Link with the past

After reading my article on line shafts, Evan suggested I look at the following video on YouTube.

It is an excerpt from a 1981 documentary about a craftsman who is still using a water-powered (and line-shaft enabled) workshop from the 1840s.  It is 26 minutes long and does a pretty good job of documenting the creation of a project in this workshop.

The video starts with a bit of blacksmithing, which is interesting in its own right, but the majority of the video is about the creation of a large water trough for cattle, completed in a single day using techniques that are very similar to that a cooper would utilise to create a barrel. A very large barrel!

What I found fascinating, and really very invigorating and inspiring (used enough adjectives here?) is the machines in this workshop are practically no different from those in mine, and many others around the place.  We may utilise electricity rather than water power, but little else has changed.  We would be quite comfortable operating in a workshop of the 1840s, and in turn someone from that era would find ours very familiar as well.  Our links with our roots are not very long at all.

A tablesaw is still very recognisable as a tablesaw, as with the thicknesser, jointer, horizontal borer etc.  It seems the only really new technology in our workshops is the router, and even then it is quite possible the spindle moulder dates back far enough to be included in water powered workshops.  In 1925 they were still using flat-sided cutters, so that is something we can be grateful has improved over time! (Kickbacks would have been common, and incredibly violent).

So have a look at Ben Thresher’s mill, right out of the pages of history, and enjoy as I have, that we are still keeping these traditions alive in our own workshops.  The digital age of woodworking seems to be approaching, CNC, laser, 3D printing etc, so lets not allow our craft and skills to be lost in the way that digital photography has affected (what I call) chemical photography, and what computers and iTunes is slowly doing to music. (Had to end on a note of controversy!)

Line Shafts and Powering Machinery

We have not always had the luxury of small, compact, powerful electric motors for powering workshop machinery.  Instead, once workshops moved to having powered machinery at the start of the Industrial Revolution, they were using water, coal and fuel oil to to power the workshop.

Deutsch: Erste Dampfmaschine in der Dillinger ...

Deutsch: Erste Dampfmaschine in der Dillinger Hütte (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It would not be economic to run tiny steam engines, let alone split a river into multiple streams, one to each machine and its individual water wheel!  So instead there was one power source that drove a primary line shaft across the workshop, which with a series of pulleys and belts drove ancillary shafts, and from there to individual machines.

Line shaft and belt driven machinery. MACHINE ...

Line shaft and belt driven machinery. MACHINE SHOP NORTH/NORTHEAST INCLUDING OVERHEAD LINE SHAFTING. MOSTLY BELT DRIVEN WITH ONE ROPE DRIVEN LATHE IN MIDDLE GROUND. POWER COMES FROM KNIGHT TURBINE ON FAR WALL SHOWN IN K-77, 78 (42′) HAER CAL,3-SUCRK,1-45 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I posted a video on one working setup at Sovereign Hill in Ballarat where they demonstrate wagon wheel manufacture, back at Episode 79

[blip.tv ?posts_id=4764297&dest=50360]
Episode 79 Wagon Wheel Manufacture
Formats available: MPEG4 Video (.mp4), Quicktime (.mov), MPEG-4 Video (.m4v)

With the prospect of a new shed on the horizon (and especially one with a higher ceiling), I have already been visualising what the workshop may look like, including giving it some real character.  The romance of the old industrial age is something that does appeal, and where I can’t convert a workshop to run on line shafts (and the OHS implications in this day and age would melt the internet), I can still have some of the relics of this bygone age around, including a pseudo line shaft or two!

I already have one pulley that I bought from Chris Vesper a year or so ago – a very nice example of one, with classic timber laminations.

20120602-210258

While one pulley is nice, having a small collection would be even better, and so I had a bit of a search around eBay.  The timing was perfect, as I not only found the following, I was very fortunate in winning the auction.

But this was was not just an auction of a few of the pulleys, but much more rarely, some leather belts as well.

w3 w1 w4 w5 w6

With such a cool collection, I’m thinking of recreating a bit of a line shaft setup, and the belts will really add to that effect 10 fold!  Now I just have to get them from the Blue Mountains to Melbourne!

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