Vulcan #1 Hammer in Ohio

Below are three photos taken of a Vulcan #1 hammer in Mentor, Ohio.  It’s in fixed leaders with a moonbeam-style spotter.  The hammer was made in Chicago, which means that it’s probably older than sixty years.  Thanks to Ken Foster for sharing these great photos.


Vulcan at the Circus: the 1200A Extractor

Vulcan had introduced its extractor line in the late 1920’s, after several design iterations.  They had proven successful; for example, they were used in the construction of the original Tennessee Valley Authority systems of locks and dams.  But, as is often the case with pile driving equipment, what contractors wanted could be summed up in one word: bigger.

In the extractor field, they got what they asked for: in 1954 Vulcan introduced the 1200A extractor, the largest in the and larger than any of the MKT “E” type extractors, their main competitor.  To debut the line Vulcan did something completely different with its literature: it used a circus theme to emphasize its large size.  You can see this below.

This may look silly today, but these days when we emphasize size, it’s completely different…when Vulcan came “down to earth” around the time it moved to Chattanooga, they put out this sheet, which shows all of the sizes and their specifications.

Mating Pipe Piles to Pipe Pile Caps

Pipe pile caps have been around as long as pipe piles, but mating them to a pile hammer via a pipe cap may be new to some users.  The diagram above (which, as you can see, dates from 1931) shows how this is done.

The cross-section shows three diameters of pipe piles mating with a pipe cap.  Pipe caps typically have steps to mate with more than one size of pipe pile.  It’s also possible to drive pipe caps “flat face” (with no steps) but you lose the alignment assistance of the cap when you do.

The outer two pipes mate with “male steps,” those which face the inside diameter of the pipe.  It’s necessary thus to know the ID of the pile, which usually means the OD and the wall thickness.  A little clearance is allowed to make mating simpler and to take into account the fact that pipe pile isn’t always perfectly round (especially at the ends, where it gets bent.)

On the small onshore caps, the steps are typically straight.  On the offshore caps, Vulcan typically put in a draft angle to make stabbing the pile easier.

With caps with multiple steps, it’s possible for the steps to interfere with each other because the diameter of one step is too small to accommodate the OD of the pile below it.  To avoid this problem requires some layout before the cap is machined.

Male pipe caps can be used with wall thicknesses thinner than originally intended with the use of welded shims.

The inner pile mates with the “female” portion of the cap, i.e., the OD of the pile.  This eliminates the ID mating problem but requires a completely different cap design.

Some other information is shown below.

Vulcan’s choice of pipe cap design deserves some explanation. Below is a diagram of the three basic types of pipe caps in use, both during the heyday of Vulcan offshore hammers and now. Male Caps (left) were the standard Vulcan configuration. The cap is stepped for different pipe sizes and is fitted to the I.D. of the pipe. To align the leads and the pile (especially important with the batter piles common offshore) the pipes were passed through a stabbing bell (at the bottom) which itself was stepped to the O.D. of the piles. The arrangement was preferred with Vulcan’s customers (especially those in the Gulf of Mexico) because the cap is easy to modify and shim for different size piles and the stabbing bell is easy for the crane operator to thread the hammer assembly over the pile for driving. Female Caps (centre) was most common with the Menck hammers. All of the steps were mated to the O.D. of the cap. Although mating it to piles was more straightforward, since the maximum plate moment of the cap was in the centre, the thicker centreline of the male cap was an advantage. Flat Face Caps (right) were preferred by the diesel manufacturers such as Delmag (and later IHC and Pileco.) Since there are no alignment steps on the cap, all of the alignment takes place with the adjustable keys under the cap facing the O.D. of the pile. (It’s better to have two sets of keys than the one shown.) Although the cap is much simpler, the carrier required for the cap and keys can be complicated to produce.

Pulling Adapters for Vulcan Extractors

Vulcan pile extractors were largely designed to extract sheet piling.  The standard connection had two (2) or three (3) holes that needed to be burned into the sheeting.  While this provided a very durable connection, it was time consuming and is not really applicable to piling such as wood piling.

Above is a diagram, taken from Vulcan’s literature around 1960, showing various types of pulling adapters for piling other than sheeting.  In addition to these there were two other types of connections that were used on Vulcan extractors:

  1. The Heppenstall tongs, which were similar to the clamp used by the Nilens extractor.
  2. The Wood Pile Puller.

The Best Way to Celebrate Your 120th Birthday is With a New Slide Bar Part

On our Engineering at Vulcan page, we posted this general arrangement of the Vulcan #2 dated 1887.

