Machining a Cast Iron Bearing

Some of you may wonder what it was (and is) like to machine parts for Vulcan hammers, most of which are iron or steel castings.  Some feel for it (and the decisions a machinist must make in the process) can be seen in the video below.

Some comments:

  1. Although he doesn’t say so, my guess is that this piece is in ductile iron (which foundries prefer to pour these days.)  For its part Vulcan preferred grey iron castings from the beginning of the product line; ductile came into use during the early 1970’s.
  2. Most of Vulcan’s cast pieces were more complicated than this, and included ports to cut over.    Probably the most common piece Vulcan produced that is similar to this were the cylinder valve liners.
  3. Most of the internal bores Vulcan did–especially the longer ones, like the cylinder and steam chest bores–used a steady rest on the far side to prevent (or at least minimise) the tapering he experienced in machining the inside diameter with the stub bar he used.  Vulcan also used horizontal boring machines for these types of operations, where the tool rotates and the piece is still.
  4. Many of Vulcan’s machines in its Chattanooga facility were “vintage” machines even at the time, so his comments on dealing with machine wear in the alignment were certainly relevant in Vulcan’s shop.  Some of the equipment that Vulcan brought down from Chicago remained in use until all of the equipment was sold at auction in 1998.
  5. grutzpe-lathe-setupA true machinist–especially one who has to deal with older, totally manual equipment–is someone who needs to be able to think through the production of a piece in order to successfully complete it.  That was very much on display in the video, and my kudos to Adam for his skill.

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