Cone learned carpentry, blacksmithing, and general mechanics on his father's farm. In 1891 he became a general repairman for the Connecticut River Railroad in a branch repair shop in Windsor, Vermont. In 1895 he moved to the Windsor Machine Co. which had started in the old Robbins & Lawrence Armory after Jones & Lamson moved to Springfield, Vt.
After George Gridley joined the company and began to develop his single-spindle automatics. When National Acme bought Windsor Machine in 1916, Cone resigned. He started designing a new automatic and formed Cone Automatic Machine Co. to build it. His first machine was a conventional single spindle, but the second was a four-spindle machine that broke with all previous designs. He put all the cams at the top on one long shaft. This made it possible to build large multiple-spindle machines that had the operating positions down at a convenient working height.