Vulcan and Hammer Leaders

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.

Additional Sources:

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 common 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.

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 disadvantages 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.)



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
  • Underhung Leaders
  • Fixed Leaders and Spotters
  • Offshore Leaders, Stub-Type Leaders or Flying Extensions

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.



Underhung Leaders

Underhung leaders are attached to the boom point, either rigidly or through a cable.  Underhung leaders at one time were popular, but have been largely displaced by fixed leaders.



Fixed (Extended) Leaders

Fixed leaders are connected to the crane at two points: the boom point, generally using a swivelling connector, and at the base of a crane using a spotter.  This setup allows the maximum manoeverability of the pile hammer, which is especially important for complex batter piles.  It is also generally more efficient in moving from one pile to the other.  The concepts and examples of the various features of fixed leaders are shown in the photographs below.



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.


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