Thomas Hancock: the Inventor of Elastic

Thomas Hancock invented the rubber masticator

Thomas Hancock
Thomas Hancock.

Thomas Hancock was an English inventor who founded the British rubber industry. Hancock invented the masticator, the machine that shredded rubber scraps, allowing rubber to be recycled after being formed into blocks or rolled into sheets.

The Masticator

In 1820, Thomas Hancock patented elastic fastenings for gloves, suspenders, shoes and stockings. In the process of creating the first elastic fabrics, Hancock found himself wasting considerable rubber.

He invented the masticator to help conserve rubber.

Hancock kept notes during the process of invention. He made the following comments: "pieces with fresh cut edges would perfectly unite; but the outer surface, which had been exposed, would not unite... it occurred to me that if minced up very small the amount of fresh-cut surface would be greatly increased and by heat and pressure might possibly unite sufficiently for some purposes".

Thomas Hancock Invents A Pickle?

An eccentric Thomas Hancock initially did not choose to patent his machine, instead, he gave it the deceptive name of "pickle" so that no one else would know what it was.

The first masticator was a wooden machine that used a hollow cylinder studded with teeth - inside the cylinder was a studded core that was hand cranked. To masticate means to chew.

In 1821, Thomas Hancock joined forces with the Scottish chemist and inventor of waterproof fabrics, Charles Macintosh.

Together they produced macintosh coats or mackintoshes. The wooden masticator turned into a steam-driven metal machine, used to supple the Macintosh factory with masticated rubber.

Thomas Hancock Patents The Masticator

In 1837, Thomas Hancock finally patented the masticator, perhaps motivated by the Charles Macintosh's legal problems with his patent for a method for making waterproof garments being challenged.

In the pre-Goodyear and pre-vulcanization age of rubber age, the masticated rubber that Hancock invented was used for pneumatic cushions, mattresses, pillows and bellows, hose, tubing, solid tires, shoes, packing, and springs. It was used everywhere. Hancock became the largest manufacturer of rubber goods in the world.


Continue > Charles Macintosh

< Introduction: The Invention of Elastic

In 1823, Scottish chemist Charles Macintosh patented a method for making waterproof garments by using rubber dissolved in coal-tar naphtha for cementing two pieces of cloth together.

The now famous macintosh raincoat was named after Charles Macintosh. Macintosh raincoats were first made using the methods developed by Charles Macintosh.

Charles Macintosh Invents Waterproof Fabric

While he was trying to find uses for the waste products of gasworks, Macintosh discovered that coal-tar naphtha dissolved india rubber. He took wool cloth and painted one side with the dissolved rubber preparation and placed another layer of wool cloth on top.

Improvements to Waterproof Fabrics

This created the first practical waterproof fabric, but the fabric was not perfect. It was easy to puncture when it was seamed, the natural oil in wool caused the rubber cement to deteriorate. In cold weather the fabric became stiffer and in hot weather the fabric became sticky. When vulcanized rubber was invented in 1839, Macintosh's fabrics improved since the new rubber could withstand temperature changes.