Edward Allen has persevered through the potential banning of barometers and a steady decline in the industry, intent on repairing existing products to the highest possible standard and producing new ones for those who still see the unique beauty in barometers.
‘We’ve been making thermometers for 160 years’, notes Edward Allen of Russell Scientific Instruments. ‘We started off as glass-blowers and metal machinists, then, 40 years ago, my predecessors decided we had all the skills in-house to make a range of reproduction barometers – as well as undertaking the repair of antique barometers and barographs.’
The barometers in this picture are antiques. These days, as Mr Allen says, ‘the market for reproduction barometers is dead. About 75% of our work is repairs’.
This is due to changes in EU mercury laws and he’s had several skirmishes with policy-makers in Brussels, successfully overturning a proposal for all barometers to be disposed of as hazardous waste.
‘People have used barometers since 1650, when an Italian named Mr Torricelli discovered that a mercury column moved when there was a change in atmospheric pressure and that this was related to the weather,’ elaborates Mr Allen.
‘You have an instrument that works as well as on the day it was made.’
Russell Scientific Instruments is sought after because it fulfils all aspects of a barometer’s restoration. ‘We take off all the parts, examine them and repair any woodwork that may have been damaged. We clean up the parts and the glass, re-silver the dials and clean the mechanism. We also blow and fit a new mercury column and thermometer if required. Next, everything’s reassembled and you have an instrument that works as well as on the day it was made.’
This is some achievement, especially considering that many of the barometers being sent to the company were made in the Georgian era. ‘The oldest one we’ve worked on here was dated 1705 – well before the internet or TV weather forecasts,’ reveals Mr Allen.
To find out more about Russell Scientific Instruments and barometers, please visit www.russell-scientific.co.uk.
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