Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

I just learned today that Robert Pirsig died yesterday, age 88.  For those of us who came of age in the 1970's, his was one of those seminal books you had to have read or, like many, tried to read or simply just said that you'd read. In 1978 I took a copy with me on my Norton sojourn to California, and lost and replaced it three times on the trip.  I ended up seeing myself as something of a minor Johnny Appleseed for his book, spreading it around as I moved along. Years later I bought his second book, Lila, but I have to say I've never been able to get through it. Still, it occupies the space on my library shelf beside two copies of Zen and the Art.

After I returned home from my California road trip, the last copy of Zen I bought had an afterword from Pirsig about his son Chris's murder in 1979.  This was the boy who had ridden with him on the motorcycle trip that formed the basis for the book.  He died two weeks shy of his 23rd birthday.  Very sad.

Anyway, as something of a tribute, I offer my two favourite send-up cartoons:



What causes air bumps and why they should not be feared

The World Book Encyclopedia.  Chicago:  Field Enterprises Educational Corporation, 1958.
Today, we call this "turbulence."  Not really any improvement over "air bumps."

The evolution of Plymouth automobiles, 1961-1967






From Bill Toboldt.  Fix Your Plymouth.  All Models 1967-1952.  The Goodheart-Willcox Co., Inc., 1967.

According to Wikipedia, the brand lasted from 1928 to 2001.   "The inspiration for the Plymouth brand name came from Plymouth binder twine, produced by the Plymouth Cordage Company, also of Plymouth. The name was chosen by Joe Frazer due to the popularity of the twine among farmers."  Bizarre.

Monday, April 24, 2017

BNT Canada Mystery Hammer

From a reader come these pictures of an unusual hammer with an oddly slotted and wedge-shaped head.  Although it's proportioned like a small tack hammer, it's a substantial tool, with a double head 8 inches long. The faces seem to be angled to facilitate tapping using wrist action. Comments to the Duke's previous  B.N.T. post seem to indicate the company made different types of hammers, this one must be for a specific and as yet unidentified purpose! Any ideas?


Vickers Velos

Larry Milberry, Aviation in Canada, McGraw-Hill Ryerson 1979
The sole Vickers Velos sitting at its moorings. Built for surveying in 1927, it proved difficult to fly and when it sank in the same year the design was not pursued. When I first found this image I mistook it for the short lived  Dayton Wright F. P. 2, an aircraft with a similar look built 5 years previously and with a similar story.

Rostselmash Plant, Rostov-on-Don, Russia, 1965

Nikolai Mikhailov.  Discovering the Soviet Union.  Moscow:  Progress Publishers, 1965.
Founded in 1929, the company specializes in combine harvesters and is still going strong.  (You can even request a tour!)

According to the company's history page:

In summer 1931, in the research workshop of the harvester workshop being constructed, the assembly of two harvesters of more perfect design was completed, and these harvesters were named “Stalinets”. The new machines were tested together with American harvesters. The Rostselmash machines operated better and, unlike of foreign harvesters, were able to harvest not only wheat, but also sunflower seeds, corn and millet.

During World War II, the entire plant was moved east.  Then:

On February 14, 1943, the South Front troops freed Rostov. The city was in ruins. Almost all enterprises, including Rostselmash and its towns, were demolished. Germans regularly were exploding and firing the plant within eight days before retreat. All workshops, living houses, culture center, agricultural machine-building institute, etc. turned into piles of ruins. The plant material damage comprised more than 180 million Stalin rubles. 
On February 23, on the 10th day of Germans’ retreat, the first 33 Rostselmash machines started to operate in demolished Rostov. At the same time, preparation of military purpose equipment production was started, and the repair of battle tanks, tractors and vehicles was organized. In order to refurbish the plant, it had to clean 150000 m3 of obstructions, lay 21 million of bricks and 37000m3 of concrete, install 8000 tons of metal structures, and lay 185000 m3 of roof panels. 145000 m3 of production facilities were put into operation within a short time.

Amazing!

We used to make things in this country. #258: Coleman Lamp & Stove Company, Toronto, Ontario



I recently photographed this old No. 4A kerosene iron at a local historical society's open house.  Although it's difficult to make out, the badge reads, "Coleman Lamp & Stove Company Limited, Toronto, Canada."  The exhibitor told me it was a remarkable advance over the old sad irons, which had to be laboriously heated and re-heated on the wood stove, and which would leave black carbon marks on white shirts.  Still, the kerosene ones could catch fire (look at the bottom of the wooden handle on the example above) and even explode!  To watch one of these things in action, go you YouTube.  Ironing in those days was clearly not for the faint-of-heart!

