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what is the ultimate machined object/mechanism?

dc

Aluminum
Joined
May 24, 2006
Location
Oakland, CA
I was thinking about the "holy grails" of the mechanical world, the objects that represent the application of tremendous machining skills, tools and inventiveness. My personal ones include the Norden bomb sight, the Lord's prayer engraved on the head of a pin by the Gorton Co., a C.E.J. Mikrokator that measures to a millionth of an inch, the Harrison chronometer and some of the chiming mechanisms being developed by the Long Now foundation. I realize that these are only a few of the amazing devices that have been produced by the best in our field so I was hoping that people might help to compile a selection of what they believe to be the most fabulous mechanical objects or machined parts. I would also love to know what makes that object so special to them. This could really draw on the diversity of the PM community. Please let me know what you think.
 
For me, it is the Mauser rifle system, as designed and built by Wilhelm and Peter Mauser.

Having owned and collected everything from the original Model 1871 to the near-universal Model 1898 is like reading front to back through the Mauser brothers shop notes. Historic & long-lived, well designed, and extremely effective. Even the US government had to pay up to the Mauserwerke for infringing on their design with the 03 Springfield.

The only real Mausers were made in Oberndorf am Neckar. All the rest are copies.

364074961.jpg
 
Awesome question, and boy, is it a toughie. No way I could pick just one. A few I've read descriptions of on this forum , never seen up close, but the descriptions alone fascinated me:

1. The Newbould Indexer
2. Fuel injector plungers
3. The Drilco Hydril thread form

A couple I've seen pictures of and went WOW:

1. DL-2A Altair fuselage parts on a site maintained by John Oder, done all on manual machines.
2. A replacement swivel base for a lathe compound made for one forum member by another. Pics are somewhere in the archives. The recipient had had a crash in which the compound had been torn out of the cross slide; the replacement work was absolutely beautiful.
 
Forrest beat me to my first choice, it is a astonishing device against which thousands of years of "advancement" should be measured. It's an enigma though, we don't know much more about it than it was found in a wrecked ship of a certain age.

The OP's first device, the Norden bomb sight was classified during it's use in WWII and now even 60+ years later some find it amongst the pinnacles of mechanical art. Mechanical art has continued to march fast forward and it's a good bet our best efforts are still directed towards weapons, weapons have always been at the tip of man's technology.

The second poster described a military rifle family which started with a design over a century ago. Damn fine design it is too, state of the art weapon in its day.

"tremendous machining skills, tools and inventiveness." Enough was published about the MX Missile, later the Peacemaker, that even the casual reader might glimse a bit about it's accuracy. You won't see parts or know details but be assured the state of the art of the Norden bomb sight made some immense leaps and it wasn't looking down.

We don't have a real time window into our best efforts, "holy grails", they're either classified or proprietary. By the time they are generally known their worth is gone.
 
My vote goes to the anonymous and forgotten guys who machined the core segments for the "Fat Man" atomic bomb. They were machining plutonium, and the parts were:

A) radioactive
B) pyrophoric
C) hard
D) work-hardening
E) poisonous
F) thousands of times more valuable than gold
G) smooth enough to see your reflection in
H) spherical segments

Oh, and it all had to be done on manual equipment, and either with waldos or heavy radiation suits, or both. And nobody had ever done it before, and they wanted the parts, oh, last week would be fine...

I don't know how the Soviets did it either, but I've seen photos of Beria's A-bomb facility. There's a graveyard by one of the shops.
 
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I will have to go in the opposite direction....

The steam locomotives of the 1920s thru 1950s to me are some of the most impressive built machines. Those engines were living breathing examples of power, all the working parts exposed. Watching the the drivers and connecting rods running at full speed is poetry, engineered and machined to a near perfect balance.
 
I'm not aware of all of the many things that some of you experts are but I recall seeing the insides of a radial aircraft engine in the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago when I was a child. There was certainly a lot of precision work in one of those. Perhaps the thrust of this thread is looking for something smaller and more precise but those things come to mind when I think of precise machine work and engineering.




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I'm not aware of all of the many things that some of you experts are but I recall seeing the insides of a radial aircraft engine in the Musem of Science and Industry in Chicago when I was a child. There was certainly a lot of precision work in one of those. Perhaps the thrust of this thread is looking for something smaller and more precise but those things come to mind when I think of precise machine work and engineering.
Radials are definitely masterpieces!
 
Nothing espeically remarkable or 'mechanism-y' about engraving on a head of a pin, IMO.

It's hard to argue that an engine of one form or another (except maybe a Briggs and Stratton) is at the top of the list. Not only does it does it incorporate many facets of machining, it also takes things to a higher level by actually performing work. In terms of its impact on mankind the engine must be very near the top of the heap.
 
The devices which fascinate me show sophisticated but reliable design to fill a need. Both sophisticated and reliable are historically relative terms so the steam locomotive and the aircraft engine qualify for me.

Another example is the M1 Garrand rifle, a well designed tool capable of functioning reliably and accurately in appalling conditions of mud, dust, sand, ice, water, etc.

From the same time period, the P-51 mustang. Designed and prototyped in months to be an extremely efficient and able fighter.

More recently, the personal computer disc drives and hard drives qualify. Think of it. An inexpensively mass produced mechanism capable of remarkable speed and extreme precision in storing data on the disc and later retrieving it. Go get one at a nearby thrift store and take it apart. Fascinating!

How about artificial joints for hip and knee replacement? I am sure there are more amazing machined products in the medical field. Surely some of the members are aware of them and will contribute.
 
Worthy nominations one and all.

My contribution ...

The Douglas DC-3.

First flown December 17, 1935 and still getting the job done around the world.

What a workhorse!

To this day one of the most beautiful, dependable, and rugged of all aircraft.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DC-3

Edit:

Forestgnome, thank you for that.

This is one of the best things I've ever seen, and should be featured somewhere here:

http://www.craftsmanshipmuseum.com/images/HoArt7.jpg
 








 
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