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Thread: A large cider press and cider mill I made

  1. #1
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    A large cider press and cider mill I made

    This shows the diversity of things I was called upon to make,even while musical instrument maker. My director had seen a press and cider mill just like this one in Somerset,England,from the 18th.C.

    First,these bad pictures are the only pictures I have. I can't remember how I got them,but someone took these with a digital camera,and printed them on typing paper.The press is large enough that a 6' man standing in front of it would come up to the hole in the screw's bulbous part,where a log is inserted to tighten the screw,with a team of men.The screw is 12" in diameter.The bulb is 16" dia..The squared off log at the top was 40" in dia. before squaring. It is 16" thick.

    I had been asked to figure out how to make this press,which weighs a lot,over a period of a couple of years. Finally the boss got serious,and I accepted this challenge. I must admit,it was difficult at first to go from doing precision musical instrument work,to doing something as large and crude as this.These special assignments led me into being begged to be toolmaker in 1986. This project was in 1983.

    The biggest problem was how do you thread the hole? I finally worked that out.Threading the screw was second. Each thread is 2" wide,and 2" tall. 90 degree angle,as is correct for wood threads.

    I am going to leave you to figure out how I made the screw and nut for a while. I will explain how after a while.



    How to find a dry log for the screw was next. No one keeps logs till they are dry these days. Back then,they set wood aside for future generations. I could not find a dry log,so I reasoned that logs always split wide open when dry was that the center had no place to go as the outer perimeter shrank ever tighter. So,I drilled a 2" hole through the length of the screw. It worked. The screw never split.

    As you see it here,it had been out in the weather several years,and is looking authentic.The screw looks newer because I completely saturated the screw with molten beeswax after it was made,forcing the screw to dry from inside the 2" axial hole.

    Getting the nut to never shrink more than the screw,and permanently bind it was next. I found a 40" dia. log that was old and gray in a country sawmill. I figured that the screw was green,so the partly dry nut would never "catch up" with the shrinking screw and bind it. This theory also worked. If the nut ever bound on the screw,you'd never get it loose,and would have to cut it off and chisel it out.

    The log was so old that the bark had fallen off it.It was sold to me as oak,but turned out to be hickory,bad luck. I had to chainsaw the nut flat on one side to get it small enough to have the other 2 flat sides cut at a sawmill.I have back trouble,and this was very painful work. That fairly dry hickory felt like iron,trying to rip a 12' length of it. OF COURSE,the log turned out to have been the corner post of a barbed wire fence when it was small.That really added to the problem,and was why the sawmill never cut the log. The gnarly front of the log was left that way,because it looked very much like the original press I was trying to copy.

    The housewrights worked on the frame after I got the screw and nut made,but I went over all the surfaces by hand with a lipped adze to remove the saw cuts. There is a great big dovetail at the bottom of the press,securing the vertical members to the base,Which I cut,if you can make it out.

    My hat gives an idea of the size of the press in the black and white photo.The cider mill next to the press has a 6 foot flywheel. I made that all by myself.It ground up the cider apples into a coarse mush. Then,this mush was put into a big horsehair bag,and squeezed.The woven horsehair bag looked just like the cheap woven nylon car seatcovers you could buy for your car in the 50's and 60's,except it was black. There are 2 big rollers seen in the end view. 2 smaller rollers with big iron teeth started chewing up the apples above the 2 rollers.

    Cider was very important in the 18th.C. They grew 3 dozen types of cider apples at Carter's Grove plantation,near Williamsburg in the 18th.C.. Cider could be drunk as a soft drink,or left to ferment into potent hard cider.

    The outcome of this very expensive project was that the director got fired a few years later.Since it was his pet project,no one else took up the project. They never found a place to permanently erect the cider press. It ended up in the warehouse,where it has been for several years. They are considering giving it to Mount Vernon. I think it is a serious omission of a major 18th.C..industry. Nearly everyone had a large cask of cider in their basement in those days. The older houses in England usually have some of the 2 posts that are under the cellar door hewn away partly. This is because the size of cider casks was increased some time in the 17th.C..,IIRC.. So,every old house has these timbers hewn to admit the new larger cask.
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    Last edited by george wilson; 04-01-2009 at 10:33 AM.

  2. #2
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    George, This, and all the rest of your work is simply amazing. I'm really glad to have seen these, as I'm sure we all are. I'll bet you had a lot of fun and satisfaction in your career, making things you can be so proud of. How many people today can say that?

