and a bench drill press, a battery of files and an emery cloth.
When an interviewer once asked him about the amount of time he spent making these works of art, he modestly estimated that he probably spent 25,000 hours working on his models – the equivalent of 12 years of full-time employment! Aschauer wanted to be sure that his models found their final home in a museum, and the American Precision Museum is honored that this important collection is available for the public here.