Vulcan 5150: Specifications and Information

Progressing from the 5100, the six (6) 5150’s produced were made in 1978-9 and delivered to four customers: McDermott, Brown & Root, Raymond and Santa Fe.  Their main purpose was to drive piles for the “mudslide” platforms at the mouth of the Mississippi River, which were suffering failures due to scour loads.

Specifications for the hammer are below.

The general arrangements are below.  The hammer was produced in two (2) versions: a 120″ jaw version for 96″ diameter pile, and a 144″ jaw version for 120″ pile.

Like the 040 and 060 hammers, the hammers had growing pains, in part due to their sheer size and in part to some changes Vulcan made to the basic design that didn’t work out.  Vulcan stood behind its products and remedied the faults.  The hammers successfully drove many piles in the Gulf of Mexico in the years immediately after they were produced and, forty years later, are still at work in the same Gulf today.

Vulcan 5110: Specifications and Information

The 5110 was the last new model that Vulcan “produced” and was the first beneficiary of Vulcan’s acquisition of Raymond technology in the early 1990’s.  The one and only 5110 came into being by a conversion of a 560 owned by Global Movible Offshore.  This resulted in a hammer that was considerably lighter than the 5100 with slightly larger energy.  The conversion was done by changing the ram, columns and a few other small parts.

Specifications for the 5110 are below.


A general arrangement is below.


Ram point installation by cooling the point. Breakage of ram points is a major repair job in a Vulcan hammer (caused, in some cases, by use of wire rope biscuit as you see above.) Getting the “stump” of the point out was half the battle; click here for Vulcan’s recommendations. Putting one in was the other (also important for new rams and points.) For the smaller hammers, a press would do, but for hammers such as the Vulcan 5110, the best way was to shrink the point through freezing the small end (the “stump” when broken,) lifting it up and lowering it into a ram turned upside down. Although Vulcan installed points in new and used rams using this procedure, this is a very delicate procedure, failure of which could result in a cracked ram, point, or having the point hung up in the ram, which ruins both. As they say, “don’t try this at home!”

Vulcan 5100: Specifications and Information

With the success of the 560 the 5′ stroke concept was taken upward with the 5100, an extension of the 3100.  In addition to the longer stroke, it was Vulcan’s first hammers with 120″ jaws, to accommodate 96″ piling.  The first 5100 was sold to Brown & Root (Western Hemisphere Marine, to be formal about it) in 1977 and, like the 3100, was assembled in the customer’s yard, in this case at Green’s Bayou in Houston.

Specifications are here:

General arrangement is here:

The 5100 saw active service in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere.

The biggest problem Vulcan had with the 5100 was its sheer size.  The territory into which Vulcan was venturing was stretching its own capabilities along with those of the U.S. foundry industry.  Nevertheless, once these problems were resolved, the 5100 did well in service.

Vulcan 560 Hammer: Specifications and Information

The Vulcan 560 hammer became the “#1 of Vulcan offshore hammers,” and the most popular of its offshore hammers from the 1970’s onward.  Yet, although today the logic of a 5′ stroke hammer (especially when compared to the diesel hammers) is obvious, at the time it took a little persuading.

Vulcan had adhered to the “heavy stroke/low striking velocity” concept since the beginning, but by the early 1970’s the “race to the top” for hammer size–driven by the larger and deeper conventional platforms–was getting ahead of the barge capabilities of Vulcan’s largest customers.  In the Gulf of Mexico that principally meant McDermott and Brown and Root, but also Santa Fe, Teledyne Movible Offshore and (a little later) Raymond.  Basically when facing the need for a 300,000 ft-lb hammer, Vulcan’s “traditional” choice would be one like a 3100, which would weigh around 200,000 lbs. (100 US tons) plus cap and leaders.  For many of the barges in the Gulf, that would necessitate the use of the main block to pick up the hammer and follow it as it drove the pile.  The main block was okay for topsides and pile lifts, but in the constantly moving situation with a hammer, it was too slow.

A lighter hammer would allow the contractor to drop to the secondary block on the crane, the traditional block to use for hammers.  This block could raise and lower the hammer faster, and give the crane operator more control over the hammer during both lift and operation.  Vulcan “bit the bullet” and proposed the 560, which lowered the ram weight (and thus the frame weight) to around 30 US tons while preserving the striking energy with the 5′ stroke.

Vulcan presented the 560 to its customers, to mixed reviews.  McDermott stuck with the 3′ stroke concept with the 3100.  Its larger bench of barges–with the crane capacity to go with it–made the 3100 a more viable option for McDermott.  But others–specifically Brown and Root–found the idea attractive, and B&R ordered the first 560 in early 1973.  It was delivered later that year (a delivery which beat McDermott’s 3100 by almost two years!) and proved successful without too many “growing pains” such as were experienced with the 040 and 060.

