Chicago Pneumatic Drill. Intended use?
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    Default Chicago Pneumatic Drill. Intended use?

    I've had this forever, no clue where I got it.

    It runs, on air, at a real low rpm. Not sure how much torque it has, didn't test it.
    Must have a morse taper socket chuck, I guess. I haven't tried to get that bit out of there.

    It's painted in olive drab, so that tells me it was government issued at one time.

    When turned, the 4 pronged hand wheel on the top forces that "center point" to rise. I'm guessing you use it to exert downward force on the bit as it turns.


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    In what situation would one of these be used

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    Would it be used for drilling? How about turning the tool to swage boiler flues?

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    Similar shown in overhead rock drilling like in tunnel work - the adjustable pointy "tail" going into maybe six feet of support strut / pipe
    Last edited by johnoder; 10-11-2019 at 08:10 AM.

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    What you have is an air drill used to run larger diameter drill bits, reamers, and boiler tube rollers. The screw at the top of the drill with the cross-shaped handle is a feed screw. In use with heavier drills, the common practice was to use a drilling post secured to the work. The drilling post has an adjustable steel bracket with a series of center-drilled holes on its underside. The point of the feed screw fits into one of those holes. When drilling starts, the operator works the throttle of the drill with one hand, and the feed screw with the other, and the handle of the drill is bucked against the drilling post (aka "old man"). On larger sized drills, a pipe handle would be screwed into the body of this style of drill if it were being used to run bridge or boiler reamers. These are reamers with a tapered leader to start in a hole. They are used for field reaming bolt or rivet holes on structural steel or boiler or shipbuilding work. When running bridge or boiler reamers ( boiler reamers usually are shorter than a bridge reamer), a drilling post is usually not used, and the men have to handle and hold back on the drill with their own strength.

    When running boiler tube rollers, this type of drill (sometimes called an "air motor" by boilermakers) is held back with a long pipe handle.

    On riveting jobs, the normal practice was to shop punch rivet holes undersized. The pieces needing to be riveted together (strakes of plate on a ship hull, courses of plate on a water tank, or "sheets" on riveted boiler work, or structural steel parts) would be assembled using "soft bolts"- undersized bolts thru the punched holes. The punched holes might line up OK, or more likely be out of line by 1/32-1/16". When the soft bolts were socked up, the crew would take an air drill like this one and run a bridge reamer thru the first holes to be riveted. The reamer took the hole to about 1/8" over nominal rivet diameter. The riveting operation upset forged the rivet shanks to fill the hole with a body-bound fit, aside from forming the rivet heads.

    A crew would move along pretty well with this sort of air drill on riveting work. Even after riveting was fairly obsolete, this type drill survived to run bridge reamers on bolted structural steel work. Once magnetic based drills arrived, this type of drill saw less use. It is still used on heavy construction and boiler work. It is often used to run large diameter drills, counterbores, and line reamers when field fitting parts such as coupling bolts on turbines and other larger work.

    The OD paint on the drill may mean it is US military surplus. During WWII, the combat engineers used air driven drills such as this to run large diameter augers for timber bridge construction, along with air driven chain saws. The engineers also had outfits which repaired damaged steel bridges, so this drill would have seen a variety of uses. Similarly, the Seabees would have used this type of drill for much the same variety of work.

    I personally have used this type of drill to run boiler reamers on some riveted work on our railroad. Two of us hung onto it when we ran the reamers thru the rivet holes to open them to finished diameter and line them up.

    This type of drill is meant for running twist drills, reamers, augers, and boiler tube rolls. Rock drills are a different animal, having a longer feed screw, and having a hammering action along with the rotary action, as well as blowing air down the spindle and thru the drill stem.

    Working on old riveted locomotive boiler repairs and alterations, this drill is something I've seen many times and is still in use. On hydroelectric work, in the present times, I've seen contractors using this type drill to run larger diameter drills and reamers for field fit parts. I go 190-200 lbs (depending on time of year), and most of that is solid. My buddies are similarly built. When we've run these types of drills with boiler or bridge reamers, we make sure we will not be pinned should things get away from us, and we make sure we have a solid footing and plenty of "holdback" leverage. For rolling in boiler tubes, there actually are 'air motors' which turn a bit slower and have more torque, but this type drill is often used as well. Along the way, we accumulated one of these drills and a few riveting guns of various weights for work we were doing on our own railroad. I am doing engineering on the replacement of a firebox on a steam locomotive at the present time. The Mack Brothers Boiler Works in Syracuse is doing the work, and they have many air drills and riveting guns, along with boiler reamers, staybolt taps and tube rollers stacked like cordwood and still very much used. You have a good old drill there, but you need a whopping big compressor to run it, and enough beef in your own body to hang onto it.

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    As usual Joe has got it bang on. I've used drills like that in the past. Quite a few manufacturers made similar machines. We used them mainly for drilling large holes or for use with shell reamers.