Below, from Waymarking.com:
Coleman's relationship to Toronto began in 1925 when he opened a plant there. Sheldon Coleman (the founders son) worked at this plant. And it was the Toronto division of Coleman that created the miniaturized gasoline pressurized stove, the Model 222, in 1976. That stove became the backbone of the Peak 1 line of Coleman products.
The Canadian company made a huge variety of lamps and stovesAccording to the Canadian Science & Technology Museum, Coleman manufactured in Canada up until the 1960's.

Google Streetview:  Queen Street East and the Don Valley Parkway

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Cunard Royal Mail Steamship sailings, 1842

George W. Brown.  Building The Canadian Nation.  J.M. Dent & Sons (Canada) Ltd., 1942, Revised & Reprinted 1950, Reprinted 1951.

Heavy hammers


Like I said, I like hammers.

Sidecar Sunday


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Cars in the 'hood, Bug Eye Sprite



 A little rusted and a little smoky, nevertheless it's nice to see this rare little thing driving around.

Tracking icebergs

Larry Milberry, Aviation in Canada, McGraw-Hill Ryerson 1979
Ever since the Titanic disaster, the US coast guard has been tracking icebergs for the safety of navigation, the job got a lot easier with the advent of reliable airplanes. During WW2 the area west of Greenland and off the BC coast was assigned to the Canadian Meteorological Service. Until 1959 Lancasters were used, flying from Comox and Rockcliffe. Douglas DC4s, owned by Kenting Aviation replaced the Lancasters- including this one with added observational capacity. The canopy above the pilots area is from a F86 Sabre. Kenting also had the contract to photograph and map Canada's arctic using war surplus B17s for the job
In 1972 the DC4s were replaced by Lockheed Electras flown by Nordair.

Ontario industries, 1942

The New Educator Encyclopedia.  Toronto:  General Press Service, 1942.

Light hammers


I love hammers!  There is no tool that so clearly defines the multitude of trades that used to exist. You could tell a tradesman from his hammer.  I remember reading somewhere that there were more than 200 different kinds of hammers made in Britain a century or so ago.

Funk & Wagnalls New Practical Standard Dictionary.  Britannica World Language Edition.  1946, 1957.

CNR Pacific Locomotive 5611


John Westwood, The World Steam Train Album, Bison Group 1993
On a cold January day in January 1957 locomotive 5611 gets under way. This locomotive was built for the the Grand Trunk in 1911 and worked till the end of the steam era.

Friday, April 21, 2017

UB-110 Control Room


UB-110 had the distinction of possibly being the last German U-boat to be sunk in World War I.

For more history and photos, go to Inside the German submarine SM UB-110, 1918.

Vanished tool makers: Jones & Lamson, Springfield, Vermont




Photographed at the American Precision Museum when I visited there a few years ago.

In 1858, Lamson & Goodnow partnered with B. Buchanan Yale to purchase the assets of a private armory called the Robbins & Lawrence Company in Windsor, Vermont.  (The building is now the site of the American Precision Museum.) They initially renamed the firm Lamson, Goodnow & Yale but eventually Ebenezer Lamson took it over, renaming it E.G. Lamson & Co. They continued to make machine tools and Ball and Palmer carbines. In 1868, Russell Jones moved his textile manufacturing equipment into the area, and the company became Jones, Lamson & Company, now adding the production of textiles alongside the manufacturing of guns, machines for making guns, sewing machines, and various other machine tools.  (After the American Civil War, Lamson changed the name of his firm to the Windsor Manufacturing Company, and by 1870, he had sold his arms making tools and machinery to Winchester and Smith & Wesson.) Combining textile and machine tool production turned out to be a bad idea, so in 1876 the machine manufacturing part of the business became the Jones & Lamson Machine Company.  Business slowed down in the 1880's and Springfield, Vermont offered the company tax concessions, so the firm relocated there in 1888. James Hartness joined the firm as Superintendent in 1989, focusing production on turret lathes. 


1902


1907
Above images from Howard Monroe Raymond, Modern Shop Practice. Chicago: American Technical Society, 1919:
Above, from George W. Barnwell (Editor).  The New Encyclopedia of Machine Shop Practice.  New York:  Wm. H. Wise & Co., Inc., 1941.
Jones & Lamson prospered and became a very important machine tool manufacturer, particularly of the Fay Automatic Lathe.  This was a significant advance in production turning that was made obsolete only with the development of CNC.


