Direction for Setting Column Keys

For those of you who still have column keys on your Vulcan hammer, these are diagrams for setting them, from 1963.  The cylinder keys are shown above and the base keys are shown below.

More on base column keys is here.



An Overview of Tapered Pipe Threads, and Their Application at Vulcan

It’s hard to imagine that much of our technology is underpinned by very old, basic standards that year after year simply “do their job” without much regard.  One of those is tapered pipe threads.  This is a brief overview of same, and specifically the “National Pipe Taper” or NPT threads.  Much of this material comes from the American Machinists’ Handbook by Fred Colvin and Frank Stanley, Second Edition (1914).

Most screw threads are “straight threads,” i.e., the diameters of the threads (outside, pitch, inside) are constant along the length of the threads.  Tapered threads by definition can only work for a limited length, but when pipes are connected, that’s fine.  Like any other taper lock, tapered threads have an additional wedge effect, which means that they can seal fluids in the pipe (or outside of it.)

Originally these pipe threads were referred to as “Briggs standard threads” after Robert Briggs who came up with them.  In 1886 these were adopted as a standard by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and various manufacturers.  They have varied little since that time.  They have been a durable standard for leak-resistant, permanent (and semi-permanent) connections ever since.

An overview of the “Briggs standard thread” is below.


As noted above, only the “perfect” threads (in one way or another) contribute to the sealing/joining of the pipe thread.

The overall dimensions of the various sizes of tapered pipe threads are shown below, with a diagram showing the types of gauges used to check the threads.


The tapered reamer was one item Vulcan seldom used; the usual procedure was to tap drill the hole and then use a tap for the threads in question to put the threads in the hole.  Below are some tap sizes for NPT (National Pipe Taper, or Briggs) threads.

Tap drills for National Pipe Taper threads.  The “Briggs” values are for the NPT threads; the Whitworth are for their UK counterpart, which were never as popular as the NPT/Briggs threads.  The drill size for the 2″ pipe tap should read 2 3/16″.  In reality there is a little “wiggle room” for the tap drill size, as is the case with straight threads.
When threading a pipe, a die is generally used. The “actual inside diameter” can vary; the table here is closely related to Schedule 40 pipe. It can obviously be smaller for higher pressure applications and those where the mechanical strength of the connection needs to be larger (as with pressure gauges.)

A more detailed treatment of the threads as the pipe and hole threads interface is shown below.

Theoretical standards for the NPT/Briggs standard pipe threads, with a more complete treatment of the perfect and imperfect threads, which is important in the design of pipe threaded holes, specifically how deep they need to be.  This comes from “The Crane World” magazine, January 1919, from the Crane Company, a leading manufacturer of valves.  When the Crane Company was established in 1855, it was near Vulcan’s facility and in fact Vulcan’s founder, Henry Warrington, was Crane’s first customer, placing an order for box castings (a notoriously difficult shape to cast) and other parts for locomotives, which Warrington was making at the Vulcan Foundry.  In his later years, after his sons were active at Vulcan and their other activities, Warrington worked at the Crane Company.

The pipe taper standard was wildly successful, and is used in everything from home plumbing to high-pressure hydraulics.  In the oilfield the standard was so successful that it’s widely used even in places where metric standards are the norm

As far as Vulcan is concerned, Vulcan used the standard in many of its products, both the air/steam hammers and later the hydraulic vibratory hammers, where they were used for pressures up to 5000 psi.  This was due to their durability, ability to resist vibration (a must with any Vulcan product) and their flexibility in radial orientation.  With a pipe thread there is a point where it’s “tight” but it can generally be tightened a little further, thus allowing some flexibility in the orientation of parts.  One thing Vulcan learned with pipe threads was, although they are designed to seal with their taper, the use of some kind of “pipe dope” or sealant is very important.

Below are some applications of pipe threads in Vulcan hammers.