    I presume " Chicago Pneumatic " used to be made in the USA but the later pistol drills and die grinders, angle grinders etc were made in the Far East. When I was using them a few years back they were so cheap they weren't worth repairing but they weren't made to last very long.

    On the other hand I had a " Dotco " die grinder that I used regularly for about 30 years.

    Regards Tyrone.

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    Tyrone:

    Thanks for the affirmation. I was always a bit mystified by the firm's name of "chicago Pneumatic", since they were not (at least to my knowledge) located in Chicago. They had a large works in Utica, NY for many years where some air tools and compressors were built. Like so many firms, the name lives on thru global conglomerates that gobbled it up. In their heydays, C-P made large stationary air compressors including steam driven ones, and built some early stationary diesel engines. Some of their diesels evolved into medium-speed engines and survived until quite recently driving electric generators. Huge C-P stationary compressors furnished construction air for major civil engineering projects including the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel in NYC. Some of the last of the C-P stationary compressors from the Battery Tunnel construction sites were removed and re-erected to run snow making guns at Hunter Mountain ski slope in the Catskill Mtns of NY state, not far from my home. The last of these was taken out of service within the past 5-10 years. One C=P engine survives and is occasionally run at an antique power club over in Hudson, NY.

    C-P was like many firms and when rotary screw compressors came along, used air-ends made in Germany by Gutehoffnungshutte (GHH). We had a 600 cfm C-P/GHH rotary screw compressor at the powerplant as original equipment. NASA liked those old C-P/GHH compressors so much they kept them in service on launch equipment at the Kennedy Space center long after C-P/GHH no longer supported those compressors. C-P assembled their rotary screw compressor units from a plant in Franklin, PA. I have a couple of the old "Chicago-Pneumatic" nameplates on the garage wall from the last of the C-P/GHH compressors at the powerplant, which was scrapped after 40 + years of service over my protests.

    C-P built air tools like the drill in this thread in Utica, NY, if I am not mistaken. Smaller air tools were US built for ages, but in the last 30 years or so, that segment of the business wound up in Japan and then China. C-P was absorbed into Atlas-Copco, and their compressors, to my knowledge, no longer bear the C-P name. The air tools are small and generic, made by the same plants that likely make them for their competitors like Ingersoll-Rand and many other names.

    If you want to really see and hear an interesting old air drill of this type, get hold of a "Thor". Those old air drills had a two cylinder air-engine with stephenson link motion to reverse direction, all packed into a cast aluminum housing. Those were the real brutes, and a contractor we had on some hydroelectric work was using one to run bridge reamers. The ironworkers cursed that drill, but it was used where a magnetic based electric drill press would not work. I've run into the Thor drills on locomotive boiler jobs, and there is no mistaking them. It's like lugging a small "simple" single acting two cylinder steam engine along to run your drills and reamers and there is almost no stalling those drills.

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    Air is much safer under ground than electric as sparks cant be avoided.

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    My Dad had one of those in Ingersoll-Rand brand with a number 5 Morse taper. We could never run it, because our 22-CFM compressor was way too small. His was olive drab, too, and not from the military. My Dad said he bought it in his later teens from some industrial supply house on N. Broad St. in Philadelphia. This would be just after WWII. He said he went by train (subway, maybe, given the N. Broad location), and the conductor would not let him into the car, so he had to ride with the drill motor in the vestibule. His father (my grandfather) was a surgeon, and apparently could fund my Dad's crazy toy acquisitions.

    My Dad had a sales brochure for the big air drill motor. It showed two men using it to drive giant lag bolts into railroad ties in lieu of spikes. I guess that idea never quite took off.

    We also had an electric Chicago-Pneumatic (C-P) drill motor with a 3/4" chuck and a star feed wheel like shown above, that could be swapped for the D-handle. We used the star feed to jack against a wood dead-man when drilling large holes in wood. That drill motor was a beast, that really needed two people to handle. I remember smashing my brother's hand with it when we were using it to start a Wisconsin V-4 haybaler engine. We also had a C-P drill motor with a 5/16 chuck, which was rather an odd size. I remember jamming a big spade bit with it and having it wrap the cord around my arm like an anaconda before it stalled. Those C-P electric tools were really nice and heavy duty.

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    Drills used for tunnel and mining work were often built utilizing "jack legs" to support and brace the drills to take the thrust loads. Drills for mining and rock work were rotary hammer drills, which differed greatly in design and appearance from what is pictured here.

    Air was utilized as it worked well for providing a rotary/hammer action. Air is also utilized as it is blown down the hollow drill stems to push the drill fines (rock dust) up and out of the bore holes.

