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February 12, 2014 1 Comment
OK, back in time for a little story.
In the early Industrial Age, metals were at a primitive state by today’s measure. The Iron Age succeeded the Bronze Age, iron being stronger and lighter, around 1200 BC. This material has been with us for nearly two millennia. By the 18th century, humanity was enjoying three forms:
(1) Wrought iron - a strong, malleable, low carbon alloy, not brittle, but too soft for serious structures or cutlery.
(2) Steel - made from wrought iron by increasing the carbon content. The only means to make it were very slow and expensive so it was reserved for cutlery, armor, and weapons.
(3) Cast iron - high carbon content, quite hard but brittle and weak (except for compression loads). Possible to make into complex shapes but structurally (buildings, bridges, ships, bikes) fairly useless.
This scene blew apart in the mid-1880’s with a new way to make steel cheaply. Bessemer discovered how to reduce the embrittling high carbon of cast iron. Result: plentiful strong material and a very rich Andrew Carnegie. Humans, being ambitious energetic mammals, go crazy with opportunity. Noticed? Materials have often made men mad. Cast steel and steel tubing had some of the widest fan bases.
I showed you the Keene Rim Drill and have since learned more about it and the era from which it sprang. Casting steel was such an irresistable opportunity that a zillion patents were filed, devices to transform home, transportation, structures, war, and toys. The Keene Rim Drill was part of this. A magazine called Iron Age, begun in 1867, was a huge collection of inventions, issue after issue. Here is a page devoted to the “recently announced” Keene Rim Drill.
The patent for the Keene Drill is remarkably identical to the model I found in Oregon.
This patent could have been the construction drawing. How literal!
Its inventor was Harry T. Kinsbury, proprietor and manager of the Wilkins Toy Company and the New England Cycle Supply Company of Keene, NH. He held several patents for bicycle tools including the repair and assembling jack, the wheel lacing and truing chuck, and the cycle stand and home trainer.
Thanks to Don Brummond for sharing details about Harry and the drill. Another choice find was offered by Gordon Hansen. This is a rim drill patent of the same era that defies my wildest expectations.
Can you see this device has a heavy disk (F) that is raised and lowered by foot pedal (I)? The disk turns with external power. When it lowers, it contacts and drives a few dozen small wheels that are tangentially positioned around its edge. As the big disk turns, each of the little wheels does also. Each wheel has a drill bit radiating outward towards a blank rim that is held around this mechanism. The big disk rotates, the drills all turn, and the operator moves all of them with a lever (D') so the rim receives a full set of nipple holes simultaneously.
Prior to economical, individual electric motors, this was a clever way to get rims perforated. Was it ever commercialized? Who knows? What is abundantly obvious, though, is an excitement over opportunity, largely material driven. The ability of cast steel to make strong, light, complex shapes is like our current enchantment with 3D printing and composites. New materials and processes that offer new design options, open doors for our collective appetites for invention. Who can resist this stuff?
The cool part of the Keene Drill saga is how readily cyclists grasp the moment, whatever century. Today every opportunity in sensors, materials, and processes is being seized by inspired cyclists. A steady stream of bicycle breakthroughs is guaranteed for the foreseeable future.
Harry T. Kingsbury would approve.
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