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Sharing more photos from Michael's paper collection ...






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Lovely workshop! Looks more like a breakfast porch...

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Originally Posted By: SDH-MT
Lovely workshop! Looks more like a breakfast porch...


What a great place! Most shop floors and factories of the era looked like that, with lots of windows for natural illumination. Note that they do have a few bare light bulbs dangling down over some workstations, but none of the big overhead lights that we would see today.

I always wondered how much maintenance all of those overhead drive belts required. Did they need daily or weekly attention? Or were they more robust than they appear?

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Originally Posted By: Peconga
I always wondered how much maintenance all of those overhead drive belts required. Did they need daily or weekly attention? Or were they more robust than they appear?


When I worked for Packard Electric, they had several banks of ancient machines called Braiders which braided nylon thread around partially finished spark plug cable before the outer silicone jacket was applied. A bank of ten or twelve Braiders ran off of a large single electric motor which ran a line shaft behind the machines. Each Braider had a 6" wide flat leather belt continuously turning, and a hand clutch engaged the machine to start it. They ran three shifts five days a week, and I never once had to repair or replace a belt during the seven months I worked in that department. The only time they went down was either when an individual Braider had something malfunctioning, or for a few minutes when the operator had to replace near empty spools of thread. The large spools of partially finished spark plug cable held at least 10,000 feet per roll, and these flat leather belts were running the machine and also slowly turning these roughly 5 ft. diameter metal spools of cable as it was fed out, braided, and rewound on another spool. As I recall, I once had to put a leather belt back on the pulleys after it had walked off. But I'd have to say the belts were very robust.

It was odd to see these machines that dated back to the early days of the automotive industry, especially in a plant that had the most state of the art PLC and CNC equipment available. But it was explained to me that nothing better had ever been developed, so they continued to use them, and the only change was going from cotton thread to the nylon thread. Of course, the entire construction of spark plug cable changed considerably over time too, but they still occasionally made small runs of the old non-resistor copper core stuff. Repairing Braiders was pretty mechanically challenging, and parts often had to be scavenged from machines that were no longer used because replacement parts hadn't been made for decades. They really didn't make much noise when they were operating, but they were at the rear of the plant behind a huge wall of sound deadening curtain. I always figured that was done in the hope that an OSHA Inspector wouldn't see them because they had hundreds of exposed moving parts and no equipment guarding around the individual machines, or the motor driven line shaft and flat belting. There was no possible way to lock out a machine for servicing or repair without shutting them all down, but I still have all my fingers so I must have done something right.


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Interesting to know how long that technology hung on. Manufacturing firms, at least the small and middle-sized ones, don't throw out what WORKS.

We've largely forgotten the MANY industrial uses of leather, not to mention that it was one of the main, indispensable, components of our transportation system back when that was literally horsepowered. And for centuries it was a vital part of the military, not just for transportation and "fighting vehicles," but body armor.

When I lived in the former industrial birthplace of America (Hudson River and Mohawk river valleys) I saw many remnants of the factories that had been powered by water-driven leather belting, and of the remains of the tanneries that provided that material. A different world, and smellier, I'm sure. One of the upsides is that you can now fish in most of the streams that were the "waste disposal systems" for those tanneries. For many decades before my time, there was no life in them above the bacterial level....

On the other hand, leather itself, unlike most of its replacements, is biodegradable. Requires a lot of nasty processing and labor, but no petrochemicals.

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A lot of those belts were bison hide. There is a good argument to be made that industrialization came on the backs of bison, with the help of a few bright dudes that figured out special ways to tan the stuff.


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My first job out of college 40 years ago was in a chain works, in York, PA. Two multi-story brick buildings, oil soaked wood floors, and line shafts overhead to drive the hundreds of chain forming and chain welding machines. The guys had special wooden "flippers" they used to pop the spinning belts on and off the machine's pulleys. Quite something to see. What a hellish environment to work in though- smoke from the welding machines, "boomalacka zoomalacka" clatter, and fork lifts (gasoline powered) zooming around. (You could see the wood floors rippling overhead as forklifts moved about on the floor above you.) I supervised a tool room some distance away from all that, and God did I hate having to go over there!

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Some of the machines are still hanging on today, although most have been converted to electrical. I still use a surface grinder that was "born" to be run with a line shaft.
Mike


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