    Underground coal mining (deep mining) was the place where explosion hazards due to methane were most often encountered. Despite this, electricity was used in coal mines for running "motors"- small electric locomotives- to haul out strings of narrow gauge cars with coal or rock. The mine motors used DC motors and overhead wires with "trolley" type poles and contact shoes. Plenty of sparking occurred. The way this was dealt with was by providing a constant and positive air flow thru the mine workings, and also by the use of gas detectors. Before each shift, it was customary for a supervisor ("fire boss" in some underground mines) to go down and check the workings. A hand held anemometer was used to verify air flow, and in earlier days, a "safety Lamp" (developed by Davy, in England, in the early 1800's) was used to check for the presence of methane or "firedamp". If the workings were found clear of potentially explosive methane, then the shift began work. During the shifts, the miners often carried the Safety Lamps, not for illumination, but to check for accumulation of methane. The safety lamps were assembled at the surface and could not be taken apart down in the mine workings. A striker wheel and flint were provided as part of the lamp, inside the area enclosed by the glass and flame arrestor. The lamps were made up and locked, then lit using this striker/flint (like a cigarette lighter) with a thumb knob on the bottom of the lamp. A wire gauze flame arrestor was mounted above the glass chimney of the lamp with a gasketed joint. If methane were present, the flame in the lamp would rise up and often "pop", giving warning to the miners. The safety lamps supplanted the canary birds. Safety lamps saw widespread use aboard ships for checking for explosive vapors in tankage spaces and holds, as well as in the cities when working in the cable and utility tunnels where there were nearby gas mains. Modern electronic portable gas analyzers have pretty much done away with safety lamps.

    Miners wore electric cap lamps with wet storage batteries carried on their belts. The storage batteries were charged in racks in "lamp houses" (I got familiar with all of this on some hydroelectric tunnel work). Both the batteries and the cap lamps were made up with tamper-proof enclosures, locked in the lamp houses. The cap lamps were made up with explosion proof housings and even the knobs to turn them on/off and dim/high beam switching was explosion proof.

    Electricity was an inevitability in underground work, for illumination as well as for haulage and running unwatering pumps. Some equipment could be made explosion proof, but most was not. The trick was in the ventilation and checking the air for buildup of methane. On a lot of hard rock tunnelling jobs, such as hydroelectric work or water supply tunnels, explosivity of the air is not an issue. I was taken down into the "new" NY City water tunnel job in around 1983 as a guest, since we were building a hydroelectric plant on one of the NYC reservoirs. We went into one of the NYC parks in the Bronx and were outfitted with hip boots and cap lamps and taken down in a mine cage. The depth to the tunnelling was about 650 feet below street level, reason being the workings needed to get below a fault in the rock (schist type of rock, fault known as the "Moshulu Fault"). Once down in the workings, I was amazed to see large diesel driven front end loaders, tracked loaders, and all sorts of heavy construction equipment in use. It was explained that the machinery was taken to pieces and sent down the shaft in sub-assemblies, then re-assembled "down in the hole". Catalytic converters and filters on the exhausts, along with really good air flow thru the workings took care of the exhaust. We were walked from the Bronx, over the line and out into Westchester County. The size of the adits (tunnel headings) was incredible, and a valve chamber had easily 50 feet of height from invert (floor) to arch. I've been on another tunnel job for a hydro plant, and since explosivity was not an issue, we had all sorts of equipment working there.

    The major safety lamp maker in the USA was "Wolf", and Wolf continued to make a line of electric illuminating fixtures for explosive environments. These used a compact air turbine and generator contained in a housing with the light fixture. Connect to an air line, turn the valve and let there be light. I've got a Wolf safety lamp from a tunnel job on the window sill in my garage, the kind with the self-contained "striker" to light it and brass wire gauze flame arrestor. I had an "edison" cap lamp and battery from the Delaware acqueduct NYC water tunnel jobs in the 30's, but sold it to a collector. In my time working on hydroelectric units, we got into the era of Zebra Mussels. These critters thickly coat the interior surfaces of all water passages, and decompose once a hydro turbine is unwatered for maintenance. Once this decomposition starts, aside from a hellacious stink, methane gas, hydrogen sulphide, and ammonia gasses are formed (hence the big stink). Oxygen levels start to diminish in the ambient air inside the hydro units once this decomposition begins. We'd rig temporary ventilation, but with one manway for access, keeping the "elephant trunk" vent duct in place while people and supplies climbed in and out was problematic. We'd always have "gas analyzers" with us, and would standardize them against "test gases" we brought along in small cylinders. Prior to entry, we'd let the gas analyzers down into the unit on a rope, and later we got analyzers with self contained air sampling vane pumps so we could let down a hose to sample the air. We kept an eye on breathability and explosivity and had about a 3 day window from the time we'd unwater a unit to get in, do our repairs and maintenance and get out. I used to be first in when I was a supervisor. It was the "Night of the Living Dead", with several inches of still-living Zebra Mussels on the walls and manway ladder rungs, 30 feet of ladder rungs to climb down into darkness in what amounted to a "chimney" formed in the concrete, and then into water often waist deep and total darkness. I'd have air monitors clipped to my harness, lifeline, waders, hardhat, two-way radio, and work gloves on and stuff myself thru about a 20" diameter manway and climb down into the stench and wetness to see where the bulkhead gates were leaking. I'd direct the crew to dump buckets of coal cinders (can't do that nowadays), which would shut off the leaks like shutting a tap. Once we got the leaks under control, the unwatering drains would keep up and the submersible pumps could be shut off. We cleared the area as far as breathability, explosivity, and noxious gases, but we worked in the stink and probably 100% humidity. We used both air driven and GFCI protected electric tools and GFCI protected temporary lighting and ventilation.