George W. Barnwell (Editor).  The New Encyclopedia of Machine Shop Practice.  New York:  Wm. H. Wise & Co., Inc., 1941.
For photos of their factory, go to Vintage Machinery.

Workers trained in their works went off to start their own companies and by the 1930's there were more than 50 companies making machine tools in what came to be called Vermont's "Precision Valley."  During World War II, the company's president served on the national commission on the standardization of screw threads. Those were the glory days. In 1964, Jones & Lamson was acquired by the Rhode Island-based conglomerate, Textron.  The new owners invested money in modernization, but there was a price to be paid for giving up local ownership.  Dun & Bradstreet, the financial ratings service, estimated that between 1968 and 1976 absentee parent companies like Textron were responsible for more than half of all manufacturing jobs lost in New England due to plant closings and ''runaway'' shops. A U.S. recession in 1980 hit the industry harder, as did competition from cheaper Japanese machine tool makers.  In fact, in 1982, 50 percent of new lathes bought in the U.S. were of foreign manufacture.  

In 1980, Textron split the company into two divisions.  The lathe division remained in Springfield, while the optical comparator division, J&L Metrology was moved to South Carolina.  (That move proved unsuccessful, since about 70 highly skilled workers were left behind in Springfield.  Fellows Gear Shaper bought J&L Metrology and brought it back to Springfield where it is now privately owned.) Layoffs at Jones and Lamson reduced the workforce from nearly 1200 to closer to 200 in 1981. In September 1983, Textron announced that it would be moving its operations out of Vermont. The Springfield facility would only be used to assemble lathes, while the specialized machine tools were moved to a more efficient plant in Cheshire, Connecticut, with further production from a plant in Lot, Belgium.  About 180 Springfield jobs were lost.  In 2002, Bourn & Koch purchased the assets of Jones & Lamson and Fellows, and continues to provide spare parts for these machine tools.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Aermacchi racer

Barber 2010

We used to make things in this country # 257 Cockshutt Plow Company

This beauty was for sale along the road near Windsor Ontario, I believe it's a 1964 model. The Cockshutt Company, based in Brantford, Ontario started building making ploughs in 1877, becoming a full line implement manufacturer in 1910 with the purchase of the Adams wagon company, Brantford Carriage company and a share of Frost and Wood. Known for a high quality product, by the 1920s the company was a leader in the implement business. Although Cockshutt distributed various other manufacturers tractors in the thirties they did not produce their own tractor until after WW2. In 1945 the Model 30 was introduced, the first tractor built in Canada. It featured the first live PTO, a device which continues to power the implement even when the clutch was depressed.
 In 1958, the company hired industrial designer Raymond Loewy to restyle the tractor line, Loewy did away with the smooth rounded streamlined shapes, changing to a bold squared-off modern look. 
 In a hostile takeover, American farm machinery company Oliver acquired the company in 1962 and promptly discontinued manufacture of tractors in Canada, choosing rather to sell Oliver tractors painted and branded as Cockshutts. Although the tractor above is apparently one of these, it has a serial number tag that indicates it was made in Brantford. I'm sure someone will sort that apparent discrepancy for me. 
Full company history here.

Another Ford truck project



"What am I bid?  Somebody?  Anybody?"

Hard to imagine this truck when it was brand new, just out of the factory.

Lamson & Goodnow, Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts





Above, my Lamson & Goodnow knife.  I principally use it for cutting the tape on cardboard boxes before recycling them.  Their trademark was first registered in 1918.

In 1834, the use of a scythe was a regular part of rural life.  Farmers found that if they could find a bent piece of wood to use as a snath, it was easier on the back. Silas Lamson devised a method for steaming and bending wood to make curved snaths on a production line basis.  He came to Shelburne Falls in around 1835 with his two sons, Nathan and Ebenezer, to manufacture these items, eventually producing as many as 20,000 snaths. In anybody's book, that's a lot of snaths!  In 1837 (or 1844, according to other sources), Lamson, his two sons, and his partner Abel Goodnow founded Lamson & Goodnow.  The business of scythe making involved familiarity with iron- and brass-working machinery.  At that time, most knives were imported from Europe, and the accepted belief of the day decreed that domestically-made items could not possibly equal their quality. Lamson took on the challenge and recruited skilled cutlery workers from Sheffield, England and Solingen, Germany, the two foremost centers of cutlery production at the time.  Demand was low to begin with, and only about 40 people were employed.   Knife production continued at the original snath shops, but growing demand forced a move in 1851 to larger premises, powered by a dam across the Deerfield River at the Falls. (The original factory later burned down in 1864.) The company focused on developing machinery to speed up production. 

