Although Vulcan is best known for its air/steam hammers, out of necessity as much as anything Vulcan produced a line of drop hammers for most of its history.
Until the advent of “automatic” hammers such as the Warrington-Vulcan hammers, drop hammers were the only way driven piles were installed. Drop hammers were (and still are) the most practical way for small quantities and short lengths of piles to be driven. Vulcan not only produced the drop hammers and driving accessories, but until World War II produced an extensive line of rigs to run them in.
One major disadvantage of the drop hammer was the relationship between the stroke and the ram weight. The light ram and long stroke of many drop hammers made them prone to pile damage, as this testimonial illustrates.
By the time Vulcan moved its headquarters to Florida in 1964, Vulcan’s drop hammer production had dwindled, victim to the success of its air/steam hammers (and other automatic competitors) and the fact that smaller facilities could produce the hammers more cheaply. Nevertheless Vulcan continued to offer the drop hammers in its line. At the right is the cover for the last bulletin (66-G) advertising the drop hammers, issued late in 1965. You can download a copy of that bulletin by clicking here or on the bulletin cover to the right.
By the early 1970’s, Vulcan had all but ceased production of the drop hammers. The last drop type hammers the company produced, however, were hairpin hammers, which are simple pieces of plate with a slot in them for alignment. They are generally used with sheet piling; they are self-aligning and do not require leaders. As was the case with the earlier drop hammers, Vulcan found it nearly impossible to compete with “homemade” hairpin hammers that contractors manufactured for their own use.
Vulcan drop hammers are an interesting sidebar in the history of a company whose main product line contributed greatly to their marginalisation as the mainstay of pile driving equipment.