The first extant layout of the Vulcan #2 Hammer, dated 9 February 1887. It’s probably the first extant layout of the Warrington-Vulcan hammer. Until about World War I, it was common practice for Vulcan to lay out the general arrangement and then the shop produce much of the hammer from just that drawing. It’s an indication of both the skill and the decision making ability of those actually producing the product, and also probably of the involvement of those doing the design work.

Little did we suspect that we’d need that drawing, but then these photos from Crofton Diving of Portsmouth, VA, arrived:

The hammer in question is Vulcan S/N 116, originally sold to the Florida East Coat Railroad (not far from the West Palm Beach facility) in 1897.  The distinctive “open” slide bar design was changed about that time to what is on virtually every Warrington-Vulcan and Super-Vulcan hammer made since.  Vulcan Foundation Equipment  was able to make the spare parts Crofton required from the original detail drawings.

“Planned obsolescence” wasn’t the Vulcan way in 1897 or afterwards, which is why a 120-year old product is still driving pile and being useful to the contractor.

Crofton Diving at work: the Crofton I barge driving piles at a marina, Norfolk, VA, 2009.  The pile driving rig is using swinging leaders.

General Arrangements and Assemblies

d35373One of the typical information items Vulcan would send out would be the “general arrangement” (or assembly, to use the Raymond terminology) of a hammer, or a sub-assembly such as a capblock follower. These were also included in the offshore field service manuals. Sometimes they would feature the specifications of the hammer. They are useful for basic clearance and other dimensions or to understand the basic layout of the machine.

Some of these were put in data format. We feature for download some collections of these as follows:

  • Vulcan 020 Offshore Hammer Specification Sheet. Not a general arrangement per se, but a specification sheet (in US and SI units) along with parts of the general arrangement on the back. These were issued in the 1970’s and were very popular for many years.
  • Vulcan 040 Offshore Hammer Specification Sheet.
  • Vulcan Offshore Hammers
    • Auto-Jack Cable Tensioning Device for most Vulcan offshore hammers
    • Vulcan 535 Hammer, 54″ and 80″ Jaws (similar to the 530)
    • Vulcan 530/535 Capblock Follower Assembly (80″ Jaws)
    • Vulcan 560 Hammer
    • Vulcan 5110 Hammer
    • Vulcan 5100 Capblock Follower Assembly
  • Vulcan/Raymond Hammers
    • Vulcan 513 Hammer
    • Vulcan 515 Hammer
    • Vulcan 517 Hammer
    • Vulcan 525 Hammer
    • Vulcan/Raymond 60X Hammer, with and without Vari-Cycle II
  • Vulcan/Foster Vibratory Hammer. Vulcan manufactured L.B. Foster vibratory hammers during the 1990’s on a “private label” basis. These are the general assemblies for the 1050 and 4200.

Some of our general arrangements are in image format; we present some of them below.

We also have an extensive collection of these (including the specification sheets) in other “traditional formats.” If you would like to contact us about obtaining these, click here. We also have extensive information in our Vulcan Data Manual.

About Those Manhole Covers…

Vulcan-Bulletin-20Vulcan received inquiries from all over the world about its products.  One call Vulcan received until the end was about manhole covers.  Although Vulcan’s response was always the same (it didn’t make manhole covers) the fact was that at one time Vulcan did make these humble but ubiquitous products.

On both ends of the twentieth century Vulcan’s letterhead stated that it manufactured “Machinery for Public Improvements.” Although the pile driving equipment certainly fell into that category, it wasn’t the only product line meant for consumption by the public sector.  That included many of its custom products, including the bridge gears it produced for many bascule bridges in Chicago and other areas.  That also included the manhole covers, or more formally designated “Curbs and Covers: Manhole and Catch Basin.”

These items appeared in Vulcan’s general catalogues in the 1910’s and 1920’s.  Eventually when these gave way to the product bulletins of the late 1920’s and beyond, Vulcan produced one for the manhole covers, its Bulletin 20, issued in 1942 (cover shown here, bulletin can be downloaded here.)


The key to this business was having your own foundry, and Vulcan’s went away in the late 1940’s.  Around that time the manhole covers went out of Vulcan’s offerings.  Unfortunately it took a long time for the word to get around, and Vulcan continued to get calls about these for the duration of the company’s operation.  Part of the problem was that there was (and is) more than one “Vulcan Iron Works.”  Vulcan was the god of the forge in Roman mythology; it was a common name for heavy manufacturing in the nineteenth century, an age of iron, steel and classical learning. At least one additional Vulcan Iron Works produced manhole covers, something that added meaning to the word “discovery” at litigation time.

