Swasey took his apprenticeship in Exeter (NH). He and Worcester Warner went from there to Pratt & Whitney as machinists. Later Swasey became a foreman in gear cutting and developed a new method for making gear-tooth cutters while Warner was coordinating company displays, including the 50-machine exhibit at the Centennial exhibition. When they started their own firm, Swasey developed the machines and did the engineering for the astronomical telescopes for which the company also became famous. The first machines were lathes for hand-held tools used in the plumbing supply business, but these were soon followed by a succession of turret lathes.