    As I write this, I look back on the experience and have to say I enjoy retirement all the more.

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    Ive got a full set of the Ingersoll Rand air drills.....pistol grip up to two man #5 Morse.Ive used the #3 and #4 taper drills a lot for starting diesel engines ,had a few big frights too.....very easy for the bigger drills to wind you up before you can stop them.....they got a twist grip throttle like a motorbike,and it doesnt shut off if you let go.....you really need three men to operate the biggies,one on either handle,and one to shut off the air if things go wrong........the screw feed works good ,there is a special arm you can weld to plate to take the thrust,exactly the same as the big ratchet drills........edit.....the star wheel is both a feed screw and forces the taper out of the spindle when screwed right in..

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    Nick name for these were "Widow Makers". Older Iron Workers had to use these when erecting buildings. These had a shit load of torque, holding them and trying not to get knocked off the building and falling to your death kinda thing. I helped used a pair of these to raise the Cermak Road Scherzer Rolling lift bridge during a major rebuild in place of the main motors. Yeah that kinda torque!

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    Default "Old Man"

    Google "Old Man" Drill Jig.

    Here is TM Structural Steelwork TM 5-744:

    Structural Steelwork - Google Books

    Lots of old machine books show those drills in use. Big portable pneumatic drills have been around a lot longer than electric ones.

    Some of those drills would really wind you up if you weren't careful.

    The shop I worked in had an old Ingersoll Rand that was pretty powerful but we didn't have enough air to make it too scary.

    Have fun with it. Be careful.

    Terry

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    Terry:

    Thanks for confirming my description of an "old man" to buck the feed screw of a drill against. I've got an old man and "boiler ratchet" (ratchet drill with # 3 MT socket) in my shop. It saved our asses years ago when we had to open some holes and line ream them on a hydro turbine. We could not get any kind of powered drill in place and had about 8" of steel coupling flanges with slightly mismatched bolt holes. We opened the holes with a series of bridge reamers and finished with an adjustable reamer. The crew wore out a few pairs of leather driving gloves humping my boiler ratchet on that job. With all the resources of a 1200 Mw pumped storage hydroelectric plant at our disposal and a pretty free hand to buy tools and supplies for that job, nothing on hand in the plant tool cribs would work. I said I'd go into my basement at home and come back with something that would. It was the finest hour for my "old man" and boiler ratchet. We were taking turnings (chips) out by the pailfull, all done by hand labor on the boiler ratchet.

    In our neck of the woods, there is a tall tale told, and the fellow it happened to told it to me firsthand. His name is Steve, and he was working as a carpenter. Steve is built about like a small jockey on his best day, not much to him. Steve saw an old 3/4" electric drill in my shop and remarked he hoped he never had to use one again. He told the following story: Steve took a job to install a television antenna (remember them ?) on the roof of some old farmhouse. The house was built with post-and-beam construction. Steve decided the way to affix to antenna was to drill a hole, holding the auger plumb, thru the roofing, sheathing, and thru a timber rafter or framing member. The auger was fairly hefty, large enough so a 1 1/4" or 1 1/2" steel pipe would slip into the hole it drilled. The idea was to pass the pipe thru a framing timber so as to get a solid anchorage against winds for the antenna. As luck would have it, the framing timber centerline was fairly close to the edge of the roof (gable roof with a fairly steep pitch to it). Steve got a 3/4" electric drill with a Greenlee or ship's auger bit and set to drilling. Unbeknownst to Steve, someone had driven a couple of lag screws into that framing timber in the attic of the house to tie something to that timber. Steve said he was sitting on the roof, kind of bracing himself to hold back against the torque of that drill motor, using a pipe handle for more leverage. All of a sudden, the drill jammed against the lag screws, and spun Steve out over empty space, off the edge of the roof. Steve, weighing maybe 110 lbs on his best day, said he let go the trigger of the drill as it was happening. The drill coasted down, taking him another portion of a turn out over empty space before stopping its rotation. Steve said he found himself hanging off the handles of that 3/4" drill, off the roof of a two story farm house. He said the auger bit was flexing a bit, and he found himself wondering if the auger would bend and break and let him fall to the ground. As he pondered the matter, he realized the only way he was going to get back onto the roof was to bump the trigger of that drill and hang onto it. He said that was just what he did. How (or if) Steve finished that job is something he never told me about. All he did tell me was to get rid of that old 3/4" electric drill (the kind with a massive cast aluminum housing and a 1" pipe holdback bar, non reversible) in my own shop while I was still in one piece.