A Vulcan drawing “callout” for pipe threads, in this case small ones for the grease fittings on the Hydra-Nut.
The “outside” of the Hydra-Nut (U.S. Patent 3,938,427.) Introduced in the 1970’s to directly replace the cable nuts (as shown above,) the Hydra-Nut simplified the process of tensioning the cables. The Hydra-Nut was screwed on without the cast thread protector cap on the top, the cable was lightly tensioned with a “manual jack,” the threaded sleeve was screwed down on the cable fitting and tightened against the jack body, the manual jack removed and thread protector cap replaced (aligning the flats on the cable fitting with those on the cap,) then the chamber was pressurised through the grease fittings to the pressure where the cables would have their proper, full tension. The weakness of the Hydra-Nut was in the grease fittings; should dirt or paint get in them, the chamber would depressurise and the cables would be loose. This was more probable when Zerck fittings were used than with the button head fittings as shown. Vulcan addressed this issue in the 1980’s with the Auto-Jack, which altered the Hydra-Nut by adding an internal cable nut with the integral jacking cylinder, which was then depressurised when the cable achieved proper tension.
A call out for a pipe flange on a Vulcan offshore hammer. Note that now, instead of tap “drilling,” we’re forced to bore the hole before putting the pipe tap in.
A close-up of the 040 cylinder during exhaust. The large hose is the steam hose that powers the hammer, the small hoses are the Vari-Cycle hoses that shift the trip shifter one way or the other to vary the stroke. The hose is connected to the hammer through a connector which is screwed in the large pipe caps on the double pipe flange in the front of the hammer.
Vulcan 85C Hammer.  Note that, towards the top of the cylinder are two pipe plugs.  These are installed into tapped tapered pipe fitting holes.  (There are actually four of these, two are covered by the plate referred to as a “belly band.”)  Behind them is a cored passageway between the valve and the top of the cylinder.  These holes helped to support this core during casting but had to be plugged for use, and the pipe plugs were the ideal way of doing this.

Pile Buck Ads 5: Vulcan 530 in Offshore Leaders —

For the last of the “Pile Buck Ads,” a photo of the Vulcan 530 hammer is featured in offshore stub-type leaders. The 530, introduced in 1978 for driving pipe piles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, was and is used in a wide variety of pile driving projects. In this case it’s shown to be […]

via Pile Buck Ads 5: Vulcan 530 in Offshore Leaders —

Pile Buck Ads 4: Link Belt Diesel with a Mandrel —

The fourth in our series on the ads which Pile Buck allowed to run was this shot of a Link Belt 520 driving shell piles using the Vulcan Expanding Mandrel. The mandrel’s history and shell piles in general are discussed here. The Link Belt 520 is an interesting story in itself. The diesel […]

via Pile Buck Ads 4: Link Belt Diesel with a Mandrel —

The Pile Buck Ads 2: Vulcan #1 Hammer in Action —

On this, the twenty-second anniversary of the beginning of this site, we present another of the ads which Pile Buck allowed us to run in their books. It shows the Vulcan #1 hammer on the South Side of Chicago. It also features the URL of the site, which is dedicated to Vulcan hammers and […]

via The Pile Buck Ads 2: Vulcan #1 Hammer in Action —

Vulcan 014 and 016 Valve Gear Assembly

Above is a valve gear diagram for the Vulcan 014 and 016 hammers.  It shows the workings of the valve, its positioning during operation and other details.  Although Vulcan made improvements after this drawing (valve liners and Vari-Cycle, for example) it shows the basics of the valve which has done well in Vulcan hammers for more than a century.

More details on the 014 and 016 hammers are here.

Vulcan Sheave and Cylinder Head Assembly

Above is a Vulcan diagram of the sheave and cylinder head assembly for Vulcan #2, #1 and #0 series hammers, which include the 06, 505, 506, 0R, 08, 010, 012, 508, 510 and 512 hammers.  It includes the factory intended wire rope sizes for these hammers.  Some additional notes are as follows:

  1. Sheave and sheave head assembly safety is VERY IMPORTANT; see Vulcan Tip #65 for more details.
  2. The grease fitting is there for a reason; the sheaves need to be greased periodically.  See the Vulcan field service manuals for more information.
  3. Watch for wire rope and sheave wear, and replace when wear is excessive.
  4. Older Vulcan hammers will feature two sheaves where one is shown above; this can still be done if necessary if the hammer is in factory configuration with the proper sheaves.
  5. Vulcan traditionally assumed the “dead end” of the wire rope was on the leaders, while Raymond put it on the hammer, adding a dead end to the cylinder head to make this a reality.

Vulcan 3100 Hammer: Specifications and Information

Like the 060 and even more the 040, the 3100 was a major step up for the company.  Even though it became the “gateway” to the company’s largest hammers, itself it was a dead end offshore for reasons that weren’t fully appreciated at the time, at least not by Vulcan or some of its end users.

The specifications:

The first 3100 was built for McDermott.  Even though the 560 had been introduced earlier and was lighter for the same energy, McDermott felt that the traditional “heavy ram-low striking velocity” approach was better, and also had the crane capacity to handle this size of hammer.  The hammer was ordered in the fall of 1973.