Probably the vast majority of the manhole covers produced by the Vulcan Iron Works discussed by this web site are gone from their proper place.  (One that didn’t is at the top of the page.)  Had Vulcan been swum with the tide more than it did, it probably would have outsourced the manhole covers abroad.  But it didn’t, leaving one part of its product line well in its wake.

Vulcan Iron Works: The First Century

VIW-PMSVery few companies can claim even a century-long existence. Not counting the Cari years, Vulcan Iron Works endured for 144 years from its founding by Henry Warrington until 1996. The portion of focuses on the first hundred years “and then some:” the years the company was located in Chicago, 1852-1960.

During this time, the company went from being a general purpose foundry to the greatest manufacturer of pile driving equipment in the world, this in an era when driven piles reigned supreme in deep foundations.

Come with us as we explore the following:

We also have an entire section which details the company’s greatest adventure after this era, namely Vulcan: The Offshore Experience.

About our Sources

The information in this section goes back more than a century and a half, and has been rescued from the various “downsizings” that Vulcan Iron Works and Vulcan Foundation Equipment have experienced. These sources include the photo library of Vulcan Iron Works, literature, and files from the company’s records. The largest rescues took place in 1999 when Vulcan Iron Works (Cari) sold the 2909 Riverside Drive Chattanooga facility and in 2004 when Vulcan Foundation Equipment relocated the 2501 Riverside Drive warehouse and office. Some of the information was also found in the Warrington family archives as well.

After the Centennial Celebration


The rest of the 1950’s was an era of prosperity and transition for Vulcan. In 1955 Henry Warrington became President; Chester retired to Palm Beach two years later and died in 1961.

Building the Interstate highway system was a boon to Vulcan, but it, along with the growing size range of the product line, strained the North Bell facility. Combined with the increasing costs of maintaining a manufacturing facility in America’s traditional industrial heartland, Vulcan cast about for a new location to build its product line. After an extensive search process, Vulcan decided to relocate the company to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where it built a new production facility and moved the company in 1960.

But location wasn’t the only thing changing at Vulcan; the market for its products was shifting to the construction of offshore oil platforms. The smaller “onshore” product line became a smaller–and less profitable–part of Vulcan’s revenue stream. We end this series on Vulcan’s first one hundred years–and then some–by featuring some newer applications of Vulcan’s classic hammer line.

Hammer in action: below, a video of a Vulcan 08 driving concrete piles in downtown Norfolk, Virginia, in November 1990. The contractor was M.R. Welch.

DGH Series Hammers

Note: a field service manual for these hammers is available in the Guide, link above.

DGH-PhotoAlthough the California series hammers were successful and a definite expansion of Vulcan’s product line, they suffered from two major weaknesses:

  • They had a sliding valve that was very difficult to manufacture.
  • They were only suited for driving piles, not for the demolition and compaction work that hammers of their size (especially the “G” hammers) were commonly used for.

Vulcan had prepared to replace the “G” in 1941, but the intervention of World War II put a stop to the project. It wasn’t until 1955 that Vulcan introduced the DGH-100 hammer (shown at right.) The DGH series of hammers made several advances:

  • They employed the rotary, Corliss valve, which had been used successfully with the Warrington-Vulcan and Super-Vulcan air/steam hammers. This simplified manufacture and service of the unit, although the valve chest configuration Vulcan adopted sometimes took a great deal of work to obtain proper alignment and operation.
  • They included a base that allowed the use of demolition and compaction tools.
  • They retained the “G” hammer’s clean, square profile, which made it simple to attach them to excavators.

The naming of the hammer is explained, to some extent, here.

Some of the DGH hammer features are illustrated below, including (from left to right) “pants” for driving sheet piling (see the DGH-900 photo below,) the Universal Backhoe Adapter for use with backhoes and excavators, and leader angles for the U-type leaders common with other Vulcan hammers.

The Universal Backhoe Adapter enabled the DGH-100 to be used with a wide variety of backhoes and excavators without having to develop a custom adapter for each make and model. One of the remarkable things about the DGH-100 is that it was never completely eliminated by hydraulic breakers, which are generally able to use the excavator’s own hydraulic power and eliminate the need for an additional compressor. This is a testament to the simplicity, durability and performance of the product. DGH hammers can be operated at angles down to horizontal, a capability unique for Vulcan products.

Vulcan also developed a DGH-900 hammer, with a larger ram, but this was no where near as successful as the DGH-100. Vulcan continued to produce and market these hammers until the company was divested in 1996.  IHC/Vulcan Foundation Equipment discontinued them in 2005, but the current Vulcan Foundation Equipment provides parts and service for DGH-100 and DGH-900 hammers.