    I have discovered from my own experience, that if a power tool such as a drill motor or grinder jams and starts taking my hand along with it, my tendency seems to be to get a death grip on the tool and continue squeezing the trigger. What I have seen on some jobs is the older millwrights and ironworkers would station another man at the plug for a large drill, or at the air shutoff valve for an air drill. If anything like a jam-up and resulting wind-up or pinning of a man's hand (or worse) occurred, the man at the plug or air valve was able to quickly shut things down.

    I can see why the old ironworkers called those big air drills "widowmakers". Back "in the day", the fall protection was an unknown topic. No harnesses, lanyards and tieoff points, no handrails with toe boards... In 1972, when I got out of engineering school, there was no fall protection in use on powerplant construction projects. If the ironworkers wore what appeared to be safety belts, it was to hang a bolt back, lining bar and spud wrenches off of. I had ironworkers tell me that tying off with a lanyard was more of a hazard (at least to their thinking) as it led to a false sense of security, or some similar explanation. I can recall going out on what the ironworkers called a "float" type of staging: a wood platform about 6' x 6', hung off the side of the structural steel on 4 ropes. No handrails, no toe boards, just a platform hung out in the air with a long ways down. As a little guy, about 1956 or so, my late father (an inspector) took me on a bridge job to see hot rivetting done, telling me to remember it and it might be the last time I'd see it happening. The crew had the rivet forge up on the bridge deck, and the riveting gang was out over the East River, high enough so a battleship could easily pass underneath the bridge deck. The rivetting gang was on a float staging, and when the heater tossed a hot rivet, the catcher leaned out off the float staging with his tin cone to catch the rivets. The rivetting gang was like a ballet or acrobatic act. I was hooked on it, seeing it as a kid. It was years later that I got to try my hand and drive hot rivets, but working on the ground in a railroad yard. When I got out of school in 1972, I was a cocky and very green young engineer. Soon enough, I was walking some of the open steel with the men, and soon enough, I was "riding the ball" (the overhaul ball on the whipline of a crane) to get up and down from the high boilerhouse steel on powerplant projects. If a few of us need a lift up or down, we rode in a "scale box" or "skip"- a steel plate box made on the job, hung off the hook on a set of "fourways" (matched slings). No fall protection, no load testing of the manbasket made to OSHA specifications... different times. But, in those day, for every so many million dollars spent on a heavy construction project, a man's life was expected to be lost on the jobsite. Now, any injury requiring medical attention, even a sprain or bad cut, is a reportable incident and a whole follow up process occurs. Different times, but I've seen it happen over the past 47 years. Nowadays, if an ironworker needed to make a larger diameter hole by field drilling up on the steel, he'd likely use a compact mag base drill with a hollow-end mill type cutter ("Rota Broach" or "Slugger"). A lot easier and nicer all around, for sure.

    I remember the times the jobsite siren would sound and we'd get word a man had been killed on the site. We'd all walk off immediately and not return to work until the next morning. Engineers, supervision, and crafts all walked out that gate when a man was killed. I designed a good bit of work on powerplant sites, and ran some jobs, and am proud I never had a man killed nor seriously injured, either stateside or overseas under really backwards working conditions. The old air drill is nice to look at and reminisce about, but the name "widow maker" had some grim truth to it. I am glad we have moved away from those working conditions, with all the complications, oversight and red tape.

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    Despite the horror stories,some no doubt embellished to frighten apprentices,the big air drills are very handy......Ive had them made into an all angle radial,a drive motor on a line boring machine,an air winch ,and as mentioned used as a starter on diesels sitting on the floor for sale.And used sensibly ,with two long handles ,or a torque guide,they are magic .I got a big bin of air drills ,ratchet drills ,strongbacks for same,rivet hammers,proper rivet hammers ,not the toys that pass now,and the hammer accessories,like U shaped air piston backers,and anvil legs......about 5 ton all up ,for scrap....and another bin of coffing hoists ,small lever hoist thrown in.The old Yale pullers can be left in the weather for years and still work after an oiling.

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    Interesting read. I too have used both air and electric drill motors all in RR work never in the air above the height of the locomotive. The air and boiler tools are usually heavy and take some muscle and mass to use. Riveting with older rivet guns one best hold on to the snap and never point in someones direction. Firearm safety applies here. Along with hearing protection.

    Glad to hear someone talk about large electric drill motors and the danger of them. I have found air motors to be more forgiving and the throttle more controllable with air. Electric drill motors do not give you any warning when they are going to bite you. Like starting a magneto engine by hand crank. By the time you realize your in trouble it is over already. Worked with a contractor who was attempting to ream out rivet holes for an upcoming rivet job on smoke box to boiler fit up. Smaller motor and he is a good size guy. I stopped what I was doing and got on the other end of that motor along with a can of oil. We zipped right along and no problems. But even with two of us on that motor with probably a 1 1/8 or so reamer we would get "turned around" a little. But with the air throttle you could back off when you started to feel it getting tighter. Oil helped and kept the one reamer we were using from getting dull. Dull drills and reamers to not help an already hard job from getting harder. In RR work often the reamers are very old and may or may not of been sharpened since new. Often you have to hunt for a sharp drill or reamer and then try and take care of it. Drills are easy to sharpen but reamers not as easy. Confession though, I can't sharpen a drill to save my bacon. Regards, John.