The road to completing the hammer was a rough one.  That fall was the occasion of the first oil shock, which was great news and bad news at the same time.  It was great news because the oil price spikes made the oil industry very active during that decade and early into the next one.  It was bad news because the demands on the supply chain of foundries and forge shops, coupled with the energy shortages that resulted from the oil shock itself, made lead times immensely long.  And, of course, patterns had to be built for all of the major castings.

The hammer was finally completed on 11 June 1975, but there was another twist: it was assembled on the deck of McDermott’s Derrick Barge 8 in Bayou Boeuf, Louisiana.  Vulcan traditionally preferred to ship their hammers assembled, but freight and delivery issues forced this method.  It was successful, not only making it simpler to ship the heavy hammer parts in pieces, but also to familiarize the end user’s personnel with the hammer itself.  By the 1990’s it became the standard method of delivery for hammers going to the Gulf of Mexico.

In spite of its difficult production road, the 3100 was successful from the beginning, with fewer of the “growing pains” that some of the earlier hammers had experienced.

As was the case with the 040, Vulcan used the hammer for advertising purposes, both then and many years later.

The general assembly is below (the hammer was so large, it required a two-sheet drawing.)

In spite of its success the 3100’s main claim to fame was to be the basis for the 5100.  Why was this so?

The first was obvious: the 560, virtually the same energy, was lighter and more economical to produce and operate.  The second was that, with offshore high-impedance steel piling, the higher impact velocity, problematic with concrete and wood piles, was actually preferable, albeit harder on the hammer.  The hammer never went much past its origin, in spite of the celebration that surrounded its inception.

Vulcan 040 and 340 Hammers: Specifications and Information

Vulcan’s personnel brought back many colourful stories from the field.  One of those came from Jesse Perry, Vulcan’s senior field service representative.  Offshore pile driving is a brutal, unforgiving business; offshore piles are tip elevation piles, and the expediency of “beating the pile to death” to get done in the high hourly barge rates was hard on hammers, especially those new in the product line.  One of those end users vented his frustration on Jesse, who responded by throwing his wallet on the table and telling the customer that he’d bet its contents that the hammer would work.

I never knew that Jesse ever lost his wallet in that way.

In a sense, however, Vulcan itself “threw its wallet on the table” with the 040 and 060 hammers; the 040, more than any other hammer, brought it in to the “big leagues” of offshore pile driving and, through its growing pains, made Vulcan the “stamp of quality offshore everywhere.

First, the basics: the 040 specifications.

The first 040 was sold to Ingram in August 1965; below are some photos from their barge.

Many other offshore construction concerns joined Ingram in using the 040, including McDermott, Dragados, DeLong, Santa Fe, Movible Offshore (soon Teledyne Movible Offshore,) Fluor, Brown & Root, AGIP, Creole Petroleum (now PDVSA,) and Humble Oil.

Offshore wasn’t the only place where the 040 could be found.  One of the most significant projects it was involved with was the long I-10 bridge across the Atchafalaya from Lafayette to Breaux Bridge, LA, built in 1969.

The 040 underwent many changes as it went along; early 040’s have many versions, as is evidenced by the general assemblies below.

Being the seminal hammer that it was, the 040 was useful for advertising, a usefulness that went past the Vulcan Iron Works itself.

340 Hammer

In 1972, with the introduction of the 560, Vulcan decided to rename the 040 the 340 hammer.  Vulcan also made some other important changes, such as moving to an iron (as opposed to a steel) ram.  The first 340 was delivered to McDermott in early 1973.  Specifications, a general arrangement and a photo are shown below.  It turned out to be the last hammer the Vulcan Iron Works produced, sold to PDVSA in 2000.


The Vulcan Extractor Photo that Made a Civil Engineering Textbook

Vulcan hammers appear often in geotechnical engineering textbooks and other reference material.  It’s rare that it would happen outside of that discipline, but happen it did.

In 1960 the first edition of Mechanics of Materials by Archie Higdon, Edward H Ohlsen and William B. Stiles was published with the 1200A extractor photo shown above.  The purpose of including it was to illustrate concentric axial stresses through the connecting links on the side from point A to point B, and specifically through the plane c-c.  Vulcan granted permission to use the photo the year it left Chicago and moved to Chattanooga.

Evidently the illustration “made an impact;” it was retained through the Fourth Edition in 1985, by which time they had picked up two additional authors, John A. Weese and William F. Riley.  It was in the Second Edition when this webmaster discovered it while taking Mechanics of Materials at Texas A&M in the mid-1970’s.

The 1200A had been introduced a few years before it appeared in this textbook and Vulcan went to some pretty silly lengths to publicise it.  The textbook was one of the more sober ones.  Below are the specifications to all of Vulcan’s extractors.

1200A Extractor_Page_6