"A Copse. Evening"

"A Copse. Evening"
A. Y. Jackson, 1918
"I don't make hell for nobody. I'm only the instrument of a laughing providence. Sometimes I don't like it myself, but I couldn't help it if I was born smart."

1st Sgt. Milton Anthony Warden.
"From here to Eternity"

Paul Valery

"You are in love with intelligence, until it frightens you. For your ideas are terrifying and your hearts are faint. Your acts of pity and cruelty are absurd, committed with no calm, as if they were irresistible. Finally, you fear blood more and more. Blood and time."

The Wisdom of the Ages

"When a young man, I read somewhere the following: God the Almighty said, 'All that is too complex is unnecessary, and it is simple that is needed',"

Mikhail Kalashnikov
"Here lies the bravest soldier I've seen since my mirror got grease on it."

Zapp Brannigan

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Hammer Time!

Brief musical intro. Feel free to skip as it's not germane to the issue.
You'll just die a little inside if you do... suckas. Ah, parachute pants.

Some of you may already be aware that I drove my life off the Glen Canyon Bridge around the beginning of the year by deciding to give Barb - AKA: "the snout" - a makeover. That is to say: another makeover.
In her new incarnation Barb doesn't hit as hard as before but is completely consistant along those lines and the force of the impact is adjustable via several different variables.
The problem with her last incarnation was that the tire, clutch set-up, as wonderfully no-tech as it was, allowed wear on the tire to affect the number of strokes per minute which screwed up the balance of everything else. More about this later.
First we're going right back to first principles.
The first major innovation to the get-it-hot-hit-it-hard technology after the medieval trip-hammer came about, as many things do, because necessity is the mother (That slut) of invention.
The necessity occurred in a need for a forged, iron shaft; one bigger than any that had been forged previously.
Isambard Kingdom Brunel (Great name), 19th century engineering superstar was in the process of designing a big ship, designed to be an oceanic extension of his railroad ventures in England.
His first venture into the discipline of naval architecture was to be SS Great Britain.
This was projected to be a big boat for the time and, since paddle-wheels were the way steamships motivated, he started thinking in terms of side-wheels (See Mississippi river-boats) for propulsion.
It's just that the two wheels needed to be joined by a big, strong, iron shaft running across the beam of the ship, and that was a problem.
The forging of such a shaft more specifically. A similar problem arose toward the end of the century in the construction of the great Ferris Wheel at the Chicago Exhibition but that's another story and another big shaft.
Enter James Nasmyth, another 19th century, engineering genius.
He was a young up-and-comer and saw an opportunity in figuring out this shaft problem.
It seems that the shaft needed would have been so big that, if it even fit on the anvil of the largest trip-hammers in existence, there would be no travel for the "tup" (The head of the hammer) to allow it to fall with any force.  The entire problem became a non-issue when Brunel discovered screw-propulsion and decided to go with that instead but young Nasmyth had already put some thought into it.
What he came up with was the steam-hammer and this next illustration is the very one - right out of his brain - from what he called his "scheme book."
He wasn't at all shot down by the fact he couldn't help out Brunel. He had lots of other irons in the fire (Bam!).
Being a generous guy by nature, he'd gladly show the ideas in his scheme book to any who were interested.
At one point the proprietor of a French iron-working firm was touring his plant and took at look at what he had.
He roughly sketched what he saw in Nasmyth's book and went back to France.
By complete happenstance, two years later Nasmyth was in France as a tourist. He was on a tour of the Schneider Works in Le Creusot when "...what to his wondering eyes did appear..."  but his hammer - built - and working.

"There it was in truth - a thumping child of my brain! Until then it had only existed in my scheme book; and yet it had often been before my mind's eye in full action."

More flattered than alarmed, he filled the builders in on some details to improve the design, ones they'd overlooked in their prior examination of his sketch and toddled back to England - where he locked the barn door after the horse had been stolen and patented the idea.
The word from Schneider at the time - circa 1850 - the steam hammer had cut production costs by 50%. 
Naysmyth was ridiculously wealthy by this time and wasn't in the least concerned that the French had gotten there first, entirely on the strength of his idea.
He retired in 1856 at the age of 48 and devoted the rest of his life to his hobbies, astronomy and photography.
Since his father was Scottish, landscape painter, Alexander Nasmyth, he also farted around with the brushes from time to time. Next: his painting of one of his hammers, and a big one at that, at work in Manchester, English industrial powerhouse and hometown to Wilfred Owen as well as Herman and the Hermits.
But, remember that little French, metalworking concern in Le Creusot.
If you'd followed the link above you'd know that they are now a large multi-national but during the great war, with some input from Holt manufacturing of Stockton, CA, they designed and built the first French tank, the Schneider CA1.
They also remain in the books regarding powerhammers. Some sources even say that they'd "invented" the steam hammer but we know better.
It didn't make a shit to Nasmyth so why should we quibble?
Schneider built a really big one in 1878, a 100-tonner. Hammers are usually rated by the total weight of their "falling parts". That being the tup, its die, the connecting rod and the piston.
That's their unit to the left, a mock-up actually, as seen at the Paris Exposition of 1878.
It stood 90 feet tall and was the biggest of the day - for a while.
Soon after, Bethlehem Steel built the largest ever, a 125 ton hammer that no one, apparently ever bothered to take a picture of.
It was as tall as the Le Creusot hammer and weighed, in total, 500 tons. Further, its anvil sat on a pyramid of steel plates which weighed an additional 1800 tons.
And its falling parts = two M1 Abrams.
All told that added up to a weight greater than that of a Fletcher-Class destroyer.
Alas, that bad-boy has gone away and now only exists as a stupid, frivolous waste of steel in a million various badly manufactured articles - Sad.
But the Creusot hammer is still with us - as a monument in its hometown, Le Creusot.
The thing is/was/and-ever-shall-be one of the coolest things on earth.
Okay, a bit of steam hammer porn:
To the right, a 20-ton hammer. Unemployed.
Again, sad.
Ultimately these monsters were done in by hydraulics but think how much cooler the final scene in Terminator would have been if Sarah Connor had crunched Arnold's, stainless-steel skeleton under one of these instead of that slo-mo hydraulic press.



Above: Grey and underway on the USS Prometheus, circa 1920.
This is just a baby hammer. maybe 500 pounds.
Also a staged photo. The voice of experience clearly says that the young lad with the tongs would not have his hand that close to a hunk of steel that size - at heat.

Okay, if this be porn then make the most of it.
From the workshop of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad in Albuquerque New Mexico; March 1943.
Definitely not staged.
A hard act to follow? I hope to shout.
Anyway, here's my work in progress; a 25 pound helve hammer (Only slightly more sophisticated than a trip-hammer).
She's being ably piloted by my son, Bob. Thirteen next month! Be in prayer for me.
The variables that I mentioned earlier are: The length of the pitman arm (Look it up), the speed (Adjustable by changing pulley sizes), the stiffness of the spring (where the pitman arm hooks to the spring) and finally, the position of the spring on the helve.
video
Life is good.

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