Vulcan 106: the “Switch-Hitter”

Note: the field service manual for the 106 can be found in the Guide Volume 1.

The cover for Bulletin 106 for the hammer of the same size designation.

Creating excitement in a “need-driven” type of equipment like pile driving equipment isn’t easy, especially one with as long of a history as Vulcan’s. Vulcan tried to do just that with the 106 hammer, a hammer which both technically and from a marketing standpoint came in with a great deal of promise but never quite lived up to it.

The introduction of the Vari-Cycle in the late 1960’s made it possible to change the energy of a Vulcan hammer without having to change the operating pressure.  Installing the Vari-Cycle in the #1 and #0 series hammers was problematic due to leader clearance issues, but another issue was that many specifications required a certain ram weight. Additionally, the desire was there to make some improvements to the design which, although successful, was certainly not perfect.

The result of this was the 106 hammer, the “Switch-Hitter,” complete with the baseball theme as shown in the literature cover at the right. Although it was certainly possible to change the ram in a #1 hammer to an 06, the idea here was to allow this to be done without disassembling the hammer.

A diagram of the features of the 106 hammer.

Other than the removable weights, the biggest objective for this hammer was to remove the keys, which are the most persistent maintenance item on a Vulcan hammer.  That included the ram keys (the “Octo-Conic” system worked, but not the way it was designed,) the slide bar key, and the upper column keys, which were replaced with the column nuts.  The lower column keys were left on the hammer.  The 106 saw the introduction of the valve detent, designed to reduce valve flutter and the use of the ubiquitous door springs on the valve.

The 106 was introduced in 1971.  Vulcan was issued a patent on these innovations (U.S. Patent 3,566,977) but, as was all too often case with pile driving equipment, the innovations didn’t pan out as expected.

The biggest problem was in the removable weights.  Once installed, these would “belly out” and freeze in the space provided, and the “Switch-Hitter” would no longer switch.  So the central purpose of the hammer was defeated.

Beyond that, the column nut/key combination was soon to be overshadowed by the installation of tie cables on Vulcan hammers.  Already standard on Vulcan offshore hammers and Raymond hammers, the “cable through the column” arrangement was superior to the set-up on the 106.

The only innovation to be propagated from the 106 to the other hammers was the valve detent, which, although helpful, did not overcome thing such as hammer icing and the use of motor oil.


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