Specifications are shown below.

Some general arrangements–including later CAD ones from the 1990’s, showing the durability of the model–are shown below.

Some photographs of the hammer are shown here:

The 560 became the “standard” for offshore hammers, not only for Vulcan’s American customers but for its foreign ones as well, such as Micoperi, ENAP, Petrobras, Hyundai, Daelim, Jardine and of course CNOOC, the sale to which of two (2) 560’s is documented here.  It also found onshore use with such customers as Manson Construction.

The irony of Vulcan’s “gamble” with the 5′ stroke is that it turned out to be an advantage.  All other things equal (especially the cushion stiffness,) for a given energy a lighter ram with a higher impact velocity will produce an impact pulse with a higher peak force and shorter duration.  With steel piles, this is something of an advantage; their ability to withstand the higher stresses allows higher impact forces and stresses.  With concrete piles, a heavier ram and lower impact velocity is favoured, as it results in lower compressive and tensile stresses during driving.  The stage was set for more 5′ stroke hammers, and the 560 not only was the first to try the concept but was its most popular example offshore.

Vulcan 540 Hammer: Specifications and Information

With the success of the first 5′ stroke hammer, the 560, Vulcan proceeded to do the same to its successful 040/340 hammers with the 540.  The first 540 was produced and sold to Conmaco and delivered in 1974.  Specifications are below.

The hammer benefited from the many improvements in the 040 and the introduction went smoothly.  Some general arrangements (all of which are two-sheet versions, normal for Vulcan offshore hammers at the time) are below.

Vulcan 540 at the plant in Chattanooga. Standing next to it is Norris Tremmier, Vulcan’s field service representative based in Chattanooga.

Although never as popular as the 560, the hammer saw extensive service in the oilfield.

Vulcan 520, 530 and 535 Hammers: Specifications and Information

This series of hammers, an outgrowth of the 020 and 030 hammers, had a complicated history, as its development alternated between onshore and offshore configurations and applications.  Because of this they have proven versatile hammers applicable in both fields.

The first of the series was the 530, which was first developed and sold in 1978-9 to Teledyne Movible Offshore and Santa Fe Engineering.  It was an offshore hammer, with the male jaws and larger (22″) ram point.  The 530 could be equipped with either 54″ jaws (for 48″ piling) or 80″ jaws (for 72″ piling.)  Offshore and onshore specifications are below.

Some general arrangements are below.  The onshore 530 was never built.

The 520 was strictly an onshore hammer, although it could be configured as an offshore one. The first one was sold in 1984 to Jensen and Reynolds Construction Company.  Specifications are above and general arrangements are below.

The 535 was the last in the series to be developed.  It was an offshore hammer but its one and only application (in 1994) was to drive concrete cylinder piles onshore.  On the job, equipment difficulties were manageable by themselves but became disastrous to both the contractor and Vulcan due to mandated overdriving of the hammer. General arrangements and specifications are below.

Photos of the 530 and 535 are below.

Vulcan 508, 510 and 512: Specifications and Information

Like the 505 and 506, the Vulcan 512 (and the 508 and 510 that followed) was introduced to meet the demand for hammers which were lighter for the rated striking energy they delivered, and thus compete with the diesel hammers.  Also like the 506, the 512 was first introduced in 1984, with the smaller models following.  Specifications for all three of these hammers are below.

Specifications, Vulcan Bulletin 68T, 1991

General arrangements for these hammers are here.

One of the 512’s earliest successes was its use on the replacement of Lock and Dam 26 near Alton, IL, in 1986.  Here it’s driving piling surrounded by the cofferdam.

vulcan512Using Raymond technology, Vulcan planned to expand the concept of these, the largest “Warrington-Vulcan” hammers produced, to 515, 517 and 525 sizes, but this was never done.

Vulcan 505 and 506: Specifications and Information

The 506 was Vulcan’s answer to contractors who were looking for a lighter air hammer to compete with the diesel hammers.  First introduced in 1984, it fulfilled that purpose, albeit without some changes along the way (heavier duty base and eventually Vari-Cycle II.)  It was successful with both steel and concrete piles, although its higher impact velocity proved more difficult on the hammer than the “heavy weight/low striking velocity” characteristics of the 3′ and 3.25′ stroke hammers.

Specifications are below.

Specifications, Vulcan Bulletin 68T, 1991

Some general arrangements follow.

The 505 was similar in concept to the 506 but used a lighter ram.  Its specifications are with the 506’s above and its general arrangement is below.