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    John:

    You bring up a couple of memories about rivetting guns. Firearms safety is a very precise way of describing the handling of them. Old timers told me that when they'd be up on the high steel rivetting, they'd take along a few extra pistons (or hammers) for the rivetting guns as it seemed inevitable that one or two would get fired out into the great beyond.

    My own experience with a rivetting gun in our railroad yard included firing the piston. It passed over a chain link fence, across a city street, and came to rest in a business parking lot. We had to hunt it down since it was the only one we had at the time.

    You are very much on target (sorry for the pun) about railroad boiler work in this day and age. We often wind up using old tools like reamers and staybolt taps that were last reground when railroads ran steam locomotives in revenue service and had working shops with toolrooms. By the time many of us get to using those same tools, they are the worse for wear.

    My own funny experience with electric tools and working on a locomotive boiler happened when grinding the weld bevel for the horizontal seam on a new smokebox. The lower half of the smokebox was in place, bolted to the cylinder saddle, soft bolted to the first barrel course. We made a staging at a handy height and put a couple of scaffold planks on it so we could grind the bevel on the edge of the lower half of the smokebox. My buddy handed me an ancient Sioux 7" side grinder, no guard, and slide-bar switch. Not a spring loaded trigger. I got to hogging off the steel with a hard abrasive disc, and was kind of bent over to work the grinder, as the seam was about the height of my crotch. I was wearing a pair of Lee, US made bib overalls (awhile ago). The edge of the abrasive disc caught the slack in the crotch of my bib overalls and began winding it in, just that quick. I had a death-grip on the handle of the grinder and could not work the slide-bar switch to turn it off. Fortunately, we had some long extension cords to power the grinder, so plenty of line drop. The grinder eventaully stalled so long as I held against its torque. I hollered my lungs out, but with the other guys using air chipping guns, and big I-R air grinders with heavy cup wheels, no way that anyone heard me. Finally, my buddy happened by my staging and heard me hollering. He pulled the plug on the grinder and had to cut me out of my bibs with a knife. I called his grinder ever name in the books and said it needed to be busted up and junked. He claimed it was a great old grinder. I told him his great old grinder nearly took my family jewels. I came off the staging in my underpants and work boots. We hunted up some other pants for me. I told him there was good reason those old slide-bar switch grinders were banned on jobsites, and he insisted I was the problem. I was about ready to throw his grinder at his head, and told him if he did not get that grinder off the job, I was going to take a sledge to it. I never saw that grinder again, which was fine by me. The torque of that grinder wound up my bibs and actually pulled the rivetted brass buttons that the suspenders hook to right out of the denim.

    We did a lot with the heavy I-R grinders running cup grinding wheels, and those were a good grinder if your wrists could stand the gaff.