Source:  U Mass, Amherst

Source:  JSR & Assoc.

One very important innovation was an invention by J.W. Gardner of a machine to forge the bolster of knives and forks, which permitted the handles to be very securely fastened. The emphasis on such quality led to rapid expansion and by 1860 the company had become the largest cutlery producer in the U.S.  By the end of the U.S. Civil War, the company was employing 400 workers and annually consuming 200 tons of steel, 1800 pounds of ivory, 150 tons of ebony, 300 tons of rosewood, 300 tons of coconut, 400 tons of coal, 100 tons of grindstones, 10 tons of emery, 5 tons of sheet brass and brass wire, and about 300,000 pieces of shin-bones! The firm was a major contributor to the region’s transformation from a primarily agricultural to an industrial economy, and by the time of the Civil War, it helped establish the Connecticut River Valley as the center of American cutlery production. 

According to Steven Dick, writing in 2015 for Real World Survivor:

When the steam ship Bertrand sank in the Missouri river on its way to the Montana buffalo herds in 1865, a significant part of its cargo was L&G knives. A lot of those skinning knives would have been needed out on the buffalo range. The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs also bought thousands and thousands of blades off the company for treaty reparations to western tribes. One single government order during the 1870s was for 18,852 knives! If someone were to ask what the most common knife found on the belt of a Plains Indian warrior would have been, I would have to say the odds were very high that it was one of Lamson & Goodnow’s. 

Obviously, these knives weren’t just used by the Plains Indians. I know of one L&G hunting knife on display in Deadwood, South Dakota, that is stated to have belonged to Wild Bill Hickok. There is also a photo taken when Hickok was working in a wild west show with what, to my eye, appears to be a large Lamson & Goodnow hunter thrust under his belt. L&G blades may have been plain, but they were hard-working tools fully up to handling frontier life.

(The story of the steamboat Bertrand is an interesting one in its own right.)

In 1869, the workmen of Lamson & Goodnow produced a dinner set of 62 pieces for President Ulysses S. Grant. Half of the pieces were set in mother-of-pearl handles and half in ivory, with American maple leaves engraved on the handles. The workers stated that they felt a "national pride in presenting [the set] to one who will appreciate the perseverance that aims at nothing short of perfection."  Some pieces of this extraordinary gift set can be seen today at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.


 This photograph was taken in the 1880s and shows Ebenezer G. Lamson, one of the partners, standing in front of the company's building.  
Source:  BladeForums

By the 1880s, L&G was offering a complete line of cutlery that included tableware, carving sets, butcher and skinning knives, hunters, leather working tools, sailor deck knives and machetes.  At various points during their history, Lamson and Goodnow have been involved in the manufacture of arms (e.g. the Springfield Rifle), sewing machines, agricultural implements, and other tools. They remain active in the production of cutlery, trade tools, and kitchenware.  The company has also produced a number of cutlery lines under private labels for a wide variety of customers.

In the new millenium, the business faced steep challenges.  The number of companies making cutlery and hand tools in the U.S. dropped 29 percent from 1998 to 2012, to just 1,200.  When the U.S. census finally put cutlers and hand tool makers into separate categories, there were just 188 cutlery makers left in 2012.  Lamson & Goodnow wasn't exempt from these pressures, and the company filed for bankruptcy protection in 2014.  Their 18-acre factory complex on the Deerfield River was put on the block for $2.1 million.  In December 2015, the firm was bought by Longmeadow Capital, which renamed it LongCap Lamson Products LLC.  That same year, the factory was relocated to Westfield, 50 miles to the south, and the company claims that manufacturing has remained in western Massachusetts.

As for the original mill in Shelburne Falls, a plan has been put forward for its adaptive reuse by JSR & Associates.

For readers interested in a broader perspective on the history of cutlery making, J. Wiss & Sons have posted an interesting 1950 publication by Lewis D. Bement (Associated Cutlery Industries of America)  in pdf:  The Cutlery Story.



Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Black and Decker drill system

The picture gleaned from a Dutch self-help book shows the line of home handyman tools designed to be powered by the company's 1/4" electric drills. Interestingly, none of the drills actually have cords!