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Leaders is the generic term for the guide which allows the pile hammer to be positioned on top of the pile and then started to drive the pile to its desired head elevation. Although not a prominent part of Vulcan product line, the company did produce leaders of many kinds. This page is also intended to give an overview of pile hammer leaders in general.

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Leaders can be broadly categorised in two ways: the method by which they interface with the hammer and the way by which they are connected to (and guided by) the crane.

Hammer Interface

Pile hammer leaders basically guide the hammer in one of two ways: from the side or from the back.

Vulcan hammers--in commmon with most American pile hammers--were guided from both sides of the hammer, with both hammer and pile between the guides. Leaders such as this are referred to as "U-type" leaders. Most of the Vulcan hammers shown on this site are riding in U-type leaders, both onshore and offshore.

Below: onshore, "U-type" leaders, at the West Palm Beach yard in July, 1973. The hammer (and driving accessory) rode between the two large pieces of square tubing at the bottom of the leaders. Structurally sound, the leader system suffered the disasvantages of a)bolted connections (most contractors preferred pinned ones for easy assembly and disassembly, and b) the protruding triangular gussets on the back caught the air hose.

European practice prefers to guide the hammer from the back. This is generally referred to as a "spud" type leader. The spuds have both a structure for stiffness and rails to interface with the hammer. These rails can be of several types, including round rails (Delmag, Nilens) or two channels back to back (Russian.)

Below: a Delmag diesel hammer using a European spud-type leader. Although not a Vulcan hammer, this photo was taken in the process of preparing a bid for Vulcan to design and fabricate the leaders for this hammer. Photo taken near West Palm Beach, FL.

Vulcan hammers were also driven in front of the leaders. This Super-Vulcan hammer is using what Raymond hands referred to as an "outboard extension." Because air/steam hammers tend to be heavy, the extension had to be very rugged.

Crane Interface

There are several methods of interfacing the leaders with the crane, depending upon the nature of the job and the preference of the contractor:

Swinging Leaders

The most common type of leaders, these are simply suspended from the crane (at some distance.) For most plumb pile applications, they are suitable.

Right: an example of swinging leaders in use. The concrete piles are being driven for a marina in Norfolk, VA, September 2009. The leaders are suspended from the crane and are hanging from the hook block. There is an additional line for the Vulcan hammer as well.

Note: the "headache ball" immediately to the left of the leaders is a useful part of the rigging. Although the hammer is heavy, when the hammer is disconnected from the cable, if there is no weight, the weight of the cable behind the boom point will pull the cable back through the boom point. To remedy this problem requires one of two solutions:

  1. Lay the boom down and rethread the cable.
  2. Send someone up the boom to pull the cable through, a very dangerous operation and one that should be avoided at all costs (although this webmaster has seen it done.)

The headache ball, in reality, saves many other headaches on the job.

Below: swinging leaders used to drive a batter pile in Arkansas. Swinging leaders can be used to drive batter piles, but this requires a) leads with good structural integrity (a must in any case,) b) a good place on the ground to stab or secure the leaders, to prevent slippage and c) a skilled, experienced crane operator.

Below: the Vulcan IC-30 diesel hammer in "U-type" leaders. The leader is a swinging type adapted to work as a spud-type leader, similar to the offshore hammers.

Underhung Leaders

Right and below: two examples of underhung leaders. Underhung leaders are attached to the boom point, either rigidly or through a cable. The leaders at the right use a fixed spotter to align the batter. The barge mounted rig below uses the barge itself to do the same job. Underhung leaders at one time were popular, but have been largely displaced by fixed leaders. The latter has the advantage of running the leads above the boom point, which allows for a shorter boom for longer piles.

Fixed (Extended) Leaders

An example of a complete fixed leader system is shown below. The leaders themselves were fixed at two points: the boom point and the spotter. Included in fixed leaders is the ability to perform in and out batter using the spotter, to lift and lower the pile and hammer using the headblock and rooster sheaves, and in this case to perform side batter using the moonbeam spotter.

Definition of "in" and "out" batter in English and French, from the Nilens literature, showing a spud type leader.

Below: the "universal saddle adapter," to mate the fixed leaders to the crane boom. Note the ladder on the sides of the leaders are made of rebar, to create a skid-resistant rung.

The hydraulic moonbeam spotter, built for the U.S. government. Unfortunately,even in the 1970's, the moonbeam spotters were being displaced by hydraulic "parallelogram" type spotters, which afforded more flexibility in manoevering the leaders and hammer.

Right: Transition to hydraulics: a cable spotter in Vulcan's facility in the early 1990's, a part of Vulcan's nascent used equipment efforts. In the front is the connection to the leaders, the back to the crane. The spotter is hinged at the rear so that it can move up and down; at the front it is set up to allow the side motion of the leaders as well.

Completely hydraulic spotters have displaced cable and moonbeam alike. Also, some leaders are able to move vertically relative to both the boom point and spotter connections. These are very useful for driving piles that are well below the crane, such as is common with railway applications.

Details of various types of leader-crane interfaces, left and right, by number:
  1. Drop hammer leads. The hole between the channels allows for the cable which lifts the ram to run.
  2. Lifting bale for swinging or underhung leaders. This bale is commonly hinged with swinging leaders.
  3. Straight adapter places, also used with underhung leaders.
  4. Straight Saddle Adapter, for fixed leaders which don't require side batter.
  5. Universal Saddle Adapter, which allows side batter of the leaders.
  6. Trackback slide carriage, which adds another degree of freedom: up and down the boom point, if not too often.
  7. Trackback wheel carriage, for more frequent up and down the boom point.
  8. Rooser sheaves, to help direct the hoisting lines from the boom point to the headblock at the top of the leaders.

Stub (Offshore) Type Leaders

These leaders are a shortened version of swinging leaders. They are intended for use with a template, which both holds the pile in place and sets the batter angle of the pile as well. Virtually all of Vulcan hammers used offshore were run in these leaders.

Right: A Vulcan 560 in Vulcan manufactured offshore leaders driving pile for the Korean contractor Daelim in 1991. Although Vulcan would have considered this an "onshore" job, it is a classic example of an offshore style hammer used to install a steel jacket. Note that the jacket is acting as the template, which in turn aligns and positions the piles. The leader and hammer assembly is lowered through the conical, adjustable stabbing bell and than the pile is threaded onto the pile cap, the assembly assuming the batter of the piles. The assembly is suspended from the hinged lifting bale at the top of the leaders. As the hammer drives the pile, the leaders are lowered to keep up with the hammer's progress.

Driven Pile Manual Volume 1a
Driven Pile Manual 1b
Driven Pile Manual 2