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    My own personal collection of tools seems to be based on industrial standards. We used Gleco air grinders shortly after I started in the shop in 1973. Replacing some Navy surplus hi-cycle electric grinders which ran on some obscure voltage. We had a separate generator for them. They took a similar plug like a HD industrial 240v 3P welding plug/socket. They must of weighed 25 lbs a pc. They were tough as nails but old. The air grinders were real high speed and I have a couple of them. They do make a lot of noise like a "rice eater" on steroids. We used the less robust Milw for the fitters who did very little grinding. Grade 5 fitters were above the dirty work of grinding if amounting to more than a touch up. Grade 7 guys were called on for the serous dirty work. I have two old aluminum cased Black&Decker grinder with a push button on/off switch operated by your thumb. My other "big grinders" have triggers. I think I have enough larger grinders now to start my own weld shop. Two would be plenty but when I see the old ones going cheap I can't help but buy them. One of my B&D grinders ended its career grinding a loco frame jaw openings. All three sides were gouged badly and I had to apply a lot of weld, then grind flush with the frame. I would of given anything to have used an air grinder. Eventually I bought a few ancient air grinders and with cup stone made short work of the grinding an did a spectacular job. We had two very small air compressors that struggled with heavy air use. Especially riveting. We got a 20 hp Quincy and have not looked back since. With air grinders and air motors you can listen to the RPMs and know when your cutting at max efficiency or your about to snub or stall. Another feature I like about air. Electric grinders will let you know if your taxing them to much and you had better keep that in mind. Those industrial air tools that I have used over the years were really tough and could stand the abuse. Have nothing to compare as all my air tools are older. A squirt of oil once in a while and try not to hook up to air lines until you drain the moisture out and they just keep on working. I like to bring my own tools when I go to my museum that I do a lot of work at. Usually bring my own air hoses and cords, anything I feel I will use. After years of wasted time trying to find something that works or something that was not put back has taught me to own your own tools when possible. 35 years after I quit working in my old weld shop in Appleton the company was bought out a number of times. They were a sinking ship after the Finns bought them. They were cleaning out the last of the weld shop and a friend who was still working there called me. I hooked on to my 20ft trailer and loaded up with a lot of stuff that was going to the dumpster. We told the foreman that this stuff was going to a non profit museum. Some of it did, a lot of it didn't because they were never going to use the stuff, But it all found a good home. Had about 75 boxes of air arc rod, half went to a boiler contractor I know, I got 3 cases of large cup stones for hogging, couple of Gleco air grinders, a nice 400 amp Miller stick machine, boxes of welding rod that may never get used {7024 drag rod}. After the two floods last year the RR museum finally excepted the big Miller welder and it runs real nice on real 3P vs my RPC. I dig all this stuff and love using it. Some of it will be at my big auction when I cash in or get hauled away. Really like your stories Joe and others. Being we were from similar or same era many of our experiences are similar. A buddy of mine served his apprenticeship with Local 8 Iron workers about the time I started working. OMG that was a wild bunch. About the same as 1% er MC. LIke a lot of people we knew when we were younger many of the old school Iron Workers have passed on or live quietly in retirement. In their prime they lived in the fast lane and knew the dance. Those guys were really serious players. You Joe had way more experiences with them than I did. Like hanging with real bikers if your not in, your not in. So you walk the edge of the knife if your hanging around to long at the bar. Regards, John.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Michaels View Post
    I have discovered from my own experience, that if a power tool such as a drill motor or grinder jams and starts taking my hand along with it, my tendency seems to be to get a death grip on the tool and continue squeezing the trigger. What I have seen on some jobs is the older millwrights and ironworkers would station another man at the plug for a large drill, or at the air shutoff valve for an air drill. If anything like a jam-up and resulting wind-up or pinning of a man's hand (or worse) occurred, the man at the plug or air valve was able to quickly shut things down.
    This is an excellent point that far too few people are aware of. Fortunately, you can get dead man's switches that are three-position; if you pull too hard, the machine shuts off. In order to reset the switch you need to completely release your grip and pull the trigger again.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Michaels View Post
    .... made by the same plants that likely make them for their competitors like Ingersoll-Rand and many other names.
    Joe -

    Was wondering if you were going to mention IR. The original IR hand held air tool plant was in Athens, PA - which is part of 'The Valley' where I live - 4 small towns that straddle the NY/PA border.

    When I was growing up in the 50s and 60s that plant was in its prime and made the full complement of hand held air tools. When I graduated from high school in 66 there were almost 3,000 workers there, three shifts. My wife had an uncle who worked and retired from there, and two brothers who worked in the engineering department at different times (as well as one sister in law - she and her husband met there). The plant finally closed for good (foundry closed earlier) probably 15 years ago. I have a couple tools made there back in the day. And I attended the final sale when the place was finally shut down in total. Among other things I have a sign that hung in the plant identifying Athens operations tool build such and such. That was a sad auction, end of an era - but I'm glad to have items including a bench with a nice Parker vise from there. Most stuff went dirt cheap. In it's prime they were as good as it got in air tools. When I got out of the Army in 1974 had a job offer that would have started me in the engineering department there, but I chose a different route. Today it is owned by some warehousing outfit and not much activity.

    Dale

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    John:

    Thanks for the reminiscences and validation- I feel like we are lodge brothers !

    Dale:
    I never knew where I-R built their industrial air tools. About the only two presences of I-R that I've seen is the old Painted Post, NY works, and the old Phillipsburg, NJ works. Painted Post used to built the big slow speed recip compressors, including the steam driven ones. Now, when I drive by on I 86, I see the old brick smoke stack was "truncated"- cut off short, so the old name: "Ingersoll Rand" was cut off to something like "soll-Rand".

    At the powerplant, we had the heaviest I-R air grinders for running the cup type grinding stones. We used them inside the hydro turbines to hog off metal after gouging to remove cavitation-damaged steel from the runners ("water wheels") was done, and again to rough down the "pad weld" (weld build up using a special stainless electrode with cobalt in it) repairs on the wheels and other areas of the turbines. It was a miserable working environment, and the mechanics on that job wore full welding leathers, flame-resistant balclava hoods, and had full face respirator facepieces connected to the plant's breathing air system. A lot of the grinding was vertical and overhead. The mechanics who were grinders used to come out of the turbines with the shoulders and creases of their welding leathers loaded with a mixture of metal particles and spent grinding abrasive. Those air grinders screamed, and the cup stones were gyroscopes that could twist a person's wrists wickedly. You soon learned to work with that gyroscope action if you swung one of those grinders.

