Once Again, Driven Piles are First

From this article about the discovery of settlements 3,000 years old around Lake Lucerne in Switzerland:

Experts used radiocarbon analysis to date the artifacts to about 1000 B.C., when the lake level was more than 16 feet lower than it is today, writes Garry Shaw for the Art Newspaper. According to the statement, these conditions “formed an ideal, easily accessible settlement area” around the lake basin.

The team identified the wooden sticks found at the site as supports used in pile dwellings, or prehistoric coastal houses that stood on stilts. Dwellings of this kind were common in and around the Alps between 5000 and 500 B.C., notes Unesco, and can provide researchers with useful insights into Europe’s Neolithic period and Bronze Age.

Too bad they didn’t have Vulcan hammers to speed up the job…when they did arrive, they were a big help with wooden piles, as this 1900 letter attests:

Gentlemen: We have just finished a contest between the old-fashioned drop hammers and one of your No. 1 steam hammers, which no doubt will interest you. We are at present engaged in the construction of a large wharf and warehouse for the L. & N. R. R. at Pensacola, Fla., which requires seven thousand piles from sixty eighty feet long. When we began driving here the chief engineer, superintendent of bridges and resident engineer had never seen a steam hammer work, and, of course, were a little afraid to risk it without a test of the drop hammer being first given. As the piles that had been driven had practically no broomage, the superintendent of bridges concluded that they had not given the resistance necessary to secure a good foundation. To satisfy him we changed the steam hammer for a 4,200-lb. drop hammer and started on a pile (half driven with the steam hammer) with a hood weighing 1,000 lbs. with a life oak cushion block. The hammer had a drop of 60 feet and the pile only showed 1 1/4 inch penetration to each blow. It completely mashed the live oak cushion block into pulp. We then drove a pile 75 feet long with the drop hammer, without the hood, which took 50 minutes time after it was in the leads, and required 120 blows from the top of 75-foot leaders. On the next pile, the same length, 3 feet from the one driven, we used the steam hammer and drove it the same depth with 130 blows, in 90 seconds after it was in the leaders. This pile had no broomage, while the one alongside of it, driven with the drop hammer without a hood, was broomed over three feet. The piles are creosoted piles and cost forty cents per food net, delivered at the work. This would make a saving of 21,000 feet of piling on this job, at forty cents per foot, amounting to $8.400.


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