    Thanks for all the pictures,

    Marc

  3. #3
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    No guesses how I made the screw and nut? Thanks,Marc. I appreciate your comments. The challenge of this press was the sheer weight and size of the components. I used a 24" dia. beechwood log over 10' long for the screw. It is surprising how not straight even a carefully selected log can be!! I managed to get the 16" max.diameter to clean up. The log was so green that water ran around and around it as it was turning in the lathe.

    The nut probably weighed 3000#. It was partially dry,too.

    Fun? Well,turning the screw was o.k.,but chainsawing tough hickory and barbed wire was just plain killing my back,and it took hours to rip the log.

    Considerable satisfaction when done,yes. And relief,too. Roy Underhill put this screw in one of his books. He had permission from Col. Wmsbg. to use any material he wanted.

  4. #4
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    Well, I've no idea how you made the screw threads and nut - my guess is that there's no way this was a screw box and tap - and iron tap for such a nut would weigh around a thousand pounds. One possibility is to make a screw with saw-cuts and chisels, then mount an iron or steel grooving tool into the end of the screw, and cut the threads away leading up to it. That can then be used to cut the threads for the nut by running it through, advancing the iron, running it through again, etc...

    However - I know how I would do it. As a carver, I've been successful in making a few fitted, large diameter nuts and threads with saw kerfs and carving tools (mostly a v-tool). Obviously, the nut has to be split into 2 halves and front-bent v-tool is required. It's laborious because the thread/nut must be constantly fitted to each other and interfering wood pared away, but it does work.

    One other comment, George - you might want to contact the joiner's shop at Old Salem. When I was there last summer, they were working on a mule-driven cider press, and they might be very interested in how you solved various problems.

  5. #5
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    No split nuts,David. That was done on a paper making press by the old cabinet maker,Jan Heuvel,in the 70's. But it looked bad. The screw he made was 5" in diameter IIRC. The way you have described was indeed how they did it in the 18th.C.. But,they'd have had to have a gang of men,waterwheel,horses,or some such power to handle such heavy components.

    I am sure that there were specialists who only made screws for clients back then. HOW BIG was the old Salem screw?

  6. #6
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    Cool project George!

    George,
    I just wanted to tell you how much I've enjoyed reading about the various projects you've posted here. There are a ton of "instant experts" out there that have no practical ww'ing experience but can tell you which dovetail saw to buy, or why such-and-such brand handplanes are better than others.

    It's really cool to see the actual projects you've worked. They give the reader an idea of the skill level you must have in order to create these wonderful items.

    Please keep submitting these "mini-articles". Each one is more interesting than the last. I especially liked this one because I've always been drawn to the brute force technology of that time period.

    It's a darn shame it ended up in storage. But like you said, at least Roy Underhill featured the screw in his book.
    Dominic Greco

  7. #7
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    Well,it will be at Mount Vernon,but I never signed the press,so the maker's identity may be lost.

  8. #8
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    "HOW BIG was the old Salem screw?"

    I'm not sure about that. When I was there, they were working on the press box, the trestle frame and the mule hook-up. As period enactors, they do everything by old school methods (i.e., no power equipment), so I'm not sure how far they've gotten. Part of the deal is much like Williamsburg - their main function is to provide a way for visitors to see how it was done in the 1760's, so getting it finished was secondary.

  9. #9
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    David,this press was one of my behind the scenes projects with the goal to get it done.Therefore,anything goes as to how I did the screw and nut. I wasn't going to spend my whole year on this project,and I didn't have a big crew anyway to lift things.

  10. #10
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    I'm guessing you laid the chainsaw over at 30 degrees, rigged up some sort of pattern to guide the saw and get the lead correct, and rotated the log between homemade centers of some sort. Or seeing some of you other incredible work, you probably could have whittled it with your swiss army knife.

  11. #11
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    No,Leigh. Good guess,but try again.

  12. #12
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    Was McGiver involved?
    If it's not a chainsaw then how about glueing the thread on in chunks. Ok I really don't have a clue.

  13. #13
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    Smile

    No,Leigh,McGiver didn't come along,and take the crystal out of his watch,and burn the threads into the wood!! Some -MOST- of the crap they show on that program is so ridiculous it shouldn't be allowed to be seen. Whatever Hollywood moron writes that garbage should be fired!!! I just cannot watch that show!!!!!!!

  14. #14
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    How about revolving a router around the log on a jig of some type?

  15. #15
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    You are getting there!!!. How did I Thread the hole? Why is no one else trying??? Leigh,you are clever. Give me a few good trys on the hole,and I will tell you. Remember,the threads are 2" wide,and 2" tall.
    Last edited by george wilson; 04-01-2009 at 11:08 PM.

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