    I used to borrow one or two of those grinders for steam locomotive boiler work. We were cleaning the remains of beaded and seal welded tube ends off the firebox tube sheet. Some of the guys were wearing particle masks and trying to use 4 1/2" angle grinders. I brought two of those I-R air grinders from the powerplant and a few cup wheels. I also brought my welding leathers and my full face respirator and a few extra filter cartridges for it. I went into the firebox and went to town with that I-R air grinder. The other guys realized this was no place to be and quickly exited. My buddy had his full face respirator and had done plenty of heavy fabrication work- he was no stranger to this kind of thing. He and I went to town on that tube sheet. We had a 185 cfm engine driven compressor (I-R, I think) making air for us.
    The big I-R air grinders and cup wheels made short work of that job.

    We also had higher speed I-R grinders of the same outward appearance as the ones which ran the cup wheels. We ran flexible sanding discs on them to finish and blend welded repairs inside the turbines. I brought a couple of those grinder/sanders out the next week and we finished work on the locomotive tube sheet with them.

    At the powerplant, we used compressed air to "depress" the water inside the turbines when we went to start them as pumps (to send the water back to the upper reservoir during non peak hours). The result was we had something like 1800 cfm of combined compressor capacity. We had about 9600 gallons of combined depression air receiver capacity at 140 psig. The result was we never ran out of compressed air for running tools in the powerplant.

    The valley Dale mentions is an area which once was home to a lot of heavy industry and the main shops of the Lehigh Valley RR, if I recall correctly. Not sure what's left in that area. I know one of the German firms took over the steam turbine plant at Wellsville, NY and was shutting it down. It had been started in the 20's as Moore steam turbine. At Olean, the big Clark works looked like it was still working- making gas pipeline compressors, I think. The I-R plant at Painted Post has sported a modern-style sign for Dresser-Rand for a number of years. I kind of doubt they still build slow speed recip compressors there, but I could be wrong. I suppose I-R shifted air tool production from Athens to China or India. I know we got some new air chipping guns and a jackhammer or two from I-R when I was at the powerplant and they came out of India. The word I got a few years back is that Dresser Rand or I-R was having the air-ends for their rotary screw compressors cast in India and China, and had moved towards "throw away" air ends. An air end is the industry term for the compressor section of a rotary screw compressor unit.

    I have an ancient Cleco air die grinder in my own tools. It was used when I got it 44 years ago, and the word "Boilermaker" was engraved into the body of it. 1/4" collet, straight die or "pencil" grinder. Compared to an equivalent new air die grinder, the old Cleco is so much more powerful. It drinks compressed air, but as long as the air pressure is better than 60 psig, it will not lug down and will run burrs or mounted grinding points or cutoff wheels and really hog into the steel. It's getting a little tired now, probably worn vanes, but on a 50 year old grinder, who can argue ? Even with the signs of age creeping up on it, it still outworks my newer I-R air die grinders (aluminum bodies, made in China). Nowadays, the prevailing thinking with most small air tools is that they are throw-aways. I'd like to find some rebuild parts for my old Cleco air die grinder, but I am sure Cleco has been absorbed, merged, and the numbers stamped onto a 50 year old grinder will make no sense to anyone dealing in Cleco parts.

    As we've been writing here, a lot has changed since some of us came into the industry. I joke that a person needs a scorecard to keep track of the current ownership and parts suppliers for various tools, construction machinery, and other equipment.

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    Joe -

    I can add a bit to your post.

    The plant in Painted Post has been Dresser Rand for some time - as is the plant in Olean. Our son and daughter both live in Corning (as do grandkids) so we pass that stack you speak of. I can't remember when IR built the plant in Roanoke, VA - they moved some of the product line from Athens to there and a number of local people went to the new plant. I believe it was in the late 50s or early 60s. My one brother in law who was my junior high shop teacher got a summer job at the IR in the 80s - probably around his 25th year of teaching - and never went back to teaching. One of the things I inherited from him is a lifetime supply of old IR velum for the drawing board - only trouble is it is so large that I have to cut it down to use it on my board. You are right in the move to China as he worked in the engineering department there and in the late 80s and 90s a lot of the manufacturing was off loaded to Asia. I can't tell you what the Dresser Rand plants still make but I do know the employment level is nowhere near what it used to be.

    You are also correct that the Lehigh Valley main shops were in Sayre - plus it was the north/south dividing line for the road. What we called the 'Big Shops' were built in the 1890s if my memory is correct. Up until the 20s they actually manufactured complete engines in those shops. Several pictures around of locomotives being lifted by overhead cranes, etc. When they had the auction during demolition of the shops my brother got one of the name plates off one of those cranes. At the peak employment was something like 5,000 so it was THE major employer in the area. Both my grandfather and one uncle were firemen on the Manchester (north) division. My father in law was a boiler maker in the shops. There is still a small rail car refurbish operation there - was part of GE but I cannot tell you what the current name is on it even though I drive by it fairly often. All of the big shops are gone and most of the others. The old passenger station in Sayre is now a museum and does have some nice and interesting displays - as well as a caboose that was built in Sayre. As one would imagine there are a lot of old tools stamped LVRR that appear at yard sales and auctions from time to time. I have an old ballast rake and a couple of wrenches.

    Dale

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