Vulcan 505 hammer. Note the “recessed” ram; this is because the 505 retained the long ram of the 306 and 506 but was 1,500 lbs. lighter.

Knockout Rings, Large and Small

Above is a chart from 1965 of knockout rings for Vulcan hammers from the #2 to the 020/200C series.  The knockout ring is, in some way, a short version of the capblock follower/shield for softer cushion materials.  It replaces the integral ring which has  been standard on Vulcan hammers.  (Some explanation of both is here.)  Vulcan’s literature from the 1970’s explained it in this way:

To facilitate the quick change of cushion material to eliminate down time on the pile rig the Knockout ring configuration was introduced.  It is common practice to have one or more extra Knockout Ring cushion receptacles on the job site to insure quick change and continuity of driving time.

As in the Integral Ring configuration, this type has the same vertical depth limitation by virtue of design…

With the Knockout Ring configuration used…it is necessary to use both a Top Plate and a Bottom Plate.  the Bottom Plate is required  to prevent the cushion material from extruding underneath the Knockout Ring laterally…

The arrangement Vulcan had in mind is shown below, again from a 1965 drawing.


The problem with the bottom plate was that it shortened the cushion stack.  When it is omitted, the problems Vulcan anticipated take place, and the knockout ring gets knocked out (by the ram point clipping the top of the ring.)  It’s also inadvisable to use one in a situation where there is a great deal of “bounce” (low impedance pile, high quake soil) in the hammer-pile-soil system.

Knockout Rings weren’t intended as a repair for damaged integral ring, but were sometimes used that way.

Vulcan’s Blow Count Specifications

The durability and longevity of Vulcan pile hammer is something that is seldom replicated in just about any other manufactured product.  Since pile driving is self-destructive on the equipment, this is a remarkable achievement, but it should be tempered by the fact that it’s possible to render a Vulcan hammer inoperable by the way it’s used.  There are many things that can make this happen–inadequate or nonexistent hammer cushion material or lubrication to mention two–but the one thing that Vulcan decided to include in its warranty was the blow count specification.

Recording the blow count–the number of hammer blows per inch, foot or metre of pile advance–is virtually universal on pile driving jobs.  The dynamic formulae basically translated blow count into pile capacity.  While anyone familiar with pile dynamics understands that blow count is a crude measure of the response of a pile to impact, including a blow count specification is a good first measure of both the advance of the hammer and also how much energy is being returned to the hammer, which is a case of hammer damage.

Blow count-resistance graph, developed by Vulcan in the early 1990’s as part of its effort to educate state and federal agencies on the basics of pile driving. As the blow count increases, the amount of SRD (soil resistance to driving) increases, but at a progressively slower rate. This indicates that simply increasing the blow count is a “diminishing returns” proposition, destructive for hammer and pile alike.

High blow counts indicate that more and more of the energy was going back into the hammer rather than into the pile, thus increasing the danger of hammer damage.  They also indicate that pile top stresses increase with higher blow counts, as the movement of the pile to mitigate the maximum impact force decreases.  Thus high blow counts just to get the pile to tip elevation without considering changes in hammer or basic drivability considerations is a losing proposition.

Starting in the late 1970’s, Vulcan voided the warranty on its hammers if the blow count exceeded 120 blows/foot.  It’s interesting to note that Vulcan never made its specification in blows/inch.  This was true for its onshore hammers; however, for its offshore hammers it was forced by circumstance to increase the hammer refusal criterion as follows:


Vulcan hammers are designed to withstand a continuous driving resistance of 120 blows/foot (400 blows/meter). In addition to this, Vulcan hammers will withstand refusal driving resistance of 300 blows/foot (1000 blows/meter) for five (5) consecutive feet (1500mm) of penetration. Any resistances experienced in excess of these are beyond rated capacity and will void the warranty. This definition is not an exclusive definition of excess of rated capacity and other criteria may apply.

1 Specification applies to all Vulcan offshore hammers, not just those listed in this catalog.

This was drawn from the API RP 2A specification, which was discussed relative to pile stick-up.  An elevated refusal blow count specification was justified by two things.  First, the offshore hammers were more robustly built than the Warrington-Vulcan hammers which made the company famous, as they were derived from the Super-Vulcan hammers.  Second, the remoteness of offshore job sites made high blow counts a necessity, as bringing a larger hammer to the job was frequently impractical.  (Improved methods of drivability predictability lessened the possibility of this happening.)

Blow count limiting warranty specifications are not an absolute method to prevent hammer abuse, but they’re a good start, and Vulcan used them to the advantage of itself, its end users and the owners of the projects where Vulcan hammers were used.